When most people think of success, they imagine being lone heroes. This is not how it works in real life. Successful people all over the world need support to be successful.
It is a lot like football, where the star striker ( be it Messi, Ronaldo, Eto, Rooney or Drogba) gets all the glory when they score and we all forget all the work the rest of his team-mates as well as the medical and coaching staff) have put in to ensure that victory. Business, and indeed, life is the same; one does not succeed working alone.
We need people to back us up. For example, after a setback, an entrepreneur may need a mentor to remind her/ him that her/his outlook is everything. Maintaining a positive attitude and taking responsibility for one’s actions is absolutely important. When things do not go right (and often they will not), the mentor tells you not to look back in regret, but move on and try the next thing.
This skill is crucial to success in business and life. Starting is often a tough and lonely experience, as many as 80% of start-ups fail in their initial stages. But an entrepreneur cannot look at a setback as a bad experience; it’s just part of the learning curve.
So how do you get the support you need? First, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you sit back quietly waiting for someone you know to offer you help, for example, capital, you will probably have to wait for a long while. Instead, be upbeat and respectfully ask. Don’t kill everyone’s optimism and desire to help through negative or arrogant attitude.
If they are going to help you or put cash into your venture, chances are that they will expect to spend a fair amount of time with you, either helping or certainly discussing progress.
Be passionate about your idea. People quickly detect your level of sincerity and thought behind the idea. You need to convince them that you have been working on this vision for a long time, and have done the “due diligence” on all the potential knockoffs. Daydreams and “the idea of the moment” won’t get much respect.
It is thus important to demonstrate progress and your own ‘skin in the game’. We all know people who can talk big about a project but never get around to doing anything about it.
Ask for the minimum rather than the maximum. You need all the help you can get. But surely, you will not get all that help externally, as a matter of fact most of the work must be done by you. It is the only way to build credibility.
Set some milestones for three or four months out, and show what you can do, then ask for more.
Communicate the risks, and write down the agreement. Be honest with the person whose help you are enlisting about the inherent risks of a start-up.
However, show some incremental value along the way and look for ways to get some traction with a minimal progress, while you are still developing the main event. It is important, to build relationships. Having a real project, rather than just an idea, is a strong positive when networking. Now you really have something to discuss, and real credibility as an entrepreneur.
Build the relationships first; ask for advice on a real project, then maybe money later.
In business just as in life, there is no substitute for experience. So if you’re an entrepreneur, get on with it. If you’ve achieved success in business or elsewhere, think about giving back to the community by mentoring some promising entrepreneurs or professionals.
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.