When I started AdU Network, a consulting firm that enables collaboration between universities and corporations, understanding of what it meant to be an entrepreneur was based on what I had learned about entrepreneurship from a distance. One of my biggest challenges became managing my own expectations regarding what I was supposed to do, how I was supposed to do it and what it all meant. And since I did not have employees, an office, or all of the things that are often associated with a "startup," I felt like I was doing something wrong.
This can be a very dangerous trap for young entrepreneurs. It can lead to valuable time and money being spent on potentially unnecessary investments such as expensive office space, legal services, customized software, and even new employees. So how does a young entrepreneur negotiate between what matters and what doesn't?
In business and life, every moment is filled with expectations and success is dependent on being able to adapt in healthy way. Here are some things I've learned.
- Mentors Provide Guidance and Accountability
When I was a student studying Film Theory and Sociology I was also the president of an advertising club on campus. I had scoured LinkedIn to invite speakers to our events and I had followed-up with these speakers after I started my company for advice. Naturally, a few of them emerged as true mentors and I met with them as often as possible to talk about what I was doing, where it was going, and how I should be thinking about everything. Sure, we worked on business plans, logos, and business development kits but it was the discussion about the cultural context of the world within which I was operating that made an important difference to help me focus my attention and motivation.
- Surround Yourself With Other Young Entrepreneurs
When I think about what my company does, I think of things like "creating something amazing" and "creating meaning." The combination of these words and the application of their meaning to the work that I do day-to-day came from how other young entrepreneurs talk about what they do. I follow lots of entrepreneurs and read lots of articles on Fast Company, TheYEC.org, and Twitter and this has become the most effective way to socialize myself into a world within which I want to live.
- Family and Friends
Family and friends may not understand the experience of starting a company and so they may ask questions and offer suggestions that feel critical. As a young entrepreneur I experienced this but I learned to appreciate that they care and are interested in what I do. From this position I learned that while these comments come from an outside perspective, they offer a great opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about hear great advice.
Dmitriy Katsel is the founder of AdU Network, an organization that develops partnerships between corporations and universities with a focus on generating fresh thinking and new ideas. He is a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.