4 Things Young Entrepreneurs Need (A Fancy College Degree Isn’t One of Them) : Under30CEO 4 Things Young Entrepreneurs Need (A Fancy College Degree Isn’t One of Them) : Under30CEO
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4 Things Young Entrepreneurs Need (A Fancy College Degree Isn’t One of Them)

| April 17, 2012 | 45 Comments

“What’s the most important thing I need to know?”

Whether I’m working with one of the businesses I mentor, speaking at events, perusing my inbox or answering questions on a panel, this is the question that arises more than any other. While there is no magic formula to success, there are some key factors that every young entrepreneur should know.

1. Remember the “you.” Don’t lose yourself by trying to act how you think a CEO or business owner should act. Instead, be authentic to who you are and what you believe in, and enjoy being the leader. True leaders not only have a vision – they also possess the guts to pursue it. You must grow as your business and organizations grow, but never forget the core values you possess right now.

2. Trust your gut. Your instincts got you to where you are now, and while you certainly want and cherish occasional input from those you trust, don’t be afraid to make decisions based on what you feel is right.

3. Find “elephants” (big customers). I always wondered why someone would focus on getting a hundred small customers when for the same effort (if they know how to do it correctly), they could get a few really big customers that could each buy 10 to 100 times as much as the hundred small ones. This thinking applies to every single industry, from retail stores to online businesses, from applications to pizza parlors – even B2Bs. Focus your business on the big customers. Here are a few tips to start your sales force down the big customer path:

  • Position your company for the big customer. Ask yourself what it is about your product or service that appeals to the big customer. Most likely you will have to reposition or shape your offering to directly meet those needs. For example, if you sell retail, ask how big companies can use your product. Maybe corporate or executive gifts. If you have a specialty baking shop, can a big company send out a huge volume as holiday gifts? If you sell B2B, how can your product be shaped to meet global needs of a huge customer?
  • Learn the language. Every large company has its own language. Learn what they call the different buildings and the name of the local sandwich shop. What do they call their contracts? How about their cafeteria and conference rooms, not to mention initiatives that are applicable to you? Learn and use everything you can so that you assimilate into their culture. This information is all around you. Just ask, look around and listen.
  • Embrace bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a reality of larger companies. Once you accept it, get in there with a small sale at first and then work from the inside out, helping your buyer by helping them within his or her own company. Ask how you can help, then meet with as many different departments as possible.
  • Find your champion. You need someone to represent you in the room when you aren’t there. Whenever you sell the big customer, make sure to leave them with five simple bullet points highlighting the things you want them to know about your product. This way they will remember the key aspects without having to dig through the pile of materials – which, by the way, they won’t do.

4. Think BIG. It amazes me how often I have to push young entrepreneurs to think really big. Many that are starting out are happy just to get some traction. Don’t be. Once you have that traction, it’s time to build big. Look at your business in two ways: 1) How can I sell new stuff to the same people and 2) How can I sell the same stuff to new people?

Focus in on which option or options will lead to huge growth and build your strategy around that. The rest will pick up from there.

Giveaway – 1 Hour Phone Call

Steve Kaplan grew a target marketing company from startup to $250 million in sales with offices in 14 countries before selling it as part of a public company for $2.1 billion. He has owned over 30 businesses – 26 of which have been sold – and is now offering a free one-hour consultation to one of our Under30CEO blog readers!

To enter, leave a comment below explaining why you’d like a personal consultation with him. One winner will be chosen at random on April 23rd.

Good luck! For more information about Steve Kaplan visit his website: www.stevekaplanlive.com. You can also say hi to Steve on Twitter and Facebook.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • Joshua Johnson

    I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I’m graduating college in about a month, and have a mobile app company currently building revenue. As part of a diversification strategy, a smaller team is going to begin taken on clients for social media and mobile management and consultation. It would be hugely beneficial to gain insights from someone with Steve’s experience and background. 

