How To Overcome Obstacles When Starting Young

Eugene Cheng | Partner & Creative Lead | HighSpark - Insights Success

It was stated in a BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneurs report surveying 2,600 entrepreneurs based in 18 countries, that millennials are launching more than two times more businesses versus their older counterparts. Time are changing and the inevitable rise of the 20-something CXOs will follow, whether we like it or not.

That said, starting young also comes bundled with its own set of unique challenges. For wide-eyed millennials entering the world of business, this can prove to be daunting and at times overwhelming.

Back when my partner and I first started HighSpark, a company that provides presentation design services and skills training, it was by no means a walk in the park. Here are some obstacles we faced along the way and how we overcame them:

  1. You will be underestimated

Would you trust your business with someone that is two-times younger? Not an easy answer is it?

Our struggle initially was to get experienced or senior business owners to trust a couple of teenagers trying to help them in communications. Naturally, we got plenty of objections ranging from disbelief : “What makes you qualified?” to outright rejection “We can’t work with you, you’re too young”.

It was only after a year into the business that we were finally figured out how to get past this obstacle: Credible references from past clients.

Perception is almost as important as actually being able to deliver. Having someone else toot your horn for you can be invaluable when you’re starting out young. No doubt it’ll be harder versus already having professional clout as a more experienced professional, but the lessons you learn will be inherently more valuable.

Another great way is to work with other experts to cover areas where you falter. In our case, we collaborated with experts in sales training and public speaking to provide more holistic solutions. That way, by association, you quickly appear more trustworthy.

  1. You will feel like you’re missing out

Entrepreneurship is a lonely, risky road less travelled. When you’re younger, you can stomach more risk, but it might be tougher to be doing something that goes against what the rest of your peers are doing.

In our case, my partner and I started the business at the expense of further education at the time – we didn’t go to college. On the flip side, about 80% of our peers were heading to university, graduating and finding employment.

There were numerous instances where we were genuinely uncertain about whether our business would be profitable enough to justify our sacrifices. Peers our age were already progressing in their careers, while we were still trying to determine if we made the right decision to do this.

The old proverb, “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are,” rings true here. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people going through the same struggles is a great way to manage self-doubt and accelerate your learning in the process. Just remember that no one ever did anything special by being like everyone else and that the risks you take now can pay off handsomely in the future.

  1. You will never truly ‘know what you’re doing’

With news outlets reporting successful fundraising rounds in the millions and new startup stories on the press every other day, it can sometimes seem like everyone else has got life figured out except you and your team.

The truth is that even the most seasoned entrepreneurs (young or old) feel unsure at times. Heck, even entrepreneurs that are doing well might constantly have a case of impostor syndrome. When we consistently entertain thoughts of self-doubt, these thoughts can manifest into paralysis where we end up worrying more than doing anything productive.

A simple solution as renowned marketing expert Seth Godin often says is to ‘Start Shipping’. Don’t fear making mistakes because you will definitely run into obstacles along the way.

The Business Insider recently reported on a 6-year old boy that makes $11 Million a year on Youtube reviewing toys on his channel: Ryan ToysReview. It really goes to show what one can accomplish when applying yourself correctly and silencing any feelings of inadequacy.

Whether you’re a CEO in your fifties or a startup founder in your twenties, sometimes the best thing to do is to hunker down and tread along your planned path rather than worry if you’re making the wrong decisions.

Starting young can be an advantage if you use it right. Don’t be bogged down by things that you can control, but instead focus on:

  1. Building solid relationships and developing your credo
  2. Grow through osmosis by surrounding yourself with outstanding people
  3. Focus on ‘shipping’ and the steps ahead.

About the Author

Eugene Cheng is Partner & Creative Lead at HighSpark, a company that provides presentation design services and consultancy to Fortune 500 companies. He also mentors for a video production company: MotionSauce.