I used to do everything by myself. I never wanted to get anyone else involved until I had already worked it out. I thought it was weak to ask for help.
If you are struggling away by yourself, whatever it is you are doing, once you read this, you’ll be asking for help in no time.
The first 6 months of my last business, a food-tech platform connecting employees in London businesses to high-street restaurants, were like running through treacle.
My co-founder and I slaved away in our bedrooms with zero support from anyone else, apart from the occasional moaning phone calls to our mums.
We knew we were drowning and needed support.
Eventually we were persuaded to post an advert for an intern and to our surprise we got a lot of applications.
Although we were terrified of anyone screwing things up, we hired our first intern but agreed to only let him help out with the most mundane tasks.
Within a week, we had almost nothing to do with the day to day operations of the business and we were free to focus on growth.
A month later, two interns from Bristol University joined us for summer work experience. Initially we gave them the left over mundane tasks to keep them busy.
I was still scared to let anyone loose on anything important.
What happened next changed the way I looked at everything.
The girls came to help out at a pitch event and, half way through the evening, I spotted them pitching our business to a group of investors. They were doing better than I could.
The penny dropped, we were babysitting giants who could be growing our company.
The next morning I gave Jane the task of driving sales: we’d make cold calls together and then I’d leave her to make the follow ups, something I did not need to be doing.
At the same time Emma launched our investment round, setting up meetings with investors and writing communications.
We were flying, doubling our clients in a month and raising funding we would never have had time to organise otherwise. Suddenly, it was all about how fast we could grow.
Our next work experience hire (Emma aka M&M) started two weeks later. She was tasked with setting up a kitchen so that we could start to produce our own food.
She set about hiring a head chef and a sous chef, finding us a kitchen whilst designing and sourcing all of our packaging.
Watching 20-year-old M&M grill 40-year-old Head Chef candidates was priceless.
I’m not lying when I say this, within 9 weeks of deciding we were going to set up a production kitchen, three undergraduate dynamos with no experience (and some support from our superstar head chef), set up a kitchen, designed our menus and launched doing 80 covers a day.
This experience changed my life. 6 months working at the speed of a tortoise and suddenly I couldn’t think fast enough to keep up.
I learnt how much faster things happen when you have people helping you towards your goal.
It also gave me a new level of trust in people and I saw how much I loved working with other people towards a goal.
I must admit however, that there were a lot of fears there before we started getting help.
What I was scared of…
Firstly, I was scared that other people would think that I didn’t know what I was doing.
The reality was exactly that. But it didn’t matter.
We had a policy that everyone had to tell me if I was being a bad manager, the feedback gave me the opportunity to grow so much faster, and everyone got their concerns off their chest.
Secondly, I worried people would think I was wasting their time.
What an idiot, they all applied in the first place anyway, I didn’t force anyone. 🙂
Regardless of that, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. In our exit interviews, there were tears (mainly from me) and laughter and so much mutual admiration as we reflected on what we had achieved and how much we had grown.
I can honestly say that everyone said that working with us made them believe that they were capable of so much more.
This works everywhere…
I now take this philosophy into everything I do in life and it makes me so much happier.
Whatever I am doing I see who else I can get involved to share the journey with. Doing things with other people is so much more fun.
I am amazed how many random things people want to help me with, from tidying my room to cooking the Sunday Roast.
I used to research everything before I uttered a word to anyone else about an idea. Now I just ring the person I think is best suited to answer my query and ask their opinion. If I’m not convinced I call someone else.
Last week I came up with 50 new job ideas for a friend with 5 phone calls in 15 minutes — I’d never have thought of 30 of them. And I got to touch base with 5 of my friends.
Have a look at your life, where are you stuck? Could others help you speed things up and make things more enjoyable?
Start by looking where are you overworked, where things are moving slowly, where you could use some creative energy.