Monday, October 31, 2011

Making the Ask

If you're in sales or fundraising, you already know how important it is to ultimately "make the ask."  But what I'm about to suggest has little to do with closing a sales call or raising money for that new school building your university is breaking ground for.

Every day, entrepreneurs (and people, in general) find themselves in need of something.  Maybe it's office space...or perhaps it's a place to crash while you're in town at a conference.  It sounds so simple, but if you don't ask somebody for that thing...whatever it may're only doing yourself a disservice.  Instead, you end up taking the easy way out -- which, depending on the situation, could lead to less productivity and more cash coming out of your wallet.

Here's a great example:

Very recently, my partner and I were in Chicago for a conference.  As we usually do, we flew in early on the day we were to arrive...and set our return flight to be late in the evening on the day we were finished.  We do this to stay open in case an important meeting pops up.  In this case, we were set to fly back at 8pm on Wednesday...but our slate of meetings was completed by 8am that morning.

Ugh.  Where are we going to work for the next eight hours?

We could do the Starbucks-to-Panera marathon.  But seriously, how many nonfat chai tea lattes and frozen caramels am I supposed to drink?

Instead, early that AM, I emailed two people who I knew would be very well connected to the Chicago entrepreneurial community:  the head of an entrepreneurship program at a local university -- and the CEO of a very well known startup in Chicago.  15 minutes later, I had already received an email back from the professor connecting me to TechNexus, the largest incubator downtown.  After another 15 minutes, the head of that incubator responded, inviting us to come in and work from their space for the day.  We were welcomed and treated with desks, electricity, wifi, and all-you-can-drink coffee.

Now, some people may tell us "we got lucky."  But, what's my point?  We would have had a much less productive day hopping from cafe to cafe if I didn't simply "make the ask."

By the way, by noon I had received an email reply from the CEO of that well-known startup suggesting DeskTime App, which is a tool that helps find co-working space in Chicago.  It looks pretty useful, and I'll be sure to check it out next time we're in town.