Watching the TV show “Shark Tank,” I’m often impressed by the business acumen of some of its younger contestants (many of whom are only in their twenties). Even so, although these contestants clearly understand how to open and operate a business, I find myself wondering if youth is a blessing or a curse when it comes to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
It is certainly true that a business owner in her twenties has yet to take on many of the financial responsibilities that come with age, like supporting a child or paying off a mortgage. She also has greater mobility when it comes to picking a geographic location in which to plant her personal and professional roots. And unlike entrepreneurs who have years of work experience under their belts, a young business owner is able to look at her brand and product with fresh eyes, instead of ones that have been colored by years of industrial standardization and influence. So, then, it could be argued that youth is not a hindrance to one’s entrepreneurial success, but a boon to it, instead.
On the other hand, it could also be argued that it’s a big mistake for a person to start her own business without working for several years first, as those years in the workforce are what provide an entrepreneur with the experience and knowledge that is necessary to run a successful business. Through working in different roles, and perhaps even in different industries, an entrepreneur is able to build her professional network and make meaningful connections with like-minded individuals (think of how many business partners have met each other through work connections). Additionally, being exposed to different fiscal, managerial and operational styles in the workplace makes it possible for an entrepreneur to develop her own, empathetic style of leadership based on her past experiences as an employee. Ultimately, it is much easier to understand the holistic ecosystem of a business if you’ve been a part of that ecosystem yourself and earned perspective on it organically.
What do you think? Is it wiser to start a business when you’re young, before you’ve worked for someone else, or after you’ve worked for a number of years already and gained more professional experience? I’d love for you to tweet me your responses – my Twitter handle is @EricaHill_KW, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you!