From Pickles to Possibilities: A Small Business Parable about Asking for Help

On the outside, things may have looked shiny, bright and smooth as butter; but just a few weeks ago I found myself in a bit of a small business pickle.

And in the spirit of full transparency (cuz that’s one of the Prosperity Kitchen values), I’d like to share my story with you. The hope is that this gives Future You something to look to as an example for how to solve big, hairy ass problems. Because they WILL happen. In direct proportion to your big, hairy goals.

Here’s what went down…

My friend, colleague and Prosperity’s Kitchen biz partner (Kim, aka The WordPress Chick) came to me in late August with the news that she needed to step down as our co-producer. There just wasn’t enough bandwidth in her rock band for her to give her full attention to all of what needed to be done.

And since there’s no guarantee that we’ll ever see a profit from this venture, she had to make the hard (and correct for her) decision to step back.

I totally get it. She’s got two kids, a mortgage and a business of her own that needs looking after. Those are REAL priorities.

And I agreed that she needed to put all of that first.

To be honest, I’d also been a little freaked out over the amount of work that lay before us (we had a pretty ambitious marketing plan). I wondered myself how the heck we were going to make it all happen.

I mean — we’re only human, right?

Plus — I’ve got a boatload of things to deal with, too. Mr. Perfect and I are moving next month and I’ve got bills that won’t pay themselves.

So, hey! Why the hell did I ever think I could pull this off?

What happened next was I panicked.

Clearly, I had a huge choice to make. Should I give up now and throw in the towel? Or was there a way to pull this off without Kim’s help?

I had no idea.

So here’s how I tackled the problem:

I drank a bottle of syrah. I cried. I called my mom. I asked Mr. Perfect what he thought I should do (he was still optimistic). I scheduled an emergency meeting with my mastermind group.

And then? I said a little prayer to the Universe. I asked for help. I asked for a sign. Should I hang on? Or should I let go?

This was the photo I uploaded to my Facebook profile the week I got the news…did you see it?

Over the course of that next day, I received a ton of supportive messages from the Universe.

Not the least of which was an actual phone call from a gentleman by the name of Steve Washer (aka The Brainy Video guy) who I had just a day earlier invited to join the Prosperity’s Kitchen as one of our guest mentors.

He called to tell me what a fantastic idea it was and that there was no way I could stop him from participating. His enthusiasm floored me. (Normally, I feel lucky if the A-lister guys just respond to my emails, period. You know?)

A little later that day, I stumbled across a video that I’d seen before but which evidently I needed to see again.

I highly recommend you take 3 minutes and watch it, too:

*FILD = “Fuck it, let’s DO this.”

Needless to say, the Universe SPOKE. And I heard It loud and clear.

So I took a deep breath and put one foot in the front of the other. Not knowing exactly how I was going to solve this massive puzzle.

What I Usually Do (but Didn’t Do this Time)

In most cases, when I’m faced with a business problem of any magnitude, I usually turn to Google to see if someone’s already found an answer.

Why? Because it’s usually the shortest distance between where I am and how to get where I want to be.

And also? Because I don’t have to ask anyone else for help.

Yes, it makes me feel smart when I can solve my own problems. (Even if, technically, I do it with Google’s help.)

But this time, I couldn’t see how even the Big G Overlords would have a solution that would work for me.

I had a list of things that needed to get done. And a limited amount of time and resources to make them happen.

And I knew I’d have to pull out the BIG guns. Yep, it was time to ask real live humans for ideas.

Start With Your Circle

The only thing I knew to do next was to reach out to those who might care about whether or not this project came to life.

So, I sent an email to the folks on the Word Chef PB&J list. I told ’em what was up. I told them the story that I’m telling you, now.

And surprise, surprise — they wrote back!

Their responses were full of heart and before you could say hot-buttered-croissant, I found myself in tears. Again.

But this time, they were tears of relief.

What do you say when someone writes:

Oh Tea! How you have stoked the fire of entrepreneurship in my belly with this newsletter and ignited it once again with Ze Frank’s video! Like you, and Kim, and all of the other small business owners out there, I’ve been covered up with this thing called “life” too.  It sits on me like a 4 ton elephant and just when I think I have enough space to escape, here comes its brothers and sisters to take over the sit fest. Enough about pachyderms, I wanted YOU to KNOW that your message is getting out here to us.  You’re dedication to sharing your knowledge, talent, and hard work is not going unnoticed. So thank you Tea, for being the creative person you are and for sharing that awesome creativity with the rest of us to keep us hungry for more.

There were also several generous offers (from people I hardly know!) to help in anyway they could.

