6 Classic Business Mistakes to Avoid for Millennial Entrepreneurs
It’s no surprise that many of the millennial entrepreneurs find the prospect of entrepreneurship so appealing. Here’s a generation that grew up in a moment of huge technological and social innovation. They were there as technology began to encroach more and more on the home, the classroom and the world of business. Many can scarcely remember what it was like to live without a smartphone and most were raised to believe that the world was theirs if they only had the ambition and the work ethic to grasp it.
But this generation quickly learned that they were puppets starting to see the strings. They realized that the world of work was not as rife with opportunity as they were told as legions (almost 60%) of whip smart graduates are funneled into low-paying non-graduate jobs. The were unleashed on a corporate dominated landscape where wage repression is the norm and opportunities were sparse, poorly paid and/ or highly competitive. They found that the ladder of career and social mobility had been kicked out from under them and that if they wanted the success they’d been sold they’d have to leap instead of climbing. Which is why so many millennials turn to freelancing, entrepreneurship and solopreneurship.
Ok Boomer: Clearing up millennial misconceptions
The unfortunate truth is that, while millennials are taking up a larger and larger proportion of the workforce, there’s something that certain corners of the business community still finds unpalatable about millennial entrepreneurs. Ambitious, hard working and adept digital natives, their skills lend themselves extremely well to starting their own businesses, but there’s something demeaning about the word millennial which makes them the subject of all kinds of stereotypes and misconceptions. But millennials are not kids. The oldest of the generation are in their late 30s, the youngest in their mid twenties.
Still, as they navigate the path to success, millennial entrepreneurs will need to subvert the stereotypes and misconceptions that have plagued them their entire professional lives. And the best way to start is by avoiding come of the classic business mistakes made by entrepreneurs and particularly those of their own generation.
Quitting the day job straight away
The stereotypical millennial is lazy, self-involved and expects reward and recognition without having to work for them… needless to say, the stereotype falls way wide of the mark. Nonetheless, the truth is that many in the millennial generation can be impetuous when it comes to their careers. After all, this is a generation that has become used to having it all and having it right now.
As such, millennial entrepreneurs can fall into the trap of quitting the day job right away and plunging headlong into entrepreneurship as soon as they’ve purchased a domain name… but this can prove disastrous. A smarter bet is to build your business alongside your day job as a side hustle in your free time. Obviously you shouldn’t use company time or resources to do so, but you can start working on your branding, building your online presence and reaching out to your first few clients so that you can set about making a name for yourself and establishing a presence in your chosen market.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Especially if you’re working in a job you’ve grown to despise where your skills and experience are wasted on a daily basis. It can also make for some very long working days as you manage your business on top of working a full day for your employer.
Still, the longer you hang fire before quitting your day job, the better your chances of being able to make money from your business straight away.
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that while you may be paying tax on your earnings for your day job, the income you make from your side hustle is still taxable. You wouldn’t want your entrepreneurial career to start off with a huge tax bill and hefty fine.
Failing to follow through on the promise inherent in their branding
When it comes to branding, most millennial entrepreneurs are all over it! They’ve had brands trying to get their attention since they could walk, and they know every trick in the book when it comes to building a brand that resonates with the kind of cool, savvy consumers they’re trying to attack.
But while the creative aspects of building a brand are some of the most fun and engaging parts of starting your own business, it’s important to remember that your brand is more than just a cool logo and a catchy tagline. A brand should also make a set of promises to the customer based on the ideals and qualities inherent in the business’ mission statement (which is why this should be the first thing you distill before you start trading or designing logos).
This means that everything you do needs to provide value for the customer and live up to the promise inherent in your branding. Follow through when you tell your customers you’re going to do something from them. Make sure your staff are trained to deal with customers in a way that befits your brand (more on that later). And if you’re using content marketing like blog posts, videos, infographics, ebooks and white papers (as you really should) that needs to be all about adding value to the customer and building trust in your brand. If your content isn’t useful to your customers or doesn’t address their needs, concerns and pain points it may come across as self-indulgent.
Over relying on automation
We millennials love our gadgets. We love our apps. We love all things digital and we naturally gravitate towards innovation, especially when it comes to the digital realm. After all, the role of automation and digital solutions in the current business landscape play a huge part in facilitating the opportunities that allow us to pursue the path of entrepreneurship.
Still, while automation can provide great opportunities, streamline your operations and help to facilitate sustainable growth, it’s all-too easy to become over-reliant on automation. Ask anyone associated with automated software testing and they’ll tell you that while automation is great, it is designed to supplement a workforce rather than supplant it. Automation can help you bring out the best in your team, but it doesn’t preclude you from needing one.
As such, over-relying on automation can lead to under-relying on your team. And that can lead to some serious problems, which brings us to…
Under-investing in your team
Many millennial entrepreneurs are charismatic forces of nature, and it’s easy to forget in the face of their personalities (and / or eccentricities) that behind every groundbreaking entrepreneur there’s a hard working and dedicated team. And while your guidance and vision may be what motivates and inspires that team, if you under-invest in them you will find that your business inevitably suffers.
Investing in your team means taking the time to find the right kind of candidate whose goals and ideals are aligned with your own. It means deferring to others and knowing that going with your gut in the recruitment process can create more problems than it solves (which is why so many choose to outsource their recruitment).
It also means investing in a comprehensive onboarding process that not only imbues your employees with the skills to do their job well, but also to perpetuate the kind of working culture and environment with which you want to associate your brand. In an era where many workers value recognition over reward make sure that you invest in making them feel exactly the opposite of how you felt in your old job.
You must also remember that training goes way beyond the onboarding process. It should be a regular part of the employee journey and help them to achieve their personal job and career goals as part of an ongoing course of professional development.
Upscaling too fast
Other generations have come to believe that millennials are impatient and impetuous. Prove them wrong by learning to run lean for a few years rather than chasing growth. Growth (and the income that comes with it) is appealing for ambitious businesses with their minds set on market domination. But you can only grow sustainably when you have the right operational practices and infrastructure behind you. Fail to refine your practices and invest in that infrastructure and your growth could actually hobble you, diminishing the quality that your customers have come to expect from you.
Losing sight of the competition
Finally, as important as it is to keep your eyes on your own work, don’t conform to the self-absorbed millennial stereotype.
Fail to keep a close eye on the competition and you might just find that they quickly get the drop on you. You should make competitor analysis an ongoing part of your operations. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve in areas where they’re letting their customers down, but be prepared to learn from the things that they’re doing right, too. A good idea is a good idea after all.
Steer clear of these 6 classic millennial business mistakes and you’ll find success and happiness behind every preconception you shatter!