Encouragement: the more you give, the more you get

In the startup world, life is hectic.  If this is your first startup, then you’re seeing & doing many things for the first time. If this is your 7th, you’re re-living things – good or bad – for the 7th time.  Whether you’re the leader of a startup team or a “solo-preneur” (you know, the entrepreneur that nobody wants to work with?), there’s one thing that will keep you going whether the chips are up or down:

Encouragement.

Encouragement can come in many forms from many different people. Encouragement can arrive at any time, and usually arrives just in the nick of time.  Odd thing is, encouragement isn’t something we can go out intentionally seeking.  We can very intentionally raise money, hire employees, bring on vendors, love on our customers, create our company’s culture, make great products, write superb blog posts, pay our bills, make our daily schedules and to-do lists…I could go on and on. But we can’t and don’t add to our daily list, “Get encouragement”, now do we?

No, we don’t, but here are four five sources of encouragement that you have and will need as you grind through the roller-coaster ride of creating a business where there was no business before.

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Co-workers
  • Peers
  • Advisors & Mentors

We all have some, if not all of these people available to us in one way or another.  I can tell you first hand that not everyone in every category has the gift of encouragement, and you may find that out the hard way.  I learned recently that my 11-year-old daughter seems to have this gift, as she stepped into my home office and wrote an “Go Dad! You can do it!” on my white board.  You may not always get the same gift from everyone.

So here’s how you intentionally get encouragement. You say these words to the various people in these groups of people that you know:

“I need your help.”

Do you have trouble saying those words? Many people do, mostly to their detriment, because they lose out on the gift of someone else’s brain and experience.  When you say these words to someone in the above groups, you’re guaranteed to get their attention.  Then you can explain what you’re doing and why you’re struggling, which is, of course, the reason you need encouragement.

Back in 2009, when my business had imploded, revenues shrunk by 50%, principals had shrunk by 75%, employees by 60%, I needed encouragement.  I went to an advisor/mentor, and spelled it all out. I started with those words, “I need your help.”  I ended with “I want out.”  He gave me the following “encouragement”:

“Get your ass back in there and fix it!”

Encouragement isn’t always rose petals on unicorns flying through rainbows. His advice worked on me and on the company, which subsequently paid off a mountain of debt, grew substantially the following year, and was acquired in 2012.  But I had to ask first.  You have to be intentional about seeking help, because you cannot do it alone and unless you ask, nobody knows that you are sucking wind and need some encouragement.

That’s a big part of the reason that David Cummings created Atlanta Tech Village, and an even bigger part of the reason that I continue to mentor startup entrepreneurs at ATDC and why I joined ATV: everybody needs encouragement. The more you give, the more you’ll get.

If you don’t know to encourage, ask for help.

What do you think?