Shaping the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs: the Tips They Need to Hear
"Philanthropy" is not always about money, but about helping others achieve the same level of success that we ourselves have achieved
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A report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that 27 million working-age Americans (or nearly 14 percent) were either starting or running new businesses. Another positive finding was that 24 percent of current entrepreneurial companies planned to employ 20 or more people in the next five years.
America is changing in a number of ways, and business is just part of the transformation. More than half (51 percent) of working people surveyed told GEM that they saw good opportunities to start a business: That's the first time that that figure has risen above 50 percent.
So, the numbers seem to be projecting a good outlook for us entrepreneurs. In my experience, entrepreneurs tend to gravitate toward one other -- at networking events, airports, wherever. We all face similar obstacles, so whom do we ask for help? Can we trust that the people we're asking are being honest and genuinely want to help us succeed?
In fact, the answer is "yes." Look no further than Hero Partners -- a group of entrepreneurs that came together for the purpose of fostering, mentoring and helping shape the next generation of entrepreneurs. Members believe all entrepreneurs are heroes and should be celebrated because of what they're willing to risk, what they are willing to create and how they look to inspire others.
Hero Partners provides entrepreneurs with networking and educational opportunities, helps create business models that work and contributes to ideation and innovation. What especially sets the group apart is that one of its requirements is giving back. The group's mission is to partner with talented entrepreneurs from all walks of life, who have grit and great ideas.
Randy Garn, chief revenue officer/principal at Hero Partners, explained to me the concept behind its endeavor. While the company predominately works with companies with revenues between $5 million and $50 million, there's no revenue prerequisite to join -- you only have to have been been successful in the past and have an honest desire to be charitable once you reach the next level.
If you have good ideas and are willing to help shape the next generation, Hero Partners wants to work with you. The goal is to make the entrepreneurial industry a better place for those who come next.
In that spirit, here are four staples to keep in mind, to take your entrepreneurial skills to the next level.
No idea is too small.
If you're ready to take a leap of faith and become an entrepreneur, you'll be filled with doubts. That's par for the course, but if you believe that your idea will help make the world a better place, size doesn't matter.
Your endeavor doesn't have to be huge, but it does have to be important to you and your customers. If it helps solve a pain point, that could well catapult your entrepreneurial career.
Related: 7 Tips to Guide Young Entrepreneurs
But first you must put forward a vision, a mission and a passion that everyone -- from you yourself, to your employees, to your customers -- will be able to project and rally around. Authenticity matters; in fact, it's the one thing that does. Saying, "Look at my product, isn't it great?" won't do. People will see through that faster than grain through a goose. If you think your idea is too small, your customers will, too. The title of my latest book is Think Big, Act Bigger for a reason! Think big!
Surround yourself with superstars.
No, I'm not talking about celebrities -- although those are nice to have, too. I'm talking about people that live, eat and breathe the same things you do. It doesn't matter if they're c-suite dwellers or the low man on the totem pole. As I've said before, ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere. If you're lucky enough to have employees who, like you, are constantly evangelizing your brand, give them a mandate to innovate and the confidence of knowing that you have their backs.
As entrepreneurs, we've all tasted failure and, to be blunt, failure sucks. However, it makes a world of difference for employees to know that the "boss" has their back and that it's okay to fail. That sense of "comfort" will embolden your superstars to act like superstars.
No one gets to where they are, alone -- I don't care if you're Daymond John or Jeffrey Hayzlett. Many people, directly and indirectly, help you along the way. While it's pretty obvious that collaborating with business partners, employees and everyone else in your inner circle is a given, think outside the box.
In the past, I've reached out to ask competitors their advice about an industry-wide problem. Why? Because we're in the same boat together. They're having the same problems I'm having, so collaboration might be the most efficient way to solve the problem. Also, generating goodwill almost always pays off. Take, for example, industry giant General Electric. It's partnered with companies like Boeing, P.C. Richard & Son and Songas Limited, as the goal is the same for all parties: to grow their companies.
Competition doesn't have to be cutthroat, and there's no "I" in team.
It's not your money.
More often than not, I hear stories about people saying they started their business with money their parents, Aunt Sally or Grandma loaned them. Nothing wrong with that. But remember, that wasn't their money!
Whether you got money from your nana or your investors, it's still not your money. You owe your investors total transparency. Show Grandma the contract signed by your first client. Show your investors how their money is being spent. Take them on the journey with you. That, not only lends itself to total transparency, but also helps create a high level of trust. Down the line, that could mean more money to keep innovating.
Also remember that a corner office is a thing of the past -- even if you're the CEO. Both in New York and Sioux Falls, our offices are open, and I love that setting. It gives everyone a chance to interact and helps convey the message that we're all working to move the needle forward. Being lavish with other people's money can end up sending the wrong message. My advice is to treat that money with the same respect you treat the people who gave it to you.
We often think of philanthropy as helping those less fortunate, but I encourage you to think of philanthropy in a different light. It's not always about money, but about helping others achieve the same level of success that we ourselves have achieved. It's about helping make a difference for the next generation. In the words of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, "One person can make a difference and everyone should try."