THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Cheryl Muir Headshot

Read This Before You Ask For That Business Favour

Posted: Updated:
BUSINESSWOMAN MENTOR
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
Print

Recently I've had the incredible experience of helping, and being helped by, my fellow entrepreneurs. It's come from a very genuine place on both sides, with me really wanting to help other women in business and with my peers wanting to do the same for me. It's been awesome and has felt really, really good.

So why does this matter? Because it's a stark contrast to the requests I receive that are gross and slimy. You know the type -- "It would be mutually beneficial to our businesses for us to have a meeting." No, it wouldn't. It would be beneficial to you to get free info from me and/or for you to try and sell me something I don't need. And hey, I'm not knocking the hustle. But be honest about it and save us both some time.

This experience got me to thinking. Why is it that some requests have me leaping out of my chair screaming "YES!" and other asks make my skin crawl?

It turns out there is a good way to ask. It's truly not what you ask, it's the context of the request and how you ask it. So here's my quick and dirty guide to asking for a business favour that really is mutually beneficial for both parties.

Is there an established relationship?
This is number one for me. As I mentioned, I absolutely love helping other business owners rise up and succeed, especially when it's my fellow women in business. But there has to be a relationship in place first. In other words, do we know each other well enough to pick up the phone and have a friendly chat? Have we spoken in the last six months? Or, if it's been a while, did we once have a really strong rapport -- perhaps we were good friends when we worked together in the corporate world. If none of these elements ring true, then the relationship isn't strong enough for you to ask me to do that big favour for you.

Are you being honest?
Honesty is one of those things I rarely talk about because for me it's a given. Only not everyone feels that way and I often need to remind myself of this when an odd request crosses my path. Be straight with me and, if there's an established relationship in place, I'll see what I can do to give you a hand up. Don't lie, and don't masquerade it as beneficial to me if it isn't. I have a BS radar and it goes off like sprinklers on a hot summers day when someone isn't being truthful and genuine about what they want. Simply put, if I get a weird feeling in my gut, something's probably off and I don't think it's that hummus I had yesterday.

Is your request clear and easy?
If you're ticking the boxes so far, here's the third and final step -- be crystal clear about what you need and make it easy for me to help you. Waffling, long, rambling requests are totally overwhelming and if I have to read the email twice to figure out what you want, to be frank, I'm just not going to. Ain't nobody got time for that. Structure it clearly so that your message closes with a simple ask and shows exactly what you need me to do next. And, if it's clear, is it also easy for me to help you? Have you provided a link or contact information or whatever relevant details I need in order to fulfill your request? If I need to make like I'm on an episode of CSI to figure it out, then something's gone awry.

What's our favour ratio?
Bonus tip. And admittedly, this one might be just me. I'm not counting how many favours I've done for you without it being returned, but I sort of am. I had a business contact last year who I fully supported because I truly believed in the great work she was doing. I supported her in every way possible, sharing content, attending her event and spreading the word, and I genuinely wanted to see her succeed. But it all went without a thank you, and when it got to ten asks (yep -- TEN) I stopped counting. You know what else stopped? My willingness to help her. It felt super sleazy. Especially when I asked for one small favour and all of a sudden she was too busy. Gross, right? Don't be that person.

Of course, this is all from my perspective. If in doubt, think about the requests you receive that make you want to jump up and down and agree to -- what commonalities do those asks have, and what do you need to do to replicate that? That's all there is to it.

Finally, as Erika Napoleon once said -- don't be an askhole.