Are you a Millennial? Do you want to run your own company? If you answered yes to the first question, chances are you answered yes to the second. Surveys show that Millennials aspire more to running their own businesses than to climbing the corporate ladder while working for someone else.

But running a business, especially a startup, comes with a lot of challenges. Can younger people without decades of experience in the corporate world be up to the task? Yes, says Ryan O'Connell, a winemaker and The Naked Narrator at NakedWines.com. In fact, he says, you can use your Millennial-ness to your advantage. Here's how.

1. Communicate the way your team prefers.

"If you can't stand back-and-forth emailing, long meetings, and disruptive phone calls, your team members likely feel the same way," O'Connell says. That's especially likely to be true if some or all of your employees are Millennials themselves.

So, he says, use the broad variety of communication channels to your advantage. "Use Slack, Wrike, Yammer, or another social messaging platform that you prefer," he says. "Never feel like you have to conform to old-school communication techniques."

For example, he says, if you hate reading lengthy reports, don't ask your team members to write them. Try asking for an infographic instead.

2. Take advantage of the gig economy.

"Some of the most talented people choose to work independently rather than join the corporate world where they feel no motivation to bust their butts," O'Connell says. That means that hiring freelancers for such work as writing, photography, data science, and even development work will not only save you money but likely give you better results as well.

"Any project that isn't core to your product or business model is fair game," O'Connell says. "Freelancers think like entrepreneurs. They can be as hungry and determined as you are, with the right incentives."

3. Have a social media presence.

Do this even if it feels like "a giant vortex where time, sanity, and focus are sucked into oblivion," O'Connell advises. "Social marketing may or may not be vital to your business, but the act of exercising your voice publicly is intrinsically rewarding. When you speak up intelligently, you have no idea who you might reach, what ideas you may spark, or what opportunities might arise. You can't become a rock star unless you're willing to play onstage."

4. Make sure to accommodate non-Millennials.

Depending on your product, many of your customers may be Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, O'Connell notes. It's important to keep this in mind during marketing discussions. That's the case at NakedWines.com, he says, so the company can't promote its products using things like ski suits and camo blazers. That would reflect a lifestyle that "keeps suburban Baby Boomer parents awake at night," he says. "Be yourself, but empathize with your customers."

5. Never grow old.

"Experience will blind you," O'Connell warns. "Right now you may feel free to do anything. Billion-dollar success hasn't lifted you to a precipice where you're more afraid to fall than you are eager to climb on."

If you catch yourself thinking things like "That's not how we've done it" or "It ain't broke, so don't fix it," chances are you've grown afraid to experiment. Which means you're afraid to grow.

"Soon enough a new wave of entrepreneurs will rise up," O'Connell says. "Keep shape-shifting--be a moving, uncatchable target. Your business begins dying as soon as you stop adapting."

Published on: Sep 7, 2016
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