It’s a common experience—we’ve all been told one thing, only to find the opposite holds true. And for many young entrepreneurs, this phenomenon comes to fruition when working with older business associates. Growing up, you may have been told, “Do not let anyone look down on you because of your youth.” But this doesn’t always hold up in the real world.
Because we live in a society that generally assumes people gain worthwhile experience over time—and for good reason, because it’s often the case—you’ll likely encounter potential investors, partners and even customers who will intimate (or vocalize) their concern about your youth and relative inexperience.
While this is the cross the young entrepreneur must bear, it doesn’t mean these opportunities are beyond your reach. As you pursue new business where your youth seems to put you at a disadvantage, try to include these points as you argue against a perceived lack of experience.
1. Address the concern while showing what makes you the superior candidate. Imagine you’re a tech marketing entrepreneur who specializes in increasing leads for companies through new search engine optimization and social media techniques. While you’ve only been in business for a short time, you’ve delivered amazing results for your clients—and they’re willing to give great references.
The problem is the potential client is dead set on hiring a firm with experience in the industry, racquetball manufacturing. Never lie and say you have experience you don’t. But, while acknowledging this would be your first racquetball manufacturing client, focus on the range of industries you’ve served and how your firm’s approach focuses on core marketing issues that span nearly every company.
2. Emphasize your flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit. Most potential clients, business partners and investors fail to realize experience is a double-edged sword. Yes, with experience you can learn how to do something well, but you’ll also learn to stick with what works and rarely attempt a more innovative and better solution.
At its heart, entrepreneurship always questions convention to find a better way to fill a market need. Demonstrate your original thinking by finding out the other party’s basic assumption and approaching them with your unique perspective. Fair warning: Many people don’t like their methods questioned, even if it means improving their business or investment portfolio. The key is to approach this as presenting your ideas, not debunking their business practices.
3. Outsource what you don’t know, and don’t want to learn. Some projects will require skills, knowledge and experience outside of your realm. If this is the case and learning the skill provides little benefit to you as an entrepreneur—or you’re on a tight timeline—there’s no shame in finding an expert to take on these tasks. Companies hire people for specific functions every day; there’s no reason your business can’t.
Unfortunately, some prospects will always consider youth a handicap. But with solid arguments to many common objections, your youth shouldn’t prohibit you from winning opportunities.
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