Bright young things have a lot to give and little to lose

By Andrew Harris

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Q: How does a young person go straight from university to running his or her own business?

Young entrepreneurs only see opportunity - they do not fear risk. With little to lose and everything to gain, this attitude is encouraged, to a certain extent, by the fact that many have parents, relations or friends who have run successful businesses. Trade Me and Facebook are examples of extraordinarily successful ventures started by young entrepreneurs .

Q: Are some bright young things just meant to be creating businesses instead of sitting in lecture theatres?

Attending university has benefits, especially long term. University can be very theoretical, but often the real value is in the people you meet. Contacts made at university can be extremely beneficial later on for networks that are established and the contacts that emanate from them. Growing companies often need extra skills and finance and these networks can provide them.

Q: What advantages do young entrepreneurs have?

Their "no fear" mentality makes them decisive in terms of taking up opportunities and implementing them. They do not see the barriers that more seasoned business owners have encountered. Set-up costs, especially for start-ups in the software, smartphone app and new media sectors, are often low compared with traditional business sectors, enabling young entrepreneurs to have a go without too much of an economic downside. More often than not, young entrepreneurs target their own age group with their inventions. This group also has a similar no fear approach to embracing new technology and processes. By and large they are early adopters who can quickly propel a new application, device or software into a sharp climb.

Q: What guidance do young entrepreneurs need?

Acting without fear and being able to start a business with little capital means you need little in the way of structures or processes early on. However, once there is reasonable growth, a lack of processes can quickly create problems. Entrepreneurs are often driven by opportunity. They seize the moment and opportunities can end up driving their business strategy instead of the other way around. The first opportunity is often not the best for the long term. These companies are generally owner-centric and that person needs to learn to let go, to empower others and to establish a solid foundation, which is about the business, not the person who set it up. As a business grows, so do the complexities, such as dealing with people. This is not necessarily the strength of a young entrepreneur.

Q: In which sectors do you see young business owners being successful?

In a range of industries, including entertainment and software, and with engineering-based businesses. Some common threads are creativity in development and delivery of the business offering and the integration of online technology and social media into the business model. Beauty makeup specialist Shannon Harris is an example of this, using YouTube not only as a marketing tool but also for service delivery.

Andrew Harris is a Grant Thornton partner

- NZ Herald

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