Starting a business — or even getting involved as a professional — when you’re young can be intimidating. You might have knowledge about business from school, books, or practical advice from sources online, but there’s a big difference between understanding business fundamentals on paper and gaining wisdom through actual experience.
By the end of your career, you’ll have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and hundreds of lessons, but there are some lessons that you should learn early on — ideally before you turn 30.
These lessons are some of the most important to learn while you’re still young enough to make use of them:
1. The right people are worth everything. It’s almost impossible to build a successful business by yourself. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, there will be mentors, partners, vendors, and peers alongside you helping you achieve your long-term vision. Knowing how valuable other people are will open you up to more opportunities, helping you keep an eye out for new contacts no matter where you are, and will make you more discerning in decisions like hiring and long-term deals. Learning this lesson early will prevent you from wasting time on the wrong people and give you more time to work with the best people you find.
2. You’re going to fail — and that’s okay. No matter how much you know or how much you prepare, your failure is going to be inevitable. Your business may become successful overall, but there will be individual strategies and campaigns that crash and burn, and ideas that fizzle out entirely. Facing failure with the realization that it is, in some contexts, unavoidable, makes failure easier to accept; you can view it as a lesson and an opportunity to improve, rather than an end point or a sign that you should give up entirely.
3. Time is your most valuable resource. The adage that “time is money” is an apt metaphor to describe the power that time can hold when budgeted and used as a resource. This works in a few different dimensions. For example, the sooner you start something, the more time it will have to generate benefits for you and the more time you’ll have to work with it. Additionally, you only have so many hours in the day, and how you spend them has a direct impact on how much value you’re able to produce. The sooner you learn this lesson, the more time you’ll save.
4. Communication can prevent or fix almost any problem. The power of communication can’t be underestimated. Communicating proactively can prevent the development of almost any problem — by explaining things clearly, setting firm expectations, and mitigating misunderstandings. It can also work to resolve any problem, whether it’s making an apology, coming up with a mutually agreeable solution, or explaining circumstances.
5. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Because of the fast-paced business environment we live in, waiting to move forward with a new initiative because it’s not quite perfect can mean the failure of that initiative. Agile, flexible, adaptive businesses who understand that things can be tested and optimized while they’re already producing a return on investment are the ones who succeed. You’re never going to get it perfect on the first try — be sure to balance your initiative’s “readiness” with agility and speed.
6. All ideas must be rooted in practicality. No matter how good or original or appealing your idea is, it’s only as valuable as it is practical. For example, if you have a vision for an amazing video, but you don’t have the resources to produce it in an efficient way, you have to drop the idea. The same can be said of any business idea; you may have a revolutionary new concept for an enterprise, but if there’s no way to make it feasible or profitable, you won’t be able to move to any form of execution. Sometimes, the best ideas have to be tabled for practicality.
7. There is always more you can be doing to keep learning. No matter how much you know, or how much you think you know, there’s always more information to learn. You’ll always have room to be a better leader and a better entrepreneur, and there will always be new skills and abilities to acquire. Maintaining a course of constant improvement will keep you at your best for as long as possible.
The earlier you learn these business lessons, the more time you’ll have to use them in a practical environment, and the fewer repercussions you’ll face in neglecting them (whether intentionally or unintentionally). You’ll never be perfect, so don’t worry if you make mistakes or forget things you would have benefitted from. There’s also a difference between reading about lessons in an online article and actually experiencing them firsthand — so be prepared to do your best learning as you go through these challenges.