While this has certainly changed in the 21st century there are still challenges of credibility, access to funding and so on facing a young startup entrepreneur.
In some climates like Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America young entrepreneurs have to fight against a mindset where people tend to see youth as not with potential for success but as liabilities.
Still despite the many challenges you may face as a young entrepreneur it is a very exciting time to go into business for yourself. There has never been a better time to start your own business than now. With the internet and new emerging technologies lowering the barrier to entry it is now a more open game for every willing soul.
Challenges to Expect if You Are a Young Entrepreneur
It is better you understand the challenges you are going to come up against as you set out to start your own business or run your own company. Knowing these challenges will help you develop the right attitude to overcoming them.
Challenge of Credibility
I recall the first time I sat before a big hotel executive in my country trying to convince him on how my tiny marketing consulting company can help stimulate reasonable sales and profit growth for his large hotel. The fact that I was a young, small guy with little or no track record didn’t help matters.
As a young entrepreneur you are faced with convincing clients, customers and even prospective employees that you are serious enough and capable of delivering on your promises. Building credibility will determine how far you go as an entrepreneur.
Challenge of Cynicism
In parts of Africa you meet lots of unbelief when you introduce yourself as an entrepreneur and they see you are very young or even too young. I don’t know about your country but there is something about being young and in business that makes people look at you with some skepticism. It is a challenge you have to overcome with boldness and professionalism producing stellar results whenever given the chance. Results will erase the challenges of cynicism and credibility faster than anything else you can think of.
How to Become Respected and Successful as a Young Entrepreneur
You should never despair when people take your words for nothing and dismiss you with a wave of the hand. Learn to grow a thick skin. And here are ways you can become successful even as a young business person.
1. Embrace Technology:
Nothing has contributed to the high number of successful young entrepreneurs in our world today more than technology and the internet. Two decades ago or even less it was more difficult to start a business. The financial requirments and barriers were too high. Technology has taken care of that today. Media businesses like NairaBrains and TechCrunch no longer take much money to start. You can start a serious business today with a couple thousand dollars and no warehouse costs and inventories etc. Today businesses worth millions of Dollars have been started by young, bleary eyed teenagers who had barely enough money to cater for their needs. All thanks to technology.
If you hope to start a business and hopefully grow it to become profitable without the luxury of millions look towards problem solving through technology. It is one of your best shots. If your idea is good enough maybe before you run out of money you get interested investors willing to give you enough funds to take you to profitability.
Internet and tech companies are reasons we have more millionaires in their twenties. So look at problems or challenges that can be solved with the use of technology with enough potential market size, get the right partners and jump in. It will be an easier route to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
2. Use Other People’s Experience:
I struggled with a colleague of mine trying to run a business a few years ago while in the University until I learned the lesson of leverage. If you can’t get across a dugout throw a plank across it and walk your way through. If you are starting a business a sure way to fail is to try to do everything. You might be good in programming and so single handedly you get the website for your idea up and running. How do you promote the idea, get early users in and improve onward all alone? How do you source for more funds from investors?
You don’t have to pay to get other people’s experience. You can offer equity to have experienced people join your team thus complementing your own efforts. You can also get a lot of other people’s experience by just asking. If you have a meeting set up but you need a more credible figure to boost your chances of getting a worthwhile contract then seek out that more experienced person and ask him to join you. You take the back seat and ride on the back of the more experienced people to get what you want.
3. Be Bold and Creative:
Be bold! There are no two ways about in today’s business world. Do your homework and be confident all through. If boldness gets you into trouble only more boldness will get you out. While this may not be absolutely true I have found from experience that you have to be very bold to get the respect you deserve as a young entrepreneur. At the first sign of timidity you lose. Do not allow yourself get cowed. You should also never be too boastful or proud.
Become creative and look for unconventional means to solve problems. People tend to respect you for that. If you are young, ambitious and creative you stand a better chance to succeed. Use your creativity to your advantage.
4. Surround Yourself With a Sound Board of Advisors:
A very good way to tap into other people’s experience as earlier stated is to build up and surround yourself with a smart and knowledgeable Board of Advisors. It need not be a formal board nor do they need to know themselves. They are people you consult for advice, people you go to for business leads. One of the first things I did while trying to restructure my company last year was to weave through all my contacts and create an Advisory Board of all experienced and accomplished professionals who I felt will be of great help to my business. I approached them and asked to seek advice from them whenever I needed to. Several of them agreed. I advise you should do the same.
How Do You Get Such Board if You are Then Young and Inexperienced
Getting a decent Board of Advisors is no easy feat. Chances are that you do not know any experienced or resourceful individual in your proposed line of business. The only way to solve this is to actively begin to network and meet the right people. LinkedIn and a few other networking innovations have made it more easier to link up and meet new people you wouldn’t otherwise have met.
– Don’t make any request first, Build up a Relationship: It’s always smarter to build trust and affinity before making requests from new acquaintances and associates. Make positive efforts to gain their respect and trust and then politely explain that you are starting a company and you feel their experience will be invaluable to the success of your new venture. Let them know that because of how busy they might be you would love to have them as one of your Advisors. Promise not to take much of their time or run to them with every little problem you have.
Getting the right advisors will be difficult. Many will not have your time and turn down your request. The few that do agree may not even have the time to give you advice on phone, reply with detailed advice through email or meet in person with you. So the sooner you know that the better.
Start with gathering a list of potential advisors who are good for the kind of business you are going into. then approach them one after the other to first connect then request. If you end up getting two or three who can give freely of their time and advice you then that will be great for you.
5. Network, Network, Network:
Your best bet to meeting the right people and team you need for your success in the entrepreneurial journey is via social media. With the help of social media networking you can hire the best hands, get needed investors and advisors, attract good consultants and ultimately reach out to more of your target audience without spending tons of money.
If you are a young entrepreneur social media can be a very powerful and important tool for you.
5. Build a Reputation: Reputations grow like fire because they are essentially helped along by word of mouth. Determine a specific talent or thing you want to be respected and known for and quickly begin to build a reputation for yourself. When your name goes ahead of you it doesn’t matter anymore if you are young. For instance if you grow a reputation as a very tough and smart manager you’ll find that it neutralises the age thing and people begin to take you on your reputation and not your age.
6. Push for and Embrace Positive Change:
One astounding feature of today’s youth is that they are more adaptable to change. To succeed today you’ll have to be dynamic and fluid. You can become successful by pushing the limits and boundaries and initiating change. You may be met with initial resistance but if you are courageous enough you make a name for yourself later on.
7. The Art of Organization (Set goals, checkpoints and strive to meet them):
Unorganized individuals hardly make good football managers (same for business management). Until recently organization and definiteness of purpose was one of my greatest challenges as an entrepreneur. You have to be able to plan the short and long term future of what you are building or hoping to build. Keep the long plan in view and execute the short term plan with dexterity making adjustments as situation warrants..
If you are not organized it shows in your business life and activities and you lose respect. That is something you don’t want as a young entrepreneur. Plan and follow your goals. Never enter a meeting without planning and being ready with necessary facts and information.
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Paul Eze is the Managing Director/CEO of Pejas Solutions Limited, an ICT services and tech startup incubator company. He is also the Managing Editor at NairaBrains.com, a fast growing business and technology information blog in Nigeria.