J. Kelly Hoey - Build Your Dream Network

When someone says “What do you need?” or “I can make some introductions, who are you looking to meet?” or “I’d be happy to help you, what do you want to know?” – DO YOU have an answer.

A real answer.

Something more than a shrug and “let me get back to you on that” or a “wow, thanks for offering, I’ll think about it” reaction.

When goodwill is generously extended – have your ask ready so it can be acted upon.

Evan Nisselson, founder of LDV Capital incorporates the “ask” into his monthly entrepreneur/investor dinners. At the start of every dinner, each guest says who they are (name, company) and what they need help with. The foundation of the community Evan has created is a giving-forward mentality – and having an ask at the tip of the tongue ready to share (right here, right now, what can someone help you with) plays a big part in his giving-forward approach (as well as empowering a vibrant community of entrepreneurs focused on helping each other achieve success).

All of us have endless needs, AND we also have vast resources (more than we imagine!) to help others.

Now, a community can’t always serve up answers or solutions but that’s not the point. IF you don’t have your ask, you won’t ever get an answer or introduction will you?  If someone doesn’t ask, you won’t be able to determine if you can help them (thereby denying you a helper’s high – yes it is a real thing).

A suggestion.  When you’re plotting your “to do’s” for the upcoming week or undertaking a monthly or quarterly goal-setting exercise  – spend a few minutes jotting down what it is you specifically need to make those goals of yours happen. These notes become the basis of your answer the next time someone offers up assistance or asks “how is it going?”.

Another suggestion (based on asks that have landed in my in-box recently) is to be as specific as possible when you’re reaching out for help. While “’I’m reaching out to see if you might know anyone in the skin/beauty industry who might be a great addition to our advisory board/team” may look like a reasonable, narrow ask, it would be much better if it was even more defined (i.e. operations experience or sales/marketing or product development).  BTW the beauty industry is a $500+ billion dollar industry globally – so I’d even narrow that ask further by naming companies or niche verticals.

Don’t fear specificity!

Exactly what you want is what you’re seeking. Admit it! Say what’s actually needed, what you’re really seeking (‘cause if you don’t, you may just get a bunch of random suggestions that you’ll need to spend a lot of time sorting through, then politely rejecting – thereby risking the goodwill of the person who offered up the help – oops!).

WHEN (cause it will happen) you get the answer you’re not seeking to your ask (i.e. the “no, I’m sorry to say I can’t help you or don’t know anyone who fits that description”) don’t go disappointed and silent. You asked for help, it was offered, so respond with a polite “thank you for letting me know ” (or “I appreciate you spending the time or getting back to me” or whatever).  You might be pissed or annoyed or frustrated with the response HOWEVER, you asked someone else to spend time mulling your dilemma – which they did – so acknowledge that. They could have simply ignored your ask – but they didn’t. You may need to seek that individual’s help again, so keep the door open by following-up.

ICYMI Evan is a featured interview in Build Your Dream Network (and you’ll find details on his giving-forward community at page 10).

J. Kelly Hoey

J. Kelly Hoey

Kelly Hoey is the author of Build Your Dream Network (January 2017 / Tarcher Perigee). She has been lauded from Forbes (“1 of 5 Women Changing the World of VC/Entrepreneurship”) to Fast Company (“1 of the 25 Smartest Women On Twitter”) to Business Insider (“1 of the 100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter”) and Inc. (1 of “10 Most Well-Connected People in New York City's Startup Scene”). Empowering A Billion Women By 2020 included her on their list of the “100 Most Influential Global Leaders Empowering Women Worldwide”. Not bad for a former corporate lawyer. She’s a limited partner in two emerging tech funds (Laconia Capital Group and Lattice Ventures) and can frequently be found on Twitter @jkhoey.