More than 15 million U.S. high school students headed to school last month, and many of them will become entrepreneurs, building their own futures, creating wealth and doing what they love.
Entrepreneurship is respected, fun and dynamic (now more than ever before). There’s never a dull moment. It’s something you can start at any time in your life and, especially if you are young, you’ll only get better at it as you travel through life. It’s like a muscle you can work on and practice.
As Mark Cuban says, business is the ultimate sport. It’s an exciting way to do life. You have a direct impact on the economy, create jobs, create wealth and solve a multitude of problems that make peoples’ lives better.
There’s no time better than now for any young entrepreneur to embark on the adventure of their life.
1. Do it now: Start your own business.
Like swimming, you just have to jump in and start paddling. You know those ideas you’ve been batting around? Write them down. What’s your best one? What makes it better? How can you gain an edge? Talk about your idea with your friends, gather feedback from them, from parents, teachers, your target customers. And go for it.
Don’t make it complicated. It can be a simple business, like babysitting, yard work or dog walking. This is going to give you experience in setting up a business — organizing paperwork, registering it, getting a business license, a tax identification number and so forth. Legitimize it as much as you can because your age is working against you. Babysitters who have CPR and First Aid certificates are a cut above. References from satisfied customers, before and after photos of a house-painting project you completed — whatever you can point to that shows you are serious and that you care about what you do.
2. Find your first mentors.
This step is very important. And it’s a lot easier than you might think it would be. The business world is filled with people who’ve made it and want to “send the elevator down” to pass along the knowledge, lessons and insights they’ve accumulated in their climb to success. It might be intimidating to ask someone, but go ahead and approach some local business owners and ask them if they can help you and mentor you. Throughout your life as an entrepreneur you should actively seek out and ask for mentorship. You will always need someone supportive, honest and neutral to turn to for advice.
3. Get a job.
Wait, wait … why get a job when you’re starting a business? Well, for one very good reason: You need to get more experience with customers and people. American businesses pride themselves on providing excellent customer service — but no one is born innately knowing how to do that. It’s something you learn how to do. The experience of interacting with people makes a huge difference to building a successful business. You need to learn to be the face of the company, to exhibit grace under pressure and to spread that smile on your face to satisfied customers and coworkers even on their crummiest day. Attitude may not be everything, but it’s always going to be a lot, so start becoming an entrepreneur by learning from McDonald’s or your local supermarket.
4. Embrace failure.
Everyone fails. It’s what we learn from our failures that teaches us what we need to be successful. Overcome any fear of failure you might feel — that feeling is the biggest obstacle of any you’ll ever face. Try. Fail. Get back up. Convert the experience into education. Learn its lessons. Did you need more focus, attention, effort? Get back up and try again, armed with your experience.
5. Put yourself out there.
First, be yourself. Remember what may not be considered cool in high school could give you an edge as an entrepreneur. Step out of your comfort zone. Run for student government, join a sports or academic team, get involved with the school news team. You need to start getting comfortable being a leader and marketing yourself, because ultimately that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. You’ll benefit from anything where you work on teams with others. It’s good to be able to juggle a lot going on, to meet obligations and develop accountability.
6. Get involved with theater.
I was involved in community theater since I was very young and I started my own theater company when I was 17. It was my first real business. It developed so many skills in working with people and overcoming shyness. Today, I can command important phone calls and my team, and I credit my experience being involved in 35 productions with developing the skills necessary to build up my business into a nationwide healthy vending company.
7. Pay attention in these classes (I wish I had!).
- Math is critical because you won’t be able to rely on an accountant or bookkeeper when you get your business started. And after you’re successful, you still need to keep an eye on your finances — your livelihood is at stake.
- English and writing are crucial. You need to communicate your ideas clearly and often. You need to persuade customers and financiers and suppliers. You need to sound intelligent and inspire confidence.
8. Recognize opportunities and pursue them.
Look for a problem in your community. Think about how you can possibly create a business around solving it. Start thinking about it even if you never do it. You need to start exercising the creative brainstorming part of your brain.
Related Video: How to Support Your Entrepreneurial Kids
Steve Jobs Shares the Secrets to Successful Team Leadership in This Throwback Video
Though Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died six years ago, his outsized influence is certainly still felt. A recently surfaced video interview with the late CEO — which based on his haircut seems to place him in the mid-1980s — shows him sharing his views about best practices for hiring and what makes a great manager.
Up front, he says that the greatest employees are the ones who have the ability to manage themselves. But they can only do that if the leadership at the top is clear about what they want. “What leadership [is] having a vision, being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it and getting a consensus on a common vision,” Jobs says.