  • John Montague

    Hi, Steve. Curretn

  • Rocco

    I always always think big. The problem is when you go straight for the whale they want to see I lot of track record with smaller customers. How do you get around that when the smaller customers are usually the late adopter.

  • Brad Griffore

    Simple.. I’m a founder of a mail order supply company for the chiropractic and medical fields, which keeps expanding. I will graduate with my Doctorate in Chiropractic April 13, 2013 into a gigantic market ready to be disrupted, I’ve got an idea :-).. It would be great to add another mentor to my circle of trusted advisors.

  • Joshua Johnson

    taking*

  • http://www.whitesharkmedia.com/ Andrew Lolk

    Andrew Lolk.. As a co-founder of a digital agency with a big base in Central America, it would be great to talk more about expansion into other countries and how to target cross country and how you best manage people at such a large scale. 

  • Andrewjakevillegas21

    Andrew Jake Villegas, I have a clothing startup that will change how we express ourselves. It is simple and easy to use. My patent pending product not only gives you the power to change the shirt design but also gives you the chance to express your feelings in more ways than ever!

  • Xgrk88a

    This isn’t quite right. We are a small importer, and I can tell you big customers like Costco and Wal-mart are tough to make money on. They treat everything like a commodity. In our case, we like lots of smaller customers, not the big ones.

  • Himanshu

    Very true, specially about staying true to yourself.

  • Eileen

    I’m the founder of a communications start-up that aims to provide communications solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses in emerging markets. I’m all about small-scale, but I want to learn how I can find the big elephants. -Eileen Guo

  • Gustavo Fontes Gallardo

    I strongly believe in the need for the industry I want to serve of my online platform not launched because of lack of start up capital, is hard to get it down from Mexico in the right manner, I’d like a consultation on how to achieve it. Thanks @GustavoFontesG , gustavofontesgallardo@gmail.com

  • Gustavo Fontes Gallardo

    I strongly believe in the need for the industry I want to serve of my online platform not launched because of lack of start up capital, is hard to get it down from Mexico in the right manner, I’d like a consultation on how to achieve it. Thanks @GustavoFontesG , gustavofontesgallardo@gmail.com

  • shaanrafiq

    I would love a consultation with steve for a large number of reasons. Want a list? It’s yours! As a recent graduate I decided to start an after school tuition company with the vision of making tuition accessible to everyone irrespective of income. First of all, as we are signing up roughly 5 new students a week I need to understand how I might systemise day to day operations. At the moment each day consists of scrambling to deal with enquiries and place tutors. As easy as it might sound, with a new tutor joining every week people managing is becoming complex. I need an effective solution. Secondly, as the business is growing in revenue and profit every week I would like to know if it has the potential to scale PROPERLY or whether the logistics of it will make that impossible taking into account our profit margins and the salaries we would have to pay to new full time staff. Thirdly I would like advice on business development and working with schools. It may sound easy but they have a vested interest in persuading parents that their children do not need extra tuition irrespective of cost simply because doing the opposite would suggest incompetence on the schools teaching abilities. I really need to convince them that though in the short term offering students our services might make them look bad in the mid/long term it will benefit them both. Why Steve in particular? Well it’s a no brainer. He has experience in growing a business and recognising a great opportunity over a good opportunity. Because he has experience in the art and science of operations management. Because he has mastered biz dev. As a final answer…because I would like to ask him for his address so I can post him some great coffee.

  • Mois le Bleu

    Pick me please. Pick me.

    I have the idea, the vision.. Its there, but i dont know where to start, its too big that i dont know who i should talk to. I tried to get contact with some people, but they just dont reply. I have this idea about “the next revolution of true social networking”

    Facebook? Google+? My idea is bigger than that. And better.

    Pick me?

  • Nia

    I’m the founder of a organizational company which I affectionately refer to as Martha Stewart meets Beyonce. It’s fashion forward, hip and functional. I target a demo that desires stationery products minus the three D’s (daisies,doilies and damasks). I dream BIG. I’d love a call with Steve to discuss the best way to grow my business organically with the end goal being getting my products into major retailers.

