You’re over 50 and looking to embark on a new professional path. What better time than now to consider starting your own business?
That suggestion may seem at odds with the stereotype of the entrepreneur as a young, bullish risk-taker. But a confluence of events – a volatile stock market, a scramble to rebuild retirement portfolios, and a jittery employment environment – are fueling an entrepreneurship boom among more mature individuals.
In fact, of all age groups, entrepreneurship growth was highest among 45- to 54-year-olds, according to a report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Older entrepreneurs often bring greater experience to the table than their younger counterparts and lengthening life expectancy lets them stay in the game longer than preceding generations.
To help you make the most of this opportunity, here are a few tips for older entrepreneurs:
- As with any entrepreneur, older people who start their own business would do well to keep expenses in check, particularly at the very beginning. If you can, work from home. If you require some sort of office space, consider sharing space with other entrepreneurs so you hold down the costs of rent, utilities, and other expenses.
- Make sure you fully leverage the contacts and networks that you’ve built up over the decades. That can prove particularly valuable when partnering to obtain skills and experience you may lack, such as legal, accounting, or technical. It can also help you land your crucial first few customers.
- Rather than seeing age as a detriment or obstacle, treat it as a plus – not merely from the standpoint of experience, but also financially. Compared with cash-starved young entrepreneurs, older people who start businesses often have substantial savings they can tap into.
- But, don’t go overboard financially. Take a thoughtful look at startup costs, how long it will take before you generate a profit, and your comfort level in placing your savings on the line. Remember that it takes most new businesses at least three years to break even. It’s helpful to set a hard limit – a number beyond which you won’t be willing to continue to pour money into the business no matter what. That way, you can avoid compromising your retirement or other financial goals. Your financial advisor can help you figure out what limit makes sense for your situation.
- It’s obviously important to consider what sort of business you wish to get into. Choose a business that requires a level of energy and commitment you’re willing and able to commit. If you try a business that’s too physically demanding – say, a business requiring heavy lifting, or one that requires a minimum of 60 hours every week – you may simply be taking on more than you can reasonably handle.
- Give some thought to the nature of the challenge you desire. Starting a business in a field you know well can reduce risks and get you up and running that much faster. On the other hand, a new industry will involve a steep learning curve but may prove refreshing and invigorating. Think carefully about how fast you want to get started as well as your ability to learn new things.
However you proceed, make sure the business is one for which you have genuine passion and enthusiasm. Not only can that make the workload and commitment sources of pleasure rather than a burden, think of it as a reward for decades of experience gained. It’s your time to do just what you’ve always wanted to do—make the very most of it.
For additional inspiration, read 10 Tips for ‘Senior’ Entrepreneurs and Can I get an Encore? 7 Tips for Older Entrepreneurs.