“Older Entrepreneurs Don’t Need Help to Succeed” – Another Angry Conversation with My Friend
A few weeks ago, I told you about a conversation that I had with a good friend of mine about the ability of older entrepreneurs to succeed. In our first argument, she claimed that older adults simply don’t want to start businesses… and, even if they did, they wouldn’t have the creativity, drive and passion to kill it in the marketplace.
After a long discussion, in which I pointed out that, according to Forbes, entrepreneurs over 50 are twice as likely to start successful businesses as people under 25, she finally conceded the point. Several hours – and 3 cups of coffee – later, she admitted that she was probably relying too much on her own experience with her parents and too little on the statistics.
Then, just as we were packing up and getting ready to go home, she said something else that got my blood boiling. She said:
“Ok, so, I get what you’re saying about older entrepreneurs. Maybe they do start businesses. But, if they do, they don’t need YOUR help. Why write for them when they have the experience to succeed by themselves?”
Being Good at Something Doesn’t Make You Good at Everything
My friend’s argument – and she is probably right – started with a simple premise. She explained that older entrepreneurs are probably more likely to start businesses in industries that they already understand. So, for example, an accountant might start his or her own consulting business. Or, he might work with a developer to build a new piece of accounting software or an app for helping consumers to manage their money.
But, does being a good accountant make you a good entrepreneur? Of course not! As I learned the hard way when I started Sixty and Me, building a business involves, at a minimum, marketing, operations, product development. The larger your company gets, the more you need to think about topics like HR and legal.
The idea that older entrepreneurs don’t need any help seems like just another excuse to ignore them. In reality, starting a business is a difficult process at any age. We could use all the help we can get.
Starting a Business Isn’t Just About Skills… It’s Also About Mindset
One of the reasons that people start businesses in their 50s and 60s is that they finally have the time and financial stability to do so. With our kids out of the house, we don’t need to worry about supporting other people. We can sacrifice a little stability for a lot of potential reward.
At the same time, 30-40 years in the “real world” can teach you some bad habits. As an employee, you are constantly looking to others for direction. You are also surrounded by teams of professionals to help you with everything from setting up your computer to organizing your retirement account.
Making the transition from employee to entrepreneur is difficult at any age, but, it is especially difficult when you need to “unlearn” your corporate mentality.
One of my big goals for this site is to help older entrepreneurs to develop the right mindset to be successful. This, in my mind, is just as important as any other business skill.
We Need Positive Role Models Our Own Age
Being an older entrepreneur is tough, emotionally and physically. In the beginning, there are days when you just feel like giving up. At these times, it’s valuable to hear from other people who felt the same way that you do and went on to thrive.
Since the mainstream tech media is obsessed with promoting businesses that are started by millennials, we have a responsibility to help each other. This includes sharing our stories and supporting each other psychologically.
So, let’s abandon the extremes of “older people don’t start businesses” and “older people don’t need any help” and accept the golden mean of “older entrepreneurs can and do succeed, but, they still need help to reach their potential.”
Let’s share our stories. Let’s help each other to succeed. Let’s embrace this opportunity that we have been given to change our lives and the world around us!
Are you interested in starting a business in your 50s or better? Or, have you already started a business? What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are just getting started? Please join the conversation.