When We Were Young

By Douglas Hanna, CEO of A Small Orange, LLC

All entrepreneurs remember the first time they gave a presentation about their business. My first presentation wasn’t completely ordinary, though. I was 16 years old at the time, and my parents joined me on the trip because they didn’t want me going to a conference by myself. Throughout the speech, my mom kept giving me assuring looks, while my dad insisted on asking questions that were embarrassingly irrelevant to my presentation.

I started working in the Web-hosting industry when I was 13 years old, and that presentation was one of my first in-person business interactions with people a lot older than me. Today, I’m a 20-year-old entrepreneur who runs a multi-million dollar business and goes to college at the same time. While growing my company, I’ve had to get used to being the youngest person in the room. This has taught me a lot about business and what’s involved with being a young entrepreneur.

Age means nothing. One of the first things being a young entrepreneur teaches you is just how irrelevant age is in business. At my company, there is almost no correlation between employee age and employee quality. We have exceptional employees who are 22 and mediocre employees who are much older (and vice versa). Just because someone has been doing something for 20 years, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it right. Similarly, it takes more than a fresh perspective to be able to do something well.

Prioritization is king. All business owners struggle with how to get the most out of limited resources, including their own time. It isn’t uncommon for me to have to reschedule a work call so I can study for an exam or finish a paper. While things like that can be annoying, they help me realize how I need to prioritize and plan my time. Google Calendar, a to-do list with due dates and a great team that you can delegate to should never be taken for granted.

Tap your college network. Not everyone goes to college, and that’s fine; however, almost everyone lives near a college or university. There’s tremendous value here in the form of tools and connections. Go online (or on campus) and see what’s going on with entrepreneurship at your local school. Not only can you help young people get involved with entrepreneurship, but you may meet people who can help you and your business down the line.

Let people support you. Most of all, being a young entrepreneur has taught me that most people really do want to see you succeed. Maybe it’s because I’m fortunate enough to live in an area with a very supportive entrepreneurial community, or perhaps it’s because I’m young and people are more willing to help a young entrepreneur (something I think is true), but in general, people are hoping to see you succeed. What’s most important is to be prepared to do what you can to help those people out as well, regardless of your age.

Categories: Business/Finance Tips Coaching Inspirational Lessons Learned

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