Jobs goes on to explain that one of the most important jobs of someone in his position is recruiting new employees. He notes that he isn’t necessarily looking for someone who is an industry veteran, but rather someone who understands where technology is and where it could go in the future. He also recalls a moment when as the company was growing, that he and others executives thought they needed “professional managers,” but that ultimately turned out to not be the case.
“We went out and hired a bunch of professional management [and] it didn’t work at all. Most of them were bozos,” Jobs says with his characteristic brutal candor. “They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything. If you’re a great person, why do you want to work for somebody that you can’t learn anything from?”
Ultimately, he notes that the best team leaders are the ones that aren’t angling for power for power’s sake. “They are the great individual contributors who never, ever want to be a manager,” Jobs says. “But decide they have to be a manager because no one else is going to be able to do as good a job as them.”
Do you agree with Jobs’s assessment? Let us know in the comments and check out the full video below.
How to Keep Introverted Employees From Quietly Leaving Your Company — in Droves
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been around for decades. Employers use it to uncover job candidates’ personality strengths and place them in the right role. MBTI results also help identify natural leaders and great communicators.
Yet, there’s little talk about how people’s results impact their satisfaction once they’re in a job. When leaders ignore employees’ happiness, it’s hard to keep productive talent around.
Interestingly, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based publisher of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, CCP, Inc., conducted new research that dove into how personality impacts workplace well-being. It looked at five aspects of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.
After surveying 3,113 participants, the company, in a September report, revealed that introverts have lower well-being in all of these areas. This isn’t all that surprising: An introvert is less likely to speak up about what’s negatively impacting him or her.
It is shocking, however, that employers aren’t being more proactive. If leaders don’t find a way to improve the workplace happiness of introverts, those people will leave and take all their unique skills with them.
Want to avoid that happening to you? Here are some ideas to help connect with the introverts in your office and better understand their wellness-related needs in the workplace:
Be a chameleon.
Many leaders make the mistake of managing everyone the same way and assuming the results will equate across the board. But there’s a huge flaw in that logic: Every person, in fact, perceives and processes guidance differently. Some need more help in certain situations; some need less. So, it’s up to leaders to customize their approach.
Leaders ignoring the needs of their introverts can hurt their overall workplace well-being. The reason: Introverted employees will feel less engaged and have a harder time reaching their goals. This may then lead to feelings of isolation and disappointment, negatively impacting these workers’ mental health.
When managers recognize introverts’ differences, on the other hand, they can help those employees succeed, and feel more accomplished. For example, as New York-based co-founder of the digital agency Ready Set Rocket, Aaron Harvey, pointed out, introverts have trouble speaking in front of people. “If someone struggles in brainstorming sessions, simply stop by their desk in advance and ask them to be prepared with a few ideas around a specific topic,” Harvey advised in an email. “This can help them feel confident, joining a conversation that organically leads to real-time ideation.”
Consider other situations when introverts might feel that they are out of their element. For instance, consider ways in which shy employees might meet new people.
Talking with new clients, after all, probably makes them nervous. So, reduce their stress by having an extrovert they’re comfortable with tag along. Having a familiar face present will help get them through the situation.
Scrimmage employees’ skill sets.
Extroverts’ strengths are obvious. They’re good communicators, enjoy building relationships and freely share their ideas — all skills that contribute to their well-being. These traits make it easier for them to create a support system at work and to speak up about what skills they have to offer.
Introverts’ skills are more hidden, so leaders don’t always see what they bring to the table. Since introverts are less likely to communicate what responsibilities they’d like to take on, they’re left feeling unfulfilled.
Skills-assessment tools, like the MBTI, are a great solution. They reveal natural strengths and help managers assign introverts more meaningful work.
After realizing your introverts’ skills, give them more opportunities to use them. Assign tasks and projects that allow them to maximize their strengths. Fully and effectively contributing to the team will improve their feelings of meaning and accomplishment.
Arlington, Va.-based Greg Wester, senior vice president of marketing and business development at the mobile content discovery platform Mobile Posse, likes to mix it up with his employees. To help everyone on the team develop his or her skills, Wester told me, the company poses team challenges that mix introverts and extroverts.
“We’ve found that people are super competitive about winning,” he said by email. “The different types of exercises give people a variety of ways to participate, get involved and hopefully boost their well-being.”
Currently, Mobile Posses’ employees are working as teams to create themed videos. Each team has eight cross-functional, cross-personality employees. They’re all challenged to use their individual skills to create a video representing their perspective on a company core value or vision.
This approach to skill-building, Wester said, helps introverts connect with the entire team and gives them more confidence about their value in the organization.
Keep kindred spirits together.
While it’s good to have both types of personalities working together, introverts may become stressed if they’re paired only with extroverts.
For instance, imagine walking into a room where everyone is talking loudly and the words don’t make sense. The situation is overwhelming. This is how introverts feel when they’re surrounded by extroverts. It’s as though no one is speaking their language, and they feel isolated as a result.
