By Samantha Garner | September 3, 2011
Recently, our GoForth Expert Dawn McCooey was asked the question, “How do I handle clients more concerned with my age than my experience?” It’s a question we get asked often by young entrepreneurs – who we consider to be small business owners under the age of 35.
As we’ve discussed before, young entrepreneurs bring a wealth of positives to the table – endless energy, fresh ideas and adaptability to new technologies. However, there will always be a few people who might cast a wary gaze upon you when you enter the boardroom. But fear not! There are several ways you, as a young entrepreneur, can impress even the most skeptical of prospective clients.
Model behaviours you want to receive
As Dawn says in her answer to the question above, “You’re going to be the one to dictate people’s impression of you.” It’s especially true for young entrepreneurs. Be impressive. Be professional. Be well-spoken. Be honest. Be courteous. Be confident. When your clients leave the meeting room, make sure they remember you as a capable and intelligent person they’d be happy to do business with, and your age won’t cross their minds.
Have confidence in your work
No entrepreneur is infallible or completely confident at all times. We all doubt certain aspects of our careers. But for young entrepreneurs, it can be a little easier to let doubt creep in when the very people you want to work with don’t seem to trust what you are. Here’s the upside: These people are few and far between. Most people care about the end result more than how many grey hairs you have (or don’t). So go forth with confidence and stand behind your business, your pricing, your method and your strategy. After all, it’s the result of hours of planning and research – why undermine it?
Get great experience, and show it off
Say you’re exchanging emails with a prospective client who is focusing less on your long list of completed projects and more on the fact that you graduated university last year. Ease his or her concerns – provide testimonials, give samples and show case studies to increase your credibility. If you’re the right person for the job, prove it – as early and as often as possible.
We should mention that experience doesn’t need to be of the paid variety. Of course, we want you to get paid, but look for other avenues to meet people in your industry, make a difference and also prove your credibility: advisory boards, committees and mentorships are great options.
Know when to back away
This last point might seem counterintuitive for an entrepreneur – I mean, you’re in this to feed yourself, right? But consider a scenario where all above options have failed despite your best efforts, and your prospective client is still not able to get past your age. Ask yourself honestly – is this a person you want to enter into a working relationship with and deal with on a regular basis? A healthy work/life state is a critical function of successful entrepreneurship; one not to be ignored. There is absolutely no shame in knowing when to cut your losses, and moving on to a client who will jump at the chance to work with you and respect you while doing so.
Do you have any other ways young entrepreneurs can prove that success isn’t just about age?