By Matt Hyder
As a 23-year-old entrepreneur and the CEO of Recoup Fitness, I’ve faced a certain number of challenges. Among these has been gaining the respect of the people around me, including the older generation of business leaders. Through hard work, trial and error, and engaging with numerous successful people, I’ve developed four tips that will help compel others to take you seriously as a young entrepreneur.
Express Your Passion
One of the first things investors will notice is your passion – or lack thereof. You can’t expect others to be excited about your business if you aren’t excited. So, if you feel it, express it.
As you talk about your business, inflect your voice, convey how you feel, and illustrate how your business progresses the world in a positive manner. (It’s actually been proven that properly fluctuating your vocal intonations to express passion can result in greater influence, credibility, and confidence.)
Even if an investor doesn’t open his or her pocket book, passion can move them to open networks, connecting you with others who can help your company succeed.
At the end of the day, passion is what makes your idea worth all the effort. It transforms your business and job into a mission. It keeps you going through 18-hour work days. It compels you to make sacrifices. It gives you strength to persevere through rejection and to reach out to one more person. The bottom line? If you aren’t passionate about your business, then quit, move on, and find something you can pour yourself into.
Research, Research, Research
Learn from my mistakes. Before you meet with anyone, research them in depth.
I learned this lesson poignantly when meeting one of my heroes, Courtney Reum. Once featured on the ‘30 Under 30’ list, Courtney found business success in his 20s, starting off as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and working with such brands as Procter & Gamble, Under Armour, and Vitamin Water. Using his branding expertise, he founded VEEV liquor.
Upon meeting him, I had a general idea of what Courtney was about. I was excited to get to know him and pitch Recoup Fitness. But I faltered when he asked me what he could do for my business.
Courtney put me in my place. “From now on, you research anyone you talk to in depth,” he said. And I did. This meant not only looking at their business background, but reading articles they wrote, watching their YouTube videos, studying them on social media, researching their involvement with other businesses, talking with people who have worked with them, and more. (My encounter with Courtney may sound like a huge fail, but it wasn’t. I was lucky, and Courtney was gracious enough to mentor me. He even took our product to the 49ers!)
Find the greatest minds in your industry and research them. Ask them about their current thoughts on the industry, and their predictions for the future. Benefit from their expertise.
Not only will learning more about industry leaders improve your perspective, but demonstrating your knowledge of the industry and referencing experts immediately increases your credibility and the interest of the people you pitch.
In addition to researching leaders, research current products – including those of your competitors. Acknowledge what your competition does well, and look for things that can be improved. This research can inspire creative and innovative ideas and products that truly differentiate themselves from the rest of the market, adding value to your business.
When your research transcends beyond your particular industry, it allows for new and creative insights into how to solve problems that may elude those with a narrower vision. An excellent example is how Teflon-coated fiberglass was originally developed as a material for astronaut space suits, but clever engineers in architecture noted the material and its advantageous properties. It is now used for roofing and creating sports superdomes, such as Atlanta’s Georgia Superdome.
Furthermore, many people you encounter in business are interested in self-actualizing. They are driven to be the best they can be, and they are constantly learning. The best way to engage these people is to be able to discuss ideas and values that transcend any particular field. The ability to have such conversations will command respect and appreciation, and also make you a better person.
Honesty requires vulnerability. It’s easy to look at the business world and think that vulnerability ought to be avoided. However, in growing my start-up, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Possible investors have been in your position and can relate to the struggle. But they’d rather work with people of integrity. This isn’t to say you need to share every little obstacle. Confidently express your grand company vision and pitch them on the possibility of company growth. But be honest about the numbers and the state of the company. You may get the help that you need, even if it’s not always the help you wanted.
Perhaps most importantly, be honest with yourself. Startups often stretch you to the limits of your mental faculties. Be optimistic, but truthful. Like successful entrepreneurs before you, learn how to maximize your strengths and account for your weaknesses.
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Good Sam Enterprises, and star of CNBC’s The Profit, has popularized three keys to business success: people, product, and process. The first key is “people.” That’s no accident.
If you are able, try to connect with someone beyond a business relationship. Develop a friendship. What you’ll find is astounding: people will begin to treat you as a peer instead of kid. They’ll come to understand and appreciate you for who you are – regardless of age.
How do you develop such a relationship? Research them! Mention something about the college they went to, ask them about their kids and family, or ask about any hobbies or passions they may pursue. Everybody likes to talk about themselves if they feel that the other person truly cares. Ask them questions and truly value their responses, stories, and experiences.