Notes to My Younger Entrepreneurial Self
Do you remember your first lemonade stand and how you rocked sales and promotion? Instead of playing house, did you build a corner office in your room and have your brother fax your grandmother a hand-drawn version of a term sheet? We’re you pitching to your teddy bears? In high school, were you more interested in running a business than being a running back?
If so, you’re in good company.
We’re celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014 by offering you a round-up of the advice that several prominent executives have for their younger selves. Perhaps it will remind you of days gone past. Maybe it will be worth sending to the budding young entrepreneur in your life. Or there might just be some fresh thinking that can work for your business today.
Emily Olson LaFave - It's a puzzle you're equipped to figure out
"Entrepreneurship is a puzzle.
It’s a jigsaw puzzle where the image stretched across each piece is your vision for the world, not necessarily what you think the company or product will be. You don’t exactly know that yet. It will be a combination of your vision, what delights your customers, and the way the changes of the world shape it to be.
Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, where you pour all the pieces you need from the box onto the table, you will create each puzzle piece. You’ll place each piece on the table and sometimes the piece will fit right away and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you will need to leave it on the table and be patient. That piece may end up fitting somewhere in the future, or not at all and you’ll throw it away. You’ll throw away a lot of beautiful pieces you create.
Two things will guide how your puzzle comes together. The first is your why. Why are you solving this problem in the first place? What do you believe in so much you’re willing to do the very hard, hard work that is entrepreneurship. The second is the image of who you want your customers to become, how you envision the world to be.
And always remember, all those things you see, you are as qualified as anyone to shape what the world will be. Trust your intuition. Trust that your unique path has allowed you to see something no one else can see."
Tim Sykes - Start small and get on the right path
"I would encourage all young entrepreneurs to take it one step at a time. Put in place the right tools and get on the right path. The strategy I used to go from $12,000 to $25,000 is the same strategy that took me from $25,000 to $50,000, and $50,000 to $100,000, and $100,000 to $200,000, etc. The key is to not focus on the end game.
Here’s the problem, here’s how we’re going to solve it day-by-day. Start small and if you’re on the right path, it’s amazing how much you’ll grow. I never knew I was going to be a career-long penny stock trader… I just started on the path. Focus on one thing and don’t get distracted."
Derek Helpern - You don’t need to get a “real job” right away
"When I graduated college, within 1 month, I was fortunate that my online business profited more than $20,000 in a month. And then another $20,000 the following month. And it kept making money. But I fell off track.
My family didn't understand what it was like to start and run a business. It wasn't their fault. My mom was a nurse, and she was the first one in her family to graduate from college. So, when she would say, "When are you going to get a "real job?" She thought she was helping.
And I caved. I took a job at a Fortune 100 company earning in a year what I could have earned in 2 months. At least I got "benefits" I told myself. But it wasn't right. And it slowly sapped my ambition until I finally got fed up and quit.
So what advice would I give my younger self? If you feel like building something, go build it. There will be no shortage of people who tell you to "get a real job." But you have your whole life to get a real job. It's much better to focus on building something when the stakes are low."
Lewis Howes - You’ve got this
"Lewis. You are already a champion. You don't have to prove anything to anyone else in the world. It's not about showing anyone up, being the best or winning everything. Breath, and let go of that thought. You were, however, born to make a massive impact in this world and to serve on a large scale. It's a privilege and honor to serve others, your community and the world and if you aren't living each day with the mission of serving the most amount of people to live better lives and love deeper... then you are doing a disservice to yourself and everyone around you.
Get out of your own way. It doesn't have to look perfect and you don't have to BE perfect. You just have to be yourself. Because YOURSELF is the biggest gift you bring to the world. When you try to be like others you rob the rest of us of your one of a kind gift. Continue to grow and as you grow and learn you will realize how important it is to be humble as you achieve success and gain gravity in the world. Be a humble servant and add value to others. Money will come to you when you learn to add more value and capture that value. Don't waste the money, use it to enhance your skills and assets and to pay for inspiring people to join you in your mission. Always give your best. Own up and acknowledge when you are out of integrity, and find the win/win in every situation. You've got this.
Now go do something great today!"
Neil Patel - Don’t be in it just for the money
"I got started in entrepreneurship because I wanted to try to figure out how to make more money. I was doing it for the wrong purposes at the time, but that was pretty much what I was looking for. I grew up in a very modest lifestyle. I didn’t have much money growing up, so I was trying to figure out how to make cash and I realized the only way to get really rich was to be an entrepreneur. When you look at all of the really rich people in the world, most of them are entrepreneurs. So, that’s how I got my start. Obviously, later I realized money isn’t everything in life. I ended up creating a job, not following my passion (for analytics)."
David Hassell - Be in business to help others first
"It wasn’t just one experience, a desire developed over time to help people to reach their highest potential — what Maslow referred to as ‘self-actualization’ at the pinnacle of his hierarchy of needs. Even from my earliest days as an entrepreneur, I had this innate desire to share my thoughts and my philosophies, suggesting things to study or programs to take, to facilitate connections between remarkable people.
I was introduced to the concept of a 15/5 report by Brad Oberwager. He’d learned about the concept from his father who’d been a multiple Inc 500 winner, and implemented it inside of his company, Sundia. His father had read about the practice which was developed by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Chouinard wanted to stay in the loop with his company while he was adventuring away from the office for weeks or months at a time. He asked all of his employees to spend 15 minutes each week writing about their successes and challenges, and reviewed the responses in about five minutes."
Gary Vaynerchuk - Appreciate your roots
"My parents are very much my inspiration. They came to this country with nothing: no money, no language, but they built an incredible family, and an incredible base which lead to incredible success for all of us. As much as I love Jeff Bezos as an entrepreneur, and as much as I’ve been around the world and seen people do incredible things, nothing touches my heart like what my parents sacrificed to create a foundation for my continuing success.
We hope you have enjoyed these stories and they inspire you in some way. Taking action such as mentoring, participating in speaking engagements and finding ways to give back to the next generation of entrepreneurial minds is key to a vibrant and lasting ecosystem. Think back to when you were starting out and how valuable good advice was to spurring your forward. Make it a point to do the same for others and the good will boomerang right back at you."
Wishing you a productive and inspiring Global Entrepreneurship Week!
Do you have any notes to your younger entrepreneurial self that you'd like to share with us? Please let us know in the comments section.
Photo Credit: John Gateley | Flickr