Becoming a business owner in your teens is a humbling experience that comes with many hurdles, trials and triumphs. The lessons you learn through first-hand experience as a young person create an undeniable impact on leadership style, decision-making, and approach to innovation. While not everyone has the opportunity to own a business at such a young age, the lessons we all learned in youth can be applied as CEOs today.
I became a business owner at 18, operating a College Pro Painters franchise. Fueled by a dream, tireless ambition, and an understanding of the value of hard work, I found immense success and joined the executive team post-college. Years later, I embarked on an audacious idea: founding and launching Certa Pro Painters. In 2005, I officially joined Floor Coverings International as CEO where I’ve helped guide the company to becoming the No. 1 rated flooring franchise in North America.
The below offers insights into the transformative journey that led me from teenage entrepreneur to the executive suite. There is profound wisdom to be gleaned from the intersection of youth, entrepreneurship and a relentless pursuit of success.
Goal-Orientation is Crucial
Setting clear and ambitious goals is paramount to achieving success. Venturing into entrepreneurship right out of high school, I quickly realized that without a well-defined direction, my efforts would be scattered and ineffective. By creating a roadmap of specific and measurable objectives, I could focus my energy on strategic tasks, make informed decisions, and track progress efficiently.
In the dynamic world of corporate leadership, goal-orientation remains a steadfast guiding principle for CEOs and executives alike, no matter your age.
As a CEO, your ability to define the path forward sets the tone for your entire organization. With a clear roadmap, you can effectively communicate your vision and chart the course for your team to follow. Goal-orientation will also motivate your team to work collectively towards shared aspirations.
Deliver What You Promise
In the business world, integrity and credibility are everything. As a young business owner, gaining trust and building a solid reputation were paramount. I learned that delivering on promises, no matter how big or small, was essential in cultivating strong relationships with customers, employees, and partners.
For CEOs, delivering on promises isn’t merely a guideline—it is a fundamental responsibility. Remember, it’s okay to make fewer promises, but you need to deliver on those. By living up to what you promise, you’re establishing a culture of accountability.
Meeting expectations fosters loyalty and enhances the company’s credibility, ultimately contributing to long-term success.
Remove the Hierarchy Between You and Your Team
Using your platform as a leader to empower others is vital for fostering a positive and productive work environment. I realized that breaking down hierarchical barriers and maintaining a shoulder-to-shoulder policy enabled transparent communication and better collaboration. Emphasizing teamwork over traditional top-down management empowered my team members, allowing them to feel valued and appreciated.
I encourage CEOs to take strides in removing the hierarchy of their organizations to pave way for a more collaborative environment. It is a challenge to traditional perceptions of what a CEO’s role looks like, but reflect on who opened doors and brought you up to your current role. Daily introspection is essential. Ask yourself, have you spoken with any franchisees, mid-level managers, suppliers, etc.? Every day, you need to be connecting with your team to understand their concerns and celebrating their accomplishments. This flattened organizational structure promotes creativity, innovation and a sense of ownership in the company’s growth. It also helps you hone an essential leadership skill—empathy.
Think Like a Consumer
To stay competitive and relevant in the market, all CEOs need to think like a consumer. Understanding their needs, pain points, and desires enabled me to develop products and services that truly addressed their problems.
Never lose sight of this as you rise in the ranks. In the same way that you need to keep in touch with your team, immersing yourself in the consumer’s mindset allows you to make better business decisions and maintain customer-centricity – this is your winning strategy.
Always Be a Student
As a teen business owner, there was a lot I needed to learn to get my business off the ground. While you want to be a know it all, in this position, you’re forced to drop your ego at the door. Own what you don’t know, and surround yourself with resources that will help you fill those gaps.
Embrace this long-term learning mindset as your secret weapon, especially as CEO of your organization. Focus on what you can learn from your peers, regardless of titles. This thirst for knowledge will not only expand your expertise but also help you adapt to market changes and evolving business trends – ultimately having a profound impact on your decision-making.
Celebrate Wins, Big and Small
In the fast-paced world of business, it’s easy to get caught up in the next challenge and overlook celebrating achievements. I discovered that acknowledging accomplishments of all sizes is essential for maintaining team morale and building a positive work atmosphere.
Recognizing and appreciating the hard work and dedication of team members fosters their sense of fulfillment and motivates them to continue striving for excellence. It’s important to acknowledge the role that you can play in building their professional career. Celebrating successes also reinforces a culture of gratitude and camaraderie, strengthening your team’s bond and reminding them, and yourself, to have fun.