I was stunned, thrilled and full of hope all at once.

So I brought them together and formed the AmBUZZadors — a small band of ferociously enthusiastic volunteers willing to help spread the buzz about what we are up to here. (For the record, this particular idea was borrowed from one Mike Michalowicz who created a similar team to help him with the launch of his latest book, “The Pumpkin Plan.” I was on that team, so I got to see first hand how powerful a group of advocates can be.)

Then I decided I needed more help. I needed people who might have some insight into how to pull this kind of thing off. This meant beefing up the Advisory Board, too.

I reached out to influencers who I thought could provide some wisdom, insight and yes — help spreading the word.

Here’s where we stand today:

Kim is staying on as our official technical advisor on all things WordPress (woot!) PLUS we’ve added Natalie Sisson, Sarah BrayDenise Wakeman, Beth Hayden and Nir Eyal to the Advisory Board.

With the help of all these people, we’ve been able to generate enough word of mouth that an additional two dozen contestant applications were received over the last couple weeks.

Has every problem been solved? No.

Do I know exactly how this project is going to happen? No.

But, I’ve got a vision. And I’m back to being excited about the possibilities — crazy scared still, yes — but excited.

And that’s okay. It’s a feeling I can live with because I know that I’m not in this alone.

And you? You’re not in this alone, either.

If you ever get into a small business pickle, here’s my advice:

1. Stop and breathe. Okay, and drink a bottle of syrah, if that’s your thing. Just don’t let yourself fall so deeply into panic mode that you can’t get out again. You won’t do anyone any good wasting your energy and brain cells on panic.

2. Make a list of what you know needs to happen or what you feel should happen. Put a star by anything you don’t quite know how to pull off yourself. Taking an inventory is a great way to distract the lizard brain.

3. Reach out to your friends, family, colleagues and yes — even those you might call your “prospects.” You never know who will have an answer, an idea or a resource for you.

Most importantly, don’t EVER be afraid to be vulnerable. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. And brainstorming your way out of a problem usually takes more than one lump of grey matter.

One last thing: Don’t wait until you’re in a pickle to build relationships. Yes, you’ve got ME. And I am SO here for you, my friend. But you’re going to need a village at some point and it’s best if you start to build it NOW.

Until then, what do YOU need? What challenges are you facing in your own business right now? Tell us in a comment below…we’re all ears! Maybe we’ve got an idea for you!

This post is part of the September 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) We’re a tight-knit group of kick-ass writers who’ve been blogging together for just over a year now. Check out the rest of this month’s fabulous carney work here

About Tea Silvestre

Executive Producer of Prosperity's Kitchen, author and marketing coach to solopreneurs.

  • http://www.anencouragingbird.com BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

    Awesomesauce!!! :>

    SO proud to be an ‘AmBUZZador’ for ‘Prosperity’s Kitchen’!!!

    :-) :>

    My biggest thing is finding my peeps.

    I kind of nailed it (again!) in a Tweetchat just now.

    I’M afraid to reach out in the communities where said peeps are likely to be open.

    Which, while adding weight to the fact that the Brigade is NEEDED as a Safe+Sacred+Supportive Space for those who are interested in exploring the paranormal, whether out of sheer curiosity or experiences of their own, isn’t terribly helpful in actually FINDING those people where they currently are.

    I’m enjoying my ‘discover them in their other guises’ mode, but it’s not fast enough to be sustainable. :>

    Got those bills to pay ourselves. :>

    So, any constructive thoughts that you or your peeps have would be most appreciated! :-) :>

    Thank you all in advance! :-) :>

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      If you go where you know your peeps are likely to be, you don’t necessarily have to reach out on an individual basis — if it’s a forum, you can just take part in interesting conversations and make statements about where you’re coming from. Make sure your signature includes your website URL so people can click to find you — that’s the first thing. The second is to see about partnering with other like-minded folks on an event of some kind. Could you host a #parachat on Twitter?

      • http://www.anencouragingbird.com BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

        I like the notion of a #parachat – especially with October coming up. I shall ponder this. :-) :>

        Other thoughts need to percolate a bit, it seems. :>
        Thanks for your thoughts! :-) :>

  • http://www.theheadologist.com/ Ellie Di

    I am ASS DEEP in something very similar, although it’s another part of me that’s bowing out. I’ve asked for guidance from friends and from the universe, but nothing I’m able to hear/see feels like it’s helping. The conflict is terrifying. Thank you SO much for sharing all this so I (and other would-be quitters) know there are others. <3

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      That’s one of the worst feelings, Ellie (the limbo/not-knowing). And I feel your pain, sister. On the bright side, at least you’re not up to your eyebrows? If you ever want to bounce any ideas off me, I’m here for you. You know where to find me!

