As a young entrepreneur, there are certain business and personal obstacles you'll have to conquer if you want to become a success. Some of the roadblocks exist for just about everyone, such as where you'll get your initial funding and how you'll find time to manage your business, family and school responsibilities all at the same time. Other issues are nothing more than self-inflicted obstacles. For instance, worrying about your age or experience level when dealing with a potential client is a problem you create for yourself. These types of problems are nothing more than mental games you'll play with yourself that will only hinder your performance. As a young entrepreneur, you must overcome them in order to achieve success.
When you're just starting out, there are numerous issues you'll find yourself facing every day. Some of these key success factors include being able to:
- Gain funds for your business without prior credit or connections
- Balance your family, school, and business responsibilities
- Overcome any feelings of insecurity about your age
Let's address the issue of funds. It may be difficult for you to raise startup capital for your business-taking on a part-time job may be the only way you'll be able to do that. If you're lucky enough to have parents who will provide initial funds, consider yourself the exception-and follow the advice I'm about to give you anyway.
If you haven't already done so, go to the bank and open a savings account. For about $100, you can begin stockpiling paychecks from your part-time job. You'll be surprised how quickly you can accumulate funds for business use. Use only what you need to get by and save the rest. Do not open a checking account right away-you don't want to make it easy to withdraw funds!
Promise yourself you won't withdraw money from your savings account unless you're using it to advance your business. As your business grows and expands, you can use and replace the money as needed. Save as much of your paycheck as possible. As your business grows and you're able to fully support yourself with money generated from it, you should then think about quitting your job in order to focus your attention completely on developing your business.
School activities and schoolwork are two other obstacles unique to younger entrepreneurs. It's important to keep your priorities straight: No matter how successful your business is becoming or how much you want or need to develop your business, you must make schoolwork your top priority. It's easy to ignore assignments and lose focus in school because of the million-dollar ideas floating around in your head. Just understand that school is what will help you later in life as you continue your business career. Be sure to set aside time every day for homework to keep your grades up: No one wants to deal with a businessperson who has flunked out of high school! Here are a few tips for keeping your school and business responsibilities in line:
- Maintain a schedule of homework time and business time. Always schedule homework first.
- Get organized! Keep a record of homework assignments and your grades for each class in order to track your performance.
- Keep your business organized as well. Record all business transactions and keep up to date on all facets of your industry.
- Make some time to enjoy life. You're still young and you should still be acting like it, even if you've taken on more responsibility than most people your age.
Speaking of age, let's talk about your age-related insecurities. It's natural for young entrepreneurs to feel insecure about their lack of years when dealing with older people. Not only does this type of thinking get you nowhere, it can drive your customers to your competition.
If you're insecure about your age, it may be a natural reaction to bring up-and defend- your lack of years while speaking with clients. Don't do it! You'll only be defending a position that was never an issue with your clients in the first place. And by bringing up your own insecurities, you may just plant that concern in the head of the person you're dealing with.
People are concerned about whether your service is going to help them or not, not about who's behind it. If you let this type of thinking continue, you'll blame any type of failure on your age and inexperience instead of focusing on the real reasons your business isn't thriving. This is a fatal business flaw.
Youth should be an asset rather than a liability. Try these tips to avoid the age blame game:
- Whenever the word "age" comes sneaking into your mind, change the subject.
- Let the person you're talking to decide what's important to them (you'll probably find the answer isn't your age).
- Replace insecure thoughts with memories of all the hard work you've put into your business.
- Realize that you're probably ahead of where the person you're speaking with was at the same age.
Understand that your youth enables you to take many risks that older people in the same position could not. You're young, without a spouse and kids-probably unlike your competition. You can take chances and not have to worry about having to pay bills and get food on the table. Your youth grants you energy and a sharp mind. View yourself as a "young gun" and take things head on because if your business flops, so what? You can always go back to your part-time job, but you can never regain your youth.
As you begin your new venture, know that you have already succeeded. You have an entrepreneurial spirit and that will help you throughout your life. As long as you use your youth to your advantage, stay aggressive and keep thinking positively, you'll have a successful run. Never stop promoting yourself and your business and never be afraid of success!
D. J. Hanna, 18, is the founder of Premium Web Solutions, a Web design, graphic design and Web service company geared toward small businesses. He plans to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University's Silberman College of Business in the Fall.