I found a link to this article on Lifehacker (and borrowed their graphic) and it reminded me of something my mom and her sisters always told me growing up, “If you ask, the worst anyone can tell you is no, and even then you haven’t lost anything. You’re right where you started.” I can’t tell you how many times that advice has paid off, applying for grad school, getting clients back when I worked in sales or just getting small favors that have paid off in a major way.
In the essay, Jason Freedman, one of the founders of FlightCaster, talks about his experiences raising funds for the start-up and how the investors that were not able to invest in the company, were later able to assist him by making connections that were in some cases just as valuable as the money they could have invested. I definitely recommend reading the full article but here are Jason’s tips on asking for help
Ask for what you want
Make your request very concrete
We didn’t ask for general advice. We did our homework and made very specific requests. It’s much easier for people to respond to concrete requests. Even if they can’t provide for that direct request, the specificity of the request helps them find an alternative way to help.
Don’t use and abuse
I only wanted to ask these incredibly busy investors for help once or maybe twice. Obtaining industry introductions was one of the most important necessities of our startup. I made sure to ask for something that they could provide with minimal effort and risk.
Pay it forward
We’re all part of the same innovation community. This whole entrepreneurship thing is hard for everyone, but fortunately, everyone has something to offer. Don’t procrastinate on giving back.
Say thank you
Investors love knowing the outcome. For both personal and professional reasons, they’re interested in long term relationships. Do your part by keeping them up to date with your successes. I like to email everyone that helped me immediately prior to something showing up on Techcrunch. It helps me communicate to them that I appreciate everything they did to be a part of our success.
While these tips and the article are specific to Jason’s experiences as the founder of a start-up dealing with investors, the advice is applicable to anyone in any field. So just ask. As the old folks say, “a closed mouth don’t get fed”. Get some.