As entrepreneurs, we are always facing challenges and overcoming obstacles. It is always a good idea to surround yourself with smart people who can and want to lend a helping hand when you need it. Whether it is a great intro, a brainstorming session, or a brilliant idea that will help you grow, we need all the help we can get when building a business.
The thing is, if we are always on the taking side, if we are always asking for favors, well, that is not a very sustainable model. You want to make sure you are giving more than you're taking, and for that, you have to train yourself to ask one question in every meeting.
It has become somewhat of an unwritten rule, you have to establish credibility in the beginning of every meeting. Some people establish credibility by name-dropping, others do it by talking about their accomplishments, but the bottom line is, most business meetings, you will notice, include at least a few minutes, if not more, of self promotion.
The thing is, though, chances are you would not be sitting with this person, whether she is a fellow entrepreneur, an employee, a friend, or really anyone else, unless they have some sort of challenge, some kind of bottleneck.
It is your job to find out what it is, and at the very least, offer to help overcome it.
"How Can I Help?"
Four simple words, but four very powerful words. Let the person establish credibility, let them name drop, we all do it, but at some point, stop them and say something along the lines of "This all sounds very impressive, but I want know more about your challenges and how I can help in any way."
You will notice two things very quickly when asking "How can I help?" First, you will notice delight. The person will be happy you asked that, assuming of course, they don't think you are trying to sell them something.
The second thing you will notice is that the gates will open up, in most cases, and despite the last half an hour being spent on that person telling you how amazing they are, when you ask about their challenges, the conversation shifts and the problems come pouring in.
By offering to help, you are in essence accomplishing more than you might know. Number one, you just shifted yourself from the needy entrepreneur department to the valuable resource department. Now, you are focused on giving, not taking.
The second thing you did was learn how to overcome challenges. Assuming that person mentions a challenge that you can help overcome, and you deliver on your promise by helping, well, you just learned something in the process.
Finally, by offering and following through on your offer to help, you differentiate yourself from the five other meetings that person had before and after yours. Most people you will meet focus on taking, you, on the other hand, are focused on giving. You just differentiated yourself by uttering four simple words.
This concept of focusing on giving, as opposed to concerning yourself with credit, respect, and money is not my idea. The famous author, Ryan Holiday explains this concept in The Canvas Strategy. He says that while everyone else is focused on themselves, you should forget your credit and respect and facilitate success for others.
As Ryan so beautifully puts it "Let others take credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal."