They say that wisdom comes with age. But does success only come to the older generation?
The economic world is finally ready to start making its comeback after more than half a decade of slow growth and painful retraction.
The playing field has been levelled by this; large corporates are tightening their belts while the eyes of the world are looking to the entrepreneur and the innovator to kick-start growth.
Over the next years, new players will enter markets and new markets will be created. The known brands who are too slow to adapt to change will make room for new, more agile solutions to the problems that they were solving. The good news is that this exciting entrepreneurial space is there for the taking; it does not discriminate against age or gender or race.
More 20 year-old millionaires are being made than ever before in history, mainly because technology is such a big driving force behind new business solutions. Younger people growing up with fast-moving tech have a definite advantage over their older rivals because of these skills.
As young Chartered Accountants who have only recently started our own business in Cape Town, through hard work and humility we now service companies from start-up budgets to those with over R100m in assets.
I hope that our experiences will kindle a fire in the heart of other young entrepreneurs who are setting the pace for the future.
Exciting as it is, entrepreneurship is no easy road. Here are some steps that I found vital to our entrepreneurial success.
Never stop learning
Keep building on your arsenal of knowledge.
Follow industry news and events and learn from other entrepreneurs. Make sure that you pack the right qualifications needed in your industry – it adds a great deal of credibility in the workplace. People will not ask you how old you are when you know what you are talking about and have the qualifications to back what you are doing.
Put in those networking hours
People do business with people. A great deal of business flows from your personal network. Even when it ends up being a contract between two companies, people do business with people. The entrepreneurial scene offers so many great (often free!) networking opportunities that you can attend a handful of events on a weekly basis. Meet people and follow through with your coffee dates!
Play the man, not the ball
Our greatest lesson in pitching has been to put away the elevator pitch.
People meet with you not because they are interested in what you do, but because of what you can do for them. Instead of telling somewhat what you can do, spend the first meeting just listening to them. Ask them about their business, their needs, their problems. People love to tell you all of these. Only once you have built that relationship and have a proper understanding of your potential clients’ needs, may you dare offer them your service.
Become visible online
A company without a web presence does not exist.
Having a website is not enough – if you’re not on the first page of a search, chances are that you’re invisible to the person looking for what you offer. Make sure that you a strong online presence, that your site clearly communicates your value proposition and that your search engine optimisations and Adwords campaign help you become the top hit for the key words that define you. If you are not a WordPress or SEO guru, there are brilliant people out there that can help in this regard. It’s invaluable (and awesome) to pop up in a search above much bigger and older rivals!
Make industry thought leadership your goal
Keep positioning yourself as a leader in your industry.
Regardless of what sector you are playing in, make sure that you are one of the thought leaders thereon. Have an opinion, write blogs and articles, chase those publications, get those talks and do the free workshops. Generating content and hosting events not only helps you get exposure, but also gives you instant credibility with your target audience. Bit by bit, keep trying to position yourself as a leader in your industry and the work will follow.
The desirability of the fountain of youth
Do not see young age as a weakness.
For the first time in history we live in a business world that looks at skill and passion instead of just age and experience. Having been around the block a great many times has its advantage, but it comes with a lot of set ways and ideas. Being young, your approach to problems is fresh, bringing little baggage and recently sharpened technical knowledge to the table.
Never stop having fun
You don’t stop playing because you get old – you get old because you stop playing! Keep the inspiration alive and fight burnout by making sure that you have as much fun as humanly possible with your business. Celebrate small victories and always keep the ideal that you had in starting your company alive in your heart. And never stop having fun – it’s such a great journey!
Here is a glass raised to all the entrepreneurs who are faced with this huge task and this great opportunity.
Louw is the MD of financial management company Outsourced CFO, a Cape Town based firm of Chartered Accountants that assists entrepreneurs in building financially strong, fundable and investable businesses.
To contact Louw Barnardt:
Tel: 021 409 7933