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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.