Entrepreneurship is hot – and Millennials everywhere are choosing to take the entrepreneur route than the more traditionally popular course into corporate America. According to data gathered in 2013 by Rasmussen College, of those Millennials currently at the typical 9-to-5 job, 71 percent desire to quit and work for themselves, with 60 percent claiming that they plan to leave within the next two years. These sentiments are reaffirmed in a more recent survey released by Bentley University last month, which conveys Millennials' wants for flexibility, openness, and independence. But, of course, the mere avidity for entrepreneurship is wholly different from the experience of entrepreneurship itself – idea and reality are in vast opposition, with the latter being much harsher than the imaginings of the mind. Made by Many managing partner Leslie Bradshaw knows all too well the harsh realities that millennial entrepreneurs have to face and recently published “A Survival Guide for the Millennial Entrepreneur“ on Medium.
Originally published in June 2013 of the Business Horizon Quarterly by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Bradshaw's post is updated to reflect additional thoughts and experiences in the past one-and-a-half years. The Millennial entrepreneur survival guide is a culmination of lessons she's learned throughout her experiences at Made by Many, but also through her many more experiences having been on the founding teams of three companies by the age of 30 – Bradshaw Vineyards, creative agency JESS3, and now-defunct startup Guide. According to Bradshaw, entrepreneurship is difficult, but it's not impossible if one has the capacity for and the ability to exercise resilience.
“You have the ability to wear many hats, fight many battles, be available at a moment’s notice (and at any hour!), and withstand the financial and emotional ups and downs that come with starting your own company — no matter the industry,” writes Bradshaw. “While [this] resilience embodies flexibility (think of a bouncing spring), it also suggests that one must have endurance through not only the good times, but especially the pitfalls and failures.”
But in order to improve your chances of survival as a Millennial entrepreneur, you need more than just resilience. For Bradshaw, there are 7 fundamental practices you have to exercise if you want to make it. Per “A Survival Guide for the Millennial Entrepreneur”, these 7 fundamental elements include:
1. Master your craft.
In order to create the best company and to attract the best employees, you need to master your craft – to be one of the best at what you're doing or at the business in which you're building your company.
“When you are mastering a craft, you are showing equal parts commitment and discipline, while at the same time remaining flexible as you learn new and more efficient ways to execute and as you learn and apply advancements in your field.”
2. Develop a plan and adjust as needed, but make sure you’re following a north star.
Pretty straight-forward. If you don't want to eff up your business in the long-run, then make sure you have a plan laid out ahead of time.
“Having a plan helps you be accountable to something sane in the face of chaos, while also helping your team understand both their individual roles as well as the big picture. If you are thinking about starting a company, developing a business plan is a must.”
3. Find the right team members and partners.
While you may have founded the company, you need to surround yourself with people who are equally passionate about your product and your goals, and are qualified to do the work to get there.
“The number one qualification you should be evaluating when taking a job, building a company, or hiring a vendor should be this: Are the people A players who I can learn from and truly enjoy their company?”
4. Treat everyone you encounter along the way with civility, dignity, and respect.
Basically: don't be a dick. Follow the old adage “treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
“There is absolutely no excuse for being a jerk, for yelling, for making personal attacks, or for talking down to someone.”
5. Be ready to be uncomfortable and spread thin, but not all the time.
While implicit in the role of entrepreneur is to involve yourself all aspects of the company, you need to step back every now and then and simply take a breath. Your company is important, but so is your health.
“The ‘but not all the time' bit is perhaps one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn over the course of my career, as I thought I was supposed to be a Spartan warrior all of the time, in constant battle, with little sleep, and lots of hardship. Not so.”
6. Take notes at all times and make every meeting actionable.
Don't pretend to know everything or to pretend that you have a perfect memory. Make sure that you write everything down. Additionally, don't waste meeting time on pointless conversation – be as productive as possible.
“Write things down in the moment so the information has high fidelity; return to them and organize them; take and assign action from them; and follow through until what was needed is achieved.”
7. Learn the art of explanation and persuasion in written, visual, and verbal mediums (or “media” for the Latin-conscious). And know when to use either (or both).
Bradshaw suggests that you brush up on your communication skills – both written and spoken. Doing so could increase your chances of surviving.
“Explaining things concisely and clearly should be one of your top goals as an entrepreneur. So should presenting a compelling argument that persuades your audience to believe your viewpoint or take the action you are recommending.”
To read the more comprehensive post by Leslie Bradshaw, read “A Survival Guide for the Millennial Entrepreneur” on Medium.