Last Monday, I taught my final Retail Marketing Strategies class of the term.
I wanted to do something special for my students to wrap up the course, so for the final lecture, I assembled an amazing roster of guest speakers to join me for a discussion on the Future of Retail.
And I do mean amazing. Not to brag, but I had senior folks from Amazon, Google, Metro, Pinterest, and Shopify on this panel. I even managed to get Doug Stephens, a renowned expert in the retail space and the founder of "Retail Prophet", to join... despite the fact that I had never met him prior to my class.
How did I manage to pull this off? Simple.
Admittedly, these were not all difficult asks. Four of the six experts are friends of mine whom I had worked with previously. I knew not only that they were very smart people who would add tremendous value to the panel, but also that they were outstanding individuals who would be willing to help if they could simply because we were friends. In these cases, the ask was fairly easy.
The other two experts were also outstanding individuals. I just didn't know them very well. In these cases, it was much more important to clearly explain the opportunity, invite them to participate, and let them know why they should agree to my request. When questions or concerns came up -- such as whether the session would be recorded, which was against policy for one of the companies listed -- I addressed them as thoroughly as I could. Where I couldn't rely on established relationships, I had to present a good reason why taking time out of their busy schedules -- for free, no less -- would be a good use of their time.
But in all cases, it began with making the ask: my willingness to ask someone for something I wanted, even at the risk of being refused.
Early in my career, I didn't like asking for help. I didn't like having to rely on others, and I thought not being able to do something myself was a sign of weaknesses.