Business Plan Competitions: 3 Things Small Business Owners Can Learn From Young Entrepreneurs

Here are three things every small business owner can learn from young entrepreneurs.

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Recently I attended a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) National Youth Business Plan Competition. Two local students, who competed and won at the regional and state level, participated in the NFTE event. I attended to support them and to see what ‘younger’ entrepreneurs are up to these days.

While, the two students I supported did not make it to the finals, they both won rounds to the semi-finals and gave the presentation of lifetime.

The business  plan competition was strong among the 34 student startups that participated. Everyone in attendance could see that these young entrepreneurs were the best of the best. It was incredibly inspiring to watch young entrepreneurs in action.

After reflection on the event I realized that while age and experience separate us from younger entrepreneurs, they certain can teach us a thing or two.

Mark my words, here are three things every small business owner can learn from young entrepreneurs:

1. Practice equals poise.

What really separates a good business presentation from an inspiring one? Practice, practice, practice.

Most adults can’t stand in front of a room of people and give a presentation with the poise I saw these student entrepreneurs bring to the table. I was absolutely blown away by their public speaking skills.

Passion and excitement certainly plays a role, but what was so impressive is that you could tell these students had practiced their pitch till they were blue in the face.

Lesson? As entrepreneurs in varying stages of business development, we need to spend more time rehearsing. Whether it be sales calls, workshops, keynotes, or investor pitches, somehow along the road we’ve forgotten the importance of the dress rehearsal.

Athletes and musicians spend thousands of hours practicing for the hundreds of hours they spend actually “doing their craft.” Why, as entrepreneurs, do we neglect to build in some practice time? A strong and practiced presentation made all the difference (in terms of like-ability and advancement) when it came to judging these youth entrepreneurs; the same can be said of your business.

2. Remain open and receptive to constructive criticism.

Does age and experience make us less receptive to constructive criticism?

“If your first reaction is to lash back at the person giving the criticism, or to become defensive, take a minute before reacting at all. Take a deep breath, and give it a little thought,” said Leo Babauta the creator of Zen Habits, a site that aims to help others find simplicity in the daily chaos of their lives.

“Instead take criticism with grace and appreciation,” he says.

Even at the point where these young entrepreneurs probably felt that their pitch and business plan were perfected they were still able to positively acknowledge criticism of the judges. And they wanted more!

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