Being a successful entrepreneur has been an absolute godsend for me over the years. As a disabled person, it’s allowed me the freedom to work around my disability, never have to ask anyone’s permission for a day off and ultimately be the person who is in control of my own working life.
Sure, the above sounds incredibly appealing and they are just a few of the reasons why thousands of people every year seek to start their own businesses. But entrepreneurship is a turbulent and difficult path.
As I get older, I am starting to see the unique differences between baby boomers and generation X’s attitudes towards entrepreneurship and business compared to that of the millennial generation.
And in today’s blog post, I’m going to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned from my 20 years in business whilst exploring the number one thing that millennial entrepreneurs are missing.
My storyI became an entrepreneur out of desperation more than anything else. When I was five years old I contracted polio which left my paralysed, overnight, from the neck down.
I was initially given a 10% chance of survival and was told I’d likely never walk again. But not only did I did learn to walk again, in time I overcame considerable boundaries and I thrived.
When I was in my early 30s, I developed something called “post-polio syndrome” – an unfortunate hangover from contracting polio that left me struggling, exhausted and in time, incapable of continuing with my full-time job.
Despite being educated and having a Masters degree, it had taken me months and months of soul-destroying job searching to land my first job. So you can only imagine how distraught I was when I had to quit. Not only that, but I had my partner Diana and our young son Ren to support.
Having copious amounts of time on my hands lead to my interest in the internet. Being both disabled and black comes with many difficulties and being online felt like a much-needed respite from my real identity.
Therefore I decided to start a business called Houses-Online.com. The idea behind this was to offer free property advertising online – similarly to the likes of Rightmove. I invested our life savings in this project, only for it not to come to fruition because it was simply way ahead of its time. Though it was a great idea, the local newspapers could not support it as it would ruin the existing relationships they had with local estate agents.
My situation was now critical. I decided to focus my energy on search engine optimisation (SEO). I got completely obsessed with it and I hid away for months whilst I studied it. I came up with the idea of finding four small-medium sized businesses and offering to get their businesses to the top of the Google ranking system for free in exchange for a testimonial.
Thankfully, this approach worked and I started my first search engine ranking business called Rank4U, which later traded under my company Easy Internet Services. Shortly after in 2004, I set up the first free web hosting company in the UK – Easy Internet Solutions, trading as FreeVirtualServers.com and in 2016 I set up a property investment company.
Above I have shared the concept of “The Iceberg Illusion”. The majority of people in life want the very best that life has to offer – the nice house, the successful business, the loving family – but they’re not willing to put in the work and sacrifice needed to get them.
I count myself fortunate that I am now the Founder of several successful businesses. But this version of me, Mark the successful entrepreneur, is the version that most people see.
What they don’t see is the first business that failed miserably. The sleepless nights wondering how I would support my family. The months of desperate unemployment. The bank manager who laughed in my face when I asked him for a loan.
After 20 years of being in business, I believe that the number one thing that millennial entrepreneurs are missing is tenacity.
The road to success is paved with setbacks, crushing disappointments and sleepless nights. It’s a long and winding journey and the right direction is ever-changing. It’s not always clear which way to go.
To be successful in business, you need to be open to change. You need a thick skin and incredible resilience. But more than anything, you have to understand that nothing happens overnight.
You need to be prepared to put in all the hard work that goes on below the surface.
The issue with millennials and tenacityI remember reading a quote by Innocent Smoothies Founder Richard Reed that said: “If the thought of coming home after a full day at work and writing a business plan sounds like too much for you, then you likely don’t have what it takes to become an entrepreneur.”
The issue that millennial entrepreneurs have is that you have grown up in a world of instant gratification. You have largely existed in a world where what you want is accessible to you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your latest food craving can be satisfied with Deliveroo, you can get a ride in any major city with Uber, you’re just one swipe away from your next romantic partner with dating apps like Tinder. Even things like material goods are so readily available on a mass scale.
You live in a buy now, throw away later culture – and like it or not, that mentality trickles through to every avenue of your life – be it in relationships, business ventures and in the workplace. A recent study found that over half of millennials plan to leave a job within two years.
