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Being a business owner can be extremely difficult when going at it on your own. While unsolicited help may sometimes be appreciated, other times it can be found to be downright annoying and potentially insulting.
As entrepreneurs we like to create, evaluate, and fix things. For this reason, it becomes very difficult to see other business owners doing things incorrectly and often we want to help.
When to Approach
Determining when to approach helps maintain the professionalism of the entrepreneurial community and your impression upon others. Here are a few guidelines to get your mind thinking about how to approach or not approach in order to maintain professionalism.
Do approach for safety or illegal actions.
If you see someone causing a safety issue to themselves or others, there is a duty to interject and say something. We’ve seen the railroad track pictures, or photographers using another’s images.
Those are examples of when you should approach another business owner to educate and inform of the negative behavior, because these behaviors bring down the industry as a whole.
Do approach if asked.
Sometimes people will ask directly for help. Of course you are free to approach in those cases, but you should still try to keep all feedback as constructive and actionable as possible, instead of tearing them down or focusing on a soapbox of your own.
If your advice is unsolicited, many times it won’t be met with positivity, or any response at all. If you are one of those afraid of asking for help, just try it. There is bound to be someone willing to help. Maybe there is someone who wants to approach but hasn’t heard your request for advice or guidance.
Don’t approach for simple mistakes.
People are human. We make mistakes, therefore, grace must be given. A key example of this is typos.
Yes, sometimes typos are unprofessional and annoying to the reader, but remember we are all human and mistakes happen. Pointing out typos (unsolicited) sends the message that the content was disregarded with the focus being on a simple slip of a finger on a keyboard. Highlighting a small error can leave the creator feeling like their content is only being surveyed for slip-ups rather than what they’re actually working to share.
If the typo didn’t destroy your understanding of the message, it’s not worth wasting your time to bother the writer. Especially when it comes to conversational tone articles or social media updates.
Do like Elsa – let typos go!
Sure some may appreciate it, but for the most part it just sends the wrong message. So don’t approach unless it is a major or constant problem. It’s better for all parties involved.
How to Approach
If you feel you absolutely MUST approach someone over a typo (because it is important enough of a mistake it is damaging their original message) – your approach is key. Essentially, if not approached carefully, the message may fall on deaf ears.
Even worse, you may demoralize and discourage someone who is trying their best but may have a fat thumb or merely wishes to pursue a colloquial tone with current language versus restrictive proper English (Caveat: I’m not referring to general standards of grammar; I’m talking about not requiring Master’s-level thesis language in a blog post).
Don’t approach with an attitude of holier-than-thou.
Approach only to help. If your attitude comes off in an offensive or prideful manner, the recipient’s reception to the message will be lowered.
The attitude overshadowing the message will place the business owner you are reaching out to back further than if nothing had been said at all.
Do approach from a good place.
Approach with an attitude to truly better the other person and to raise the tide of the industry you’re in. Together we win but only if the approach is from a good place of helping, not of condescension and ridicule.
Approaching other business owners can be beneficial. So much so it can help to springboard their career and create a partnership as a result; however, the approach and message are key to the success. Remember, a rising tide raises all ships.