Entrepreneurship and leadership go hand in hand. Every young entrepreneur needs to understand the qualities of strong leadership if they want to succeed. Why? Because it’s highly unlikely you will never encounter other people while running your business.
While it may not seem like leadership applies to customers and investors, trust us: it does. Leadership is more than telling underlings what to do. Much more.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
First things first: you must believe in yourself. Start there, and the rest will follow.
What does it mean to believe in yourself?
It means several things. First, have faith that you are bright, capable, and strong enough to turn your business idea into a reality. Young entrepreneurs don’t have to be perfect at everything. Perfection is not what you need. Instead, know that this idea occurred to you for a reason. You’re the one who can make it happen. You can, and you will!
Second, believe in your idea. Don’t tear it down before it has a chance to see the light of day. Sure, if your idea is something along the lines of, “I want to build solar-powered flying cars,” maybe consider what that timeline and financial investment will look like. More realistically, though, your idea is a good one. Believe that it will work and that it can change lives for the better.
Third, visualize your success. What does your end game look like? Include details in your vision. How do you feel when you see yourself achieve your goals?
Believing in yourself will inspire others to believe in you, too. That translates to investors, customers, and employees or volunteers. People generally want to follow someone who has the confidence to say, “This is going to be amazing!”
FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS
Complaining is easy. Finding solutions is tougher. A good leader focuses on solutions, not problems.
There will always be challenges facing young entrepreneurs. You’re dealing with all the normal challenges of a business start-up on top of school, family, friends, and anything else you have going on. We never said this would be easy! But the Kantner Foundation knows that high school entrepreneurs are some of the most resilient and hard-working people in the world. We know you can do it!
Still. There are the normal, everyday challenges of launching and running a startup, and then there are unexpected problems. Things like an investor falling through. Or your product not working as intended. Double-booking your clients. A natural disaster delaying your supply chain.
These things happen. The difference between a quitter and a successful young entrepreneur is that the latter takes these problems in stride and finds solutions. It might not be easy. It almost certainly won’t be the most fun part of entrepreneurship. But leadership means taking responsibility and doing what you can to make things better. A good leader has the confidence (see above) to jump in and make it right.
In the beginning, you may have to take on all the roles your startup requires. CEO, head of marketing, CFO, customer service, IT, etc. The sign of a good leader is one who isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes.
You don’t need expertise in every single area to do them well. You just need to have a basic understanding of what each segment of a business startup requires. Forget about earning a master’s degree in coding. For example, instead, choose a web builder that will do most of the work for you.
As your enterprise becomes successful, consider hiring others to take on some of the tasks. Do you have a friend who’s a whiz with money? There’s your CFO. Is your older sister the kind of person who loves working with people? Ask her to handle customer service.
Remember that self-confidence we discussed above? That leadership quality will help you do whatever it takes to get your small business up and running. Even if you’re not an expert; even if you’ve never done something like that before; even if you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing – self-confidence will guide you where you need to be.
While we’re on the subject of being a well-rounded leader, let’s talk about communication. Strong leadership skills include the ability to communicate in different styles and to a variety of audiences. Your emails to investors won’t be written in the same tone and style as your social media posts. Right?
Take some time to really think about how you want to communicate like a professional. You likely want investors to take you seriously. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to practice writing business-style emails that will entice and excite your audience in a professional manner.
Your website’s content should reflect your personality, your target customers, and the nature of your business. How formal or informal do you need to be? Should you write in the first, second, or third person? Will too much use of trendy slang turn people away? Remember to focus on the “entrepreneur” part of “young entrepreneur” in your written communications.
In addition to writing styles, there will be times when you must communicate with people face to face. Take a look at your body language and silent cues. Good posture is a sign of self-confidence. (See? It really does always come back to that!) Eye contact shows respect. Open arms indicate an openness to what the other person is saying.
RESPECT THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
Respecting others starts with listening. Listening to their needs, their problems, and their complaints. This maximizes your opportunities to be the leader they need.
People like feeling heard and understood. Prove you have the ability to do both, and they’ll see you as the strong and capable leader you are.
Even when you feel disrespected, dismissed, or called out, rise above it with respect. Are you leading a team? Don’t take their complaints personally. (Unless they are personal, like you need to shower more.) Be professional and respect your employees’ right to speak up. After all, they’re part of this, too.
Respect your customers enough to provide excellent customer service. Keep in mind that your business can’t succeed without their patronage!
By understanding and developing the leadership qualities listed above, anyone can become the strong leader we need in the world.
Find out more about the Kantner Foundation, including our college scholarships for young entrepreneurs in Florida, by clicking here. We look forward to your application!