01 Jun 2018
This is the best time of our lives!
One of the best parts of being over 50 is the ability to distinguish between real opportunities and youthful dreams. With age comes experience, and the working world is quickly becoming aware that working better and smarter is preferable to working more and harder.
George Bernard Shaw famously said that “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!”
Although no one is sure if Shaw really said it or not, the meaning is clear. The exuberance and dynamic energy of young people is rarely put to best use. As we cross the threshold of 50, we realize that the world needs us now, with our years of experience and knowledge, more than ever.
Entrepreneurs on the Rise
According to most trends watchers, more and more people are turning to entrepreneurship rather than look for a job or a career in a company. This is good news for the over-50s – it means that we are moving toward a working world that is based on merit and achievement. Businesses and companies are happy to outsource work to entrepreneurs because they are more concerned with competence and getting the job done right.
If you are like me, then you know that this is a great time in our lives to set off in a new working direction. Traditional careers where you get hired young and stay a lifetime in one company are now a thing of the past. And good riddance!
This old way of looking at the world of work is fraught with potential problems. Companies would often choose young people for jobs about which they knew very little. They then invest years in time and training only to lose them later. Today, it is becoming more and more common to hire skills and skill sets instead of potential. And we are the ones that possess both the skills and the wisdom to deploy them to best advantage!
According to the Financial Times, “growth in self-employment since 2000 has been fuelled by the over-50s who are finding it increasingly hard to find full-time work. With the sheer number of baby-boomers now approaching retirement age, the era of the ‘olderpreneur’ is upon us.”
This is also true of Generation X. Even though Gen X is not ready for retirement yet, many of us born since 1965 are making major career pivots and starting new business that plays to our unique skills and experience. This is happening across many sectors, including services, healthcare, new consumer products, or consulting.
Hiring expertise is especially practiced in the IT sector. Many startups and new ventures are springing up all every day and usually, these are first-time entrepreneurs. But as every startup knows, it is not enough to have a great idea. You also need management expertise and business acumen to get your product away from the coders and into the hands of the consumer.
Starting a new business or launching a startup and going to market is hard for anyone. It calls for sound judgment and good decision-making. In this way, the experience and skills we have gained after a first career are perfect for new ventures.
Imagine you have worked for years as a salesperson in publishing, for example. You may have had successes and been a good employee, but the money and credit always go to someone else’s company. So after a long career, you decide that you could open an online bookshop. Why? Because you know the consumers and what they are looking for. You know how they prefer to buy and shop. And you can package and price it in such a way that they will come back again and again. Everything you have done in your career up until now has already trained you for it.
Today’s consumers respond to “good consumer experiences” more than to products or services alone. The over-50 entrepreneur knows this well and does not need to learn that lesson through trial and error. Does it mean that we have all the answers? Certainly not! But we have a better shot at knowing how to find them quickly.
Starting a new business after 50 is the best time to do it the right way. After all, we have all probably spent a lot of years watching managers and business owners make their mistakes. We have also seen how good ideas can take off if they are handled correctly.
The second act should always be more exciting than the first!
Taking the Plundge
One thing that many first-time entrepreneurs face, whether they are 25 or 65, is the fear of taking the plunge. Starting something new based on your own idea and running it the way you want is a big risk. The fear factor probably stops a lot of potential successes even before they start.
But taking that risk at an older age is a distinct advantage. The risk of failure is significantly offset by the mere fact of having been around the block already. With experience, we know very well that a business never succeeds or fails based one thing alone – it is a combination of choices and decisions that will make it work. For this, again, the benefit of being older helps tremendously. We can be more patient, more circumspect, and realize that there is very little that can go wrong that cannot be caught in time and corrected.
In this sense, being older is a real gift. It is the gift of perspective.
Every new business, when it is new, needs a steady hand at the helm. It needs judicious insights to know when to take it easy and to know when to take a risk. I do not mean to say in all this that young people cannot make the right decisions – on the contrary, so many businesses by young entrepreneurs take off fast on the road to profitability. But it is also true that the perspective that comes with age, coupled with natural ability, can be even more successful!
Inventory Your Skills
How can you get going on your own adventure? First, take a look at what you know and what you have learned up until now in your career. If you have spent 20 years selling socks, you could have highly developed presentation skills, tact, and finesse, or training in upselling. You might also have great managerial skills or a gift with numbers.
The point is that while you were working for someone else, you were stockpiling invaluable knowledge that you can use for your own business. Were you a teacher in an elementary school? You could have developed an easy way with children and therefore be perfect to open your own daycare center or develop a range of school bags.
On the other hand, it could have taught you that you do not want to deal with kids anymore! Learning is learning!
So have a look at what you already know well. Are you skilled in computer programming? In administration? Maybe you have honed a talent for shepherding projects to completion. Get out a piece of paper and make a list. You may be surprised at what you already have!
Take a Class
In the case of computer programming, you may find that your knowledge needs a refresher. The world of IT changes constantly and fast. In that case, you might enroll yourself in a course in a community college or technical school to get up to speed.
In a lot of cases, new information and knowledge can also be accessed online. A webinar and set of sessions about SEO, for example, could set you up to open your own digital marketing agency.
Going back to school is cool. “Older workers are returning to colleges at a rapid pace, though most are heading to community colleges rather than 4-year universities,” according to USAToday. Citing an HR professional in California, they report that older students, those that are changing careers, make the best students. “They’re here because they actually want to be. Older students do better than their younger counterparts.”
Take a Look Around
Once you know what you know and how to know more, it is time to have a long look at the market and see how you would like to contribute. The list of skills that you just made might suggest a few possible avenues. If you were a salesperson, you may have an idea or two of how to make it more effective and close more deals. What do you with that? Start a consultancy is one option and help train companies and their sales forces. If you happen to live in New York City or another metropolis, there is probably a lot of competition in that field already. Trying to break into a saturated market means you have to think hard about how to show your uniqueness and why people should hire you.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, though! There are plenty of services available for helping you tailor your message and get you in front of the right clients. In a lot of cases, you may find that companies will automatically appreciate you more because you have a demonstrable track record and years of experience behind you. It is a mark of distinction!
Are you ready to relocate? If your idea is for a local business, like a barbershop or hairstylist, you may find that your local community already has 23 of them, but the town up the road only has three. Being ready to take the show on the road will be helpful in looking at the market and how you should break in.
You might have a great idea for a mobile app. In that case, your market research is there ready to be googled. Has anyone else thought of it? Are they any good? What could you do to make your idea better? All these are questions to ask yourself before setting out.
And do not worry that people will reject you because of your age – ideas belong to the world and a good idea has no expiration date.
Go for It
There’s the best advice anyone could ever give you. Just do it!
You know yourself, you know what you can do, and you know exactly how to manage it – so don’t hold back! There is no guarantee of success; that much is certain. But there is no guarantee of failure either! The only sure way that your business will not make it is if you never give it a try.
Need more encouragement? There are so many success stories out there of business people who started a second career late in life and became rich and world-renowned. Ever hear of McDonald’s?
How to Get Started
Here is where getting good advice would be very helpful. Getting a business idea off the ground and to market is a tricky business. Fortunately, there is a lot of good advice to be had on the subject. You should not stop yourself because you think you do not know enough about marketing, or chicken feed, or vertical integration! Respected professional like The Go To Market Company specialize in helping you get your business going.
Being over 50 is an achievement. Celebrate it by using your experience to start something all your own!
Do you want to be an IT entrepreneur?
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