Now I’m not trying to bash an entire generation here – I firmly believe that young people have an exciting opportunity to pave the way of the future. But I’m merely trying to illustrate that the way you’ve been brought up will ultimately impact your success as an entrepreneur.
You already have some behaviour traits and attitudes formed over years of your lives that will undoubtedly make it more difficult for you to succeed. But that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try! In fact, far from it.
My son Ren and Daughter Esme are both in the millennial generation. And from raising them, I’ve been able to see from a parental perspective some of the issues faced by this generation of young people.
Below are the three most important pieces of advice I would give to any aspiring millennial entrepreneur.
Make yourself accountableAnything worth having is worth time, dedication and sacrifice. When we are born, we are born equal and you are not entitled to anything in this life.
Not a good job, a flourishing business, or great interpersonal relationships. Everything you have in your life right now that’s good, you have because you’ve earned it. Similarly, everything in life that you desire yet don’t possess is down to you and you alone. Don’t blame anyone else for your shortcomings. A victim mindset will never serve you well (I’ve written before about how breaking out of one will help you to thrive).
Once you shift the locus of control from external factors over to yourself you will start to see patterns in your own behaviour. Once you identify these positive and negative behavioural traits, it will become clear why you don’t have the things you want and more importantly, what you need to change in order to get them.
Making yourself accountable is absolutely key to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Forget what you see on social media and compete with only youMillennials are the first generation who have grown up using social media and it’s no secret that social media use is linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety, feelings of comparison and helplessness.
When everyone appears to be living fantastic lives online, it can make hustling hard to make your business dreams a reality even more difficult. Social media is full of falsities – cars bought on finance, holidays people can’t afford and fake friends. There’s a real lack of substance and meaning and you need to remember that. Keep it at the forefront of your mind every time you mindlessly scroll through a social media app.
Remember to stay in your lane and compete with only yourself – spend as little time as possible comparing yourself to others because it will do absolutely no good.
If you have a dream, remember that entrepreneurship comes with sacrifice. You may have to turn down holidays, social events and more for now but the short-term loss will come alongside a magnitude of long-term gain.
I’m not saying it’ll be easy – when all your friends are off on nights out, or going on holidays or to festivals and begging you to come with it takes strength of character to turn them down. But I promise you it’ll be worth it and your future self will thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made.
Stop thinking with a short-term, instant gratification mindset and start thinking about your long-term goals.
Seek advice from a mentorI cannot stress enough the importance of finding a great mentor. There are a number of ways you can do this – reach out to someone you admire in your existing network. Or reach out to someone you don’t know – on LinkedIn, or you can ask your family and friends for recommendations.
Depending on where you live in the UK, there will be some great local charities or programmes to help aspiring entrepreneurs usually ran by councils or universities. Also, just a quick search online will show you all the resources, grants and other things available to you as a young person wanting to start their own business. Similarly, if you work for a company and you don’t feel you’re getting adequate mentorship, speak to your manager. Starting an open, positive conversation will impact your career and show your seniors that you are serious about your own professional development.
Don’t give up!More than anything, remember that nothing happens overnight. If your first business flops, or you fail to get funding, or a business partner lets you down – please don’t despair.
It’s very rare that even the most famous entrepreneurs were successful in their first business venture. Great things come from experience and you can try again even harder next time with the benefit of hindsight on your side.
Failure offers an invaluable opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
As a millennial, I bet you’re used to being called the “snowflake generation”. And although I feel that name is not entirely justified, it’s up to you and you alone to prove us cynical baby boomers and generation X’s wrong about your grit and tenacity as successful entrepreneurs and business owners.
With the right attitude and outlook, I’ve no doubt that you’ve absolutely got this! Believe in yourself, follow the steps above and you’ll soon be on the road to business success. Good luck!
If you’ve enjoyed this article, you can read more about my experiences of surviving disability, abuse and racism to become a successful entrepreneur in my best-selling book, I Can, I Will.
I love the opportunity to spread my message of the power of a positive mindset. Therefore if you would like me to speak at your event you can also contact me here.
And lastly, you can keep in touch with me on Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Thanks for reading!