One thing that almost all successful small business entrepreneurs (food and others) that I talk with have in common is that they’re not afraid to ask questions. It’s a skill they don’t talk about much in business school but truth of the matter is it’s probably the most important one you can cultivate if you want to help your business grow and thrive.
If you weren’t the kid sitting at the front of the class raising your hand to every question posed by the teacher, the idea of asking questions can seem frightening. What if someone doesn’t want to help me? What if my questions seem stupid? If I started this business aren’t I expected to know how to run it and won’t asking questions show I’m not capable?
The fact is that the worst thing that can happen if you ask questions is that someone won’t want to share their information. In some cases, like when you’re asking what their gross sales figures are, that may be justified but if you’re asking for help and they refuse to give it then chances are they’re not someone you want to spend a lot of time around anyway.
And with regards to the idea that you should know everything prior to starting your own business and not ask stupid questions – well, there’s just no conceivable way to know absolutely everything you need to know. I used to picture that the knowledge required for running a small food business was like a bucket and after year 1 I had one drop of knowledge in the bucket, in Year 2 I had two drops of knowledge…you get the picture. Regardless of how much business and culinary background I came into the business with, I still had a bucketful of knowledge that could only be gained through first-hand experience and I could either make a lot of mistakes along the way (which I did) or ask others for help with my problems (which I also did).
It takes a little bit of gumption and humility to put yourself out there and ask questions but taking a chance and asking those questions can save you a lot of heartache along the entrepreneurship road.