Disruption seems to be the battle cry for many millennial entrepreneurs. But a few smart young entrepreneurs realize that sometimes, the best business approach is not to destroy and disrupt but something much simpler. Deco Lighting President Ben Pouladian has succeeded with an old school approach.

Pouladian, an active member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), originally thought he would disrupt a stodgy old industry and make his mark. Much to his surprise when he got into commercial lighting, he found that disruption was not easily possible and for the most part not desired by the industry or the customers. That didn't stop him from quickly finding a path to success. After a few false starts he figured out the key to dominating this industry was not disruptive technology or a massive business model shift. He simply had to execute better than the conglomerates in his market.

While the media likes to talk about disruptive entrepreneurship because it's unusual, Pouladian says more millennials should get back to basics and master the most effective tried-and-true business practices. Here are some of his recommendations.

1."Keep on learning."

Young entrepreneurs might think that they have all the information they need at their fingertips, but the reality is that such thinking might actually limit them when the pressure gets ramped up. They often believe their elders are foolish and behind the times. Pouladian advises against these assumptions, "Don't be cocky and disregard the advice and experiences of older generations, use this information and build upon it to innovate rather than constantly try to disrupt existing methods."

2. "Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal."

Pouladian sees many entrepreneurs get stuck in a single way of doing things. Older generations have been exploiting everything at their disposal for centuries, so young generations should do the same with theirs. And yes, that includes traditional face-to-face communication as well as social media and the digital world. "I think it's still very important to call people on the phone or talk in person. Many millennials are all about texting and emailing, but to effectively communicate you need to talk. Conversely, older generations may rely more on the handshake method for developing business, and we highly value this tradition, but you cannot ignore the opportunity to develop an online persona for your company that adds a voice and authenticity to your brand."

3. "Technology should improve business, not necessarily disrupt it. "

Millennials are surrounded by technology and it is integrated into their daily activities. Some even believe that technology can solve every problem. Pouladian understands that technology is only a tool and should be used to achieve the desired result. His example, "There are countless modern tools to improve the efficiency of workflow and communication at a company, helping your team to avoid the tendency of become a large and inefficient behemoth."

4. "Develop an exciting culture for employees."

Great employees are looking for much more than just a job to cover their expenses. Pouladian is adamant about communicating an inspiring purpose. "Happy People Build Better Products. The respect you place upon your employees and the environment you develop will drive success at your company. People will enjoy their work when they have a sense of mission and stop viewing it as simply a job," adds Pouladian. "Anyone can sell products, but what matters more than ever is why they do it.

5. "Find a way to work together."

Despite the isolating trend in entrepreneurs working remotely, Pouladian's company values the interaction of teams from the top down. Pouladian's cousin, partner and the Deco Lighting's CEO Sam Sinai notes that the best businesses are built on successful teamwork. "In the same way that Jobs had Wozniak, and Larry Page has Sergey Brin, my cousin and I have been able to operate in a way that allows for the constant critiquing of ideas and the ability to inspire meaningful change in the company."

6. "It's not about you. It's about the customer!"

As a young entrepreneur, it is easy to get caught up in your vision and constantly think about how you want to make your mark. But the reality is that you don't live in a vacuum and your personal success means nothing if it isn't making an impact on the people you are supposed to be servicing with your company. Pouladian notes, "Every business should be about people you connect with, not just the product,"

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Jan 28, 2016
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