3 Struggles Young Entrepreneurs Face (and How to Overcome Them)
Being an entrepreneur is tough. Add being young and inexperienced, and you have me three years ago — as well as a good chunk of today’s entrepreneur population.
My journey as an entrepreneur began while I was driving across country from Chicago to San Diego. I didn’t know it at the time, but this literal journey would take me on the long, winding road to entrepreneurship.
Bored by the monotony of the highway, I began to think of problems with the traditional hiring process. Having trouble hiring for the call center where I worked is what truly sparked my entrepreneurial fire. I pulled over and wrote my solution on cocktail napkins. And, thus, Spark Hire, a video interviewing solution, was born.
Building a successful company from the ground up isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a risk — one that ends in failure for many young entrepreneurs. Yet, despite what you hear, read online and learn in MBA classes, some of the biggest startup successes come from the young, unlikely 20-somethings.
While building and legitimizing a business from the ground up is no easy feat, there are definitely a few advantages to being a young, first-time entrepreneur (unrivaled confidence and fearlessness, for instance). The challenges we face shape us into the entrepreneurs we are.
Age might just be a number, but it can create a variety of challenges for new entrepreneurs. Here are three things I struggled with and ultimately managed to overcome.
1. Being relatable
One of the first challenges I faced was being relatable to my friends and peers. Once the gears started turning on that road trip to entrepreneurship, I was determined to bring my idea to life — even though I was still in school at the time. Because I had to balance school and building a business, any free time I had was dedicated to working on Spark Hire.
As supportive as friends can be (and mine were), they can never fully relate to what you’re going through as a young entrepreneur. My friends, in particular, had a hard time understanding why I had to work so hard on a company that hadn’t even launched yet. To them it was just an idea; to me it was as real as the screen in front of you now.
I think the key here is to accept that your friends and peers might not be able to relate to what you’re going through or why you choose to go through it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need their support, so try to find a balance between your entrepreneurial life and your social life.
2. Gaining respect
It doesn’t matter that I’m no longer a student or that I now run a company I created; I still get the occasional, “Oh, but you’re so young!” comment. As a young entrepreneur, expect to be compared to the likes of HBO’s Silicon Valley characters, Mark Zuckerberg (if only) and other well-known entrepreneurial figures.
Whether you want to gain respect from your peers, the competition, your employees, etc., the key is to show them that age really is just a number. As a young CEO, you’re constantly being looked at through a magnifying glass. Your ideas will be questioned. Your thought process will be challenged. You’ll be put to the test.
In my case, I wanted to gain respect from my employees. And in the business world, it can be especially hard to fully trust and respect someone who’s not much older than you. You generally have to earn that trust and respect through experience.
When you lead by example, it’s much easier for employees to trust your decisions and adopt your stance on a matter. Additionally, taking the time to really develop personal relationships with your employees can help build a firm foundation for a company culture built on trust.
3. Letting go of perfection
Starting off as a new business owner, I had this (false) idea that everything had to be perfect. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so whenever something wasn’t exactly the way I intended for it to be, I had a tough time letting go.But I quickly learned that waiting for perfection can cause you to miss your window.
But I quickly learned that waiting for perfection can cause you to miss your window. I quickly learned that waiting for perfection can cause you to miss your window.
My tip: Keep the cost-benefit analysis of speed versus perfection at the forefront of everything you do. Chasing perfection can sometimes set you back, rather than move you and your business forward.
From one young entrepreneur to another…
Looking back, there’s a lot that I would have changed or could have done differently from a strategy perspective. But the challenges I faced and the mistakes I made are what molded me into the entrepreneur I am and Spark Hire into the company it is. For those reasons, I wouldn’t change a thing.
To help you get your entrepreneurial journey off to a good start, here are a few pieces of advice:
- Check your ego at the door. You’ll be humbled throughout the process, so it’s important to know (and admit) when you mess up. Only then can you learn and grow from those experiences.
- Be competitive. If you’re not hyper-competitive, this might not be for you. As a former athlete, I’ve always lived by the mantra that if you’re not getting better you’re actually getting worse, because your competition is moving forward while you’re stagnant. The same rule applies to business.
- Don’t try to be all things to all people. Know your value proposition and what role you play, and make a decision on how you’re going to thrive in that space. Don’t be scared to change if something’s not working out, but don’t be too eager to jump ship on your strategy — there should be a balance.
This post was authored by Josh Tolan and was originally published by our media partner Mashable.