Why do business owners struggle asking for help?

Why do business owners struggle asking for help?
Karen Watkins

Posted: Thu 28th Jan 2021

It was recently the final day of our new year three-day challenge, which is designed to help business owners and leaders get some clarity around their business – while ensuring themselves and their teams are on track to get to their destination.

I love the energy that comes from these groups and sessions, and it always brings a sense of satisfaction when we help individuals get their heads out of the business for an hour and check they are all going in the same direction, even when that direction is ever changing!

As part of the process, we spend time looking at where our time is spent versus the destination, a simple process that focuses us on ensuring that what we do every day drives us towards our goal or destination and that, when we get stuck or lose our way, helps us get back on track. Simple! What amazes me though is that so often these two aren't aligned.

Talking through some of the challenges across the three days, what struck me were two things:

  1. Why do we try and manage everything ourselves?

  2. Why are we as business owners so reluctant to ask for help?

I've been thinking about this – as well as my own experiences – and it feels like there are a few things here...

It's OK not to know the answer

As business owners and leaders, we feel like we're supposed to be able to get everything right, that we're meant to know all the answers and then, for fear of getting things wrong, we spend time trying to learn – or we stall or procrastinate and do nothing. Both come at the detriment of the business.

I have seen 'fear of getting it wrong' stop businesses in their tracks and stifle growth, and I've seen an increase in cases recently where businesses, when communicating change or bad news to individuals and teams, for fear of getting it wrong, do nothing and end up in more trouble than if they had asked for help in the first place.

It's OK to not know the answer or what to do. We are in an uncertain world, and most of us don't know which way things will go. But, if you do nothing for fear of the consequences of getting it wrong, it won't help you or your business.

Thinking you have to have the answer all the time is bad for business. Admitting you don't know the answer but you do know someone who will and asking them – that's a smart move.

You can't do it all

As much as we'd like to think we are 'superhuman' and can do it all, when we find ourselves up until the small hours still working, we quickly realise we're not. As a leader, you aren't supposed to do everything.

Firstly, they're not all looking to you for the answer; they're simply looking for advice. Signposting them to an expert is the right thing to do – saving yourself the time of having to go research, find and check the answer is not a good use of your time.

You'll be judged more for doing nothing than you ever will for recruiting experts, and it allows you to get on with running the business rather than 'doing' the business.

We need to learn to create an environment where we build teams or 'nodes' of expertise and then let them do their job. Trust and delegation are key.


Here is an admission: I'm utterly rubbish at IT. But over the last few months in response to the market, I have spent an enormous amount of time moving my services online.

There's the scripting, the videoing, the posting, the promotion, the recordings, all of which needs to be right. Honestly, trying to link all these nearly broke me.

It left me feeling inefficient and utterly frustrated, and as well as being incredibly time-consuming, after trying to do it all myself I was sadly left feeling defeated. On reflection, I became a victim of my own teachings!

Having realised that I have neither the time nor the knowledge to move this part of my business forward – and that it's time to hire an expert – actually gives me a feeling of calm and increased confidence that I can progress with the work I excel at and enjoy. Helping business owners and leaders go from tiny acorns to mighty oaks is a wonderful thing.

At a time when we are all focused on keeping our businesses thriving, don't waste time and energy trying to do everything. Use your time wisely and, if necessary and it saves you time and the headache, get some help.

A recent survey across our clients and networks, quite unsurprisingly showed that business owners and leaders still feel:

  • overworked

  • overwhelmed

  • understaffed

  • as though they're managing everything themselves

So, lessons learned:

  1. Decide what needs to be done and get a plan

  2. If you don't know, it's fine.  Don't sit on it and let it fester - connect with someone who does

  3. Don't wait; do it now

Karen is a trusted Enterprise Nation adviser who specialises in all things people. Discover how she can help your small business manage individuals and teams through periods of change and growth.

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Karen Watkins
Everything we do at Rowan is underpinned by our commitment to help you enhance the organisational performance of your business. We do this in 3 ways 1. HR support & advice dealing with those day-to-day people issues as they arise, enabling you to get on with running your business. 2. Developing emerging leaders, everyone needs a No2 (or 3) that can step up as the business grows, we help identify and support their development. 3. Structuring the business, at some point the business will grow and change, using our easy 6 step process we show you how, and even work on the plan with you to ensure success. We believe in a relationship built on o Complete delivery with clarity o Simplicity o Trust These values are key to our success, owning or managing a business is hard enough, let’s not overcomplicate things, we build trust, offer complete clarity and, in an ever complicated and complex world of dealing with people and human emotion we keep things simple. We are here to enhance the organisational performance of your business, by working with you on the human aspect of the running a business.

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