7 Common Misconceptions Young People Have About Entrepreneurship
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Google recently conducted a survey to see what young people think about popular brands. It turns out that brands with an entrepreneurial story behind them are considered the coolest.
Companies with cachet among the younger generations included Tesla, Facebook, Apple and Airbnb. Millennials and Gen Zers (the cohort younger than millennials) admire enterprising technologists like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs for their success inventing tech that has reshaped the world around us.
Though youth imbues a sense of possibility but inexperience blinds youth to the realities of entrepreneurship. Below are seven misconceptions young people have about entrepreneurship. Being aware of these will help budding entrepreneurs to establish more successful companies.
1. Education and tech entrepreneurship are incompatible.
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates all dropped out of school to start wildly successful tech companies. According to their legends, these visionaries didn’t need a degree in order to create multibillion-dollar businesses. In fact, some might say that their education was a hindrance to their entrepreneurial spirit.
But Jobs, Zuckerberg and Gates are exceptions. In most cases, aspiring entrepreneurs will benefit from lessons learned in the classroom. Readers should also note that these dropouts were stellar, dedicated students (inside and outside of the classroom) until they left academia. Zuckerberg and Gates were such good students that they were able to attend Harvard University.
2. Great products don’t need to be marketed.
Some have a misconception that great products don’t need sophisticated marketing plans in order to catch on. Young people aren’t the only ones who embrace this misconception, but it seems particularly prevalent among young entrepreneurs, who tend to focus on products instead of marketing.
However, it’s important to recognize that “field of dreams marketing” is exactly that -- a dream. If you build it, customers won’t automatically come. The market must be educated about new products, especially when they are disruptive.
Take the iPod as one example. The product itself had been done before. Sony had already produced MP3 players. But the iPod caught on because the product was particularly well executed, and because of a marketing strategy that captured people’s attention.
The slogan “1000 songs in your pocket” was a stroke of marketing genius that helped to propel Apple to new heights.
3. The most successful businesses are based on the best ideas.
As entrepreneurs we often believe that the best businesses are based on the best ideas. But in reality, the best businesses are the ones that are able to successfully execute a good idea.
While these two notions are similar, they are not the same. Organizations based on a good idea have the ability to address a real pain point with an acceptable solution. Furthermore, they are able to deploy that solution efficiently.
Simply thinking of a great idea is invention, not entrepreneurship. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must learn the business skills required to bring an idea to market.
Related: Why Your 'Great Idea' Actually Sucks
4. Smart employees don’t need to be managed.
Some young entrepreneurs believe that successful businesses simply need to hire smart people, and the rest will work out somehow.
But even smart people need to be well managed. Take Google as an example. In 1998 Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Eric Schmidt to become the company’s CEO. Page and Brin realized that the organization would need experienced leaders in order to succeed.
Schmidt ensured that Google had a solid layer of management in place to keep Google’s smart employees on track.
5. The customers don’t know what they need.
In some instances, entrepreneurs have been able to start successful businesses by ignoring customer feedback. When Apple was developing the iPhone, most consumers would likely have asked for a smartphone with a better keyboard or a bigger screen. But few could have conceived of the revolutionary device Apple created.
However, while some entrepreneurs are able to develop a product or service that transforms consumer expectations, in most cases, listening to the customer is essential when developing a new business.
6. Success will come quickly or not at all.
Young people look at entrepreneurs like Brian Chesky, who was 26 when he co-founded Airbnb, and assume that success will either come early in life, or not at all. But the reality is, success often takes time to materialize.
As mentioned earlier, thinking of a great idea is just the first step in creating a successful business. Execution of that idea is often the most important component of success. But learning important business skills requires years of experience, which is why success often takes longer than expected.
7. Older people aren’t innovative.
It’s a misconception as old as time: older people aren’t innovative. The reality is that every successful business relies on a combination of innovation and experience to succeed. In order for your business to move from a great idea to great execution, it will require all sorts of skills, and some of them can only be acquired with time.
Young entrepreneurs often look to a handful of hugely successful companies as evidence that entrepreneurship should take a certain form. In reality, entrepreneurship is more amorphous. Once young people set aside misconceptions about what it takes to launch a successful business, they will be more likely to develop a business that performs well.