As we celebrate our country’s independence, I can’t help but consider the challenges faced by independent, young entrepreneurs. I have quipped that “we raise our kids to be independent and then we don’t like it when they make their own decisions”. This is never more true than with energetic, driven young entrepreneurs.
Gwen, my spouse of 33 years, and I raised our teen tech CEO, Joshua, to be independent. Our job was to prepare him for life in a world that can be very challenging if you don’t know how to assess situations, make decisions and do things on your own. I believe we succeeded. Sometimes I think we may have done too good a job.
Some of the pitfalls of being independent and being a young entrepreneur with a natural sense of invincibility are as follows:
- You don’t know what you don’t know – This can give young entrepreneurs tremendous courage since they typically are totally oblivious to the possibility of failure. It can also put founders in some pretty serious situations with limited options, all of which are bad. Be honest about what you know, and don’t know, and seek help to fill the gaps. Surrounding themselves with people smarter than they are is a common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.
- Independence doesn’t mean never depending on anyone else or sharing with others – This can really have some downside since entrepreneurs seldom know everything necessary and must depend on others to succeed. Also, entrepreneurship is a challenge both mentally and physically. Entrepreneurs need others that they can trust will listen to what is going on with them and provide some unbiased insight and unconditional support.
- Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – In fact, it is a sign of intelligence and courage when we have done all we can do to figure it out on their own and then turn to others to help us complete the mission. It is a good thing when our sense of mission is more important that being independent or being right.
THE TAKEAWAY: Like countries, young entrepreneurs must teach themselves how to do many things and be responsible and accountable for their actions. However, this does not mean that one should go it alone. Just the opposite is true. With countries, alliances and friendships matter. Young entrepreneurs need others around them to fill their gaps in knowledge and skill, guide them, mentor them, and be a sounding board and willing listener for their ideas.