Ethan is an 18-year-old budding entrepreneur who wants to know what it takes to create wealth.

He recently emailed me the following question:

“I’m an 18-year-old high school student getting ready to go to business school next year. I read your book on investing, but it seems like it’s targeted toward a later-stage entrepreneur.  I’m wondering what you would suggest for someone young like me, who wants to become a millionaire by the time I am 30. What steps should I take?”

So let’s see if I can help this young man kick ass, and provide him with some of the tools he needs to become a 30-year-old millionaire.

Before I dive into the answer, I want to reinforce one super-important point.


I belong to a networking group of technology CEOs. In fact, some of the members lead the largest, most successful companies in Toronto—and in all of Canada, for that matter.  All told, approximately 100 companies are represented in this group.

We get together every month to discuss how our businesses are doing and to review all of the issues that are keeping the CEOs up at night. We specifically focus on issues related to HR, law, technology, and strategy.

However, there are two issues that consistently generate concern for the bulk of these CEOs:

  •         How to build a marketing machine and lead flow
  •         How to build a sales team and grow sales

From small to large, and not so successful to outrageously successful, sales and marketing are always at the top of the list.

Now that I’ve stressed how important marketing and sales are to the success of any business, here’s my step-by-step 12-year plan for Ethan to go from an 18-year-old with zero dollars to a 30-year-old with $1 million.

The information in my review below is a subset of what will become a more detailed set of blog posts. But below, I’ll scratch the surface and provide some highlights. When I release additional blog posts, I’ll provide a link to each one.

Step 1: Get a College Degree

Finish high school and college by age 22 or 23.

Ethan, no matter what you do, please finish college.

Unfortunately, our North American society places a lot of importance on a college education. Although I agree that college has many benefits, I also believe that its importance is somewhat overrated.  Either way, college provides some of the foundational elements required for future success, and the best jobs are usually reserved for those with college educations.

While you’re in college, please have fun. The college years are probably some of the best years of your life.

BUT no matter what you study, and what degree you hold when you graduate from college, you need to be an expert in two areas:

  1.    Marketing

How to build a sales funnel, brand, marketing automation, lead magnets, landing pages, and email marketing

  1.    Social Media

How to build your online presence through social media, and leverage social media to build your business

Whether you’re 18 or 28, your belief that you’re already an expert in social media doesn’t matter if you don’t have the education to back it up.  Yes, I understand you might use Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat every day, but that doesn’t make you a social media expert.

You need to understand the tricks for leveraging the various social media tools that will help you build a business.

Gary Vaynerchuk does an excellent job of talking about social media and its role in business, including how you can leverage these tools from a business perspective.

Step 2: It’s Time to Pick Your Industry

While in college, and regardless of what you’re studying in school, you also need to figure out what industry you are interested in, and what industry you’re going to open your business in.  You should look for:

  1. The potential for a significant element of recurring revenue.
  2. Something you can build a sustainable business in.

Most young entrepreneurs I work with are stuck on finding the next amazing, revolutionary technology they can use to scale their company and sell it to Google for a billion dollars.  Get real. It’s not going to happen.

Instead, build a sustainable business for the long term. It should be in an industry that’s going to be around for decades.

As I mentioned above, it should also be in an industry you’re interested in. What excites you? Does this industry have growth potential? And of equal importance, does it provide the opportunity to build a business with recurring revenue?

To reiterate, you need to know three important things by the time you graduate:

  1. Marketing
  2. Social media marketing
  3. The industry you want to build your business in

Step 3: Get a Job

You should start your first full-time job by age 23 or 24.

After college, get a job working for someone in your chosen industry. (See Step 2.) Work in the sales department, and learn how to become a kickass salesperson. Study the traits of the #1 salesperson in the company, and ask him or her to mentor you.

Follow your mentor. Learn from him or her, and keep studying the industry.

Keep learning as much as you can about marketing and sales. (See Step 1.)

During the first two years of employment, put 25% (or more) of your salary aside.

Also during the first two years, put together a business plan, and share it with as many successful businesspeople as you can find. Tell them you’re looking for an angel investor, someone who will help you fund your chosen business. Impress the heck out of them with your knowledge and perseverance, and articulate that you will live and breathe the industry until you’re its king. Offer them a percentage.

By the way, when you’re speaking with this person, make sure you have the “killer instinct” in your eyes.

Step 4: It’s Time to Open Your Business

By age 25 or 26, you should be a guru in marketing and sales.  If you’re not, then go back to Step 3.

Open your business, using a combination of your funds and the angel investor’s funds.

Reminder: Make sure your business has a very high percentage of recurring revenue. If it doesn’t, go back to Step 2.

Over the course of the next few years, save as much as you can. Maximize your business’s profits, and invest those profits wisely. For more information on how an entrepreneur should invest, you can reference my book, The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing.

Provide the best customer service that you possibly can.  Without your customers, your firm is done.

Make sure that your operations department (which includes customer service) can keep up with your sales.

Although this is easier said than done, you should have a revenue of $3 million by Year 3. And by Year 5, your revenue should be $5 million. Your profit margins should be 12% of your top line revenue.

Step 5: Read As Many Books and Listen to As Many Podcasts As You Can

Start this step immediately, and don’t stop until you die.

In 20 years, we probably won’t have podcasts. Rather, we’ll have small, implantable chips programmed into our brains.  In the meantime, and until then, listen to podcasts.

Spend 90 minutes a day pumping as much knowledge as you can into your brain.

Go to the gym, and exercise at least 3 to 4 times a week. Don’t stop. Ever.

Find a mentor that can help you along the way.

Step 6: From Day 1 of your business:

  •         Watch your cash flow.
  •         Watch your expenses.
  •         Maximize your profits.
  •         For the first five years, work 60 to 80 hours a week.
  •         Always have clear goals and a plan.
  •         Focus on marketing and sales.
  •         Always have a plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there.

As you scale your business, hire experts to look after the other parts of it, but remember, you should be your business’s best salesperson and marketing guru.

Growing your wealth and business to over a million dollars is a tough goal. The million-dollar mark is the elusive goal that many entrepreneurs struggle to reach, but with proper goal-setting, planning, and business knowledge, it’s possible.

Is it hard work?  You bet. Are you willing to do it?


My goal is to help entrepreneurs scale their business, improve profits, and, ultimately, create wealth. I post two blog posts a week.  You can subscribe here.

Want to know more about me and read some of the other interesting small business growth, profit and wealth stories I’ve written.

Here’s one of the first articles I wrote:  My Journey Post Business Sale as I Sail Into a New Harbour.

Are you a younger entrepreneur? Here’s another interesting article I wrote:

My Response to an 18-Year-Old Who Wants to Become a Millionaire by the Time He’s 30.

Download my book and Amazon bestseller (number 1 in business, number 2 in non-fiction).  You can get your FREE copy here.


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