Teen entrepreneurs are in unique positions when it comes to making decisions. On the one hand, you’re old enough to know that decisions have consequences. You’re smart enough to realize you might need help. But you’re also young and inexperienced, which means you may not fully understand the consequences of your decisions. And you may not know where to go for help or how to ask for it.
We know that all young entrepreneurs want to make positive, solid decisions for themselves and their businesses. And while we can’t make those decisions for you, we can offer some advice and tips to get you on the right path.
IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM
This sounds easy, but it can actually be quite tricky. As an example, if you lack startup funds for your small business that is a problem, but is it the problem you’re facing? Why do you lack funds? Did you:
- Avoid crowdfunding because you were embarrassed to ask strangers for money?
- Forget to save up enough before you got started?
- Neglect looking for venture capital investors?
- Skip planning out your budget?
In the four examples listed above, you’ll see that the real problem isn’t a lack of startup funds – it’s what led to a lack of startup funds.
Another example is not doing your homework. You’re not really lazy, right? So the problem wouldn’t be simply not doing homework. It would be something like not fully understanding the material, running out of time due to other commitments, or a personal matter distracting you.
GIVE YOURSELF OPTIONS
Now that you know the root of your problem, you need to brainstorm solutions. Keep in mind that brainstorms have no wrong answers. No one is judging you or your ideas. However out-there or ridiculous your idea is, write it down. Make a big list, or just scribble everything onto a piece of paper. Or several pieces of paper!
This is a good time to seek advice. If you have a business mentor, tell them your problem and ask them how they would handle it – or have handled a similar situation in the past. If you don’t have a mentor, don’t worry. Ask a parent, teacher, neighbor, or another adult you know who has some experience running a business.
While you’re brainstorming, go online and do a quick search for other companies in your field. What problems have they faced, and how did they deal with them? What can you take away from those examples? Any little piece that you can apply to your situation?
Remember to write everything down as you brainstorm!
MAKE A PROS AND CONS LIST
Take a fresh sheet of paper or Google document or whatever else you use. Keep your brainstorm ideas handy.
Now, go through each idea and list it at the far left of your document. Next, write up the pros and cons of that idea. Oftentimes, doing this will help you get a clearer picture of which ideas are workable and positive, versus the ones that are just too far out there or unrealistic.
Consider going a step further by making a quantitative pros and cons list. This includes weighing each pro and con by importance and can help your brain work out the best decision.
CREATE A PLAN
By this point in the process, you should have a decent idea of what the real problem is and what it will take to solve that problem.
Based on what you’ve figured out, look at your choices and decide what the next step should be. Going back to the lack of funding example, maybe you decide to return to the drawing board to create a business plan and a budget.
Time to move!
Try not to second-guess yourself too much. You’ve done all the work you possibly can do. Keep that forward momentum, or else you may succumb to decision fatigue. We know it can be tough for teens to feel 100% confident in their decisions. Remember that you’ve identified the root of what’s wrong, gotten advice, come up with every possible solution (and maybe some impossible ones!), and have chosen the best one for you, for your business, for right now.
This doesn’t mean everything will be perfect going forward. You may need to go back and adjust your plan, or even start over. Being a good business leader means developing the maturity to recognize when an idea’s not working.
But at least you’re moving forward. Indecision can kill your business’s momentum, which is the opposite of what young entrepreneurs need.
WHY THIS PROCESS IS IMPORTANT
Like so many other aspects of young entrepreneurship, good decision-making skills will help you for the rest of your life. We make millions of tiny decisions all the time: what to wear, what to eat, where to sit. And we make big decisions: where to go to college, with whom to keep a relationship, what to do after college.
Good decisions can:
- Last a lifetime, like healthy eating or physical activity
- Take a holistic approach that will ease your mind as well as your outside life
- Eliminate inertia by setting you on a path
- Map your way forward
Bad decisions will still pop up from time to time. And that’s fine! How many people do you know can honestly say they’ve never made a single bad decision in their lives? (We’re guessing you can count those people on zero fingers.) But good decision-making practices can help you identify bad ideas faster and recover from them quicker. Once you develop this mental muscle, you’ll second-guess yourself less, suffer from less imposter syndrome, and become the entrepreneurial leader we know you can be!
Will you be one of the next recipients of a Kantner Foundation college scholarship? If you are a Florida high school entrepreneur, click here to learn more!