As a teenage entrepreneur, or rather, as a former member of this fraternity, I have many lessons to share about business success in general and sustainability in particular. (Since I recently turned twenty, and am no longer a teenager – my latest company, WOW Sports, is nonetheless the result of actions taken while I was still a teenager.) Regardless of my age, however, I believe there are certain universal truths that apply to all entrepreneurs involving leadership, recruiting talent, building a team, delegating authority, deferring to experts and judging yourself against the strictest criteria possible. For there is only so much theory an entrepreneur can absorb, and there are only so many books and case studies this person can read and review, until he must enter the arena.
An Entrepreneur doesn’t hesitate to act
If my experiences are any indication of what others can do, if there is a transcendent principle that all entrepreneurs can follow based on my work, it is this: Do not hesitate to act because, what may seem difficult from a distance – what may strike you as too complex to understand or master – is often manageable once you immerse yourself in these economic waters; because, much like learning to swim, an exercise that goes from awkward and unpredictable to smooth and stable, practice – the frequency by which you do something – leads to, if not excellence, then certainly a greater degree of self-confidence and control.
In other words, there is no such thing as the entrepreneur-as-spectator; a creature who observes events, from the sidelines, and runs a business as a passive chronicler of challenges big and small. So, the first rule is that you must, to borrow the catchphrase of a popular shoemaker, Just Do It. You must learn by doing, period.
An Entrepreneur doesn’t limit to geography
Secondly, you must not limit yourself to geography, which is to say, you must not be the prisoner of artificial borders. For example: I issue this statement from a place, Hong Kong, where there is not a strong culture of entrepreneurialism; there is no equivalent of the iconic self-starters you find in America or throughout Silicon Valley. Does that, then, mean I must recruit workers only within my part of China or Asia? The question is rhetorical because technology enables us to find – and hire – talented professionals from around the world.
An Entrepreneur must be his own most exacting critic
Thirdly, and I want to speak to this issue before I segue into matters involving sustainability, an entrepreneur must be his own most exacting critic. I hold myself to exceedingly high standards not because I think I am better than anyone else but because, only by being so demanding regarding my performance, can I make perfection the friend of the good.
That is, I invert the adage about avoiding the mistake of making perfection the enemy of the good, and instead, by pushing myself to perfection – by scrutinizing my many imperfections – I make it easier to achieve something of good and lasting value.
Entrepreneur must create a business that is both scalable and sustainable
Fourthly, some advice about sustainability. Or, you must try to create a business that is both scalable and sustainable. The latter is more difficult than the former, because you want your company to weather times of surplus and periods of struggle without losing employees or money.
Concerning my work on behalf of WOW Sports, the sustainability factor rests with our worldwide appeal. Meaning: We have a seemingly limitless number of sports to showcase, with an equally diverse selection of amateur to professional athletes to spotlight, for viewers to judge, potential sponsors to support and users of all backgrounds to enjoy. Put another way, we can grow – and grow rapidly – with ease.
I recognize how hard it is to create a sustainable business, and, given how many entrepreneurs suffer burnout and how many companies fail to launch, I know how difficult it is to maintain the momentum to succeed. Hence my recommendation: Focus on what you can do, and what you can do well, as you lead your business (and let your fellow executives exercise their own judgment) toward its various milestones.
This advice is practical, by design, and effective, in practice. It is something every entrepreneur can – and should – do.
It is something that, while not guaranteeing success, is a strong precursor to achieving the same.