  • Yasmine

    I am in the midst of launching my first proper business, in the past it has always been social enterprise. My core value is to be challenged, and its something that I do all the time. I would like to have the free consultation so that you can challenge me and my ideas.
     
    I dream on creating an impact in region and being recognized one day as the Top 100 Middle Eastern Women in the region. My passion lies in enabling young ambititous entrepreneurs with their big dreams.
     
    I hope you pick me :)

  • Futbolkeep00

    I would love a consultation with Steve and truly would get so much out of it! I have dreams and goals of becoming a serial entrepreneur such as himself and am currently working towards getting my first project off the ground. It’s been very slow going and I could very much benefit from the advice of someone who has owned 30 businesses and been through this part of the process many times. I’m struggling to surround myself with the resources I need to get it going and planning out the next steps/proper direction to take. I have so many ideas, but just need to get that first project under my belt to get the ball rolling. 
    Getting to talk to Steve about how he built all of his companies, managed all of the projects, and got to where he is today would be such a valuable hour. I’ve got the vision, I’ve got the drive, I just need his help to sort things out and pretty much plan out the next steps. What will get me from where I am today to where he is today. 
    It’s people like Steve that are the inspiration for us that are young and looking to get our foot into the entrepreneurial door in order to build something great like he has. 

  • Martin

    Nice inspiration: 30 businesses, 26 sold. Really want to listen words from a person that did that to learn what his mindset is, and this could be a great opportunity!

  • http://twitter.com/wordsbyjane ?Words By Jane?

    Wow! Your story is inspiring. 
    I would love to talk to Steve about the step by step process of building a business focus in a niche-specific industry.  It would be valuable to me, and my business partner, to learn ways that we can market our business in a more direct, and beneficial, way.   With the resources we have, since we are bootstrapping, Steve’s advice will really be of value to help us learn the cost-effective strategies to reach out audience.
    Any expert advice that I receive will be extremely valuable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.kamp Matt Kamp

    Having a chance to talk with someone who has experienced so much success would be an incredible learning opportunity for me! I am currently a student at the University of Missouri, and I work every day at a tech startup two other students and I co-founded.  We want this to be our careers, and talking with Steve would make such an impact on my life direction.

  • oskar vahepold

    yes

  • Stephen R Moore

    I would like to have a personal consultation with Steve because I have a great service idea that I would like to build into a company. He has the ability to provide me with a roadmap to take my venture from idea to the promised land. In doing so he would help change my stars and that of my family.

  • http://twitter.com/OxenBoxen Matt Sabath

     I would love a personal consultation with Steve. I have a few “BIG” ideas in 3 different industries and would love to share ideas.

  • Dina

    I would appreciate being able to speak with Steve about his experience in the marketing industry as well as any tips he has on how I can better focus my company to get to the next level.

  • Bobjohnson1word

    I want a consultation with Steve for one the simple reason that I quit my job to make more time to set myself up to develop a business and I don’t know where to start. I have some great ideas and a nice network. I’ve done a lot of research, but I’m still not sure where to start.

  • Gerard Yitamkey

    I am an African student and an entrepreneur. My company has been listed as one of the best student run companies in the world. I will like an opportunity to have an hour consultation with Steve Kaplan in other to have expert advice about how I can move my company forward as I graduate from school this year. Expert consultation is very expensive over here and it will an added advantage for me and my team as we build our products and measure our traction.

  • M Ndaba

    i am young person who would like to start up a digital advertising singnage company.i am having a difficultly on how to start my business.i have identified my niche and would appreciate it if i would get assistance from someone who has a lot of experience in the business field.

  • Aj71785

    As Steve Jobs said, “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

    And looking backwards, the most important dots in my life so far (26) have been inspired by outstandind people from my family, uni or business partners or even from people you just listen to on TV. Learning from others while adding your own personal note to a venture is what makes uniqueness in my opinion.

