The Challenge: The biggest challenge as a young entrepreneur has been time management and balancing my personal and corporate brand. In your first year as a start up, you do not necessarily have the cash flow to bring on a full time staff and you are often a "one man show" wearing many hats including legal, accounting, marketing, advertising, public relations and sales for your business.
The largest issue I face is working "in my business" as opposed to working "on my business." I am so entrenched in the daily work that it becomes hard to still maintain the eagle eye view of your company from an outsiders perspective if you are always working in your business. When I consult with other businesses, it is very easy for me to immediately point out everything they could be doing to build their brand and market it more effectively, but when you work inside of your own brand this perspective becomes harder to maintain.
If you have a larger staff that is focused on making sure daily work gets done for clients, it is often easier to maintain this perspective, but first year entrepreneurs often face tremendous difficulty with this as I have. Balancing my personal and corporate brand has also been challenging because many young entrepreneurs are often trying to work against the "age bias" stigma of being young and lacking a certain amount of "traditional corporate experience" and often try to appear older then they are.
The Solution: In terms of building my personal brand, my age is not something to hide and I try to use it to my advantage. I have my own style and I let that shine in everything that I do, even if it is unconventional.
I do not go out of my way to promote my young age of 23, but I do express it in other ways such as in letting people know trendy spots I am "checking in to" on Foursquare, coming up with interesting style shoot ideas for my JMAG column or letting people know through my blogging that I have grown up in the social media revolution, which is essentially one of my largest value propositions as someone utilizing this new technology in the new economy.
In terms of time management, the solution has been to re-evaluate all of my activities and figure out what the top 3 revenue generating activities are. Everything else will be put on hold for now. In your first year of business, you spend so much time building your brand which can include writing columns, speaking engagements, conferences and other networking activities.
After a certain amount of time, you need to have faith that you have planted enough seeds and begin to re focus your energy on building your business and perfecting the model, and also looking at what has worked and hasn't worked over the course of your first year in business.
I also remind myself that all of the greatest companies are not one man shows, and that if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs never hired beyond themselves, that their businesses would have been stuck in the phase that many young entrepreneurs get stuck in, which is not a place I ultimately want to end up in.
The Aftermath: My company has been effected by these challenges in terms of the toll it has taken on my own personal health. I often treat my body as if I am Superwoman and forget that I need to sleep, eat and do all of the same things everyone else needs to do to continue to function properly. This has been the biggest impact that entrepreneurship challenges have had on me in my first year in business. I have had to work with nutritionists and MD's to re balance my life and my nutrition so that I am able to be healthy and continue to function at high energy levels.
The Lesson: My biggest lesson for other entrepreneurs is to take care of your health and stay true to your brand, even if it means letting some of your personality shine through. In many respects I am extremely unconventional and I am definitely "out there" and for some that works, for others it could be shocking.
The people I idolize the most are people that went against the grain and did not let others opinions deter them. I also think that the notion of "traditional corporate experience" has really changed for entrepreneurs in every capacity, and that the notion of trying to be corporate when you have never been no longer exists. You can create your own version of what corporate is and express your work style and business style in your own, personal way.
This will help you in networking and in every capacity of your life and your business. In terms of overcoming the "one man show" challenge, I have come to terms with the fact that in order to make money you need to spend money. You need to hire effectively and realize that your business can be greater then yourself, and that sometimes other people can help you see things you wouldn't normally spot in your own business which will help it grow in the long run.