Gaining the respect of established players in any industry is a daunting but necessary part of starting your own business. This challenge is even bigger when you’re a young entrepreneur. What can you do to inspire the respect of those around you before you’ve got your new enterprise off the ground?
1. Be Prepared
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand” —Vince Lombardi
This advice may seem so obvious it isn’t worth mentioning, but taking the time to prepare before a meeting, event, or interview is the first step toward gaining the respect of investors, mentors, or business partners. Walk into a room knowing the names of those you’re meeting with, what their expertise or business brings to the discussion, and how that fits in with your plans.
Speaking of plans—have one. Bring a concrete business plan, not just an idea. Research your idea, the market, and any legal issues you could face. Have a plan for next steps, production, or strategies for implementation. Having a tangible plan to share with others inspires confidence in you and your idea.
2. Be Professional
“Successful people and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential” —John Maxwell
There’s a simple reason so many professional habits are handed down from generation to generation—they work. Cultivate the discipline you will need once your idea is already a success by adopting the habits of successful people in your field. Maybe this practice means the discipline of a healthy lifestyle, dressing in a particular manner, or keeping a consistent work schedule.
As a young entrepreneur, you are perfectly poised to create the lifestyle you need for success. As you begin your professional life, take the time to set yourself up for the future. Look to those who are already leaders in your industry. What is it about them that inspires the respect of their peers? Do they communicate effectively? Give honest feedback? Are they the first ones to arrive at the office each day? Emulate the professional habits you admire around you.
3. Be Confident
“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing” —Walt Disney
If you’ve done your research, made your plan, and cultivated a sense of discipline, you’ve armed yourself with the tools you need to walk into any situation with confidence. Inspire the respect of those you want on your team by speaking with confidence and backing your words up with positive actions.
Don’t underestimate the impact your voice can have on the success of your business. Be aware of a tendency to upspeak (when you raise your voice at the end of a sentence, indicating a question). If you sound like you’re constantly questioning yourself, others will question you in turn.
4. Be Consistent
“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
As you begin to grow your business, make consistency a priority. Aim for consistent quality in your products and consistent response times to inquiries and conversations. Follow through with those who reach out to you and those you’ve initiated business with. Setting reasonable objectives and consistently delivering on them builds a reputation of dependability.
Good leaders demonstrate their commitment to an idea through action. Even if the only person you’re leading is yourself, practice now, before others are depending on you for their success. Your habits will become the culture and backbone of your business, so take the time to assess if those habits are going to help or hurt in the long run.
5. Be Respectful
“I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity” —Julius Erving
Think about the message your manners and attitude send to those you hope to work with. If the industry you want to be part of is generally a formal business environment, showing up for an initial investors meeting in jeans and T-shirt, no matter how stylish, shows a lack of preparedness or respect for those you are meeting. While it may feel like disregarding the norms of your industry shows you are thinking outside the box or bringing a fresh perspective, it can come across is disrespectful or dismissive of the work that has gone before you.
When trying to grow your network, try to find ways to give back to the relationship before asking what they can do for you. A common mistake young entrepreneurs make is seeing business networks as a one-way relationship. By offering up your time and resources first, you make yourself valuable to those in your network and motivate them to help you in return.
Being a young entrepreneur can be an uphill battle to gain the respect of those who can make or break your idea, but the challenge of gaining it can be a catapult for your growth. In the end, the work you do to gain respect can help you to develop the exact skills you need to make your idea a success.