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Stop doing it all alone – what you might learn about your business when you get support

As a spinner-of-many-plates, you probably lie awake at night running through your to-do list and berating yourself for not having managed to do all-the-things you “should” be doing. By the way, I HATE working by “should” and like to stick my two fingers up at that presumptive word as much as possible. Because I know how powerful getting support can be when you’re a soul-o-preneur, I invited one of my incredible clients on for a guest post; so you can hear from someone like you who has boldly said YES to their mission in every possible way.

The SLI Founder, Gemma Perkins

What Gemma Perkins from The Self Leadership Initiative learned about her business when she got support

I started The Self Leadership Initiative way back in 2014, with no experience in running a business. I had a driving passion to do something about the skills gap I saw in education and a personal conviction that it was my purpose to give others the same wonderful opportunities I had the benefit of receiving when I was a student. It’s been a long and slow road to get my organisation to where it is now – I finally feel like I am out of the start-up phase, where I had the safety net of a second job and was always quietly wondering where the next client was coming from. Now, instead of focusing on survival I am able to look at growth and strategy.

There’s a temptation as a solo business owner to try and do everything alone.

The two key advantages of this are saving money and being forced to learn every aspect of your business yourself. I remember an opportunity arose to join a group coaching accelerator programme, but the cost equated to 10 months of my proposed start-up wages. I decided that it would be more valuable for me to keep funds in the pot and learn myself.

In the early days the main reason I reached out for support was when I hit a sticking block – perhaps there was a legal barrier like VAT law, or technical issues that I just couldn’t work out for myself and so I needed to hire a professional. It was definitely driven by survival or avoiding pain.

6 things you need to know about seeking support

1. Time is more valuable than money – in the early days to save money I did everything myself… and probably spent more in time by doing so. Now I am much better at judging how long things will take ME to do vs an expert. Do I really have the time to learn how to edit a video? Would I even do as good a job as someone else? I now know where I should focus MY time.

2. The parts of your business you love – learning to do every part of your business at the start is really useful to get a well-rounded view of everything that goes on. When I started getting support on areas and feeling the overwhelming relief of someone else doing things for me, I learned the parts of my business that I didn’t like so much and the parts that I really enjoyed (surprisingly I love sitting down to my bookkeeping).

3. Even a solo-preneur needs a team – there’s only me on the payroll, for now. But when I work with other experts, I feel like I have colleagues who are invested in my business. They help me to bounce ideas around, get perspective and provide valuable social interactions too. Obviously, you have to choose the right support here – not every consultant or freelancer cares – which is another lesson; pick a good fit!

4. Your message and mission – as a small business owner, what you are doing lives inside your head. When you work with external people, they ask questions, suggest ideas and challenge you in ways that help you to become all the clearer on what your business does. The more of these conversations you have, the more direct and powerful your vision becomes.

5. What you are trying to achieve – I remember, in the early days, commissioning a promotional video. The videographers were fantastic and there were beautiful shots of teams doing training activities…but it wasn’t until afterwards that I realised we had missed a trick; because the video didn’t have a call to action or message.

When you seek support you need to know why. I’m grateful to work with some fantastic people who always start with why (Am I trying to drive engagement? Am I trying to save money?) before proposing actions. But sometimes external providers will give you exactly what you ask for…which may not be what your business needs. Tell them what you are hoping to make happen and let them use their expertise to make recommendations.

6. Clients are a support too – it took me a while to get confident in seeing my clients as a resource. In the start-up days you may want to come across as ‘bigger than you are’ so asking for help can feel like a show of weakness. But if you are really serving their needs, they are often happy to support you by answering research questions, identifying new needs and even recommending you to other colleagues.

Now, as a more seasoned business owner I understand that, whilst money may seem like an important bottom line in those early days, it’s a real trade off because your time is your money. I have learned the value of bringing others into my business and spending some budget; I get to utilise others’ expertise and save time!

Some of the support Gemma has personally learned from investing in

  • Accounting / bookkeeping
  • Website building
  • Logo design
  • Video production
  • Copywriting
  • Attending other providers’ courses
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Monthly coaching

I seek support when I have those sticking blocks (“what’s going on with this web code?!”) and I seek experts to level up my business.

There are plenty of people out there who have skills I don’t – and love the parts of the job that I don’t – who are looking to help businesses like mine succeed. Now I chat to my web developer, coaching networks and of course the lovely Lea, when I have new ideas for expanding my business and want to pick their brains. I am able to recognise when my time is better spent on other things and I should just outsource.

Seeking support has also made me better at articulating the mission of my company (and my own life purpose): to inspire and empower people to become their best selves through soft skills training.

Over the past 6 years, The Self Leadership Initiative has facilitated the transformation of around 2000 individuals, from groups of young people; to charities, corporates and universities. Individuals who participate in self leadership training become more self-aware, more assertive and more confident in achieving their goals. Teams become more cohesive and effective; rather than striving for “productivity” they pull together to achieve bigger things. To discover more about the work of The SLI, check out the website.

There’s a big mindset shift needed to seek support, but it will truly help your business grow from surviving to thriving. As Gemma has shown, there is a huge potential for expansion of your business when you invest in support.

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