(Image from Knowles family/CBS Denver)
No, I’m not referring to this.
There was (and still) an old joke that I heard of which said something like “you’re a great salesperson if you can sell sand to the government of Saudi Arabia”. Of course, those that really needs those sands maybe somewhere in Monaco or Singapore, rather than in Riyadh. Well, I guess that’s why it’s called a joke. Literally & figuratively.
But that joke shows the power of having a selling skills (or convincing-other-people-that-they-need-the-stuff-that-you-are-selling-although-they-might-not-actually-need-it skill if you prefer). Products & services can be developed by geniuses in Silicon Valley or Tel Aviv, but it brings no value whatsoever to general population if there’s nobody passionate enough to sell it. I mean, what’s the point of Apple launching a new iGadget if Johny Ivy or Tim Cook were unable to convince us why we need to buy one (to replace the one we bought two years ago… which actually to replace another iGadget that we bought earlier).
Back during my teenage days (quite a long time ago, but time is relative, right?), I was a member of entrepreneurship & consumerism club. No, this is a just school-level club, not like some secret society thingy with secret handshake ritual & some oath-taking ceremony on some altar. And one of those activities are opening up a booth and sell some drinks. Yup, not much. But consider that my mother had a business of her own, I think I can safely say that I got hooked of selling stuff & trying to make a luck on my own, although educationally & professionally speaking, I’m still a tech geek & geopolitics, economics/finance observer. I guess that’s the most important thing that I inherit from my mother. A passion of convincing people to buy things that I sell to make a living. And no, I’m not a millionaire. At least not yet. And if there’s one thing that I believe in, it’s this.
We need to encourage our younger generation to start their own business and less social media influencer. Or at the very least, encourage them to start a business before becoming a social media influencer.
In my experience, if you need to seed the sow of entrepreneurship among young teenagers, you should start them young. We talked a lot about teaching coding in school, but I truly believe we need to encourage (which for me is a better term than ‘teach’) entrepreneurship to our youngsters. Yes, we can teach them bookkeeping, business plan or marketing strategy, but entrepreneurship is more than just those. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks on their decision, be creative with their i.e marketing strategy, how to properly interact with others with consideration of their potential & existing customer’s age, culture, perception & social background (to name a few) and learning the psychological lesson (on-the-fly nonetheless) on how to handle rejection.
I truly believe entrepreneurship is more about handling psychological elements of people (including the entrepreneur themselves) and their respective stakeholders, rather than bury themselves too much into the nitty-gritty details of cash inflows/outflows, taxation and others.
(And yes, from time to time, I’m running businesses. Few with meagre success. Some went down. One went down in a very spectacular way that left me unable to pay my electricity bill & had to ate half-spoiled food from the fridge for few days. That one affects me financially for about 3 years. But lucky me, I was able to came back & survived the drill. I called it an adventure, rather than a failure. Not to mention some personal & family challenges back then)
Why Starting A Lemonade Stand Is More Advantageous Than Becoming A Social Media Influencer
While I’m not saying that one is better than the other, one may wonder why in the long-run, starting a lemonade stand is more advantageous for our young, aspired entrepreneur in learning the rope of running a business. First of all, they need to find a strategic & suitable spot, some umbrellas and tables (and maybe some chairs as well, if they have occasional spinal problem like me), buy the lemons, get the clean cups and ready to sell. That suitable spot may be limited or not available or maybe a bit tad expensive. The cups, umbrellas, chairs & tables maybe exceeds the budget. The lemons bought from the market may actually turns out to be, well lemons. Get one of those main ingredients screwed, and it’s going to be a very long day. Even if they managed to get everything under control, Mother Nature may decides to throw some nasty surprises.
Plenty of headache, right?
Compare that to becoming a social media influencer. Surely, it’s easier for a number of them to start & become one. Just get an email (anyone still hasn’t one?), register Facebook (anyone still not on the bandwagon?), populate it with things they wanna sell (don’t forget some selfies and testimony from existing customers, if any), replicate it at other social media sites and wait for customers to come. Rain or shine, day or night, the potential customers are ready (unless that old, sneaky, sexist tweets from 2010-ish popped out unexpectedly). And yes, they can even actually start a virtual lemonade stand, ready to be fulfilled by some e-commerce or logistics company. Time to throw that table & chairs into store room, right?
So why I still prefer our youngster to choose lemonade stand than social media influencer? For at least 3 very important reasons.
Effort & Perseverance
Think about it. Just to find the suitable spot & to secure it takes an effort. Sometimes massively. They have to do some study, or at least some observation on where and/or is the most strategic spot. Even if they have located it, they might need the necessary permits or at least some consent. They need to source the lemons carefully. Too pricey, and it may eats into profit. Too cheap, and they may actually bought a rotten few. What about the selling & marketing part? Since it’s a ’startup’, surely they need to do it themselves. And their customers are not going to just dropped from the sky, right? Their need to roll their sleeves & work hard to bring people to their stand & do the actual buying. It takes creativity, knowledge & effort. A lot of it. And they need to do it again tomorrow & the day after. Lemonade stand will teach our youngsters to work hard physically, mentally & emotionally, day in & out. To start a stand might be easy, but to ensure a lasting business, it takes plenty of effort & perseverance.
Handling criticism & failure.
It’s one thing if people insults or rejects you through DM or tweets. It’s another when that rejection or criticism were thrown right in front of you. In-your-face. And you have to be able to gracefully & graciously accept it without throwing a tantrum (or I don’t know, shoes?) to them. You have to be able to defend yourself & your business without losing much temper. When people rejects you in your face, you have to be able to handle that well & stand up with what you believe in. And obviously you can’t shut down your account or blocked that person as part of your problem-solving technique. You must be able how to reflect that criticism towards acceptance. Or at the very least, accepts the fact the failure is part of the process, not giving up & ready to fight another day.
It’s one thing to listen what the customers said. But communication is more than just verbal. By having a face-to-face interaction, our young entrepreneurs should be able to observe & learn their nonverbal cues. Their customers’ eye movement, body language, the tone of their voice, the hand gesture & few other nonverbal communications are things that gives extra point to our lemonade stand entrepreneur, as compared to our online social media influencer counterparts. Yes, although the technology nowadays allows a video communications (i.e. FaceTime & Skype), nothing still beats actual physical, face-to-face communication with another human being, without any medium between them.
How To Encourage Our Younger Generation To Embrace Entrepreneurship
So how do we encourage our youngster to start a business? Start at the young age. As I mentioned above, teaching them is not the right word. The word is ‘encourage’. We should encourage them to start something. If they prefer knitting & sewing, let them be. If they prefer baking a cupcakes, by all means, please encourage them. We can only teach them some basics of business (i.e cash management, marketing etc), but they’re the ones who has to to the actual heavy lifting. Part of any risk-taking activities (including entrepreneurship) is failure, and sadly, we still can’t teach failure to them. We can only encourage them not to give up & try again, and look at failure as part of leaning process, and there’s nothing wrong with failing & falling.
And if they still prefer to become social media influencer? I’d say let them be, encourage them not giving up, and wish them luck. It’s the least any adult, or anyone can do. A half-percent probability of success is still better than zero, and trying & failed is better than not trying at all. That includes becoming a hugely successful social media influencer.
Note: Keyboard warrior is not social media influencer, at least not from my point of view.