I'm back from a snowy week in Luxembourg thanks to the US Embassy and a program that they have to train young entrepreneurs. I spent the week training young people who have great ideas and who realize that entrepreneurship can give them opportunities unlike any other career path.
These young people in Luxembourg are like young people all over the world who increasingly see more opportunity as business owners. While twice as many current entrepreneurs are over 50 years old, compared to those under 25, don't be fooled. With colleges and universities offering classes and majors in entrepreneurship, and unemployment high in most countries of the world the number of people who plan to work for themselves is growing. For example:
- The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which tracks early-stage entrepreneurial activity found that in 2010 almost 5.5% of Americans, ages 18-24, were launching early-stage businesses. Compare this to 11% of ages 25-34 year olds, considered to be the most "entrepreneurial" cohort.
- In a survey by the Kauffman Foundation, the plan to start a business over other careers has risen for young adults, ages 18-21, from 19% in 2007 to 25% in 2010.
If you're planning to launch a start-up, here are seven things everyone should from the beginning:
- Be confident...but not too much. It's a balancing act between being confident--optimistic and sure-footed--and overconfident, which comes off as pure arrogance. Overconfidence also keeps you from recognizing obvious problems or tempting you to stretch beyond your capacity.
- Keep your focus. Yes, you have hundreds of exciting ideas, and you're certain each one is a winner. But successful entrepreneurs stick with a single super idea. Examples: Make the perfect cup of coffee. Develop the best search engine. Make technology intuitive. Help people connect. Get the idea?
- Just do it, really. No "analysis paralysis." You're going to make mistakes, but you know what needs to be accomplished. According to Mark Suster, writer and start up veteran: "Entrepreneurs make fast decisions and move forward knowing that at best 70% of their decisions are going to be right." Go for it, and adjust along the way. Quickly!
- Hire well and fire quickly. You can't afford to wait for someone to blossom. Nor can you afford to keep an employee who doesn't support your mission. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Take time to find the right people, but cut your losses if you made a mistake.
- Learn to delegate. News flash: you can't do this alone. And forget about micro-managing. Once you have a good team, hand off responsibilities. Your staff will gain experience and you can continue to grow the company.
- Network, network. You've heard this a thousand times. Join groups, volunteer, use social media, ask everyone for referrals, never turn down a meeting. No matter how long you've been in business, this never goes away. Ever.
- Dress the part. You may feel most comfortable in your jeans and a t-shirt, just like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. But you can't assume that your clients--real or potential--will understand. A universal rule in business is to wear the clothes for your ideal position. You don't need to rush to an Italian tailor, but please invest in professional clothing, from business casual to the suit you'll need when you ask a banker for a loan.
No matter what your age, you will encounter both critics and supporters. The world needs risk-takers and people who believe in themselves. Don't let anyone stand in your way!
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