There’s no lower limit on entrepreneurial spirit. All of us went to school with a kid who was selling sweets to their friends when the teacher wasn’t looking, and then moved on to selling pirated DVDs, videotapes, cassettes, or video games. Some people are just born to go into business. There’s even a debate to be had about whether entrepreneurs are born or are made, and that would make a fascinating article of its own – but that’s not what we’re here to talk to you about today.
Let’s say you are one of those naturally gifted young people. You’ve always had an aptitude for business, you know how to sell, and you know an income and expenditure forecast like the back of your hand. You’ve been working within a company or an industry for two years, but you feel like you’ve already picked up more knowledge and insight into the business than your boss has in the last twenty. Worse than that; you think the company’s business methods are stuck in the past, and you can see a clear path to a better way of doing business.
The obvious next logical step would be to cut your ties to go into business yourself, but how do you know when the right time to do so is? Do people – especially customers and other businesses – really trust a youthful CEO, and respect their level of experience and skill? Has the world moved on since the Wall Street Journal openly questioned whether a then-27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg was too young to serve as a CEO when Facebook first floated on the stock market in 2012?
We think it has, and we’ve got some reasons why for you to consider.
Relevant Skills Aren’t Age-Dependent
If you have the skills required to solve a problem, it doesn’t matter how old you are. People will buy a skill if they need it, and the age and life experience of the person selling the skill is irrelevant so long as they can demonstrate that they have the talent required to fulfill the role. Computer and design skills are a particular area where young people excel, and we see plenty of evidence of this in the world around us.
As an example, look at the online casino industry, which is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. For the past few years, the online casino world has been trying to shake off the image that casinos are for middle-aged men, and strike a chord with young people. Today, mobile slots are approaching the point of being more popular than slot machines. More people visit Vegas Slots websites than visit cabinets in the corners of bars. The websites which host those mobile slots, by the way, are all completely designed in HTML5, and years ahead of the websites of many more ‘conventional’ entertainment companies. That’s largely down to the work of young design companies headed by young, computer-literate entrepreneurs.
The Long Term Gain Is Better
You might think it makes more sense for you to wait until you’re more worldly-wise and experienced before you pluck your business idea out of your head and turn it into a reality. It’s possible that you’re right, but only if that business idea changes over time. If it doesn’t, all you’ve done is wasted your own time and cost yourself money.
Let’s say you start your company at 40. It takes five years to get it established, and then a further five years to start approaching its true potential. You’re now 50. The company could begin to expand nationally, and then internationally, but you’re rapidly approaching retirement. You’ll have put in all the hard work, and you’ll be gone before you get to reap the benefits. If you’d have started that company in your 20s, you could be a millionaire several times over by the time you reached 60.
The Fearlessness Of Youth
The longer you leave it before starting your business, the more terrifying it becomes to take the risk. That’s because the older we are, the more we have to lose. We accumulate a lot of ‘stuff’ as we grow up, and we get attached to that stuff and don’t want to lose it. In your early to mid-20s, you may not have a car finance agreement to maintain, a rented home or mortgage to pay for, or a family and children to financially support. You’re free to take a risk and fail, and the consequences are minimal.
When you do have all those things to consider, you’re less inclined to take the risk. Can you really put the financial well-being of yourself and your family on the line to pursue a business dream which may or may not work? If the consequences of failure could have a severe impact on the people you love, you probably won’t do it. Your chance will have passed, and all you’re left with is “what if?” regrets.
Ask any entrepreneur how many hours a night they sleep, and they’ll probably answer with somewhere between three to five hours – and that’s the ones who’ll admit to ever sleeping at all. Running your own company is exhausting – especially in the early years, when you spend every waking moment seeking to grow and develop it. You’re never not on the job. You take calls at all hours of the night and day. You check your emails in the middle of the night. Vacations are now a mere fantasy.
It’s easier for the body of a 20 or 30-year-old to tolerate that kind of stress than the body of a 40 or 50-year-old. You can cope with it in your 40s or 50s if you absolutely have to, but wouldn’t you rather be starting to take it easy by then? Put in all the difficult work during those first twenty years of your business career, and then start allowing yourself more time off as you head toward the end of your career. Your body will thank you for it.
What it really comes down to is this; a good idea is a good idea no matter when you have it. A great business with a great business plan will succeed regardless of the age of the person running it. If you’re confident you have a great plan, you shouldn’t let your youth stand in the way of implementing it. You’ll only regret it further down the line.