Learning from others’ experience

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Benefit from the experience of others

At one of the first small business networking events I attended, the group leader gave an excellent presentation in which she explained that no matter what you’re working on, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way. Whether it’s a marketing technique, an administrative procedure, or something specific to the services you offer, someone else has already done it.

One of the reasons I started my own business is that I like to work independently, and I’m sure it’s the same for many of you. However, being independent doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of other people’s experience.

When we learn by trial and error, we often end up delaying our success until we get everything figured out – if we’re lucky. In some cases we make mistakes that actually prevent us from ever achieving our goals – mistakes that could have been avoided if we only hadn’t been too proud, embarrassed, self-absorbed, or [insert the word that describes you here] to consult someone else before proceeding.

Before you say, “but I can’t afford to hire a business coach,” that’s not what I’m talking about (although coaching can be a great investment in your business, especially if you need help in many areas). The world is full of small business owners and someone, somewhere, has already done what you’re trying to accomplish right now, and most people will be more than happy to help you – but first you must ask!

“People who ask confidently get more than those who are hesitant and uncertain. When you’ve figured out what you want to ask for, do it with certainty, boldness and confidence.” Jack Canfield

Whom you should ask will depend on the type of information or assistance you need. If it’s specific to your line of work, you may need to consult someone in your industry, but in most cases, you only need to find someone who has gone through the particular issue you’re currently dealing with. Reach out to a member of your professional association or local networking group, or post your question in an online discussion group.

The next time you’re struggling with something, before you waste a lot of your valuable time and energy, remember that someone else has already done it. Ask for the help you need, and you’ll soon be on the road to success!

This post was originally published on From the Desk of Janet Barclay in 2009 and has been updated for Your Organizing Business.

Image © skif55/ depositphotos

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Maggie Ciere on May 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

    It has been my experience that a person of knowledge, wants to share that knowledge and be recognized for that knowledge. Each time in my career when I needed help, I asked for it. I have approached many business owners, clients as well as friends, family and yes even competitors, who may have the information that I need, saying “I was wondering if you could help me. I respect you opinion and I value your expertise. (This must be sincere). There has been very few times when I have been put off or turned down. Successful people are successful because they know that by sharing and giving, helping others grow, we receive many benefits that can not be calculated and … many referrals that can!

  2. Avatar Janet Barclay on May 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Maggie, thanks so much for your words of wisdom, today and always. You have always been so generous with your knowledge and an inspiration to many.

  3. Avatar Autumn Leopold on March 5, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    This is very true! In fact this is the bulk of how I have learned everything I know about social media and blogging. There are endless free classes, webinars, lectures, articles, videos and more. I’ll be I have a few hundred on my To Read list I haven’t even gotten to yet. The information is out there you just have to ask or do the work and look for it. 🙂

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      You make a great point, that there’s a lot of information out there to be found. I certainly don’t advocate that you rely strictly on asking others instead of doing your own research, but sometimes just sifting through all those resources can be overwhelming, so even asking for recommendations as to which are worthwhile can save you a lot of time, energy, and even money.

  4. Avatar Anna E. Lee - Interior Design on March 7, 2015 at 7:33 am

    Thank you for your post Janet! Those are wonderful words of wisdom. This is something I used to struggle with in the past but realized its so much easier, quicker, and less painful just to ask! A lot of times people are flattered when you ask for their expertise; it is very rarely the case that someone would actually say no.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 7, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Even if they say no, you’ve lost nothing. Depending on what you’re asking, some people may expect to be paid for their knowledge – see http://careerprocanada.ca/cant-pick-brain-free – but if you consider the value of the time you’ll save and the information you’ll receive, it may well be worth it!

  5. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on March 7, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I’m starting on my third year in business and ask A LOT of questions. Thanks for the validation, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 7, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Good for you, Sarah! It took me a long time to realize that seeking help – from asking a simple question to partnering with someone on a large project – is so important!

  6. Avatar Andi Willis on March 7, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel. So much of what we do in business and in our personal lives has been done by other people who are more than willing to share their ideas and expertise. That is one of the things I love about my experiences in the organizing industry. Everyone is so willing to share and support each other. I am thankful that I am now at a point in my career that I can now pass my knowledge along to others as well. Thanks, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 7, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Reaching that point happens so gradually that we don’t even see it coming, but it feels great, doesn’t it?

      I’ve also noticed that most organizers are very supportive of one another, which is fabulous.

  7. Avatar Seana Turner on March 7, 2015 at 9:21 am

    I’m a total believer in asking people who have more experience than I do. I think it seems efficient. I know others who resist, feeling it is somehow “cheating,” and then I know some introverts who would just rather Google everything and try to figure it out. I enjoy gleaning wisdom from anyone who will share. A great post, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 7, 2015 at 10:47 am

      At one stage, I thought that if someone helped me, it was no longer *my* project. I’m glad I got past it!

  8. Avatar Jill Robson on March 7, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I totally agree, I know I reached out to you Janet, for some advice when I started, that has served me very well. My Mother always told me, if you ask someone for advice, it makes them feel good, that what they know is important enough to share.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 8, 2015 at 7:29 am

      That’s right, you did – and yes, it made me feel good (Mothers are usually right)!

  9. Avatar Deb Lee on March 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    “When we learn by trial and error, we often end up delaying our success until we get everything figured out – if we’re lucky.”

    This is so true. Learning how to use a new tool or coming up with new systems can take us down a rabbit hole. It can be costly in terms of time spent and frustration that might erupt … when it might have just been easier to get help from someone who’s “been there, done that.”

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 8, 2015 at 7:34 am

      That’s what I like about SOHO Tech Training – it’s a great program for learning about different tech tools without everyone having to invest time to discover and test them individually!

  10. Avatar Deb Lee on March 8, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for the stamp of approval, Janet! =)

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