By Elizabeth Sopher
Millennials aren’t the only generation who has all the makings of great entrepreneurs. While young, wealthy, confident individuals may fit the stereotypical mold, I’ve learned over the years that any generation can take the entrepreneurial reins and ride the innovation wave successfully. Whether you’re 21 or 51, you can be young at heart, wealthy of knowledge, and confident in the decisions you make to take your business to new heights.
You may be thinking, “Elizabeth, that sounds great but I’m afraid to start my own business.” It’s easy to respond to that concern with “don’t be afraid to start your own business,” but the reality is, it is downright terrifying. But think about it: fear didn’t stop some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, including Henry Ford, Stan Lee and Vera Wang — all of whom were 40 years old or older before making it big.
These inspiring innovators undoubtedly had fears and concerns that kept them up at night, but that fear of entrepreneurship can be overcome with the right mindset and goals in place—at any age. So how do you alleviate entrepreneurial anxiety? Try these strategies on for size:
Step 1: Critically think about your business purpose
Why do you want to start your own business? And no, the answer can’t be “to make money.” To make money is like saying your purpose in life is to breathe. What drives entrepreneurs isn’t the money; it’s the mission. It’s about creating value for yourself, your team and investors—and your prospective customers. Ask yourself:
- Who are my customers?
- How will I make a positive contribution to society?
- How is my product or service solving a problem?
- How will I differentiate myself from competitors?
- If my business were a person, what values would be important to him/her? (Honesty, integrity, professionalism, creativity, for example.)
Use your answers to those questions to motivate you to keep going…even when things get rough. Of course, every startup wants to be financially successful, but if you lose sight of the mission, you lose the company. Many companies have their own strategies for reminding their leaders and employees of their purpose. Some businesses write their mission on their office wall, create a tagline, or define messages on their website. Whatever route you choose, find an opportunity to make your purpose physically visible so it reminds you every day of why you are doing what you’re doing.
Step 2: Articulate and accept your strengths and weaknesses
Now it’s time to take a serious look at yourself from a business perspective. You can’t start to lead others in business without knowing more about what you are good at and where there’s room for improvement.
- What things am I really good at that relate to my business? (Finances, bookkeeping, tracking, etc.)
- What things could I work on to promote my business? (Writing, public speaking, networking, etc.)
- How will I use my strengths to move the business forward?
- How will I bring together a team to address the things I’m not strong at?
Be sure to take advantage of tools that can help you identify your strengths, such as Emergenetics, Meyers-Briggs or Enneagram, and be open to feedback from your peers and colleagues. Having a more objective report that tells you where you excel reminds the apprehensive part of you that “hey, you’ve got this.”
At QuickZip, we use the Emergenetics system with the help of a business coach; it helps us divide and conquer the huge amount of work in front of us, and it improves our communication and problem solving. My Emergenetics report tells me that I prefer to think conceptually and interact outwardly, so while I’m working on building relationships and thinking of the next big thing for the company, I can let some of the details go to my partner and our team who possess strengths in those areas. In addition, as we understand our own thinking processes more objectively, we diffuse tension and are able to think through questions from a variety of viewpoints. This change has helped us move forward efficiently and improve relationships internally and with our customers.
Step 3: Use your experiences to your advantage
While you may not be the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed person you were a few years ago, you’ve probably got a lot of savvy under your belt now. As we grow and develop as professionals, we learn a lot along the way about ourselves and other people. We make strong connections with important people. Our priorities shift. We start to understand how to execute thoughtfully and efficiently. We know what we want to do and our ideas are fully baked because we’ve taken the time to truly think about them in a meaningful way.
Whether or not you consider yourself an older entrepreneur, whatever your age, it is important to balance your logic with your experiences. You already have a lifetime of experiences, ups and downs and lessons learned that will influence every aspect of your startup—and that counts for a lot. That older, wiser perspective will be invaluable when running your business because you’ve already made mistakes and grown from them. You’re a seasoned, well-rounded person who happens to be entering the entrepreneurial space, and you couldn’t be more prepared to take on the world and all its chaos. Own your experiences and use them to cultivate a new entrepreneurial you.
About the Author
Elizabeth started her career in the unlikely field of geochemistry and hazardous waste cleanup but found her way to sheets after her first child was born. Her mantra, “Friends don’t let friends struggle” has been her driving force since 2001. Her experience in science and project management serves her well at QuickZip; making sure the products are designed and made right. (And she can read the reports from the lab). Elizabeth is the investor in innovation, commissioner of customer connection, and skipper of steering QuickZip to new markets. For more information, visit quickzipsheet.com.