3 Things Young Adult Businesses Need to Know to Survive

My children are all under the age of 5. And now, I have two girls. I am officially outnumbered. I am cherishing every moment with them, every new experience they have, and I appreciate being able to teach them how to live their best life. I don’t want to look too far ahead and rush their childhood, but I can’t help but dread the teenage years (I may have a positive mindset most of the time, but come on – I’m also a realist!). Terrible twos, my ass, at least they can’t drive or walk very far! What about the terrible teenage years (yes, years)? Crisis, over-confidence, and a whole lot of risk-taking. But it won’t last forever and before I know it, I’ll be 55 and my children will all be young adults.

This week, as I was thinking about my children growing up, I clearly saw the parallels to the 10 Stages of the Life Cycle of a Business that I first learned about at Business Mastery with Tony Robbins a few years ago. And while my kids are just infants and toddlers, my business is smack in the middle of the young adult stage.

The ultimate goal is to reach maturity. I want that for my children and my business. So what does one do to get from young adult to the zone of maximization? And more importantly, how do you keep moving forward and NOT slip back to a terrible teenager?

My companies recently had our quarterly off-sites and this was a major topic of conversation. The key characteristics of a young adult organization are:

  • anticipating the future
  • making more committed choices
  • limiting your focus
  • starting to focus on systems
  • redefining what success means long-term
  • redefining your identity
  • getting serious

Our companies are at a point where we can no longer be entrepreneurial and fly by the seat of our pants. When it’s just you or you have a very small team, it works. But if you have any desire to grow, scale, and eventually be working on the business, not in the business (or hell, not even working at all!), then you need to put your big girl panties on and act like a big girl company. This means, focusing on clear and realistic goals, establishing the company brand and identity, and focusing on systems and operations.

  1. Clear and Realistic Goals | None of this pie in the sky shit. Set realistic and actionable short-term goals – monthly, quarterly, yearly, and 3 years out. Any further out and you’re just wasting time. You’re still young, you don’t have to get married to your business plan, but you’ve got to have a few steady girlfriends. Now, that being said, while your short-term goals must be realistic and actionable, as a leader, you must always be telling the story and painting the long-term vision of your organization. This is where you can have a pie, a goat, whatever you want in the sky. Even as you are focused on the immediate goals of your company, you can’t forget to share where your company is going and often! As you drive towards completing projects and hitting quarterly objectives, you have to also challenge your team to think bigger and set even bigger, yet realistic, goals. Your vision is why they joined you in the first place. Every goal you set must also be assigned to one of your team members to ensure execution, it must have a deadline, and it must have a number attached to it.
    Example: Hergenrother Realty Group’s goal is to net 111 agents by December 31, 2016 and to net 1,000 agents by December 31, 2016 and have the systems and operations in place to support their production. 
  2. Establish the Company Identity | Your company is old enough now where you should have a pretty good idea of who you are and who you are going to be in the future. This means getting very clear on what product you will produce or carry, the services you are going to offer, what projects you will build, or the investments you will make. More importantly, who are you NOT. Now is the time to start saying no to some of the opportunities that comes across your plate and stay focused and committed on those that align with your company brand, as well as with your goals. This is also the time to invest in public relations and marketing to create a cohesive and consistent presence in order to build brand awareness.
    Example: BlackRock Construction has over 700 units in our development pipeline, which means we are beginning to say “No” to projects that do not align with our short-term (6 month) vision. 
  3. Systems and Operations | You cannot carry the company passwords, employee policy & procedures, checklists, phone manuals, etc. around in your head. The only way your company is going to grow is with extremely good systems, a well organized information sharing system, and checklists and manuals for everything. If you can’t duplicate it and if you can’t replace staff and keep operations running smoothly, then you won’t be able to grow. Systems and operations are not sexy, but neither do they have to be complicated. They are the foundation of building a massive organization, and they will allow you to do it faster and more efficiently. Keep them simple whenever possible and make it part of your culture to document everything.
    Example: BlackRock Construction is quickly moving from Young Adult to Maturity so we are making it a priority to slow down in order to speed up even more by hiring a consultant to upgrade our systems and standardize our processes in order to make our growth easier. 

The Young Adult stage is where the magic happens. This is where you can build the foundation for your company to rocket to the top. But beware what will happen if you don’t… you could fall back into the Teenage stage where you may have cash, but crisis is constant and over-confidence may lead to taking too many risks that you are unable to recover from.

Most importantly, as your Young Adult company starts to mature and you begin to hire 4.0 GPA Harvard MBA grads, do not forget what and who got you there in the first place – the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic of yourself and your first hires. Don’t lose your company identity and entrepreneurial culture. Don’t let these new systems and operations kill the entrepreneurial animal that got your company to where it is. The systems should clean up your company growth, never slow it down. A clear focus and goals shouldn’t limit your opportunities, but create new and better ones that are aligned with your long term vision and company identity. Bottom line, your company may be moving towards maturity, but stay young, nimble, entrepreneurial, and enjoy the ride!


  1. Cindy Lemmon Griesse

    Thank you for sharing Adam. So very true. Systems well done save so much time and energy and culture rules. As for the kids. I am that fifty something with young adults. Each step along the path has enriched and blessed my life in ways I could have never fathomed. Buckle up, it’s just getting started.

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