What’s more, iIntroverts and extroverts communicate differently. To maintain well-being, introverts need to find like-minded people they can connect with and recharge their energy with.
Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at the Kingwood, Tex.-based HR services company Insperity, pointed out that following personality assessments, introverts can find people who are like them and make healthy connections. “The process itself can help improve communication, build teams, and expand office friendships,” Gibbs said in an email. “More introverted employees will be able to identify others with similar communications styles.”
So think about conducting personality testing at your workplace. Then, hold a meeting where everyone can discuss his or her results. This will show introverts that they are not alone. They’ll be able to communicate better and deepen their relationships — and with them their personal well-being — at work.
Hard Work? It's Not All It's Cracked up to Be. It May Even Be Irrelevant. Here's Why.
From a young age, we’re raised to believe that we can accomplish pretty much anything so long as we work hard enough to achieve it. And, for the most part, that makes sense, at least intuitively. If you study for three hours while your roommate studies for one, you’ll probably do better on the test. If you spend 50 hours at work every week while your peer spends 30, you’ll stand a better chance of getting a raise or a promotion.
This idea follows us at every stage of our lives, and it echoes a cornerstone belief of Western culture: As long as you work hard, you’re going to be successful. But there’s a problem with this philosophy: Hard work isn’t always enough.
The Netflix approach
This idea is hard to accept at first, if you’re a hard worker who invests major time and effort to get what you want in life. Perhaps then, it’s best to introduce the alternative notion, using a corporate example.
Netflix (yes, the company responsible for those late-night television binges) has found success in part because it abolished the idea of hard work being the sole determining factor in an employee’s progression within the company.
Netflix formally introduced this idea in a 2009 slide deck explaining the company’s culture, but the idea dates back to 2001. Since her departure from Netflix, the company’s former chief talent officer, Patty McCord, has been on podcasts and spoken in interviews about the rather different work ethic Neflix evolved.
After experiencing financial trouble in 2001, the company made a bold move to lay off a third of its employees — not based on how long they’d worked there or how hard they’d worked, but solely on what they contribute, and how they impact the company’s bottom line. This infuriated some long-time, hard-working employees, but those who remained ended up getting more done because they didn’t have to correct others’ mistakes, or work around unnecessary teammates.
Even after that initial layoff, Netflix paid almost no attention to employees’ hard work. It allowed unlimited vacation time and flexible hours, focusing on results and innovation instead of the number of hours worked or the effort spent. This system resulted in the letting go of many employees who’d worked hard and performed well. But it also resulted in the better performance of the company (and, in many ways, in less stress for the remaining employees).
The problems with hard work
The Netflix example may seem harsh, especially if you’ve based your career around working hard. What if you too were fired after a decade of putting in long hours and genuinely trying your best?
Still, there are three main problems with hard work that an alternative culture or approach could correct:
“Hard work” doesn’t equal “results.” First off, hard work doesn’t necessarily correlate with results. For example, it doesn’t matter if you put 100 hours in to the design of your landing page; if your site doesn’t convert,you may as well have spent one hour.
Hard work isn’t efficient work. Next, consider that hard work isn’t necessarily efficient work. If it takes the person next to you three hours to complete a task that you could have completed in an hour, that extra hard work may have actually cost the company unnecessary time and money.
Hard work doesn’t encourage innovation. Finally, focusing on hard work doesn’t encourage innovation or novelty. Instead, it encourages repetition and persistence. Those factors can be good, but you also need some drive to try new tactics, incorporate new ideas and learn new things in your life.
What to focus on Instead
None of this is meant to imply that hard work isn’t valuable — only that your hard work should be reserved for when it counts the most. So, as an individual (whether you’re a professional or an entrepreneur), what should you be focusing on instead?
Efficiency. Focus on your efficiency. Instead of spending more hours, emphasize doing more with the hours you already have. For example, you could automate certain processes, delegate work beneath your paygrade or find new strategies to accomplish more within a set time frame. You can also work on eliminating redundancies in your workflow, or on abandoning tasks, meetings, and projects that eat up your time unnecessarily.
Results. Focus on results, prioritizing the work that seems to yield the highest return on your time investment. What’s really going to help you succeed? Reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t fall in line with that vision, and don’t be afraid to make cuts.
Improvement. Focus on improving yourself and your surroundings. Instead of working hard on level one, spend some effort trying to get to level two. Invest in yourself, learning new skills and gaining new experiences, and invest in your environment by training your employees and making sure you have the best tools available for the job.
Hard work is incredibly valuable, but we shouldn’t keep thinking of it as the most important factor for success. Instead, we should see it as one of many factors that can help us, but won’t, in itself, necessarily save our businesses.
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