When the CEO is the youngest person in the room

When you found a company in your early 20’s you have a unique set of challenges that lie ahead of you. For me, I was 21 and still studying at University, working from my bedroom, and living with my parents challenged with the physiological barriers to have the confidence to walk into a room of seasoned executives and telling them I have something valuable to offer.

I founded OneFitStop in 2013, a technology company focused on servicing the fitness industry as a membership management suite to power scheduling, billing, marketing, branded apps and more.

I was overly ambitious at the beginning. I envisaged OneFitStop would become the “jack of all trades” to create a digital community, wholesale e-commerce store and management suite targeting personal trainers. It was simply just too much. From the outset, it became obvious quickly that having laser focus solving a very defined problem had to be successful first.

As a young entrepreneur and founder, the challenges I faced to inspire internal teams and display value to an established market was incredibly tough. I learnt the following through my own trials and tribulations:

  • Surround yourself with advisors and mentors. You don’t have valuable experience working in a corporate office, hiring or firing, delegating or owning up to your own mistakes.
  • Back yourself and be confident in your ability to drive value, but when you don’t know the answers, be transparent. This may feel like you are setting the expectations that you may not be qualified to be in your position, but if you do your research, upskill yourself and come back with the answers it will be far more respected.
  • Learn to balance your personal relationships and health. Bootstrapping is tough and you will definitely be overloaded. You are young, you have your “best years ahead of you” and you have a profound opportunity to take control of your career and personal goals. But if you lose touch with friends and family then is it all worth chasing the dream without having those most meaningful around you to celebrate the wins?
  • Find co-founders that share the same vision as you. Does your co-founder share the same commitment as you towards the goal of your company or are there too many variables in their life at a young age that may pull them away from your mutual aspirations?
  • Dress for the occasion. I found myself early on always putting on a suit to give the impression that as a young leader I had value to showcase. The problem was that I never read the room and I was working in the fitness industry! So my attire has now changed and the value that I can display goes beyond appearances.

I’ve accepted I look younger. I’ve accepted that I have less experience. I’ve accepted that an employee might be double your age and call you boss. I’ve accepted that when I walk into a room you will get some looks.

But, I have also learned from accepting the above that:

  • Opening a new conversation by demonstrating immediate value and knowledge can change anyone’s perception. Make the first five minutes count.
  • Your job is to inspire others to buy into your vision. Do it with passion and belief every step of the way. Your body language and energy will guide a conversation.
  • You are young. That means you are impressionable… so leverage it. Connect and immerse yourself with all levels of stakeholders in your industry – you will find many angles and something new that will separate you in the marketplace.

Jarron Aizen, Founder and CEO, OneFitStop

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