My name is Ken Sundheim. I am a 29 year old business owner of an executive search firm by the name of KAS Placement based out of New York City at Herald Square. I started KAS shortly after I graduated from Fordham University, after resigning from a corporate sales job after three months of being at the company.
Throughout my writing on Entrepreneur’s Journey, I plan to document how I opened a million dollar business with no experience, no contacts and even more odds against my favor.
I want to discuss what I have learned being a 29 year old entrepreneur and what is necessary for the aspiring business owner to become familiarized with. I want to touch on my successes and my mistakes and show the reader what they can learn from both.
I am convinced that entrepreneurship and intelligence only have a slight correlation. Anybody can be an entrepreneur, however not everybody is willing to put themselves out there and truly follow their dreams, their heart and use their God-given skills to take what they deserve.
I am living proof that anybody can be their own boss. Hopefully, my stories, my knowledge and my ongoing experiences can help at least one individual.
How I Started As An Entrepreneur
I didn’t grow up and sit through my college classes thinking that if I didn’t open a business, I’d be cheating myself. Instead, my exceptional lack of corporate political prowess at a young age taught me that it’s either entrepreneurship or thirty years of a miserable boss and even more miserable pension.
Living in New York City and being unemployed in a great economy at age 25 prompted to me to visit the entrepreneurship section at Barnes and Noble shortly after leaving and, by fate or stroke of something close, I happened to pick up a thirty-page book on staffing, went home and started KAS.
The corporate headquarters started out being a studio apartment on the Upper West Side. At first, I did what a 25, 26 and 27 year old would do with a dramatically increased salary. Then, around 28, I began to get serious about growing my firm – albeit from a one bedroom apartment at the time.
Now at the age of 29, I own a revenue generating company in New York City, I pay a couple of Manhattan rents, have five full-time, very talented employees whom I care about on payroll, and my firm is currently catching the turning economy, which means more growth, training, management, and whatever may come as well.
I live a life that is hard to obtain and that I am grateful to have.
The Price Of Success
If you think successful entrepreneurship does not come with a price tag, think again. Then think another time after that. At an early age, I feel hardened. I joke a lot with my friends, but when it comes to business, I feel that I don’t smile as much as I would if I were an employee.
Being successful is arduous. Being successful is stressful. If you want to be successful at a young age, don’t just read the below, but come to terms with it: this is the mentality that a young entrepreneur needs.
If You’re A Rattlesnake, Nobody Pokes You With A Stick
It was about a year and a half ago. I had three employees working from my apartment on the Upper East Side. It was a little embarrassing because I run a staffing firm and we would occasionally have candidates come to the “office.”
That is, until somebody claiming they were competition sent me a nasty email regarding not having an office. With 48 hours, I signed a two-year, $70,000 lease. I could not sleep. I worked and learned out of anger, out of spite for two days straight.
I consider myself a rattlesnake. If you try to whack me with a stick, I bite like a s.o.b. If I want something, I work so hard for it that being on the other team means that you’re going to put in 18-hour days.
If it sounds harsh, that’s because it is. I can’t apologize for my style, but the other firms in my space now know better. Nobody is dumb enough to get bitten twice.
It’s The Work That Doesn’t Directly Pay, That Pays
As a young entrepreneur, nobody is going to hand you a thing. Clients are going to be skeptical of you. The other teams have leverage simply by telling the client who shops around, “We’ve been in business for 15 years.” That means that I was 14 years old when they started. Get used it.
So, how do you combat this sentence? It’s simple. Be more knowledgeable and gain better credentials.
I started reading a lot of books about every aspect of business, persuasion, job seeking and whatever else the iPad would download. The reason why many younger entrepreneurs seem to avoid this is that it’s not listed on the job description.
It is this exact work that helped me to learn how to get media exposure, which mitigates the aforementioned skepticism of potential clients.
Now, the “We’ve been in business for 15 years,” looks pretty bad when you’ve accomplished 20 times more in a quarter of the time.
Once You’re Able To Recruit Them, Treat Your Employees Like Family
Any entrepreneur, or for that matter, large corporate entity, lives by effective, loyal employees and dies by turnovers. Unhappy employees are easy to get because they are cheap and they screw up a business.
Happy employees are so hard to find and procure because they are a serious expense, but they make a business.
I had to recruit employees from an apartment. This was not easy. The first few took a chance on me and for that, I owe them everything.
Management for many entrepreneurs is tough. For me, at first it was damn near impossible. I had a lot of growing up to do. Management takes patience, it takes learning, it takes caring and it takes energy.
Jack Welch put it best when he said that before you are a leader, you spend time growing yourself; then when you become one, you spend that time growing others.
As a young entrepreneur, know that your employees are the future of the company. Care about them. They are the ones standing next to you in the trenches and the moment you forget that, you’re in for a very gloomy day.
Ethics: Have Them And Stand For Something
At the age of 29, you don’t get to own your own business by not making mistakes. I have been called everything in the book except unethical. At the end of the day, you have your word and that is all you have.
I have had clients, vendors and others that I’ve come across display despicable ethics, and dealing with them is tough, but you don’t back down. When someone acts in an unethical manner, tries not to pay you (and they will), you call them on it and fight to get whatever they owe you.
I recently had to collect over $12,000 from clients overseas that were not paying. Yes. It’s a pain, but as a young entrepreneur you learn that not everybody acts with the utmost integrity. It’s a part of life and it’s a part of business.
Say what you want, but you can’t call me “unethical.”