In an age where Millennials are a major part of the work force and it’s not unheard of to stumble across child entrepreneurs, there’s still one big challenge for these young workers: How can they earn respect?
As an entrepreneur, you don’t only need to earn the respect of your partner(s). You also need to earn the respect of your investors, your clients, your customers, your employees, and everyone else you encounter. There was a time when young people entering the work force “only” had to earn the respect of their manager—that is not the case for the entrepreneur.
It can be frustrating since it’s “your” company, “your venture” and “your idea”. Plus, Millennials can seem exceptionally young to old school investors who have been helping companies thrive for decades. The good news is that earning respect hasn’t changed much over the past several years. It’s still work, it still takes time ,and it’s still very much earned.
No matter your age or how old you look, here’s what you can do as an entrepreneur to earn the respect necessary to help your business take off:
- Practice basic etiquette. Unfortunately, “basic” might not be very basic to some young entrepreneurs. Hand-write thank you letters, saying please and thank you, actively listening, and dressing for the occasion (which can mean how a potential investor wants you to dress). Etiquette was designed to help people showcase respect, so use it.
- Do what you promise. If you say you’ll follow up with a phone call the next day, do so. If you promise a certain sales figure (always a bad idea, but still), make sure it happens. People simply doing what they say they’ll do is an anomaly these days. It’s an easy way for you to stand out.
- Make polite conversation. This means proper body language, putting away your phone, and (depending on the culture of the person you’re talking to) oftentimes small talk. In many cultures it’s considered rude to discuss business right away, or even at the first meeting. Stop being in such a rush.
- Research the person you’re meeting. Research their cultural business traditions if it’s different than yours (e.g. Koreans consider it respectful to always exchange things like business cards with both hands). Research the person’s background if possible, which you may be able to find in LinkedIn. The more you know about who you’re meeting, the better you can make conversation and show them respect.
- Don’t be reactive. It’s easy to want to defend yourself and your venture, especially if you consider it your baby. However, it’s how you handle yourself in stressful situations that defines who you are. People may not consciously remember how polite you were, but they’ll definitely remember if you fly off the handle.
- Show an interest in others. This is one of the easiest and most fascinating things you can do, and yet it’s a lost skill. People can be naturally egocentric, but take a look around. Learn from those around you. Ask questions, maintain eye contact, and soak up the knowledge others are happy to share.
Earning respect, just like the term implies, is going to take work. You won’t get there right away with everyone. However, it’s one of the best tools you have in your entrepreneurial arsenal, so learn how to manage it.