Top 3 Qualities of a Young Entrepreneur
with Mike McDerment
with guest Mike McDerment #MakingBank S5E4
Some of us understand from a very young age that we want to be an entrepreneur. Others of us, however, stumble upon that path much later in life. Only in the past decade has becoming an entrepreneur entered mainstream career discussions. Perhaps due to figures such as Mark Zuckerberg or the onset of other tech start-ups, entrepreneurship now has a flair to it. It appeals to many groups of people, and still holds the connotation of the American Dream—that anyone can go from rags to riches with their own business.
While this idea may seem unrealistic, several businesses started in basements, and have now grown to multimillion-dollar companies. Even less extreme than that, many companies with moderate success began from humble beginnings. This trajectory paints a more welcoming and encouraging landscape for start-ups. Although there is a lot of finance and technical work that goes into growing businesses, one anthropogenic aspect remains true: the characteristics of the entrepreneur. While the product matters greatly, the qualities of a young entrepreneur can make or break a business. Keep reading to discover the most desirable traits of any novice entrepreneur.
The first and the most obvious trait of any successful, young entrepreneur is creativity. It takes a certain level of innovation to be able to not only identify a problem, but to build a product that solves said problem. Your innovation as an entrepreneur will materialize in your product or service itself, but also in the purpose of what you have to offer.
In a recent episode of the Making Bank podcast, guest Mike McDerment shared an early childhood memory that indicated a creativity he would later use to start his business. When he was around ten years old, all he wanted for his birthday was a hockey helmet. His parents said no, as he already had a helmet—a hand-me-down. But Mike wanted something new and shiny, something cool. Mike decides to go to every house of his friends’ parents and instead of buying him a present for his birthday party, he asks them to donate $5 to his helmet fund. In the end, he raised enough money for his helmet, with some extra cash left over.
While many with business knowledge can succeed in corporate America, entrepreneurs bring that spark of creativity with them. While they may understand how economics, business, and finance are structured, they don’t necessarily adhere to those pre-existing boundaries. They look at a system and think how they can improve it—or render it irrelevant with their product. Their innovation grants them a restlessness that motivates them to change the structures already set in place, as they can see the world for what it could be, not for what it is.
While initial creativity is essential, in order to survive, the best entrepreneurs know how to pivot. What this means is that as they encounter new challenges, they can find ways to adapt. The entrepreneur cannot transform his or her product into a successful company if s/he cannot change as new information comes to light. Adapting your business model allows you to continuously improve.
After saving over an invoice, Mike McDerment found himself so frustrated, he built an accounting software for the self-employed professionals from his parents’ basement. Since 2003, over 24 million people have used FreshBooks to expediate and simplify their billing process. FreshBooks offers a simple but powerful accounting software, that now ranks number two for accounting software in America.
However, to get from his parents’ basement to number two in the country, Mike had to learn many management skills. While he understood his programming, he says “We really didn’t know how to do anything. Had some good foundational skills in sort of client relations and getting stuff done. But otherwise, it was making it up as we went along.”
Although adaptability directly effects your company, it can also positively impact your business mindset. As with Mike, there were many areas in which he had no experience. He and his team had to learn along the way, shifting to new challenges. Perhaps you think the industry into which you are entering is one way—but then you find out it’s another. Maybe you believe that your customers are one demographic when really, they are another. As you go along, someone with entrepreneurial experience might give you advice that contradicts your previously held belief.
Not every bit of guidance will be helpful, but if you are willing to be flexible in your thinking, then you can perhaps avoid some amateur mistakes in the beginning. An open mindset allows you to synthesize information from multiple areas and implement the most useful pieces into your company. If you can possess a certain level of adaptability, you can advance your company, but also overcome obstacles in the future.
The last useful—and arguably, most important—quality for a young entrepreneur is to be tenacious. Any business, even the most successful ones, encounter problems along the way. As an entrepreneur, especially as a young one, you will come across issues you may anticipate, or others that come out of left field. Either way, you will learn so much from these encounters. However, before you can see the positives of your education, you may feel discouraged. You may feel as if you are not progressing yourself, your product, or your company. If you give up with the first challenge, you rob yourself of the knowledge you could acquire.
Initial motivation is great, but long-term grit plays a vital role in the success of your business. Whether you hit roadblocks in your first week, first month, or first couple of years, ups and downs are normal for any entrepreneur. The most imperative concept to remember is that obstacles prevent opportunities for growth. Difficulties can force you to reflect, whether it be self-awareness or situational awareness.
If you’ve read this piece and find yourself questioning if you have these qualities—don’t worry! The best part about these traits is that they’re free. Anyone can learn how to possess creativity, adaptability, and tenacity.