Running a business may be hard, but you don’t have to figure things out alone. Here’s how to get advice as a small business owner in 2021.

So you’re starting a business. Way to go!

The world of entrepreneurship may seem glamorous from afar, but the journey can be arduous. The beginning stages of establishing a business alone can cause stressful days and sleepless nights. In other words, it is not for the weak-hearted. 

For most small business owners, starting a business may mean figuring things out on your own — building an empire, one small step at a time — and not seeking for help. However, when faced with trouble or hiccups along the road, where do you go? Who do you turn to?

Studies have shown that entrepreneurs or business owners are more likely to experience burnout because they tend to be more passionate about what they do and they also often work in isolation. This is why asking for help is extremely important when managing your own business.

But why is it so hard to ask for advice?

Asking for help may seem to be a very simple thing to do, but so many people choose to do things on their own. Psychological studies explain that this fear of asking for help stems from the fear of surrender or the lack of control. Sometimes, people just don’t want to admit that they can’t do everything.

Ironically, people naturally like helping others. Help exchanged actually turns into a bond. This is called the Franklin Effect. This psychological effect happens when a person warms up to you if you ask them for help. So the next time you have second thoughts about asking for advice, remember the Franklin Effect!

Seeking for advice is not always easy but here are 4 practical ways to ask advice as a small business owner:

1. Identify your goal.

Understanding why you need advice and what the advice is for is the first step to your business’ growth. This narrows down what kind of advice you need and what advice you already know. Identifying your goal also lets you become more intentional about your quest for answers.

Let’s say you need advice on digital marketing. You need to be in a place or group where digital marketing for small business owners is discussed and taught. This could mean joining groups for business owners with the same questions, or reaching out to an expert on digital marketing.

2. Find a mentor.

Research shows that “70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs.” 

Find the right person to talk to. In the old days, people mostly learned their craft through apprenticeship. It’s all about working closely with an expert who has been where you’ve been — someone who once had the same problems and questions as you. John Maxwell said, “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”

Many self-proclaimed experts offer mentorship programs, but before jumping on one, learn how to choose your mentor by asking a few questions.

Do you share the same values?

Do both of you have the same views in terms of work-life balance, for example? Are they a workaholic and you’re not? If so, you might struggle keeping up with each other’s preferences and priorities. It’s important that your mentor’s values align with yours. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time building a relationship with them. 

Are they willing to share what they know?

There are so many accomplished entrepreneurs that you can talk to, but not everyone has the heart or time to teach what they know about business. This is why you have to get a feel for their personality and availability — whether or not you think you can learn a lot from them in a certain period of time is something you’ll have to consider.

Do they have the expertise that you don’t have?

Going back to your goal, learn to assess your potential mentor and see if they can answer the questions that you have. You can’t go to a creative entrepreneur and expect them to give you advice on sales funnels or app building.

According to surveys, 97% of individuals in mentorship programs found them helpful. Surprisingly, only about 37% of professionals have mentors. With the value that you can take from getting a mentor, it’s a great option to look at for business and professional growth.

3. Join a support network for small business owners.

Mentors aren’t the only people you can go to for help. There are millions of places to get sound (and free) advice — you just have to know where to look.

In 2021, technology has now given us the power to look up specific people and resources from the comforts of our own homes. Now, you can just type in the search bar and look for whatever or whoever you need. With just a few keywords, you can connect with other small business owners all over the globe who you can talk to for advice or exchange business ideas with.

Social media will always be the best place to look for virtual support groups for small business owners. Here are some places where you can build your network:

  1. Meetup
  2. Executive Suite
  3. A Startup Specialists Group
  4. Digital Marketing
  5. Small Business Forum
  6. Small Business
  7. Small Business Owners United
  8. Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and StartUps
  9. Small Business Networking
  10. StartupNation

4. Offer something in return.

There’s no such thing as free lunch. Although it’s nice to wish for free advice, it’s also good to offer something in return. Offer value — something you could give in exchange for the advice that you need. For example, you may offer a specific service or legwork the other might need for their own business. It’s a nice way of saying thank you, and might guarantee you a “next time.”

Perhaps the greatest step to take here is deciding when to ask for help. Choosing to seek advice would be a game-changer for your business. Sure, you can be independent and ambitious about how you run your business, but there will always be experts whose advice you could really use. Although it can sound scary to admit that you have no idea what to do next, there are so many people out there who’d love to help you out.