Why do Founders Suck at Asking for Help?

"As a Founder I'm finding out there is a ton that I don't know, but I feel odd asking others for help. Am I just being stubborn or are more Founders like me who just keep trying to go it alone?"

May 29th, 2024   |    By: Wil Schroter

Why do Founders seem so reluctant to ask for help?

We'd think in a business that involves nothing but unanswered questions, our arms would be tired from raising our hands to ask for more help. But instead, we tend to constantly motor through problems that we have no idea how to solve, or have very little experience with, as if we're the best person to solve them.

The source of this tends to be a lack of understanding. In many cases we simply don't realize that the problems we are solving already have readily available solutions, and more so, super experienced people who are more than willing to hand them to us.

It's All Been Solved Already

What if I were to tell you that nearly every problem that you're solving is only new to you as the Founder. Struggling with fundraising? It's been done a million times before. Trying to find product-market fit? Been done. Considering how to break up with your Co-Founder? Yep, a gazillion people have figured it out.

A good analogy that I like to use is when we are teenagers going through our freshman year of high school. In the early days, it feels like all of the coming-of-age trauma is unique to you — the uncomfortable social circles, the misguided romances, the invasion of pimples. Yet later on, when you reach adulthood, you look back and realize that it's the same exact journey every high schooler goes through — it was only new to you.

The reason it's so important to realize that these problems aren't new isn't to minimize those problems; it's to realize there are solutions floating out there — lots of them. Our job as Founder isn't to figure it out for ourselves as much as it is to mine every possible source of good intel to arm ourselves with the right answers.

Zero Value in "Going it Alone"

Given how many things we have to get right as Founders, the value of "going it alone" and figuring it out for ourselves is pretty much zero. Not only is it a giant waste of time and resources (something we have very little of, to begin with), but it's also a show of poor leadership.

If you could follow two sherpas through a mountain pass, would you rather follow the one that has a detailed map of how to get through the rough terrain or the one who's all cocky and "will figure it out on their own"? That's essentially what we are to all of the people who follow us in the organization — a sherpa guiding them through tough and unyielding terrain.

Our job as "Founder Sherpas" is to find the damn map. We need to seek out every clue we can find as to what people have learned before us and extract all of that intel we can. It doesn't matter if it makes us seem like we don't know what we're doing (we don't, BTW). It matters that we get to where we're trying to go.

Who Loves Helping Founders? Um... Founders!

The best source of intel is almost always other Founders. But what's even cooler about that is how much Founders love helping each other. I've yet to experience this in any other professional community, but within the Startup community, it's a badge of honor to be able to help other Founders, which means lots of them love helping.

The thing is, most Founders are doing this for the first time, so they are totally unaware of how much help is available to them, at almost every experience level. The issue isn't whether or not successful Founders are willing to lend a hand, it's that we never ask for that help to begin with.

So, really there's no excuse for not asking for help, considering we all need it and there are so many smart people willing to give it. It's literally what we do all day long at Startups.com, and there's a reason it's our dream job. If you're stuck — ask. I'm wil@startups.com, and I'm not hard to find!

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About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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