    Having the opportunity to talk to someone Steve Kaplan May be just another important, maybe breakthrough dot!

    Alex

  • Josue Benitez

    I would really appreciate 1 hour of consultation with Steve Kaplan. I recently started a company January this year that specializes in the purchase of structured settlements, annuities, and lottery payments from individuals receiving these payments. When I started in this industry 6 years ago there wasn’t a lot of competition but now that I’m actually in business myself marketing is becoming more difficult since there are many companies advertising through PPC and through mailer campaigns. since I am in a small niche industry and since I have a target market specific to individuals that receive these payments I’m not really sure how I can differ my marketing practices to differentiate myself from my competitors and stand out. I really need a professionals help on this matter. I would really appreciate the chance to speak to a professional about this.

  • http://www.Letscleanservices.com/ Belen Ishizaki

     I have a very simple business. A small cleaning service business that I started 2 years ago ( just around  250k sales a year) I feel like because of my lack of education ( didn’t go to college or ever took any business class) or experience i have reached my potential….? I would like to hear some  advice, some orientation. I really dont want to stop growing. I feel like I’m stuck at this moment…

  • http://twitter.com/EWeeZY202 Errr-i-cc©

     

    Getting the opportunity to talk to Steve Kaplan truly can’t
    be expressed in words. With me being a newcomer into the entrepreneurial scene
    I have learned a lot of things briskly and on the go. Luckily, I have found
    UNDER30Ceo, and I can truly say that this website has given me so much valuable
    information that I know will lead me into the right direction of becoming a successful
    entrepreneur. I haven’t had the luxury of actually sitting down and talking to
    a successful entrepreneur during my lifetime, and I feel as though that this
    could be my big break. Talking to Steve could get my vision in the right
    direction. It also wouldn’t hurt to be able to say that I networked with one of
    the best in the business. I don’t want to sit here and say that I have the next
    Facebook, or Instagram because I don’t. What I do have is the drive to be successful
    in entrepreneurship. With all of this being said whether I’m picked or not, I
    want to thank you, Under30CEO, for all of your contributions to young
    entrepreneurs like myself. I also wanted to say that I honestly didn’t want to
    reply to this contest, because I always seem to lose them! With your advice on trusting our guts, I’m hoping for this networking opportunity of a
    lifetime.

  • Myles100987

    Hello! First off, I discovered this blog a month and a half ago and read it everyday. There is so much motivational content here for the young entrepreneur; it really inspires me to give that extra push to start my own business. I’m in the process of starting my own blog to offer information to male models who move to New York to pursue a career in the industry. I moved to New York to model 11 months ago and there was no information for me, so I want to help others with the same problem. Also, I’m a freelance writer trying to start his own business. I’m trying to use my blog as an example of my writing work for my business while also monetizing it as a passive income source. 

    I’d love a personal consultation because I have great ideas and need help whittling away the excess. I’m a writer — that’s what I have my degree in; that’s what I’m good at — but need some guidance in starting a business from scratch. I’m a twentysomething living in New York pursuing my twin passions — modeling and writing — and am confident I’ll make a handsome living out of both someday, but I just need a little food for thought from an exemplary entrepreneur like Steve Kaplan.

    Thanks so much and keep up the beautiful work with this site.

    Best,

    Myles Ellison

  • LoveHeals

    Where do you start?  I so need the help!

  • http://www.stevekaplanlive.com/ Steve Kaplan

    Great response, Shaan. Congrats – you are the winner! I look forward to speaking with you.

  • Feh Fraga

    I can help you with your idea, tell me what it is. feh.fraga @ hotmail.com

  • shaanrafiq

    Thanks Steve. I absolutely cannot wait. 

  • shaanrafiq

    Thanks Steve. I absolutely cannot wait. 

  • True_Leader

    Cool