Business is a game old people play. When youngsters try to intervene they are dismissed as being naive and inexperienced. Being young and an entrepreneur is a tough combination. When you are young and in business, people hardly ever take you seriously. These are inexperienced people, they say. How are we to gain experience if you don’t give us an opportunity, we ask?
Not only are you not trusted, some even try to take advantage of what they assume is your ineptitude. They think they can ‘play’ you because you are new in the game and haven’t figured things out yet. When a friend and I were hiring a contractor to renovate our restaurant, we were told we needed completely unnecessary and overpriced repairs. Assuming we were young and naive, he tried to rip us off. Moreover, he asked us to pay up front because that is how things are done, he said. Needless to say he didn’t get the job, but he did prepare us to step up our game and gain respect among business folk.
While switching through various businesses I learnt that business, like all other jobs comes with its unwritten rules one must learn to play by. Here are a few strategies that helped me make it big. You too can use it to bridge the gap and climb the ladder of credibility. As they say, when in business, do as businessmen do.
- Do your research
The first thing people assume about youngsters is that they are inexperienced and don’t know much. If you want people to take you seriously, learn everything about your industry, down from the smallest peg to the largest supercomputer. Know your business inside out. Compensate for your inexperience with your knowledge. It is difficult to turn down someone who knows what they are talking about.
If you are professional and well-informed and can articulate your proposition, you have greater chance of impacting your customers and clients. If you have professional education or training, emphasize that. Once you have earned their trust, they will judge you more by what you have to offer than your age.
Clearly chalk out your own business plans and what you can offer to a client. Do not make promises you know you won’t be able to deliver on. Someone who does not know their own strengths and weaknesses will be dismissed as useless with the blink of an eyelid.
- Don’t be a know-it-all
Don’t pretend you have got it all figured out. Worse than not knowing is pretending you do. Your clients might have been in the field longer than you and therefore know more. It will annoy them indefinitely when they know you are saying things you have no clue about. Admitting you don’t know something and are willingness to learn shows that you have integrity and are committed to the task at hand. Don’t earn your clients trust momentarily by making things up. It will harm you in the long run though save your face on the occasion. Ask for time to find out information and get back to them. They will appreciate your dedication.
While you can learn a lot of things by doing your research, when it comes to hard-earned wisdom it resides among those who have been sailing longer. Try to find a seasoned mentor who has expertise in your industry who can guide you through the basic principles of entrepreneurship.
- Be a professional
What you wear, how you look and speak will be used by your clients to determine if they want to work with you. Though being a businessman does not mean always wearing a formal suit, you must follow a certain dress code. Body piercings, baggy pants and other hipster funky clothes do not give a very good impression. In my experience, clients see it as a sign that the person is more concerned about physical appearance and latest fashion styles and not serious about work.
I am not saying shun your individuality, but what might be seen as cool in your peer group may become detrimental to your business. Your wish to standout might result in your business getting shelved. People make superficial judgments about each other all the time so to draw little attention to yourself and more to your work and what your business can offer. Make your work stand out.
These are the few ways young entrepreneurs can establish their credibility. Remember to be patient because a business takes some time to gain ground and respect. Don’t forget to ask for testimonials when you have done something right. Nothing helps a business more than word of mouth praise by someone who has been satisfied with your product or services!