Have you ever noticed the amount of doubt that comes along with being young. Most assumption and relation has some degree of validation here; young people are pretty stupid, myself included. Well to put that better, we make mistakes, but so do other people-no matter how old.
I’m writing this to highlight on the unparalleled bias that I have had to cope with since I ran my first company at 19 years old. It wasn’t much, just a small local painting franchise, but it was mine. My 18 employees, my trucks, ladders, supplies, and most of all clients were all mine because of me. Yet the old heads did not flinch for a second insofar as their need to throw me a bunch of shit about “not knowing what I was doing.”
The point I’m getting at is even today, being where I am – working for a major company, running a few others, and owning a few more, I still lose business after the face-to-face. I’ll receive a referral or a request for contact and have a nice, informative phone conversation with a prospect. If they’re not too far away, I like to meet them and develop more than just rapport; a professional relationship. Customers are essential to any business and I would like mine to keep coming back. It doesn’t matter how big any of my companies get, I”l never be too busy to engage personally with a customer. It reasons like this one that it eats to my core that companies out there will want to work with you until they find out how young you are.
I ran into this same problem coming out of college – I was way over qualified for my age so I applied for positions that met my credentials. I would show up, early, suit and tie, REAL resume in hand…sometimes I think the secretary’s would shoot them a quick email or phone call because no matter how excited these managers/principles/owner’s were on the phone, as if by magic (in some cases) when I would arrive the position would be filled or no longer required.
It wasn’t my lack of experience, they required 3-5 years “professional” experience, and I had 3-5 years “professional” experience. The distinction was never made that full-time jobs for Fortune 500 companies while worked in college didn’t count?
So how do you get around this problem as a young Entrepreneur trying to establish a client base with a new or young company?
1. Try to make more sales virtually, if you’re brilliant on the phone – age is never an issue because it’s never considered
2. Be painstakingly clear to provide references – in some cases (dependent on the product or service) have some PDF testimonials to email
3. Case studies work well, but only if there are plenty of direct quotes within them
4. Never back off your bottom line price, negotiating is part of the business, but your services are still worth something, don’t go cheaper to get more business – it will end up hurting your brand and yourself in the long run
5. Do not take every customer in the door (this sounds ridiculous right) I understand you may need every cent you can get your hands on to get your business off the ground, it doesn’t matter, there is such a thing as a crummy customer. There are customers out there that will want way more for there money than they’re worth – maybe you own a landscaping company and you trim their hedges, a week later, since you “guarantee” your service, they want your whole crew back over there to fix a shrub that grew in a little faster than the rest.
You are more valuable, and so is your time. Don’t fear being young and driven – relish it – the world is your oyster. Don’t let anyone roll their eyes at you or crush your dreams, if you want something bad enough (it doesn’t matter if you’re 10) you can get it!