A few weeks ago I was in my hometown of Green Bay for Easter. I was talking with my sister who is a recent college graduate and is in her first year of teaching Spanish in the Milwaukee Public School system. There is a very high poverty rate amongst the families of students that attend her school and she described some of the daily struggles of both students and school administration. I was shocked to hear that in April with over two months of school remaining, the principal called all teachers to her office and told them to each grab two reams of paper for their classroom because that is all they had left for the rest of the year. I asked her if she or the school had tried to find any community partners that might be able to help with their situation. She hadn’t even thought of it.
I quickly did a Google search and found that there were several paper companies within a ten mile radius of the school. I clicked on one and found an email address. I sent a short email that described how my sister was a teacher at a local middle school and that they had ran out of paper for the year so it was difficult to continue with their daily curriculum. I told the company the school was looking for local partners to help donate the much needed paper. Within hours I received a response that the company would have two cartons (10,000 sheets) of paper waiting at the front desk for my sister the next day. I sent a text to my sister who was thrilled to go pick up the donation.
The next day I called to check in to make sure the delivery was successful. Not only was the paper ready at the front desk when she arrived, but she had a great conversation with the lady working the desk as they loaded up the reams of paper into the car. My sister found out that the woman had attended the corresponding high school to the middle school the paper was needed for. She was thrilled to be able to give back to her old school district. The woman then told my sister that each week the company threw away several boxes of poster board and assorted other paper because of small defects that probably were not even noticeable to the average consumer – she asked if the school would have any use for those too. Now, every other week my sister drives a couple blocks and picks up a new (free) supply of paper. She is the hero amongst teachers for providing a much needed supply and the paper company worker is happy she gets to give to a good cause and help students at her alma mater. All of this because of one simple email from one stranger to another stranger asking for help.
In the business world, people are usually more than willing to lend a helping hand. Just think, if someone called you today with a reasonable request, you would probably do what you could to accommodate their needs. When people ask for your help you feel like you have something valuable to offer and you feel happy when you are able to help another person. For these reasons, people are happy to help others if not for their own satisfaction. What people struggle with is being on the asking end of a favor. They don’t want to offend anyone or have a contact feel like they are “using them.” Use your discretion so you aren’t constantly bombarding the same person with requests, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You will discover that the more ways you find to create win-win situations with contacts or business partners, the stronger your relationships will become. You may not get a “yes” to everything you ask for, but I guarantee you will get a lot more than if you never ask for anything. Be bold and create your own opportunities for success instead of waiting for opportunities to fall in your lap. Take action and ask for your “paper” today.
Your Fast Track Action Items:
– Ask someone you have never met to help you with something – this can be personal or professional.
– Ask someone in your network to partner with you on a project or upcoming event.
– Find an opportunity for a win-win situation and reach out to the person, business or community group to offer your assistance.
Email me at email@example.com and ask me for help. I might not be able to accommodate your request, but maybe I can.