3 Ways to Overcome the Liability of Youth
Young Americans today are armed with creativity, passion and a desire to change the world. As a result, it’s no wonder they are one of the fastest growing groups becoming entrepreneurs.
Despite their drive and enthusiasm, many of these young business men and women fall victim to high rates of business failures due to their lack of experience and an attitude of indestructible naivety. Young entrepreneurs inherently face a double whammy of their age coupled with a lack of business experience.
Although a challenge, following these steps will help you to overcome these liabilities to not only survive the launch of your business, but also thrive until retirement.
Build your social network. An entrepreneur’s social network is often their most valuable resource, since it provides expertise and experience beyond what you and your startup team has to offer. You must look beyond your peers and instead focus on individuals who have skills that you and your friends have not developed yet.
Sarah Lanphier, owner of Nuts About Granola in York, Pa., was a recent college graduate when she started her business. She believes her network has been a key component of its early success, providing not only capital funds but also guidance, making introductions and giving much needed encouragement when times are rough.
Instead of being handicapped by your young age, use it to your advantage by asking older, more experienced individuals for their assistance. Experienced business people are often willing to mentor up-and-coming young business men and women. A well-connected mentor can not only fill in knowledge gaps, but can also open doors for your business by introducing you to their contacts. Including an established entrepreneurial voice on your advisory board will grow your business by leaps and bounds.
Become an expert in your field. Jared Isaacman founded United Bank Card, Inc. in his parent’s basement when he was just 16 years old. Today, the company processes over $9 billion annually for its customers. He became a well-known expert by writing articles on the bank processing industry for industry magazines and blogs.
He hid his youth by conducting business over the phone while establishing himself as an expert on bank processing through various media outlets. Once he established himself as an industry expert, his young age became less of a focus to his target market.
Further develop your business acumen. There are many free or inexpensive workshops and courses available to develop business skills. For example, your local SCORE chapter probably offers free or inexpensive workshops on business plan writing, marketing and other topics that will help you succeed.
Lanphier started thinking about her business while attending college and used her business in every class project she could. She had an in-depth understanding of her industry, market and customers by the time she earned her degree. She credits part of her business’ early success to being able to apply what she learned in class to her startup business.
Successful entrepreneurs must also embrace the idea of lifelong learning. In many industries, businesses are either growing or dying with little room in between. Assuming you know everything at the launch of your business is a surefire way to land in the latter group.
Jay Azriel is associate professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at York College of Pennsylvania.