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Youth: Barrier or Accelerator?

Matt Roberts Wednesday, 15 December 2010 Written by  Matt Roberts


Recently and in the past I have noticed a few incidents regarding my age and thought I would discuss them. What is interesting is that when I meet other ‘Young Entrepreneurs’ (I use the sentence with caution as it is a little self—titled yet it’s the best descriptive term) and we discuss business and anecdotes I discover that I don’t seem to be alone.

My personal pet hate is when you’re having a conversation with someone older and you can tell that you’re automatically not being taken seriously or from their darting eyes it’s apparent that you’re simply a convenient half way point as they bee-line towards whoever they really want to talk to. At a recent lunch event I had an extremely frustrating experience. I was having a conversation with someone older, who clearly deemed themselves more important. I asked an interesting about them and they began by responding to me but then turned to others and directed the whole answer to them!

Another time I was conducting Bean2Bed demonstrations in a large department store. It was my second day there and was doing it for free to boost their sales and train their staff. The previous day I had worn a suit (which was not the best attire for demonstrating Bean2Beds) however, as it was a Saturday and we sell a leisure product I decided that jeans, smart shoes and a Bean2Bed t-shirt were the order of the day.

After being in-store demonstrating for around 20 minutes I had the store manager with the department manager in toe, like a corporate Batman and Robin, telling me that I did not meet the dress code (no dress code had been given by head office) and that I was to go home immediately and he would speak to my boss on Monday morning. I persisted that I was not informed of any dress code and that as it was a busy shopping day I would change into a suit and return – for some strange reason (perhaps the feeling of power that some people get) he said no, let’s call it a day and I’ll speak to your boss on Monday.

At this point Robin took Batman to one side and informed him that it was actually my company and therefore he was already talking to the boss (two days earlier than planned!). The slightly red-faced ‘Batman’ asked why I had not informed him of this whereupon I explained that it was irrelevant. Needless to say I returned an hour later and got the store some good sales.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom – far from it. The vast majority of people that I meet commend me for turning down a graduate job (those with companies always say how they wish they’d started theirs sooner) and do everything they can to help, support and introduce me to people that may help. With young people it’s often an instant connection as it’s great to meet other people with the passion, drive and determination to follow their dreams and go for it. The trick I have found is to surround myself with positive, fun people that treat everyone as equals and steer clear of the negative and McEnroe types (those that don’t take you SERIOUSLY – bad joke)!

That said, I would love to hear others thoughts on how you build credibility when you and your business are at the younger end of the spectrum...


0 #2 2011-01-06 15:49
Hi Lorraine,

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+1 #1 2011-01-06 14:55
Hi Matt. Interesting to read about your experiences. My initial reaction is that the way other people react to you perhaps says more about them that it does about you. If someone genuinely seems disinterested with 'eyes darting' then maybe it's not worth wasting your energy on them and instead of them making excuses to leave, you should get in there first.

I follow someone on Twitter called Malcolm Levene (@MalcolmLevene )who provides really excellent 'personal branding' tips, appropriate whatever your age, so would recommend you follow him and see what you think.

On a personal note, I have experienced that 'eye darting' and general feeling of being either invisible and/or not very interesting at various stages throughout my career in business. I've never been sure if it's related to my age, my sex or what! Short of actually asking someone whether they feel your age is an issue (risky!), your attitude of surrounding yourself with positive people is a healthy one.

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