1. You’re smarter now and better connected than you’ve ever been
With aging comes sage-ing, as the saying goes. Which means that during your years at the office, or at the store, or at the site, or in the field, or behind the counter, or on the phone, or on the road, you have acquired abilities, wisdom, and contacts you may not even know you possess. You already have a ready reference encyclopedia of professional knowledge inside your head. You also have acquired a sharpened sense of business (and personal) psychology, and a set of expectations made reasonable in the fiery forge of worldly experience. Through the years you have distilled a sense of humor – and probably tolerance as well – about your own shortcomings, and about the people you work with. You know the score.
Blend these skills and insights together and you get, well, if you’ll pardon the stiffness of the phrase, a “mature attitude” – the kind that takes the first half of a lifetime to acquire. (“Only in our maturity,” the German poet Goethe once remarked, “can we understand what happened to us in our youth.”) This attitude automatically makes you better at what you do, especially when it comes to business, finance, and social interaction. It just works that way.
2. Entrepreneurship is now open to everyone
Two decades ago the word “entrepreneur” made you think of Daddy Warbucks type investors doling out millions in penthouse offices. During the Internet boom of the 1990s, entrepreneurship spoke of quick ramp-ups, drawing up complex business plans for untested technology, courting overly optimistic capitalists, making a quick kill, and cashing out pronto.
Today the very concept of entrepreneurship has changed. It still conjures up images of high finance. But it also makes us think of home offices, family businesses, small investment startups, local franchises, building a better mousetrap in the garage, and seeking after modest but satisfying lifestyle goals.
A white paper prepared by the Small Business Administration several years ago found that 69 percent of new jobs in the United States are created by start-up businesses. Business schools that focused exclusively on preparing students for work at major corporations now emphasize entrepreneurial training.
Such changes in commerce and education make later-life entrepreneurship more accessible and acceptable than ever before, especially for retirement age people who do not want to retire.
3. Technology makes it easy to run a small business from home
Until recently the first thing you did when starting a new business was rent an office space and hire a staff. This was the only way to make your new enterprise “real.” Working at home was scowled at by the professional world. “Home offices,” I recall a rich investor once telling me, “are for amateurs and people who are afraid of the world – xenophobes and agoraphobes.”
Today, of course, computers, printers, fax machines, telephone answering devices, email, and the Internet have changed all that, making home-based businesses manageable, inexpensive, and part-time, if so desired. They also offer an ideal second-career headquarters for workplace veterans who are tired of commuting and the long gray cubicle line. For a number of 50 plussers their “office” consists of a computer – period. Or sometimes just a phone.
And sometimes that’s enough.
4. You’re now in an excellent financial position to work for yourself
If you have been vigilant with your finances you have probably saved some money. You may also be heir to capital from pensions due, retirement plans, stock sharing, inheritance, Social Security, and other age-related payoffs.
Chances are, therefore, that you are in a reasonably sound financial position to take some judicious financial risks.
5. Knowledge-based businesses are now in high demand
Outsourcing was once considered a bad word. Today it is recognized as an efficient way to do business. This sea change is a boon for later-life entrepreneurs who can now use their skills, knowledge, and education to become independent contractors, or to set up their own consulting operations.
In the Information Age, knowledge is as sellable as a commodity as cars and houses. People over 50 have a particularly large stockpile of the goods.
6. Entrepreneurship trumps ageism
Popular attitudes toward older people in the workforce are changing for the better. Perhaps it is just that there is power in numbers, and that the sheer volume of workers over 50 is creating new marketplace norms. Whatever be the case, the climate is clearly turning friendly toward older workers in the business community. Consequently, so is the support and encouragement of society.
At the same time, if you decide to continue working past retirement age, there is always a chance that agism will rear its grouchy head, especially if you seek employment at a company or corporation. Entrepreneurship, meanwhile, frees you from such prejudices, and allows you to set your own agenda. When you become your own boss, the only one to decide how long you keep working is you.
7. Capital investment sources have become increasingly friendly to 50+ businesses
Bill Payne, a consultant at the Kauffman Foundation and an investor for 20 years, has recently seen a marked increase in boomer-led companies looking for seed money. He himself prefers funding these companies because of their founders’ expertise and experience.
“From an investor who looks at hundreds of business plans per quarter,” says Payne, “we are encouraged when we see some senior guys who have a lot of vertical experience – we know they’re bringing business savvy and that they’re reasonable, rational people. We definitely are seeing more people in the boomer age bracket.”
Bill Payne’s sentiments are increasingly common at banks, lending institutions, private organizations, and among angel investors and funding sources. “A lot of the smart investment money,” a private lender recently told me, “is going to business veterans these days. They know what to do with it better.”
8. You can make your new business a family affair and pass down the values and rewards
For many years you’ve worked to support your family. Now you can work with your family – with a spouse, partner, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts.
This ready-made staff automatically becomes the beneficiary of your business expertise and monetary investment. In turn, you have employees who you like and trust. Keeping it all in the family gives you the opportunity to teach loved ones what you yourself have learned in business through the years, and thus to pass on your legacy of knowledge to future generations.
Finally, later on, when you retire, or when you leave on a more permanent basis, the business you’ve built with your relatives can become a source of family income and fulfillment for years to come.
When set up and administered properly, a family business is a win-win deal.
9. You can set your own level of time and involvement
A major benefit of 50+ entrepreneurship is that you can tailor-make a business to fit your private needs and personal schedule.
You can, for example, decide how many hours per week you work, and spend the rest of the time with family and friends. You can choose to do business with partners. Or you can go it alone. You can focus on current income or on building future value. You can work at home or in an outside office.
Few people in all history have been privy to such a wide range of occupational options as they are today. Take advantage of them.