College graduates today are not your average bear. They think differently than previous generations, are motivated differently, and they look at the world differently than those born before 1985. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, contrary to what those resistant to change might say. Different can be refreshing, invigorating, and get us to think about things in a way.
Today’s grads are more likely to consider entrepreneurship than any generation before them and the reasons for this vary. They may feel the job market is less secure than it used to be, they are more innovative, they understand how to capitalize by using social media, they crave independence, and they see having fulfilling work as a priority.
The statistics on small businesses can be sobering. Over half of small business start-ups fail in the first four years. Even so, more than half of Americans work for or own a small business.
Jeremy Greenberg, Entrepreneur in Residence at The Wharton School and founder of Avenue Group, told CPA Practice Advisor, “I am amazed at the dramatic increase in interest among students across all disciplines in starting a business. At the same time, while it’s wonderful to have that dream, it’s daunting. Most don’t make it. Most have no idea what they’re getting into. Those who do have to embrace the whole challenge, from learning every step of the way to taking action.”
There is no shortage of advice for those about to start their own business. What is the best advice for you?
Can You Do It All?
New entrepreneurs, by necessity, often wear a lot of hats. New businesses are often low on cash, so hiring a lot of help is often tough to do. However, doing everything yourself can lead to trouble, particularly if you’re not proficient at all of it.
“This is especially common among inventors and technologists with superb ideas but no business-building skills,” Greenberg says. “Very few people are both inventors and operators. Most successful entrepreneurs must determine early on which category they fall into and find a complementary partner/company to provide the skills they lack.”
On the other hand, experts say it’s important to challenge yourself, and starting a new business that forces you to be developer, sales, accounting, and HR all rolled into one is certainly a challenge.
Don’t be Wishy Washy
Your grandma probably told you not to be wishy-washy when you were having trouble deciding on something. That applies to indecisiveness in business as well.
“Lack of action due to fear of making the wrong decision impedes success and growth,” Greenberg says. “There is inherent risk in starting a company, and, in order to become successful, we must be willing to take risks and make bets along the way.”
Go ahead and take the risk. Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, said it helped to know that he wouldn’t regret failure, but he would regret not trying.
What is Your Motivation?
“Working long hours isn’t enough. It’s the development of new habits that drives lasting behavioral changes,” Greenberg says. The question becomes the key. Figure out what drives you, what motivates you, to succeed.
For a lot of people, the best motivator of all is doing work that you care about. Steve Jobs once said the only way to be satisfied in life is to do work you truly believe in.
Have a Plan, Goals
Raising capital for a new business is hard, and often harder than you plan on, especially if you have student loan debt. Chances are it will take longer than you think, so plan for that.
While you are working on the capital, remind yourself daily of your goals, and make sure you take a step every day toward them, no matter how small. Consistent forward progress adds up!
Becoming a successful entrepreneur means a lot of moving parts have clicked into place. Don’t give up. It will require hard work, a clear vision, dedication, perseverance, and above all—give your customers more than they expect. It will get you noticed and build a loyal following.