Being an entrepreneur means constantly having to prove oneself to the business world, from clients to investors to the media. First impressions are key to building a lasting relationship and opening up opportunities for yourself and your company. However, young entrepreneurs face a key hurdle in their quest for a great first impression, their age. Not everyone will judge you based on your date of birth, but there will be times when you will have to deal with negative preconceptions pertaining to your youthfulness.
It is paramount to your success as a young entrepreneur to get past this bias and really showcase who you are as a person and a professional. These guidelines will help you immediately establish credibility and offer you a better chance to be seen as a business person rather than a young person.
Like beauty, unprofessionalism is in the eye of the beholder. So it is always best to be on the safe side. Some important focus points:
- Nobody likes to wait. Showing up late implies that you do not feel the meeting is important enough to be on time.
Dress for success
- Pick out an acceptable outfit for the meeting. Then go dressier. Minimize the noise. You want your company to be the focus, not your outfit.
- Have an agenda for the meeting. You want to show that this meeting is important enough for you to have planned for it.
- Have copies of the agenda and necessary visual aids/documents.
A confident attitude puts people at ease. It shows that you are able and willing to take on challenges.
Establish eye contact
- Nonverbal communication can be more important than verbal cues. The eyes unconsciously provide important social and emotional information to both parties.
Use a firm handshake
- Most people’s first impression of you is tied directly to this greeting ritual. A firm grip shows strength and vigor.
Speak in positive terms
- Self-deprecation is a great way to get people to like you and will serve you well as your relationship progresses. However, it can be interpreted as lack of confidence in yourself. The initial meeting needs to showcase your self-assurance.
Going back to your preparation, you should already have an agenda. What do you want out of this meeting?
- Use the agenda to briefly summarize what you want to discuss and what you hope to accomplish. Now both parties know where they stand.
Guide the conversation
- You set the direction of the meeting. Follow the talking points of the agenda. Have a set of important questions ready.
Take Yourself Seriously
Know that you are just as worthy of this client/capital/media coverage as anyone. Ask yourself this, ‘If I don’t take myself seriously, who else will?’
- You may be light on traditional experience, but you most likely have some life experience that has prepared you for this endeavor.
- If you are new to the industry, remember that you are an expert in your company/idea. The hard work you put in has given you valuable knowledge in that area.
- Not only is experience is a valuable asset, but also passion is key to entrepreneurial success. Highlight your passion. It will benefit you.
First impressions are made using a multitude of factors. As an entrepreneur you must be aware of these factors and take precautions to assure that your best self is apparent. Then you can take all distractions out of the equation and focus on the business at hand. Follow these guidelines and your true talent will shine through, your age will be an after thought.
Nick Arata, 26, is a former professional baseball player turned entrepreneur. He founded BC Insta_tees, an innovative custom t-shirt company that turns Instagram pictures into custom t-shirt designs. BC Insta_tees takes you step-by-step through the design process helping you create a fashionable custom t-shirt. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bcinsta_tees, or check his blog at http://bcinstatees.tumblr.com.
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