Millennial entrepreneurs have a lot of things going for them. They're not afraid to take risks, are far more optimistic than older business people and want to do work that matters--all admirable traits. But since the dawn of time young people have always been able to benefit from the advice of the generations preceding them. And when it comes to business, who better to offer advice than a veteran entrepreneur, board member and venture capitalist? Take it from Amy Francetic, CEO of Clean Energy Trust, which launches, funds and grows early-stage clean energy businesses through direct investment, venture development, and advocacy. Here's what she says young CEOs could be doing better.
1. Pick up the phone.
It's a paradox, but young people have grown up with technology, have a smartphone in hand at all times, yet they don't make phone calls. If you want to understand your customers' needs you have to elicit their feedback on your offering. While online surveys may work for B2C companies, if you're working in the B2B space you're going to need to pick up a phone and have a conversation.
2. Make your board work for you.
The point is to be picky about who advises and advocates for you company. These people shouldn't be friends, but experts within the industry in which you're trying to operate. You may need to give them some stock to get necessary expertise on your board. And don't spend your energy trying to impress these people. Instead, bring them the real problems you need help with. "When you're recruiting absolutely ask your board to tap their network to help," she says. "When you have a customer you're targeting ask your board to put in a good word for you. You can even take a board member to an important pitch meeting."
3. Hire slowly and fire fast.
Hiring is time-intensive and takes you away from fundraising, selling and managing the business. At the same time it's a critical task to find someone who fits in with your culture. To do that you're going to need to bring those people in to interview with everyone in the company, if possible. In any event, never go for a quick fix when it comes to filling a position. On the other side of it, once you figure out the person you've brought onboard isn't ideal, get the person gone ASAP. "When you find that somebody isn't the right fit or is not going to work out, it doesn't do the company any good. And honestly it doesn't even do the employee a lot of good to prolong the process of trying to work things out," she says. "Young companies can't afford the negative influence of that person."
4. Apply for non-dilutive capital.
Chances are, there's something about your company the government wants to back. Do you have a female or minority CEO? Are you working in the energy or technology space? Look at accelerator and funding programs such as Clean Energy Trust Challenge, Impact Engine or SBIR government grants.
5. Know when it's time for a founder to step aside.
Often a founder of a business is not the long-term CEO. Sometimes companies are founded by someone with great insight into a problem, but making the business fly necessitates an individual who has the right industry experience and relationships. "It's important to communicate to investors that you're willing to work with somebody more seasoned, and usually that preserves a place for the founder in the business."