In today’s economic environment, young college graduates face a daunting challenge in charting their course in the marketplace. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that less than 20 percent of the 2009 graduates who applied for a job actually have one. This compares to 26 percent of those graduating in 2008 and 51 percent of those graduating in 2007 who had applied for a job and had one by the time of their graduation. This trend has led to the second-highest jobless rate (5.9%) for college graduates under age 27 according to the Economic Policy Institute.
While statistically more new businesses are started by older adults and those businesses also have a greater likelihood of success, businesses started by youth also have the potential to be extremely impactful. Young adult entrepreneurs like Michael Dell (Dell), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple) and Sergey Brin (Google) have certainly changed the business landscape. While young entrepreneurs may lack the business experience and seasoning of their older counterparts, they do bring passion, a willingness to take risks and optimism to the their ventures.
Local entrepreneur, real estate developer and former Third Congressional District political candidate David Landrum faced an uncertain marketplace in 1979 when he was at University of Southern Mississippi. Landrum was completing his education after serving three years in the U.S. Army. Similar to today, young adults in the late 1970s and early 1980s faced an uncertain economy reeling from the 1979 oil crisis, recessionary economy and job losses. Landrum and his wife, Jill, decided to follow the entrepreneurial path and joined A.L. Williams & Associates life insurance company, which is now Primerica Financial Services, a subsidiary of Citigroup and the largest financial services marketing organization in North America.
From his simple beginnings as a sales consultant, Landrum has grown his business tremendously over the last 30 years, and he is now one of the top 30 representatives among the 100,000 independent consultants in the Primerica system. His organization has over 3,000 affiliated representatives and generates millions of dollars annually in premiums and revenues. Landrum noted “there are certain core principles, which I believe have helped me in my entrepreneurial journey.” A few of Landrum’s core principles are summarized below and are a great guideline for entrepreneurs of any age:
Go the extra mile
To be successful, you need to go beyond what average people are willing to do.This means that work ethic matters. Are you willing to work a little harder than the next person to get the job the done? Landrum pointed out that “the more you go the extra mile, the easier it gets.”
Be others focused
The core of this is humility. People eventually see through schemers who are out just for themselves. Great companies are built around true service to customers and fellow employees. Being others-focused allows you to live a life of purpose versus seeking a life of leisure and pleasure, which ultimately proves to be hollow.
In addition to having a servant mindset, an entrepreneur also has to think like a warrior. There will be many challenging trials in the course of starting a new business. For some this can cause paralyzing fear. However, to be successful, you need to be willing to summon the courage and press ahead.
Landrum’s application of these principles have helped him grow a very successful business and provided jobs to hundreds of Mississippians. When I hear politicians speak about the necessity of jobs, there often seems to be a disconnect about where these jobs actually come from. Despite the expanding number of jobs with the government, it still takes individuals who are willing to take risks and start business ventures to create jobs. Hopefully, some of our state’s best and brightest young adults will dare to start the great businesses of tomorrow.
Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.