"I would tell myself to not be afraid to ask for help." That's the advice Susan Friedman told me she'd give her younger self if she were starting her business today. Susan is the founder of Aviva Publishing, a company she's run for more than 20 years.
Her response echoes what many have shared with me. Over the last three years, as I've interviewed more than 150 entrepreneurs, business, and thought leaders. During the interviews, I asked a simple question: What are your three keys to success? The number two and three keys were "surround yourself with smart people," and "do the work," respectively.
Sometimes getting the help you need to grow your business comes by asking for it directly to solve a particular problem. And other times, it comes from just getting other people to help you do the work.
No matter what getting help looks like for you in your business, the simple decision to not do everything on your own is what separates many from building a thriving business, from others who don't.
Choose to get the help you need in your business, by surrounding yourself with one or more of these five types of people.
1. Virtual assistants
A common way many companies start getting help is through hiring virtual assistants.
Luis Congdon is the co-founder of Thriving Launch, a digital marketing agency. He and his partner work with a team of nine virtual assistants to enable them to serve more clients while focusing on the activities they most love doing. Even though they work with a strong team now, he notes:
"We waited too long. You can start outsourcing small things sooner than you think. You can start having people that respond to your emails. If you have a podcast, you can start letting someone edit your show for you...If you possibly can, find small tasks to outsource to people as soon as possible."
2. Contractors and vendors
When I worked my corporate job, we outsourced significant amounts of work. Our job was the strategizing, coordinating, training, and approving what our partners did.
Much of the heavy lifting from a marketing standpoint was outsourced to our strategic partners, which included contractors, freelancers, and vendors. This included copywriting, graphic design, SEO, social media, and even blogging.
I talked to one of my consulting clients about that recently. She acknowledged her company, which makes billions every year, does the same thing. She told me, "It's just how we get things done."
Now some people might look at her response and think, "Sure, you can afford to outsource so much because you make billions of dollars a year."
But I'd challenge you to flip your thinking, to see that one of the reasons they make so much money, is because they've embraced a mindset of enlisting experts to help them expand their reach.
Often, companies will seek help not because they need someone to do the work for them, but because they need a resource to provide expertise they don't have the in-house capabilities or capacity to do. Thus, they hire consultants to help them address particularly stubborn problems, bring an outside perspective, and to train or help them to improve particular areas of concern.
To build a thriving business, you've got to choose which areas you are going to be excellent in. For those other areas, it's not just a matter of ignoring them. It's about obtaining the assistance of capable experts who are excellent where you are not, so they can help you be great.
Contract workers can work well, but there are times when you need continuity. There is a lot of value in having subject matter experts on staff who are fully dedicated to your business and can work along side you to help you carry forth your mission.
Hiring employees is a great way to show you have skin in the game too. It helps you build a team that assists you in shaping and living the culture that makes your customers feel like they belong with you.
5. Coaches and mentors
Sometimes getting help isn't about getting other people to do work for you, or to help you solve a particular problem. Many smart business leaders enlist the help of a coach to improve their skill level so they can be better at their jobs.
When you have a coach who is there to guide you, shed light on particular areas of concern, and help you nurture your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, you position yourself to be a more valuable asset to your company.
In his best-seller Mastery, Robert Greene's research showed that those who are at the top of their field often spent a significant amount of time learning one-on-one from a mentor.