Staking out your own claim as an entrepreneur at any age can be intimidating, but especially so when you’re young without experience. Starting a business is also an intimidating prospect. That’s why it helps to have a roadmap of best practices before you get started to ensure you travel down the right path.
Here are six tips on how you can get the most out of your business while also growing as a young entrepreneur.
1. Identify the nexus of what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what adds value to people’s lives
You have to think strategically when starting a business. Most successful entrepreneurs do so with three ideas in mind at the outset:
- Do what you enjoy. Activities that you enjoy and topics that interest you tend to drive your natural curiosity. Go towards them, as you’ll find it easier to work on subjects you like.
- Do what you’re good at. We also tend to gravitate towards work we’re naturally good at performing. Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of work no matter what field you enter, but when you have a seemingly natural inclination in a certain area, it seems easier.
- Find a way to combine those in a way that brings value for people. Finally, figure out how to profit off your interest and talent by using it to develop a product or service that people find value in. That means either solving problems, providing entertainment, or filling another need otherwise left unfulfilled without you.
Mike Florio was an attorney from West Virginia who enjoyed following the NFL. He was also a good writer. He turned his skills and interests into a valuable commodity – the website ProFootballTalk, launched out of his house in 2001. It turned out to have tremendous value – fans loved his insights and inside scoops. Eight years after founding it, he sold the site to NBC Sports to form a lucrative partnership that exists to this day in the form of his site and a TV show.
2. Understand your business’s value proposition
As stated above, to find success you’ll need to provide value to others. That’s why you should understand your business’s value proposition.
A value proposition puts a fine point on what type of value you bring to your audience. When you start a business, you should understand exactly what type of service you’re offering and where the value in it lies. Being able to communicate this ensure you’ll be able to spread your message to your audience effectively.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
The concept of “paralysis by analysis” is common for entrepreneurs. The fear of failure can stall action. Don’t let this happen to you. When you have an idea, develop a plan for execution and then execute. It’s better to start, find out what may or may not work, then tweak it as needed.
It’s also okay to fail. View every misstep not as a failure, but a learning opportunity. It gives you valuable research into what does or doesn’t work.
4. Find a mentor
When you’re beginning your journey as an entrepreneur, you don’t have all the answers you need. That’s why you should partner with a mentor who’s been successful in your field.
A mentor can help walk you through the process of achieving success. They can share the mistakes they made and what they did right on their path. They can challenge you to explain and defend what you’re currently doing to determine whether it makes sense. A mentor can also help you develop the habits needed for success.
When you’ve identified a mentor, you should see if you can offer the mentor anything of value in exchange for their time and guidance. Asking them if you can “pick their brain” over coffee offers little to them in return for their time. Instead, consider evaluating what they do and offering some sort of product, service, or idea pro bono as a way to show you understand the transaction of time and value.
5. Build solid communication skills
The life of an entrepreneur is in many ways a solo one, but there will always be people you’ll need to interact with. Employees, contractors, consultants, investors, customers, and vendors may all end up playing a part of your daily experience. Whether you contact them via email, phone, or for in-person meetings, you’ll need to communicate with people on a regular basis to be successful.
A few common examples of ways in which entrepreneurs need to be effective communicators include:
- Writing. You’ll need to write concisely and clearly for memos, emails, and marketing materials describing your product.
- Conversation. You’ll need to understand the value of a good conversation – knowing how to share information in a way that gets your point across without coming off as verbose.
- Presentations. You’ll need to know how to give a good presentation or pitch to describe your business (you should have a short “elevator speech” ready to describe what you do in 30 seconds or less as well).
- Delegation. You can’t do it all, so you’ll need to learn how to delegate tasks to others in a way that underlines why they are performing the task and why it’s important to the success of your business.
- Negotiation. At some point, you may need to negotiate pricing or some other aspect of your business. This is a vital skill to have for any entrepreneur.
You may use one, some, or all of these communication skills at some point or another. But no entrepreneur achieves success without being an effective communicator in one way or another.
6. Work hard – but not in a way that’s detrimental to your happiness or mental health
Working hard is a prerequisite for success. But too many hours may leave you with diminishing returns.
When you sacrifice your work-life balance in either direction, you shortchange yourself and your ability to do work. Research shows that productivity can begin to decline after a 50 hour work week.
You’re a human being, not a robot. Dedicating time to relaxation, relationships, and your general wellbeing can make you a happier, more well-rounded individual. This helps put you in a better mind frame when you’re doing the work and can help make you more effective. Avoiding burn out is how you set yourself up for long term success.