Of all the reasons to start at business after age 50, perhaps the best one is that the years are passing.
Maybe it’s something you always wanted to do. For some, it’s a good strategy for getting more work years in before retirement.
Sure, it’s a lot of work and a lot of hours.
But there’s one thing that should not stop you.
The older you are, the greater your chances of success. Those over 50 are twice as likely to be successful as those under 25.
In the U.S., the U.K., Ireland and Australia, the age group is launching more start-ups than any other cohort. That stat comes from Elizabeth Isele, founder of the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship. She started the institute at age 70.
It’s entirely possible to start a business after age 50, and Kerry Hannon profiles 20 successful older entrepreneurs in her latest book, “Never Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life. “
10’000 Hours | DigitalVision | Getty Images
“In today’s world, you don’t need a brick-and-mortar store,” Hannon said. “The beauty of the world we live in is that you can accomplish a great deal from a home office.”
Hannon, a nationally recognized expert in career transitions and retirement, says you need to start with a deep dive into your soul: “a solid MRI of your own passion and personality, talents and inner drive to start a business.”
Ask yourself the big questions: Why start this business? Why you? And why now?
“Most people who did it say it’s more work than they imagined,” Hannon said. They also say they wish they’d started sooner.
Among other reasons, it’s hard to get back into the traditional workplace after 50 if you were forced out. Starting your own business puts you back in the driver’s seat.
In fact, with a few more years under your belt, you have more of an edge than you think when it comes to starting a business, Hannon says.The 50-plus crowd has some advantages that don’t get enough attention. Here’s what to keep in mind before you strike out on your own.
1. Two top qualities
People who go into the game a little later have more capacity in several areas.
No. 1: experience. “You’ve been through some ups and downs,” Hannon said. “You can bring some balance that a younger person can’t, who doesn’t have your world experience.”
Next, you likely have the financial cushion to help you launch. “Most people who start are self-funded,” Hannon said. “It’s really critical to have that support underneath you.”
You’ve got a network. “If you’re starting in an industry you’ve already worked in as customer or a client, you have a network to call on as potential clients and customers,” Hannon said.
That network can also help you. Hannon recommends turning to your friends, colleagues and former work associates to get the ins and outs of your industry before you launch.
2. Check your financial fitness
Before you get started, Hannon recommends a financial checkup. Again, as someone with a few decades of work-world experience, you’ll understand the importance of paying down debt and drawing up a budget.
Scrutinize your spending to see where you can get lean and mean. Have at least three years’ worth of expenses saved up.
Some people consider relocating when they scout starting a business, Hannon says. You might want to look at your cost of living against that in other areas, and downsizing your home is another option.
“These are all things you can do ahead of time,” Hannon said. “Pay attention to the bigger-ticket items, not just cutting back on restaurant spending, to make sure you have that ability to be nimble.”
One critical financial warning: Do not tap your retirement funds. It may be tempting, but that should be the absolute last resource you turn to fund a business. “Someone younger may have time to build it back up again,” Hannon said. “You don’t have enough time.”
3. Embrace what’s free
Take advantage of all the free resources you can. Hannon mentions SCORE, a partner of the Small Business Administration. This organization provides free business mentoring and education for those looking for experienced help from experienced entrepreneurs.
Look for ways to reach out in your community, says Hannon. The internet also offers plenty of sites and templates for business plans.
4. Your value proposition
Forget the common wisdom about reinventing yourself.
It’s not so much reinvention as redeploying skills you’ve used throughout your career. “Don’t make any rash moves,” Hannon said. “Do your homework to see what you can do.”
Look at the market and see what you have to contribute that no one else is doing. Then, do the job first. You can volunteer or moonlight, but find something that is as close to the work as possible to see if it will work for you. A work scenario might sound great until you actually try it on.
You might have to pick up some new skills or a certification. Without going as far as a master’s degree, it’s still worth thinking of ways to ramp up your professional profile.
5. Partner up
Consider a senior/junior partnership.
Think “The Intern,” with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway.
“This kind of business is fantastic,” Hannon said. When an older entrepreneur pairs with someone younger, you get an unbeatable combination: They’ve got tech savvy and enthusiasm, and you have the capital, the resources and older, wiser contacts.
You could build a business that goes on for 20 years. After all, you want a business that will grow slowly and organically, Hannon says.
6. Winning women
Women are especially good collaborators, Hannon says, and women over 50 are the top demographic worldwide who are starting businesses.
Women may even have a higher success rate than men, according to a BNP Paribas study.
“What makes women fabulous is, we are great collaborators,” Hannon said, noting that women tend to be open to finding a partner with expertise in areas they themselves are not familiar with.
Women are also less focused on immediately hitting it out of the ballpark. Remember to put your pieces in place and ask for help, Hannon says, and be patient.
“This isn’t a sprint,” Hannon said. “It’s a marathon.”
7. Sell it
Even if your core business idea has nothing to do with selling, you will still have to sell your idea. She recommends participating in Toastmasters, a local acting or improv class. Entrepreneurs told Hannon in her book that marketing and selling — even if they had a great idea — was the stumbling block.
It may even be worth getting a short-term sales job for some direct selling experience, if you’ve never sold anything.
“Be comfortable selling yourself,” Hannon said. “It’s all about sales.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.