How big of a role does your age play when it comes to entrepreneurship? This is one of the most common questions I am asked all the time. I get asked questions such as, “I’m a teenager. Am I too young to be an entrepreneur?”
So today I want to us to process if you can be a good, successful entrepreneur at a young age and get into the benefits of being an older entrepreneur vs. a younger entrepreneur. And then at the end I’ll give you some of the stereotypes about younger entrepreneurs that are the enemy of younger entrepreneurs.
Older people are typically more paranoid. That helps in business because when you’re older, people have stolen from you, lied to you, given you some deals that didn’t go through, and you’ve experienced bad relationships and partnerships. The resulting paranoia typically helps in business.
When you’re younger, you’re more naive. You think the world is a great place, you believe in the existence of world peace, nirvana and utopia. Not every young person believes this, particularly if they grew up in rough places such as the inner city and have been bullied and pushed around. But generally, younger people are more naive.
Older entrepreneurs are typically wiser. They’ve made more mistakes, and and have more experience. Young entrepreneurs think they know it all. (If you’re younger, stay with me. There are benefits to this.)
Older entrepreneurs have more contacts. The contacts of younger entrepreneurs are limited to family, friends, and teachers.
Older entrepreneurs are more logical, and younger entrepreneurs are more emotional.
Older entrepreneurs have a lot to lose, so their decision-making process is different. Younger entrepreneurs have nothing to lose.
At this point you may think that it’s more beneficial to be an older entrepreneur, right? But think about this. There is a certain level of naivety that’s good for business. Why? Because there’s a certain level of optimism to think that people are going to help you. So you’re willing to ask people for help.
An older entrepreneur may say, “Oh, they’ll never help us. Oh, they won’t be interested. They won’t want to do anything.” But a younger entrepreneur may say, “They will help us! Why wouldn’t they help us! Of course they’d love to team up! Who wouldn’t want to do something like that.” That’s the child-like naivety that’s necessary for business.
And while the older person is wiser, the younger person that appears to be a know-it-all may simply think that everything is possible. The older entrepreneur could use a little bit more of the possibility thinking that is more typical with the younger generation.
Older entrepreneurs have more leverage for contacts, and younger entrepreneurs don’t have that many contacts. That is absolutely true. However, older people are more reluctant to ask for help than younger people are. Younger entrepreneurs don’t care.
Tip for Younger Entrepreneurs: If you’re reading this right now and are under the age of 25 and you have teachers, professors, coaches and family members that like you, here’s a script you can use that works 60-70% of the time. Are you ready?
I need your help.
I need your help. Auntie, I need your help. Mom, I need your help. Dad, I need your help. Hey coach, I need your help. Hey, teacher, I need your help. Hey, counselor, I need your help. Hey, you played such a big role in my life, I need your help. I’m trying to be an entrepreneur and I’m trying to start a business, I really need your help. Can you help me? Hey, I’m serious about wanting to do this, I’m going to make an impact with my life, I need your help.
Keep using that script because it works to your advantage. The older people get, they think they don’t need help. They think, “I know what I’m doing, I don’t need anybody’s help.” It is a very, very big mistake in business when people no longer want to ask for help.
Remember that older entrepreneurs use logic, and younger entrepreneurs are more emotional. You know what sells? Emotion sells. Now, you’ve got to definitely be looking at the logical sides of business such as contracts, but emotions sell. Emotions speak to the heart, and logic speaks to the head.
Now when you’re speaking to a venture capitalist, they don’t care about how emotional you are. Pure logic is what matters in that case. So if you’re younger and reading this, don’t expect investors to be too emotional with you — they’re not. But there are a lot of benefits to being emotional.
For younger entrepreneurs, having nothing to lose is a very big edge.
Think about this. Who does the CIA hire? The person that’s got two kids and a wife, or the person that’s got nothing who is by themselves, with nothing to lose? The CIA and FBI wants to hire people with nothing to lose.
Entrepreneurship is similar. Sometimes people with a home and all kinds of other things are worried about losing them. That’s a challenge that older entrepreneurs face, that younger entrepreneurs don’t.
I’m not taking anyone’s side. I’m just telling you what your leverage is here. Age doesn’t matter.
The other day, I was listening to a 10-year-old kid play piano. Oh my gosh. I couldn’t believe how he played the piano. Now keep in mind, I’m three and a half times his age. Does age matter in the world of piano? No. It has nothing to do with age. So if somebody wanted to teach the other person about playing the piano, who’s going to teach you? The 10-year-old could teach me. Why? Time in service, not age is what matters. If he’s been playing the piano for six years and I’ve never played the piano, he’s the expert. I’m not. He teaches me and I listen. It doesn’t matter how old I am. I don’t even know how to read music.
The same principle applies to the world of business.
A common criticism of the younger generation is a lack of discipline.
So you’ve got to work on your discipline. Older entrepreneurs typically have more discipline because a lot more is on the line. Younger entrepreneurs typically have less discipline because not a lot is on the line. To you, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. So I, as the customer need to be able to trust your discipline, that you’re going to come through, and you’re going to deliver, and you’re serious about it. I need to know that you’re not just going to go home and fool around with it. So work on your discipline.
If you say you’re going to deliver, deliver on time, every time. Don’t just say it, deliver on it.
#3: Product Knowledge
Know everything about whatever you’re selling. Everything. Immerse yourself in your product. Get obsessed about learning every single thing about that product; learn the history, stories, facts, stats – everything you can about the product.
If you do this, when you come up to talk to me about your product I’ll say, “That guy knows what he’s talking about. That’s very impressive.”
And then last but not least, one of the biggest criticisms about the younger generation is laziness. I can’t tell you how many times you hear, “Oh, the younger generation doesn’t know about hard work.” You may be sick and tired of hearing this, but part of what people are saying about younger people being lazy is right. So guess what you should do? You should work very hard. Work double time. Work triple time. Outwork anybody that’s your competitor. Once you do that, no one is going to ask how old you are.
People aren’t thinking about how old you are. They’re thinking about how much you know, will you deliver, will you keep your word, how hard you’ll work, and if you know your product.
If you fill these needs, you’ll have an edge on the older person that is also trying to become an entrepreneur.
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