Young entrepreneurs have some advantages over older business owners in that they see everything from a fresh perspective. They don’t have the jaded views of someone who’s been burned in past transactions or the creative limitations of someone who’s seen and tried almost everything. However, they also lack the level of experience of someone who’s built a company from the ground up.
Fewer millennials start businesses than baby boomers each month. At last count, around 0.37 percent of baby boomers start a new business, while only 0.22 percent of millennials do. There are many reasons for the difference. One is cash flow issues, as well as the fact that millennials like less risk and they don’t have as much disposable income due to high student loan debt. However, younger entrepreneurs are starting businesses each month, and there are a few things they should know that will help them succeed.
1. Get a Mentor
The younger generation is technologically savvy and quick learners because of their ability to pick up tech usage. However, they might be lacking in world experience. No matter how many books you read, there are some things learned through business dealings you simply can’t know unless you’ve been through it yourself. Go to some networking events and seek someone older in your field who has already been through the fire. Look for a successful entrepreneur you admire and approach them about mentoring you.
2. Learn Marketing
You may think you understand the intricacies of social media marketing. After all, you’ve been on social media most of your life, and you’ve seen campaigns go viral and know what it takes. However, there is a whole world of detail behind the viral campaigns you might not yet be aware of, such as finding the perfect hashtag and tapping into the buyer’s emotions. Take time to read through marketing guides and try out different techniques until you hit on the perfect one for your business.
3. Target Local Buyers
The internet opens up the world to business owners, but it’s better to start small at first and target local people. You can always expand at any time, but beginning this way allows you to establish a presence in your community and build a name for yourself. It also keeps your missteps small so you can change them before entering the world stage.
Add beautiful signage to your storefront or office space to draw in foot traffic. Participate in local events, such as festivals and fairs, and hand out promotional items. Sponsor a Little League team or a school sport. Get your name out there and start building your fan base, so they can share what you do and help you expand beyond your town.
4. Know Your Own Mind
Because you’re young, everyone from that older worker you took a chance on to your parents will try to tell you what you should do and how you should do it. You must know your own mind, and your vision for your brand so you can stand firm against people who may be more demanding than you are. You’re the one building this company and you should always have the final say in how things go. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when you need to — just do so with kindness. Remember that it’s best not to burn bridges, as you may need to cross back over them again someday.
5. Take Time for Yourself
The first year of business is a busy time. First, there is all the planning to get up and running. Then, you’re thrown into a world where you’re responsible for everything from employees to making sure your business doesn’t go bankrupt. It’s easy to work countless hours and never take a second for yourself. This is a surefire path to burnout. Insist on time for you. Pick one day a week that you don’t do anything related to your business.
Take a one-week vacation during your slow season, even if you can barely stand the thought, and commit to not checking email or your phone during that time. In fact, invest in a company phone and leave it at home — and don’t give out your personal number for business. It is fine to leave a trusted manager in charge for the week. If you don’t trust them, why are they working for you?
6. Surround Yourself With People Smarter than You
For years, business gurus have advised surrounding yourself with people smarter than you. The reason is simple — they know more than you do about their topic, and you will learn from them and grow. When you hire a marketing manager, they should know so much more about promotions than you do that you feel naive. When you hire an accountant, their language should almost be Greek to you. Find the smartest team you can and trust them to do their work.
7. Know Your Audience
This is advice you’ll read over and over again when learning about marketing, website design and other parts of running a company. You must know who your buyer is and know them well. Dig into your internal data about your clients. How often do they order? Did they say anything to customer service about why they like your product or service? What can you learn from any complaints they’ve lodged?
Study your competitors and their customers. How do they reach the same demographic you aim for? Next, go online and study your buyer. What sites do they visit? Which social media platforms do they most enjoy? Are there any particular keywords they search for more than others? The more information you have, the better you can market to and serve your customer base.
8. Stay Humble and Kind
Your business may succeed beyond your wildest dreams. It’s easy to get into the habit of thinking you’re a bit better than other companies out there. Running a company is also stressful, and you’ll grow tired of telling employees the same thing over and over or dealing with repetitive issues.
Even through all that, remain humble. Remember where you started and that if it weren’t for your customers and your employees, you wouldn’t be the success you are today. Be kind to everyone, even the ones who drive you crazy. It takes a bit of effort, but you’ll see people grow and become better due to your leadership and example.
9. Turn Your Mistakes Around
In your first year of business, you will make mistakes — and a lot of them. Every entrepreneur, no matter their age, makes errors. The key is to learn from them. Analyze what went wrong and how the situation could have been handled differently. The next time a similar occasion happens, you’ll know how to move forward and the results will be better.
Become a Lifelong Learner
As an entrepreneur, you’ll learn via hands-on training. However, if you want to really excel, commit to becoming a lifelong learner. Seek a mentor, learn from smarter people, take online courses, attend conferences and pay attention to your industry. With a bit of effort, you’ll make the list of the top 100 youngest entrepreneurs, but more importantly, you’ll run a successful company that will be around for years to come.
Lexie is a UX content strategist and web designer. She enjoys copious amounts of coffee (with a dash of milk) and walking her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.