Being a student and an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Tips from a CEO who started a successful business while getting his degree.
Millennial entrepreneurship seems to be very popular these days, as 60 percent of the generation considers themselves to be entrepreneurs and 90 percent claims to have an entrepreneurial mentality.
Despite how sexy it may seem to start a business and drop out of school (thanks to Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg), it is not as easy as it looks. And, starting a business while you’re still in college is, by far, a whole other ball game.
Recently, I successfully founded a nonprofit, called Student Voice, with a few peers from across the continent. I never planned for things to be this way, but a few tweets during my senior year of high school catalyzed a movement.
Now, a couple of Fortune 100 partnerships, celebrity support and an annual education summit later, we have Student Voice.
Reflecting on Student Voice’s early success, I want to explain seven tips all students should know before starting a company. I wish I knew these things before getting involved in my nonprofit:
1. Live it and breath it
A traditional workday is 9 am to 5 pm; however, students who work are not able to live by these hours.
Think of your work as a living person: People need to breathe oxygen in order to survive, and once they stop breathing, they stop functioning. Like people, your business always needs to be taking in and processing the work that needs to get done in a timely matter. Otherwise, you have a dying or dead business. Finals week is no exception.
2. Work first, school second
If Student Voice reaches its potential, there is no time or reason for me to partake in three additional on-campus clubs or societies. I believe it would just be extra work that would detract from me making the most of my experience with Student Voice.
Sure, I’m interested in Student Government and would love to join the Jewish Student Union to explore my heritage, but ultimately, I can only commit to so much. It is imperative to recognize your limits and set realistic expectations for yourself. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
3. Dropping out will always be tempting
Balancing work and school can get tough, and sometimes, it may even feel unmanageable. But, education is just as much of a learning experience as work. I am creating my own major to make this work.
Don’t take any experience for granted; be entrepreneurial and use your student voice to make the most of your college years.
4. Social life must be sacrificed
I write this at 10 pm on Saturday evening on the second week of school. I still have to do schoolwork and chores in order to keep my apartment from falling apart. In short, running a business while in college is far from impossible, but it involves sacrifice.
With that said, sacrificing your social life does not mean sacrificing your sanity, which brings me to my next point…
5. Take breaks
All businesspeople have fallen victim to the “breaks and sleep are for the weary” mantra. Eventually, you will realize it is a bunch of BS. And, when you do, you will respect Obama’s oft-criticized golf outings.
Work may consume your life, but every good businessperson needs a break from time to time. Go to a movie, watch a football game, hang out at the bar or spend a day on the beach. Rest and relaxation will only make you a more productive worker.
6. The best leaders are the best delegators and communicators
This should be two separate points, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll make it one.
The only way to make sure your business is more than a hobby is to have a great team. You need a team because they will do the job just as well as you could, if not better, and they allow you to focus on the big picture that brings everyone together.
No matter which position you fill within a business, learn to delegate appropriately and communicate effectively. If done well, you and your team will accomplish more in a shorter period of time.
7. Don’t let your ego get bigger than your work
Don’t act as if your business’ success is solely because of you. I firmly believe that until my colleagues and I can walk into a college bar or high school gym and people know about who we are and what we do, we have not done enough.
Nobody likes to work with a bigheaded student who barely has a business. Please don’t be that that guy or gal.
Running a business in college requires energy, patience, persistence, sacrifice, levelheadedness and a willingness to learn.
Whether or not your business succeeds, starting one provides an opportunity for you to grow, take risks and fail without much consequence because, after all, students are expected to make mistakes.
Even though you are a student, do not allow it to diminish your personal expectations or those that others have for you. If you are going to commit to being a student and running a business, go all in. You are the only person holding yourself back.
by Zak Malamed
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: Flickr/Tony Alter