What I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was a Young Entrepreneur
Take advantage of opportunities available to younger entrepreneurs and watch it pay off with long-term success.
I was 22 years old when I started an accounting practice in London that would soon turn over more than 1 million pounds a year (and twice that much a few years later). I did that with zero debt and zero equity investments. I was also one of the youngest chartered accountants in the UK, cutting my teeth in the trade at the tender age of 19.
I did this out of necessity. I come from humble beginnings and did not have the luxury of wasting valuable time instead of working.
Experience is a boon in business. In my youth, I didn’t value it as much as I do now. I’m still learning. An entrepreneur never stops learning. But I did learn some valuable things in my early days that might help other entrepreneurs succeed.
Motivation can weaken, so use it to the max
The downside of decades of experience is that it can take its toll. Years of failure and overwork can eventually lead to burnout. They can also lead to an attitude of “Oh, that didn’t work the last ten times we did it, so let’s skip it this time.”
I work hard to stay motivated. When I hit a low point many years ago, I challenged myself to come up with one new business idea every night before I went to bed. The ideas aren’t always good. But the act of coming up with them keeps me energized.
As a young entrepreneur, I was high on motivation and low on past failures. That initial motivation was the fuel that kept me moving through some incredibly tough months until I hit a few solid victories.
It’s imperative to use that youthful motivation to its maximum in the first few years of business. That way, you can score some quick touchdowns to keep you ahead of the game if things ever do slow down.
Flexibility has pros and cons
It’s more difficult to make drastic changes the more settled you get. Property, investments, tax commitments, family — all of these things can contribute to slowness in making major changes. This, in turn, can slow down pivots in business.
Starting a business when you’re young gives you a blank canvas. Unattached entrepreneurs can move anywhere, go anywhere, do almost anything. This allows them to adapt to the market quickly or completely dump an old idea in favor of a new one.
This is okay initially, but it might not be an excellent strategy in the long term if you really want to get big. At some stage, it might not be a bad idea to settle, buy some property, get some capital in and start gaining a foothold to compete with more established companies.
So, utilize the flexibility of youth to discover what gets your heart pumping and makes you money. The closer your passions align with your core business, the happier you’ll feel over the course of your career.
New tech is your friend
While the rest of us try to play catchup with the latest social-media craze, entrepreneurs such as Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir are taking over the world of wine through an Instagram account they started for fun. Young YouTubers are building empires. And massive brands are sprouting from nothing but a web presence.
This doesn’t mean that Gen-Xers and older Gen-Yers can’t do the same. It just means it takes a lot more work because they didn’t grow up surrounded by this new tech.
I was a technophobe when I was younger. It was only when I embraced new tech and the latest digital advancements that I was able to achieve the success I did in my businesses. I had to learn the ropes on my own. I even paid top SEO gurus to come to my office and teach me SEO. I had to force myself to learn things that many people ten years younger already knew.
I feel I did a good job. One of my companies was shortlisted for an award because of our implementation of tech. But things would’ve been easier if I had looked into new tech earlier.
You probably need a mentor
You can't buy experience in the forex markets, yet it's the world’s most valuable currency.
It’s also a tricky currency — you don’t know just how valuable it is until you own some.
Humility is a key trait to have as an entrepreneur, and those younger entrepreneurs who do have it are far more likely to succeed than the ones who don’t. Because they know that they don’t know everything and therefore challenge themselves to learn constantly.
Finding an experienced mentor with decades of experience could give you an edge as a young entrepreneur. Because, hey, if it worked for the Jedi, surely it must work for business!
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor