4 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have

4 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have

Signs of Entrepreneurship skills

I was inspired this week by an article that identified “5 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have Over Older Counterparts”.  Here is my take on the subject.

  1. Less Responsibility – The article points out that a young entrepreneur is less likely to have the family, children, and bills that may cause their older counterparts to think twice about starting a business. I call this “golden handcuffs”.  A marriage, kids, nice home and newer cars are all great but those things, especially the material benefits of success, can make cowards of us all.  That’s a lot to lose if things go south.  While those responsibilities are manageable when launching a startup, family and friends certainly need to be on-board, supportive and aware of the challenges ahead.  It’s one thing for me to have to eat beans and ramen noodles for weeks on end to keep expenses down, but it’s quite another to ask your family to do that.  Also, as we learned with Joshua, our entrepreneurial son, starting a company while still in high school is a bit like having two full-time jobs.  Some tough decisions have to be made about the priorities of school, business, extracurricular activities and relationships.
  1. Naivety & Risk Taking – The author states that not knowing best practices, conventional boundaries, and industry standards is freeing for young entrepreneurs. Not knowing what you don’t know can cause one to be a more creative problem solver and not be bound by conventional thinking.  However, acknowledging what you don’t know is important in decision-making and problem solving.  Naivety needs to be accompanied by an appropriate amount of risk management.  This sounds counter intuitive but failing big early in the development process may keep some young entrepreneurs from continuing to try.  Test – Learn – Repeat.
  1. More Time – The premise here is that young entrepreneurs have more time to learn and get better. I couldn’t agree more with this and I’ve written about this previously in other posts.  While starting to learn early is an advantage, being purposeful about what you are learning is critical.  Trying a bunch of things at random can be interesting, fun and educational but learning with a purpose is far more efficient.  First you have to identify the knowledge, skills and experience you need and then set out to achieve those objectives in a somewhat intentional manner.  Like most things, it takes years of constant effort to master a skill set.
  1. Willingness – I certainly agree with the author’s idea that a willingness to learn and try new things is necessary to become a successful entrepreneur. He provides an example of working for startups for little or no pay just to learn how it all worked.  Building an entrepreneurial skill set requires a combination of knowledge, applied learning and experience.  A successful entrepreneur must have an insatiable thirst for learning.  It takes hundreds of hours of research, countless meetings and interviews with advisers, temporary jobs (some of them not fun), and the drive to push through failure and learn from it.

THE TAKEAWAY –  Youthful exuberance, unconstrained creativity, boundless energy and a naive few of risk are all advantages of young entrepreneurs over their older counterparts.  However, these qualities must be coupled with just the right amount of purposefulness, thirst for knowledge, strength to fail and learn from it, and the willingness to do the hard things in order to become a successful entrepreneur.

Think the Typical Entrepreneur is Young, Single, Geeky and Highly Educated?  Think Again  {INFORGRAPHIC}

Think the Typical Entrepreneur is Young, Single, Geeky and Highly Educated? Think Again {INFORGRAPHIC}

Signs of Entrepreneurship

If you get most of your news from social media and MTV, you might think that entrepreneurs are the new black – cool, sexy, hip.  Much of the attention goes to graduate students from Stanford or MIT who have just received a gazillion dollars from multiple venture capital firms to fund their new tech startup.  The reality is that most entrepreneurs are around 40 years old, married, children, they may or may not be a tech geek although they certainly see the world differently, and they have a bachelor’s degree from a college or university you likely aren’t familiar with. This inforgraphic was originally published on http://startupbros.com/infographic-successful-entrepreneur-facts-stats/

Does The 10,000 Hours Rule Apply To Entrepreneurship?

Does The 10,000 Hours Rule Apply To Entrepreneurship?

Signs of Entrepreneurship

In his book “Outliers”, author Malcolm Gladwell focuses on external factors that pave the path to success.  Along with these external factors he also suggests that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to “master” a skill or set of skills.  He cites a variety of examples in sports, music and business to support his theory.  I believe this theory also applies to entrepreneurial success.

10,000 hours.  That’s approximately 15 hours per week, every week for thirteen years.  Most well-known athletes started playing their sport from five to ten years of age, and with lots of practice and good coaching, reach the “master” level in their late teens and mid 20’s, just as they are beginning their pro career or making an Olympic team.  The data tells us that most entrepreneurs are around 40 years of age when they start their first company.

Most people begin their entrepreneurial training in college with the exposure to business courses, some cool technology, or other experiences that get them thinking entrepreneurially.  It takes another 15-20 years of education and work experience to develop the vast skill set, relationships, connections, maturity, risk tolerance, and confidence for entrepreneurs to start their own company.

