No-one can do everything and, more than that, it’s a terrible use of your time as founder. Knowing when and for what to ask for help is a key skill when running your own business.

Image: Austin Kehmeier – Unsplash

Founders and entrepreneurs are often, by nature, self-sufficient, independent people. This is key to having the courage and commitment to start and keep running your own business. Self-employment is for self-starters and the one thing you can’t be when you’re your own boss is a lazy employee.

However, one downside to this independence is a blind spot to the fact that, contrary to many of the tyrannical productivity hacks on the market, you are a finite human being who cannot do it all. Even if there were twice as many hours in the day and 50% more of you getting up two hours earlier, it would still not be advisable to do it all because – and here’s the kicker – it’s not the most constructive use of your time.

As a founder, it’s not the most constructive use of your time to do everything

The change consultant, Ron Carucci, makes a helpful distinction for the small business owner/ entrepreneur between competitive work, competitive enabling work and necessary work. In other words, the work you do that actually makes you money, the work you do which directly enables you to make money and the work you have to do for your business to run.

For instance, say you started a baking business – competitive work would be making and selling your delicious signature bread and pastries; competitive enabling work might be producing fliers and handing them out to announce your opening and a discount for the first 50 visitors; necessary work would be making sure your kitchen was compliant with the requisite health and safety standards and getting your tax returns completed on time.

The key is to make the distinction between competitive work, competitive enabling work and necessary work

Carucci’s advice is that, from the start, and certainly as the business grows, you get help for as much of the enabling and necessary work as you can, leaving you to do more and more competitive income generating work. That help does not have to be expensive. The internet can be a treasure trove of advice and templates. Certainly, if you’re just starting, local enterprise agencies or Better Business Bureaus can often offer you free or subsidised business help.

You can’t be an expert at everything but, if you’re running your own business, you need to become an expert at asking for the right help at the right time

The first step is to reframe things and realise that asking for help is a strength not a weakness. Then, work out exactly the help the business needs and who to ask for it. If you’re not sure, ask others who to ask or google it. Then seek out the necessary help and expect positive things. Especially in the light of the recent global upheaval, there’s a general acknowledgement that businesses need help and a deeper willingness to provide it. Finally, be honest and generous about and with what you have. If you can’t afford someone’s services, don’t string them along, negotiate, see if there’s something you can offer in return. Where you can, extend help to others.

You can’t be an expert at everything. If you’re running your own business, one thing you need to become an expert in (besides your core business) is asking for the right help at the right time from people who know more than you and who can free you up/ enable you to do and earn money from what you are good at.

Help yourself!