    • http://www.anencouragingbird.com BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

      *hugs!* I totally hear you about the whole ‘house divided’ thing. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know. I will be happy to help as I can. :-) :>

  • http://getpaidtowriteonline.com/ Sharon Hurley Hall

    I like the way you’ve turned hanging on by your fingernails and blind panic into inspiration, Tea, and I’m so happy to be part of the AmBUZZadors group.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Sharon! And I’m tickled pink to have you on my team.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rachel.rubin.chicago Rachel Rubin

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story! Being able to reach out and ask for help is super important and something most of us don’t do nearly enough. It’s never a sign of weakness, it’s wise. I always find it humbling when people help. Accepting help with grace is something that myself and many of my friends need to work on :)

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Ahhh…to strive always to be graceful and wise. It’s a constant process, isn’t it?

  • http://www.devacoaching.com/ Sandi Amorim

    It’s really inspiring how you turned this challenge into an opportunity, because I know how easy it is to get caught up in the drama and/or disempowering feelings when something like this happens. Takes courage, and that you have in spades sister!

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Either that, or I’ve just perfected the art of moving my consciousness to objective observer. Whichever it is, I am truly grateful to have you on the team.

  • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

    Only one bottle of syrah, huh? You’re a strong woman! Seriously, I don’t know how you manage to keep it all together AND get things done the way you do. You’re a progress machine. I’m pretty sure that you only make these problems up to make the rest of us feel better.

    One thing you mentioned helps me many times and that’s making a list – of the things I need, the possible solutions, types of legumes… ok, that’s just for distraction…. but it helps to put it on paper and you’re right, it does get you out of your annoying head for a while.

    As always, your stories are riveting and inspiring.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      LOL. Types of legumes? Clearly, you need to drink some syrah with ME. Legumes are the farthest thing from my mind at that point. Thanks for chiming in, Carol Lynn. Your support means a lot!

  • http://citizenzeus.com/ Zeus Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.

    Great, inspiration a post Tea. It brings to the fore that none of us succeed alone and that if we want to succeed “individually” in business, especially one that has value of others, one must appeal to others to offer their value and become part of the process! I like it!

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Yay! So glad to have you on the team, Zeus.

  • http://www.thenumberswhisperer.com/ Nicole Fende

    I can’t say how much I admire your ability to be vulnerable. That’s probably one of the hardest things for me. I’m aces at supporting others, but need a good boot in the patootie (pickle?) to make it public or even share with my close peeps.

    I’m proud to be an AmBUZZador too, and I know this thing is going to ROCK!!!!

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thank you, Nicole! Having your support means the WORLD to me. And this vulnerability thing? Yeah, it takes practice. :-)

  • SandyMc

    You always inspire Tea, even when you are in pickle. And it seemed like this one was beyond a one bottle of Syrah pickle. it is heartening to see how your village responded and clearly that is a powerful message to us all to get building our village. I love what you’re doing Tea. It is so much the time to move above the online marketing hyperbole. I think the fact that you have risen to the pickle challenge will be fantastic for all of us. Would love to be an Oz AmBUZZador.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      And we’d love to have you! Just send me your bio/photo and I’ll get you more details.

  • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

    1-2-3 .. I love how you always break down lessons-learned into the do-able, not-intimidating basic steps so quickly, Tea. I can only add a full-throated “Hells YEAH” to the “reach out” part. I’m so glad you reached out to us in the Posse – so many strong, creative folks (especially women, I find) feel some internal pressure to solve it all on our own and resist asking for help, when those around us are anxious to PROVIDE the help, because we WANT to help each other succeed.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’m finally learning that it’s really okay to lean on your friends from time to time. So glad you’re in my corner, Ms. Annie!

      • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

        And I am SO glad you’re in mine, Chef T!

  • http://www.IAmNickArmstrong.com/ Nick Armstrong

    It’s great that the solutions to so many problems can be obtained simply by asking. The folks who just love us regardless of our own fear or failings and are just an email away are few and far between, but when asked for a little inspiration they certainly do provide!

    I’m so glad to see that transparency is not only paid lip service, it’s put into full force in total view of the public. Grand on every level.

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  • http://www.scatterthestones.co.uk/ Anita

    I really loved your post Tea, I appreciate your openess and vulnerability. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. I wish you all the best for your inspiring vision and plans :)

    I am on a massive learning curve of my own. Where I seem to be heading towards wonderful opportunities to draw alongside others going through hard times,(which is my heart’s desire), how I actually finance these projects is where I get totally lost.,,,