Here’s what you think you’ll be doing in your twenties: working in a big company, holding a fun job, going out with friends, holidaying all over the world, and basically living the ‘Golden Years’ of your lives. You can forget all of that the minute you think of starting out on your own in your twenties. I started my own ad agency after quitting at the age of 25.
Learn as much as you can: While you’re employed, you let a lot of things pass you by, because it’s not your domain/area/problem. Someone else is dealing with it, and you don’t need to get involved. If you’re a future entrepreneur, you better take an interest in your bosses, your juniors, and the janitor’s job because in a startup, you’re going to be doing everyone’s job for a while. And while you might not be directly involved, you’ll need to know how everything works so that you can guide your team and catch problems before they become catastrophes. Learn as much as you can while you’re working for someone else. The learning never stops, so you should get started as soon as possible.
Age is not just a number: You have the time to actually experiment and take risks. You’re going to know in 3-5 years whether you want to remain an entrepreneur or not. By the time you figure, either way, you’re still young enough for your entrepreneurial experience to help you find yourself a job. If you plan to stick to your guns, you have time to build as big an arsenal as you like. Like someone said, you’re old enough to know better, but you’re young enough to do it anyway!
Fluidity: It’s easy to be fluid when you are in your twenties. It’s a great habit to have, so that you continue remaining flexible and learn how to take advantage with time. The more fluid you are, the better the outcome of your decision-making and problem-solving because each and every problem in a startup is unique. One size does not fit all.
Be frugal: If you started out to get rich, you might as well stop right now because the money that you’re making is for the growth of your company, and you are its custodian. When you want to expand and grow, the Audi in your parking won’t help. Two international vacations a year won’t pay for staff salaries and those gadgets you’re collecting could have paid the deposit for your new office space in a new city. It’s best you learn this at the onset. It’s very easy to get carried away and if you don’t learn how to budget, your investors/you won’t be too happy looking at your bottom line.
Managing perceptions: You learn how to make people overlook your age. After failing a few times on account of how young you are, you will modify your approach to make age a non-issue. Essentially, you can now make people look beyond the obvious and into your product. A very valuable skill to have regardless of where you’re coming from. It’s age today, could be a competitor tomorrow.
Partner up: It’s the age of collaborations. Find the right fit for you. Take your time and share the experience with someone who shares your vision. Develop relationships that can help you deliver your vision. It’s easy to get excited and lose sight of the summit, but the wrong partnerships can cost you a lot of time, money and heartache. Choose wisely.
Work, work, work, work, work: When your peers are settling down, you’re working. When they’re getting married, you’re working. When their companies are sending them on an all-expenses paid trips abroad, guess what, you’re still working. Because you are not here for the short term. You’re building something bigger than all of that. And you’ll be happy doing it because you feel rewarded when something goes right; when you deliver a project on time and by the right specs. Your gratification comes from very different things now. You’re in for quite a ride.
Plan? What plan?: You can throw all your plans out the window. Every day will be a whole new fight and struggle and the only plan that works is hustling. You’re hustling? You’re fighting? Then your plan is working. The day you feel that you should have a plan, something will come along to knock that notion down. Plans are for the ones playing with a parachute. You’ve jumped off the plane and you’re building your parachute on your way down. Adrenaline is your friend now.
CASH FLOW IS KING: The success of any business depends on its ability to turn cash around. Are you billing billions and collecting millions? Failed. Are you billing millions with billions sitting in the bank? You’re a champ. What good is your patented idea when no one is paying you to supply it? We have an ad agency, that means once the work is done, the client gets billed. But what if we are unable to make the client pay up on time? Well then there goes my salary, because there’s no way the team isn’t getting paid. Who’s paying them? The company. Out of the cash reserves we created for expansion, or infrastructure or hiring. What investor won’t ask you for your balance sheet and turnover?
This is love: Pure… unconditional… irrational. Being a true entrepreneur is an all-consuming job. It will take over your life and your relationships. It’s not unlike your first love. If you give it Tender Lovin’ Care (TLC), your startup will give back ten-fold. There will be ups and downs, but you’ll have the time of your life. It’s a high like no drug and guess what, it’s good for you! Have a good time, enjoy what you do, and don’t look back.
All said and done, I’m glad I took the plunge when I did. I now realise that there are no mistakes, these are lessons that you need to learn to get ahead. If everything was smooth sailing, this wouldn’t be fun. You are not here to follow the pack; you are here to chart your own path. You’re bound to struggle and make mistakes, but in the end, it’s so worth it.