When I’m making dinner for friends they often walk into the kitchen and ask me if they can help with something. Usually I just say no. The problem with people who want to help is that they have a different idea of what is helpful for me.
Someone who wants to help cooking thinks they can prepare the meat. Of course, preparing the meat is about 1% of the work. The other 99% is unwrapping stuff, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash and cutting the onions. There is no glamour in cutting the onions or taking out the trash.
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Investors, advisors and seasoned entrepreneurs often think they can help startups with advice. Helping startups sounds like a glamourous thing to do. Unfortunately the help that startups need is not the help investors, advisors and seasoned entrepreneurs want to give.
Want to help and entrepreneur? Get him lunch. Don’t take him out to lunch but offer to bring him, and the whole team, lunch. Then stay until they have finished and clean up after them.
Want to help an entrepreneur? Make sure there is enough paper left in the printer and go out and buy some more if there isn’t. Even better; make sure there is enough toilet paper and clean the toilets.
Startups and entrepreneurs don’t need your advice on most things. That is all just 1% of their work. The other 99% is taking out the trash, cleaning the toilets, getting lunch, making sure everybody’s computers work, keeping the servers up and answering email from customers. It isn’t very glamorous but that is what needs to be done.
If you have a chance to help an entrepreneur just ask him what is keeping him back from reaching his goals. What are the hurdles keeping him or her from working harder? The answer will most likely be something mundane and simple.
Most entrepreneurs have a todo list with 100+ items. If you go in and give them advice they will end up with 110+ todo items. That isn’t helpful.
Ask them for their todo list and find out what the items are that are holding them back. Offer to solve those things for them so they end up with 90 todos instead of 100.
Now that is helpful.
Bonus tip: if you REALLY want to help someone in the kitchen don’t ask them anything but just check if the garbage can is full. If it is, take it out. If it isn’t, clean up the kitchen a bit. Don’t ask, just do.