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Why asking for help isn’t the same as giving in

Why asking for help isn’t the same as giving in

Asking for help is something most entrepreneurs (including myself) aren’t very good at doing. It’s understandable: when you come up with a killer idea for a business, you want to be the one who sets it in motion.

I started my first business aged 21 full of optimism, passion and arrogance. Like most 20 year-olds, I thought listening was a waste of time. Sure, they might have done it before, but I was doing something different and better. It took me 20 years to realise that talking to people and asking for help are two of the most useful skills an entrepreneur can learn.

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Find a mentor

Finding a mentor is a good way of receiving professional and targeted guidance. Find someone who you admire, who has more experience and a different skill set than you. Be honest about what you’re good at and where you’re struggling so that you make the most of their help. A mentor isn’t there to shower you in praise, but to offer you constructive criticism and share their experiences of the business world.

According to data presented by the Harvard Business School, 25% of start-ups crash and burn so it makes sense to take advice from someone who’s done it before and can recognise the warning signs early on. You don’t have to implement everything they say, but listen and take notes because if it’s not helpful now, it could be in the future.

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Get a partner

Sometimes it’s even more worth bringing in a partner so that the business can benefit from two or even three differing perspectives. For example, my skills tend to be more in sales and motivating, so I recently partnered with Andrew Valentine, the Founder of Street Car, who has helped massively by advising me and analysing our business models for AVirtual. It’s a really effective working relationship and means that I can spend more time doing what I love.

It’s also worth remembering that investors tend to prefer investing in a pair of founders rather than one person because they recognise that no-one is good at everything and it’s less risky for them.

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Build a network

Aside from office interactions, being an entrepreneur can be painfully lonely. It’s important to build a network of people who are doing similar things, can offer support and help you to expand your professional circles. That’s where the most exciting collaborations and partnerships come from. There will come some point in your career when you need recommendations from other professionals, whether it’s about website design, marketing or assembling a board of directors so it’s worth making as many connections as you can now.

Also, don’t underestimate the usefulness of professional organisations; they can connect you with CEOs from across the globe and usually, have amazing archives of motivational and focussed articles on relevant business topics. I’ve met some of the most interesting people in my career through EO, but there are networks in almost every community which you can join. It can be daunting, but pushing through your comfort zone usually pays off.

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Hire an assistant

Finally, hire an assistant early on so that you don’t become one. It might seem like a luxury, particularly when you’re just starting out, but employing someone to take care of day-to-day administration will save you a massive amount of time and make the whole experience more enjoyable.

It’s hard when you’re an entrepreneur because your role isn’t always that clear cut and you end up doing a bit of everything, which can be quite challenging and unsettling, not to mention stressful. An assistant can help you learn to prioritise and delegate; skills, which are vital for effective leadership and optimal productivity.

Featured photo credit: Atlas Green via unsplash.com

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Richard Walton

Founder of AVirtual

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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