Starting a business at a young age is simultaneously exciting and challenging. Even though I had taken an entrepreneurship class in college, when I started my company Flashnotes.com my lack of experience undoubtedly led to a few mistakes. But all of them were invaluable learning experiences on the path to success.
For those who are starting their journey young and are perhaps still in school, I’d like to share some advice on mistakes to avoid as you work to build your business. From pitching your idea to others to hiring employees with relevant skill sets (as opposed to your friends), I have provided some initial thoughts on what I’ve learned on my journey as a 20-something entrepreneur and CEO. In particular, these are the top five mistakes I made that you should avoid so your business can succeed — and you can have the confidence to make your vision a reality.
Mistake #1: Thinking your age matters.
It doesn’t! If you’re willing to put your blood, sweat and tears into building something truly great, the only thing that will matter is if you execute. Don’t be timid about expressing your ideas because of your age. It’s these new and fresh ideas that are shaping our future — don’t wait and miss out on your turn to create change. Also, don’t blame your age or lack of experience when you lose a deal. Chances are it wasn’t your age, it was because you didn’t convince potential partners or investors of the value of your idea.
Mistake #2: Failing to focus.
You need to have a clear set of goals and objectives — and stick to them. Some ideas, even if they sound great, might need to be put on the back burner to prevent you from losing your focus. Avoid chasing “shiny baubles” and stay the course. If something doesn’t directly help you achieve one of the goals and objectives on your list, just say no.
Mistake #3: Not understanding you can’t do it all yourself.
Instead of trying to wear 10 different hats and insisting you can do it all as your business grows, hire a great team to help you. Empower them with your vision — it will be necessary for success and create an amazing environment where everyone is working towards a similar goal. There’s also no shame in asking for help or advice. You should always be willing to learn from those who have a type of expertise that you might lack.
Mistake #4: Not talking about your idea because you’re afraid of copycats.
Don’t be paranoid that someone will steal your ideas. When I first started Flashnotes.com, I hesitated pitching it at conferences because I thought someone would just copy it. But the reality is that not everyone has the drive to really see it through. And how are you supposed to grow your web traffic and customer base if you’re secretive about your great idea?
Mistake #5: Hiring your best buds.
Don’t just hire a friend because you like hanging out with them. Hire a friend if they have a relevant skill set, and if it’s the right move to help grow your business. It’s also important that everyone within the office — including you — can work together effectively and accept constructive criticism, without it being misconstrued as personal.
For those of you who’ve started companies before, what mistakes would you add to the list above?