If it really takes 15 years or more to hone the skills needed for entrepreneurial success, then parents and educators should make a more purposeful effort to identify potential entrepreneurial talent early.  Once identified, young would-be entrepreneurs should be exposed to opportunities and surrounded with the resources they need to “master” the broad array of skills, and prepare them for the startup life by the time they are in their mid to late 20’s.  This also coincides with scientific data regarding brain development and more mature thinking.

Joshua, our young entrepreneur, is well on his way down this path.  Once we realized he was displaying entrepreneurial traits at around age thirteen, we became more intentional about nurturing his passion and gifts with opportunities for business education, programs, contacts, and experiential learning.  He was doing this on his own before we finally realized his entrepreneurial traits and he has continued to educate himself and gain experience.  Despite having been at this for six years now, I suspect he will be in his mid 20’s before he has attained the skills and experience that will significantly increase his odds of success in the startup life.  He is on a faster track than most at his age because he is not in college at this point and fully focused on his business endeavors.   Fifteen years may seem like a long time to a teenager, but it is still a decade or two earlier than most first time business owners feel confident enough to go out on their own.

Although Joshua is on his own now, we continue to enjoy watching him grow in knowledge and experience and do all we can to help and support him, along with the network of mentors, advisors and supporters he has developed on his own.  When he hits his mid 20’s, look out!

THE TAKEAWAY:  While there are exceptions, the 10,000 hour theory seems to apply to young entrepreneurs.  There are simply too many examples in comparable areas of mastery to ignore it. Young entrepreneurs – this is much more challenging than you probably thought it was at first.  So what!  If that’s all it takes for you to give up, you weren’t going to make it anyway.  If you have the drive, passion and willingness to do what it takes to build on your gifts and develop the necessary skills, mentors, advisors and supporters, you can live the startup life.  For those of you who take up the challenge, “Welcome to the Community”.

The Perils of Being Independent for Young Entrepreneurs

The Perils of Being Independent for Young Entrepreneurs

Signs of Entrepreneurship

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 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, but maybe too well.

Some of the pitfalls of being independent and being a young entrepreneur with a natural sense of invincibility are as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – In fact, it is a sign of intelligence and courage when they have done all they can do to figure it out on their own.

The Takeaway:  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. 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.  Stomp the accelerator and drive hard, just don’t forget about the pit crew.

Early Signs

Early Signs

Signs of Entrepreneurship

As parents, how do we recognize the early signs of entrepreneurial talent and passion?  Our son, Joshua, has always been curious about how things worked and, as he’s grown older, had his own ideas about how things could be improved. It was obvious that he saw the world around him differently than most people. While many of us fly through our day taking many of the products and services we use for granted, Joshua always seemed to have an idea for a better design or a new product.

When he was very young, he would take apart the toys in Happy Meals to see how they worked. When he drew pictures for school projects, he portrayed unusual angles and multiple dimensions. Once, when we returned from a vacation, he asked if he could have the disposable Kodak camera. After downloading the pictures, it didn’t take him long to discover the power supply by completing an electric circuit with his finger. That got his attention!

He spent much of his free time, from about age eleven, researching electronics, learning how to code, building printed circuit boards, and watching YouTube and Instructibles to learn how to do things. In his early teens he taught himself how to “jail break” iPhones (a hack that overrides the built-in limitations of the phone and allows for greater customization) and sold his services to his classmates. When we discovered he was doing this, which was followed by a discussion of why it was a bad idea, I asked him how much he charged and how he knew how to price it. He replied that his pricing varied a little bit because he charged an amount that made it worth it for him, but one his classmates could afford without having to ask their parents for the money.  That was a deal killer. I knew then that we had an entrepreneur on our hands.  Either that or a con man.

The signs you may have a young entrepreneur on your hands include:

1. He/she is curious about how things work

2. He/she sees the world differently – Notices things others don’t. Sees problems and solutions.
Caution: This can also lead to strong opinions, fierce independence and significant confidence. This all sounds good until, as a parent, you have to manage and direct it. I have always told my wife that our kids being skilled in communication when they were young was cute until they became teenagers and used it as a weapon. Some days I think we should have never encouraged them to speak.

3. You notice a pattern of problem solving that evolves into dealing with more and more complex projects as they mature

4. They willingly use their free time to research how things work, to explore the world around them, to understand new technologies, and to teach themselves how to do things

5. He/she has an innate sense of economics, the value of things, and what product development

6. He/she has a personality that allows them to pitch their ideas and to get others interested in buying their product or service, or helping with developing the solution

THE TAKE AWAY:

Parents – As challenging as all these signs may appear to be, the one thing we don’t want to do as parents is to stifle the creativity and innovative thinking of our kids. The SYSTEM will do enough of that.

Young Entrepreneurs – If you have some of these characteristics, you may be feeling different than many of your peers.  Never stop exploring and creating.  Seek out groups of like-minded people.  The IDEA group – Innovators, Developers, Entrepreneurs and Artists.  Be prepared though.  It’s a very diverse, sometimes edgy bunch.