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8 tips on how to be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur

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Are you a young entrepreneur with a great business idea? If so, you're probably bubbling with confidence and optimism about your future success.

But you need potential customers, lenders and other business partners to believe in you, too. So how can you get others to take you seriously and believe in your venture?

Here are eight ways to inspire confidence in others that you have the right stuff as a young entrepreneur.

1. Be passionate

Make sure you're passionate about what you do. Owning a business is not easy and you're going to be in it for the long haul, so make sure you're fully committed through the ups and downs.

And let your passion shine through. Your clients, business partners and employees need to see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice and feel it in your actions.

2. Have a plan

It's great to be passionate, but it's also essential to frame your passion in a structured and effective way. You need to slow down, think and reflect on where you plan to take your business in the months to come.

Make sure you have a business plan clearly laid out on paper. You should also be able to explain your business in person in a clear, concise way.

“Lenders, suppliers and clients who see a solid business plan will know you took the time to think things through and will take you seriously,” says Valérie Bornais, who manages BDC's Entrepreneurship Centre in Quebec City. “I would immediately think: 'Wow, this young entrepreneur is solid.'”

3. Know yourself

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur? Knowing yourself is the first step in finding out your talents, but also understanding where you need help.

Why are you passionate about your idea? Are you a people person? Do you get intimidated easily? Are you good with numbers?

If you haven't already asked yourself questions like these, now's the time.

Knowing yourself is also key to being authentic in your business. If you're genuine about your product or service, your partners and clients will sense it. They will be more trusting and take you more seriously.

For help, take BDC's entrepreneurial self assessment. It's free.

4. Do your homework

Make sure to research and know your industry inside and out. Read up on the latest trends and connect with experts in the field.

Ask lots of questions and dig for answers. Who are the key players in your sector? Who are your competitors? Who are your target customers? Why has the market responded (or not) in a certain way to a given product? How do you know there's a need for your product? Why are you establishing your price at this level? Who are you hiring and why?

“If you take the time to develop a strong understanding of the industry, your pitch will be solid and well‑articulated,” Bornais says. “Your audience will see that you know the issues and challenges facing the industry and that you can add value.” Preparation is key.

5. Be open to advice

You may have already demonstrated leadership or management skills, but that doesn't mean you know it all. People are far more likely to take you seriously if you listen to and heed advice.

“Don't be afraid to ask questions or to say you don't know the answer but will come back shortly with one,” Bornais adds. People will respect your willingness to learn, your curiosity and your openness.

6. Consider your personal appearance

It may seem trivial, but the way you present yourself is critical. How you dress and carry yourself says a lot about your personality.

That said, it all depends on the environment. If you're in IT, you will dress differently than if you're in accounting or construction. Just be sure to dress appropriately for the situation.

Always ask yourself: Does my appearance reflect my desired business persona?

7. Find a mentor

Try to build a relationship with an experienced businessperson who you can turn to regularly for support and advice. “It's extremely important to have a mentor, and we can immediately see who has one and who doesn't,” says Bornais.

Having a mentor not only shows others that you understand the importance of learning from someone with more experience, it's also an invaluable source of contacts and potential business opportunities. Futurpreneur Canada has a well‑structured program for putting young entrepreneurs together with mentors.

8. Network, network, network

Get into the habit. It's essential. Meeting new business associates is a valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from the successes and failures of others and find new clients. It's also a great way to form long‑term relationships and build your reputation.

For more advice on succeeding as a young entrepreneur, check out our Entrepreneur's toolkit (includes a sample business plan).

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