startup

I was recently a guest on a podcast and the interviewer posed an unusual question: “If you could send a fax to yourself 10 years ago, what would it say?”

After thinking for a moment, I said, “Dear Mark: You don’t know shit about business.”

Why would I say that? Because at that inflection point 10 years ago, many things I thought knew about how to start and run a business were about to be turned upside down.

Here’s an example of what I mean …

I had the good fortune to recently attend a panel discussion featuring four entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. There was one young woman — 26 years old — who had already started three successful businesses — a restaurant, a clothing line, and a publishing company for children’s books.

Here is what I thought you needed to be successful in business:

  • Experience
  • Relevant business education
  • Mentors/connections in the business world
  • Financial Resources
  • Focus

In essence, she had none of these advantages.

She had no business experience or connections, but knew how to network online with people who could guide her … and eventually work for her. She was using “virtual increments” of experts to run her business.

She did not have a college education but learned whatever she needed to know by googling it.

She never had to work through a traditional bank and received the funding she needed through Kickstarter.

The businesses she started seem to be unrelated and unfocused but she’s making it work by building connected fans and audiences.

If I only heard this story once, I might have chalked it up to luck. But this is a success story I hear repeatedly. This is the new business model — lean, connected, driven, wired, passionate, networked, collaborative. Yes, I am re-learning everything I thought about business. And I love it.

The interconnected world enables interconnected business models. Navigating that maze takes a whole new skillset and I am in awe of what is happening. Millennials rock.

Ironically, I also hear a lot of whining from the networked generation about how competitive the job market is, how old people need to retire to make way for new people in the job market, how investment money is tight. And here is how I respond: Get real. You have more business opportunities before you than any other generation. Go for it.

In the history of the world, there have never been so many options to create, build, and succeed on your own terms than right now. You don’t need a degree from Harvard, an inheritance from a rich uncle, or a lifetime of ass-kissing to create the career you want. Those hurdles have been shattered!

What an amazing, liberating, exciting time to be in business. What an incredible time to be alive. Don’t miss it. Figure out the new rules of business and create your own destiny too.

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and The People Speak

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions. IBM had no editorial control of this content.
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