A recent post on a business message board read:
I’m sixteen, and I know quite a bit about social media. Many local businesses (in my rural area) seem to be jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, and not exactly utilizing the platform’s potential (ie. Using a user acct instead of a fan page, setting up a fan page w/o using it to communicate with its customers).
I’m looking for a part time job, as are many other teens. What do you think about me being a consultant for this? Will I be taken seriously?
Whether it’s social media consulting, web design, small engine repair, or landscaping, many teens have great ideas for businesses – and the same concerns about being taken seriously. After all, many adults (their would-be customers) have a dim view of today’s younger generation.
They’re all irresponsible, lazy, and shiftless, right? Far from it. Obviously, whether you’re talking about 16-year-olds or 46-year-olds, you’ll find some who are less than motivated. But you’ll also find many looking to go beyond society’s view of what they’re all about and to make something of themselves.
Many of the most successful business leaders of today and days past were active entrepreneurs in their teens, from Sam Walton, who delivered newspapers, milked cows and sold magazines for money while attending high school, to Richard Branson, who started his first business selling records out of his car trunk in his late teens.
In fact, most accomplished entrepreneurs first felt the entrepreneurial itch young. But what does it take to be taken seriously as a teenage business person? Here are a few tips:
1. Know Your Stuff
Whatever business you’re going to go into, credibility is everything. Do your research to learn all you need to know to provide superior quality and service. Even if you feel like you know your field inside and out, never stop learning.
There is abundant information online about any area you can think of, so check it out. You might just find an idea or two to help take your business to the next level.
2. Plan for Success
If you find that people aren’t taking you seriously, it might be because you’re trying to “wing it” without thinking through your approach and follow-up. A big part of being successful at anything is planning.
This doesn’t necessarily mean writing a formal business plan. In most cases a one-page business plan is enough to get you on your way. The point is, when you take some time to plan, you’re better prepared, and it shows.
3. Clean up your Act
Whether your business involves meeting customers face-to-face or over the Internet, it’s important to make a good impression. This doesn’t mean trying to be something you’re not. It’s ok, in most cases, to wear casual clothes to see customers, for instance.
Wearing ripped jeans and a dirty t-shirt, on the other hand is a bad idea. Remember, you might need to overcome some preconceived ideas about what teenagers are like, so be sure your looks and your language reflect the fact that you’re serious about your business.
When communicating through email, use spell check and keep slang and abbreviations to minimum. If you’re polite, professional and knowledgeable, your potential customers are sure to take you seriously.
Last but not least…
Above all, don’t give up, and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. Every successful entrepreneur has stories about people who weren’t supportive of their ideas. Friends, potential customers, and even family, can be discouraging at times, but they’ll come around when you prove you can do it.
It takes guts and perseverance to start a business at any age, but the effort is well worth the reward. So go make it happen! And when you make it big, be sure to come back here to YE and share your story to inspire other entrepreneurial teens.