Richard Branson Says This Is the Most Important Thing for Entrepreneurs to do -- And You Can Start Right Now
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Have you ever helped someone simply because someone asked you to? Think about any time you may have purchased cookies or candy from a co-worker, or volunteered somewhere that wasn‘t your idea, or simply gave your time, money or effort in some way to another person.

I’m positive you won’t need to think very hard–we do it all the time. It’s easy to help other people when they are asking for it.

Now, think about the last time you actually asked someone for help. For some people, this will be much harder. We tend to have an aversion to asking other people for what we need–or want–for fear of rejection and the embarrassment that comes with it.

When starting out, Richard Branson realized that running a business required multiple hats. After discovering where he excelled and where he didn’t, he found other people to assist him.

While it seems trite, the fear is all too real. Being told “no” when you’re at your most vulnerable can be too much to bear. However, successful entrepreneurs know one thing above all others: how to properly ask for and accept help. Whether you need to ask for time, money, or resources, most businesses don’t get off the ground without the support of many people.

What can you do to become more comfortable with asking for help?

1. Ask for something that doesn’t matter.

When we think about asking for help, a lot of times we only conceive of things that would be a “huge imposition” to someone else–and then don’t ask because we assume we’ll be rejected. Instead, try to ask for something that someone would likely say yes to, and that if they do say no, it wouldn’t upset you overly much.

If you practice with a few of these, you’ll gain enough confidence to be able to ask for more important things.

2. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I hate asking for things — It’s one of my least favorite things. However, one time when I needed a ride from the airport, I forced myself to ask my friends rather than rely on my usual Uber. What I found was that my friends were more than willing to pick me up–they saw it as a way to spend quality time together, and not a chore.

If you can get over your own squeamishness, you can accept the help others are trying to give you.

3. Be specific in your ask.

Once you have gained a bit of confidence and lost some of your embarrassment, then comes the time to start asking for more important things. In meetings, ask directly for a follow-up. Ask for feedback, next steps–even for information about any competition you might have.

A specific request is much easier to answer.

4. Assume nothing about the outcome.

The most common problem people have with asking is making assumptions about what other people can give them in return. When you’re concerned with a problem, you often have tunnel-vision about how to fix it.

By simply letting people know that you have a need, you may be presented with a solution that you may not have thought of.

If you don’t ask–you don’t get anything. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Jan 30, 2019
Angelina Lawton
Angelina Lawton

When Angelina Lawton ran communications for the Tampa Bay Lightning, she could never understand how a company with such an exciting product–professional hockey, for goodness sake–managed to be so dull when it came time to pitch potential sponsors.

“We were doing these huge pitches for naming rights with these boring PowerPoint presentations. It felt very stale,” says Lawton. “I kept thinking, we can do better.”

Her frustration spurred her to start a boutique agency, Sportsdigita, whichspecializesin making flashy presentations for pro sports sales departments–“a movie-trailer for franchises” is how she describes them. Nine years later, executives at more than450 teams, stadiums, and arenas haveused her multimedia slideshows, called Digidecks, to sell everything from merchandise licenses to luxury suites, she says.

But now the pandemic haspostponed professionalsports seasons, and widespread protestshaveLawton’s bread-and-butter clients–the sales groups–lying low. To keep revenue growing and her company afloat,Lawton ispivoting to target customers in new fields from financial services to health care.

Work-at-home sales teams at all kinds of businesses must now figure out how to close deals from afar–and they can use all the help they can get.

“Covid-19 has opened up people’s eyes to remote selling and collaborating,” says Lawton. “Our product is perfect for that.”

When Lawton first started marketing souped-up sales decks to sports and events companies, the multimedia opportunitieswere obvious.Looking to sell advertising rights to the billboards in the outfield? Show a star centerfielder leaping for a catch in front of them. Marketing the luxury suites for your arena? Play clips of the games, concerts, and monster truck rallies that clients will be able to see up-close from the box.

In 2016, she decided to focus on the hard part, the software–andbegan selling it as a service sosalespeople could produce the digidecks in-house. The move put her into direct competition with legacy competitors like Microsoft PowerPoint, as well as subscription-based online software, such asPrezi. Even so, since pivoting to this software-as-a-service model, Sportsdigita revenue has grown over 200 percent, to $4 million in 2018, which putthe company at No. 1,993 on last year’sInc. 5000 ranking of fastest-growing private U.S. businesses. It ranked at No. 146 on this year’s Inc. 5000 series Midwest list. Today, 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from software subscriptions, and the rest fromservices. Clients include the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Now, with sporting events on hold and tensions high from weeks of protests, high-profile sports teams don’t want to be seen as tone-deaf amid the unrest. Like entrepreneurs across the world, Lawton was forced to rethinkbasic assumptions about her company and customers.

Her company has already made some early scores: insurerMutual of America, Cargill, the giant food conglomerate, and Jostens, the seller of high school yearbooks and class rings, have signed on as clients. They haveexisting libraries of media–salespeople can populate the decks with pre-loaded photo and video options from their ownexisting ads, and then present them in tandem with Zoom calls or other videoconferencing software.

Next, Sportsdigita is planning to add videoconferencing to Digideckas well, requiring new kinds of software expertise and putting the company up against the likes of Zoom.

For Sportsdigita, the new revenue has offset the slump in sports, andLawton says the company is once again on track with its pre-Covid growth targets.And her new clients? Their presentations may lack the same jaw-dropping action of their pro sports counterparts–but their infographics and bullet points are leaping off the screen like all-stars.

Jun 15, 2020

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