An entrepreneurial spirit is becoming increasingly common among Millennials and Gen Zers – could this be due to the overwhelming desire for instant gratification in today’s society? Young professionals are less willing than their elders to wait around to climb the corporate ladder and are more interested in creating their own opportunities. These young entrepreneurs surely possess the passion and drive necessary for success, but lack real-world experience and come up short in the leadership department. To make the transition into leadership a bit smoother, ten CEOs and founders of successful companies, many of whom were young entrepreneurs themselves, offered valuable advice to the next generation.
1. Remain humble despite your success.
“First and foremost, any young founder must have an insatiable hunger for success and winning — and be resolutely prepared to work your a** off, as your competition most certainly will. Most importantly, stay humble and listen. Your team absolutely needs to understand that you’re predictably calm and composed for them to flourish.” – Jon Sebastiani, founder and CEO of Krave Jerky
A ravenous appetite for success is key, so long as it doesn’t cause you to lose sight of where you began. Remaining humble and levelheaded will allow you to build mutual respect with your team through trust.
2. Be open to changing your ideas.
“Your idea is a great one, but on the road to fruition, understand that it will look very different eventually. It won’t resemble your first concept, nor the second version, but the third, after tons of listening and learning — that’s where success will come.” – Shawn Mendel, founder of Funley’s Delicious healthy snack line
Listen to suggestions from your team. As your ideas flow through the business life cycle, they need to evolve as a result of what phase your business is in. Your “great idea” is your baby right now, but it needs to grow up eventually.
3. Admit your weaknesses.
“Know what your weakness is and hire people around it. The best trait in any leader is to be able to admit their weakest points and build a team to complement it.” – Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop franchise
Exposing your weaknesses is a sign of strength. Rather than wasting valuable time and energy doing something you are not good at, hire the skills you lack.
4. Hire (and retain) the best of the best.
“Hire the best, most talented, most knowledgeable people you can get to be a part of your senior management team early as you can. Give them equity to keep them motivated. Steve Jobs mentions something about a small team of A+ players being able to run circles around a large team of B and C players. I see that every day. The entrepreneurs [who] hire A players early and get rid of C players early, move faster and more profitably than anyone else.” – Scott Jensen, co-founder of Rhythm Superfoods
As a business owner, you are not aiming for mediocre results. So why hire mediocre employees? Hiring and retaining A+ employees will give you A+ results.
5. Let your employees do their job.
“Respect your employees and their experience. Trust them with the roles you hired them for. If you hire someone (regardless of age) and don’t give them any autonomy, they’re not going to give you their best work.” – Dawson Whitfield, Co-founder and CEO of Looka
It’s scary to trust others with your vision, but you hired your employees for a reason. Give them the freedom to do what they were hired to do and they will flourish.
6. Don’t be scared to ask for help.
“A leader does not have to have all of the answers. It is ok to not know everything. In fact, trying to pretend like you know everything will make subordinates lose respect for you as a leader. Don’t be afraid to lean on the team for answers to problems that fall outside your areas of expertise.” – John Holloway, co-founder of NoExam.com, a digital life insurance brokerage
Asking for help is admirable. Hiring professionals with more experience than you may be intimidating, but these employees are filled with practical knowledge which will be beneficial to your business.
7. Look to a mentor for guidance.
“As entrepreneurs we allow our ideas to rule our decision making and often throw analysis and planning out the window. A good mentor will help you think about things you have no experience with.” – Jeff Salter, founder of Caring Senior Service franchise
As a young entrepreneur with little experience running a business, finding a mentor is mandatory. Given their extensive experience in your industry, a mentor can provide you with solutions to tough problems that you would not have thought of on your own.
8. Keep your promises and stick to your word.
“Your word is everything. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Whether it is a volunteer opportunity or your job, always follow through. [But] it is important to know when to say no. Say, ‘I can’t do that, but this is what I can do.’ Offer what you can, without committing to something you are going to drop the ball on.” – Lais Pontes, president and founder of The Pontes Group PR and marketing firm
To build trust with your team, it is vital that you are true to your word. Employee morale will suffer as a result of broken promises. Be honest with yourself regarding what you can and cannot do.
9. Take on new challenges.
“The best way to retain passion is by realizing that you can always do better. Real entrepreneurs are endlessly curious and never want to just rest on their laurels; there’s always a new challenge to face.”- Shaan Patel, Founder and CEO of Prep Expert
Maintaining the status quo will only lead to stagnation and boredom. Taking on new challenges will inspire passion within yourself, and ultimately within your team.
10. Set aside time for yourself.
“You need to work on the business, not in it. Take 3 hours a week, legitimately blocking out time on your calendar, to take time for yourself and the business. Really utilize the time to read, listen to podcast, go for a run, and draw out a vision.” – Trevor Rappleye, CEO and founder of Corporate Filming
In order to effectively lead a team, you need to be at the top of your game 100% of the time. Avoid burnout by setting aside a few hours a week to focus on self-care activities that promote creativity and growth.
As a young entrepreneur with little experience guiding a team, you may be unfamiliar with and flat-out terrified of leadership. Lucky for the entrepreneur, there is no right way to lead and you can make it entirely your own.
Consider these expert tips as you develop your personal leadership style.