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Put Your Worst Foot Forward


by


You can’t get help if you won’t talk about your problems.

Never let them see you sweat. Fake it ’til you make it. Put on your game face.

For a lot of entrepreneurs, those aren’t just clever sayings. They’re standard operating procedure. To be successful—whether they’re dealing with customers, employees, bankers or even their own families—business owners feel the need to constantly project an image of confidence, even if they’re basically making it up as they go along.

It can be a useful strategy. But if entrepreneurs never talk about their problems, they’ll never be able to get help when they need it.

That’s where Laura Lee Jones, the CEO of LionShare Marketing, found herself a few years ago. Her Lenexa-based company had moved into a new building and was rolling out a new product line. Business was booming.

And so was Jones’ workload. She felt increasingly guilty about spending less time with her husband and their young daughter.

Defusing Your Company’s Problems

The good news is that Jones found help through the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program. It’s a local nonprofit that pairs established but relatively young business owners with longtime executives and entrepreneurs, who help them tackle their problems.

One of HEMP’s core concepts is the idea of “putting your worst foot forward.” Participants are encouraged to talk openly with their mentors about their biggest problems, even if—especially if—it’s something that embarrasses or scares them to share.

Her first mentor, Ken Rashid, was able to help Jones find a better work-life balance by reminding her that she owned the company and that she ultimately controlled her own schedule. Jones soon had a standing date to pick up her daughter from school every Friday afternoon.

Rashid also helped Jones understand how some of her office behavior was making her life unnecessarily harder. By micromanaging her team, she was only creating more work for herself.

“That behavior really kept me from doing the things I needed to do,” Jones said.

Disclosure and Confidentiality

Disclosing her problems wasn’t too hard for Jones, who describes herself as very open, but it can be a real barrier for others. The key is to find someone you can trust to keep all of your conversations secret. (That’s another HEMP rule: Absolute confidentiality between mentee and mentor, unless the mentee consents.)

It’s also good to find someone who isn’t directly connected to the business and can provide an outsider’s perspective. So an employee probably wouldn’t be a good fit, but an experienced business owner could be great.

“There are so many people who have done this journey,” Jones said. “It just doesn’t feel like it when you’re on the journey.”

But help is out there. “There are plenty of people out there who want to see others succeed.”

The Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program is taking applications for its 2013 class of mentors and mentees now through Aug. 1. For more information, visit www.helzbergmentoring.org.

James Hart

Written by

James Hart is a freelance writer based in Kansas City.

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