The Protégé Project

How Young Entrepreneurs Can Bridge the Generation Gap


Photo: Thinkstock

by Matthew Toren, Entrepreneur.com

You could start a business, lasso funding and already have top-tier clients, but, because you're young, some people still won't take you seriously. What's worse, some may even try to take advantage of your youth.

Having co-owned a series of businesses with my brother since I was 7 years old -- we sold stunt airplanes at a festival with my grandfather -- I've seen my share of that kind of discrimination. For our first decent-sized venture out of school, we purchased a struggling pool hall in Vancouver, B.C., which we bootstrapped with money that we had earned with a few small, successful business ventures we launched during high school. Although we eventually turned the place into a thriving hot spot, we faced a number of challenges along the way. From the initial purchase transaction to setting up accounts with vendors, we learned quickly to be on guard from people who assumed we didn't have to be taken seriously or that they could "play" us because of our youth.

One situation that stands out happened when we were hiring a contractor to perform renovations for the bar. The first guy we contacted for a bid met with me at the pool hall. He had sized me up as young and naïve, before I even opened my mouth. After asking me to get my boss, he was clearly surprised -- and a little amused, if I'm not mistaken -- when I told him that it was me. The encounter went downhill from there.

Not only did he try to tell me we needed completely unnecessary (and overpriced) repairs, he had the nerve to say we had to pay in full for the work and materials up front. "That's just the way it's done," he said. Needless to say, he didn't get the job, but, to his credit, he prepared me for what I'd be up against time and again throughout my younger days as an entrepreneur. I quickly learned that I'd need to step up my game to be recognized and respected as a "real" business person.

So, how did I do it? Here are three strategies I used to bridge the generation gap, and you can too:

1. Know what you're talking about. If you're "winging it," people can tell, and, perhaps justifiably, they won't take you seriously. To elicit the opposite response, you should learn everything you can about your industry -- and your own product or service -- so you can speak clearly and authoritatively about your business. If you're also professional with everyone from vendors to employees to customers, you're bound to be seen in a better light. Once my brother and I learned everything we could about pool halls, we were able to communicate with beverage distributors, equipment manufacturers and food suppliers in their own language. That effort made all the difference. We took away their excuse to treat us differently than their other clients.

Related Video: Mashable's Pete Cashmore on a Big Lesson for a Young Entrepreneur

2. Admit that you don't know everything. Many young entrepreneurs try to overcompensate for inexperience by talking as though they've got it all figured out. The only thing worse than not knowing all you should know is not knowing, and then acting like you do. There's certainly nothing wrong with confidence, but admitting that you don't know something and asking for help shows integrity, which can't be underestimated. To help you figure things out, I encourage all young entrepreneurs to find a mentor to learn from and bounce ideas off of. This person can be a more seasoned entrepreneur than yourself or simply a business person who has expertise in your industry. It was our grandfather who recognized that my brother and I had a hunger for entrepreneurship. He helped guide us through some of the basic principles of entrepreneurship, showing us what it means to be an entrepreneur. I remember him telling us that an entrepreneur does anything and everything that needs to get done. That's a lesson that has stuck with us to this day.

Related: Tumblr's David Karp on Recovering from a Business Crisis

3. Clean up. People judge others by the way they present themselves -- how they look, how they dress and how they speak. It might be the latest style to wear eight piercings in your face and your pants around your thighs. But while this look might impress your friends, it's likely to repel adult vendors, customers, and potential mentors. Is that "fair"? We can debate that point all day long, but it won't change the fact that superficial judgments take place virtually every time we meet someone.

That's not to say that individuality isn't important. So, let me clarify: I'm not talking about acting like someone you aren't. I'm simply saying that you already have built-in obstacles to overcome as a young entrepreneur, and you can amplify those challenges by dressing, talking and acting like your favorite rock star. My brother and I didn't dress in suits every day by any means, but we made sure we presented ourselves as professionals who took business seriously. As an entrepreneur, the key is to standout as unique because you've got it together, rather than standing out for less desirable reasons.

This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

Get to be the ultimate young entrepreneur! Join the Nokia E7 Protege Project and you can learn from successful and innovative mentors like Donnie Tantoco of Shopwise and Johnlu Koa of The French Baker. Click here to download the application form.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Nonviolent disciplining of kids pushed

    Child rights advocates called on senators to pass and strongly endorse a law that will institutionalize positive and nonviolent methods of disciplining children.The Child Rights Network (CRN), Plan International Philippines (PIP), Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPCD), and Lihok Pilipinas Foundation led the call for the enactment of the Positive Discipline Bill.Several Quezon City Council members led by Majority Floor Leader Jesus Manuel Suntay, Victor Ferrer …

  • Method to their madness

    [caption id="attachment_256768" align="alignright" width="212"] Illustration by Rod Cañalita[/caption] EMMANUEL PORTUGAL Country Manager for the Philippines, VMware I look after the garden. I’d like to think that I have a green thumb—no plants have died so far! The ones I like now that I planted a few months ago is the Blue Iris. Like the town in the movie, my Blue Iris shows up in the morning and only appears for one day. …

  • JGFP Summer Tour on today

    The summer tour for local junior golfers kicks off with the holding of the ICTSI-JGFP Baguio Junior Open today and tomorrow at the treacherous Baguio Country Club course in Baguio.Sixty players aged 6 to 17 years old are entered in the 36-hole tourney serving as the opening leg of the summer circuit organized by the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines with the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. Foundation as main sponsor. ... …

  • PH now market ready to absorb infra bonds

    The Philippine market is now ready to absorb infrastructure bonds that will be issued by private companies amid a growing pipeline of infra-related projects under the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. President Benigno Aquino III last week said the government is still committed to spend more on the country’s infrastructure, with 16 PPP projects currently on the pipeline and nine that have already been awarded. Over the years, some of the country’s biggest infrastructure …

  • Filipinos are saving more – BSP survey

    More Filipinos have the extra cash to save for that proverbial rainy day, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Philippines (BSP). Based on a quarterly survey on consumer confidence, domestic households with savings have the means to increase family reserves and to bring up the amount to historical highs. The central bank said improved family income, a generally positive outlook on the economy, inflation and foreign exchange rates encouraged saving behavior during the first three months of 2015. …

  • AXA Philippines growing alongside its parent firm

    Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corp. is growing side by side with its parent firm, global insurance firm AXA, after posting significant growth in its total premium income amid an increasing market share in the country. A statement showed that in the Philippines, multi-billion firm AXA Group saw P18.35 billion in total premium income. The local entity of AXA, AXA Philippines is a joint venture between AXA Group and the Metrobank Group. In 2014, it saw an increase in market share to 11.6 …

  • End to traffic jam in sight? Japan to lend P4B to PHL for road projects

    The Japanese government will be providing some P4 billion to the Philippines for road projects aimed at decongesting monstrous jams in Metro Manila.Noriaki Niwa, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said the loan will cover major interchanges to address traffic congestion in Metro Manila, including flyovers, and road links.Among them are the interchanges on EDSA-Roosevelt/Congressional, EDSA-West/North, and C-5-Green Meadows and North/Mindanao Avenue. ... …

  • US won’t provide flexibility for countries interested in TPP

    Washington D.C.—The US government will not provide any flexibility for potential member countries, like the Philippines, in their bid to become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a senior official said. Economic and Business Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary William E. Craft, Jr., said all restrictions stated under the TPP trade deal will be maintained and have to be met by the current and future member countries. Earlier, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options