How Should I Prepare for a Future As an Entrepreneur?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I am 17 years old and I'm hoping to be an entrepreneur some day. I have a few business ideas, but nothing solid yet, and I haven't yet started college. What steps can I take now to prepare myself to be a successful founder when I'm a little older?
It's great to learn about your entrepreneurial ideas even before you pursue this next big step in life. It's also refreshing to read of your eagerness to learn how to become an entrepreneur.
At the same time, you don't want to follow any specific script; let your skills and entrepreneurial experiences develop naturally. In many cases, an entrepreneur "stumbles upon" a business venture as opposed to coming about it because of a calculated decision to attend this college, to work in this state, to work at this company and so on. You're also jumping a bit from point A to point D in becoming an entrepreneur. What do I mean? Well, you know you want to become an entrepreneur, but you don't have the experience, support team, industry experience and "aha" moment that comes when it's time to build a company. It is not your fault, you just haven't had the opportunity to work in the field.
What I strongly suggest is to be very open-minded with the various experiences that you come across in life, college and business. Everything before becoming an entrepreneur is background information and a series of practice tests that prepare you for your business venture. Sure, you'll make quite a few mistakes when you launch your first, second, third companies and so on, but now is really the time when you need to focus on exposing yourself to as many different types of experiences as possible. Think of your head like a sponge and try to fill it up with as much stuff as possible.
There are many traits that are important to becoming a successful entrepreneur. There are a few, though, that I believe are especially important as they helped to guide me as a young entrepreneur myself.
First is courage. You need to be willing to take a chance even if it's contrary to the norm. That's the foundation of many fast-growing companies. In many cases, these companies are simply attracting customers from other companies and industries because of their different, but superior value proposition.
Second is integrity. You need to be able to display a strong sense of morals and honesty. If not, the people that are most important to you -- your customers, employees, and investors -- will see right through you.
Third is work ethic. You need to be able to put the time into building a new company. It's never quick and it's never easy. It will probably be the hardest thing you do in life, as it has been for me, but it will be worth it if this is what you want to do.
Fourth is accountability. When things are going great, you will prosper both financially and personally as a brand. However, you will also need to take the fall for events that occur within your company. The error may not necessarily have been your own doing, but you will still need to hold yourself accountable.
Fifth is persistence. You need to be able to push yourself to your goals and to others who will help you reach them. This applies to businesses, especially companies in their infancy stages as they have little, if any brand recognition. If you are trying to gain a prospective customer and they say no, you need to be able to push them a little to find out why and what you can do to have them try your product or service. Maybe it's a few follow-up calls or a visit to their office. Of course, you don't want to be annoying, but you need to push yourself to reach your goals.
Best of luck on your path to become an entrepreneur. Let us know how it all goes. We'd love to hear from you when your time comes.