Older generations say millennials have short attention spans, a sense of entitlement, and little patience. The fact is, those qualities are not necessarily bad — especially for young entrepreneurs.
What some call faults can actually be advantages if leveraged in the right way. The key is finding that sweet-spot between youthful enthusiasm and the more “old-fashioned” values that have served as the backbone of business for generations. I started my company when I was a freshman in college. Fourteen years later, we are generating annual revenues in excess of $10 million.
Here’s what I’ve learned about striking that balance:
1. Stay energetic. Starting a successful business requires tireless enthusiasm. You have to be excited about the product or service you’re providing. If you’re not, no one else will be. On the flip side, enthusiasm is infectious. Your excitement can help you secure business leads and build a committed, energetic team. Your Gen X and Boomer counterparts can attest, you will never have as much energy — and stamina to work through late nights — as you do now.
2. Be impatient. Ironically, sometimes the same people who tell you not to be so impatient will remind you that the early bird catches the worm. What they don’t realize is that your impatience stems from your desire to get that worm! Take that impatience and run with it. When a problem arises, don’t wait around hoping it will get resolved. Take action to fix it immediately. Speed and your drive to produce immediate, quality results will serve you well.
3. Take risks. Launching a successful business almost always requires risk taking. Lucky for you, that pill is pretty easy to swallow right now. When you’re young, you have less to lose from a failed business attempt than you will ever again. If you think you have a good idea, give it an honest try. At the very least, you’ll learn something. Now is the time to be bold.
4. Stay social. Do your parents ask you for help with “the Twitter?” When you’re done rolling your eyes at them, consider what an advantage you have as an entrepreneur. Social Media is indispensable for expanding your network, increasing product awareness and building your brand. While older business owners may be struggling to learn the latest social protocol, it’s already second nature to you.
5. Seek help and advice. Smart entrepreneurs know how and when to ask for help. Talk to business owners you admire, read about successful innovators, and seek out a mentor.
6. Hire experience. There is something to be said for life experience. Consider hiring someone older than you when it makes sense. You’ll set yourself up with a team that has the benefits of youth and the advantages of experience. Mark Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg, a woman with 15 years more experience than he had. Both of them contribute differently to create a company balanced in youth and business expertise.
7. Stay social, for real. Forming real, personal relationships is good business, and this is often best done face-to-face. I love social networking, but it’s not a replacement for getting to know someone in person. Take your hand off the mouse, move your eyes away from the screen, and go meet someone. What are you waiting for? Your next client is out there waiting for you to find them.
Blaine Vess is the co-founder and CEO of StudyMode, a world traveler and a consummate risk taker. He originally created StudyMode as a resource for his friends and classmates to share content during his freshman year of college. Two days in and fifteen uploaded essays later, Vess realized he was on to something. Recognizing the value of this untapped resource, he honed his programming skills and guided StudyMode from a dorm room project to a network of sites that now reach millions of students across the globe. His goal now is to help students and teachers understand and embrace the changing role of technology in education.