It’s entirely possible to start a business after age 50.
You might think that young entrepreneurs have a leg up on the middle-aged. In fact, the fastest-growing startups had founders with a mean age of 45, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
These tips from “Never Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life” by Kerry Hannon show you how. This latest book by Hannon, a nationally recognized expert in career transitions and retirement, profiles 20 successful older entrepreneurs who got it done.
“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 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 age 50 if you were forced out. Starting your own business puts you back in the driver’s seat.
In fact, with extra 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 got 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 begin. “Most people who start are self-funded,” Hannon said. “It’s really critical to have that support underneath you.”
Be comfortable selling yourself. It’s all about sales.
career transitions and retirement expert
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.
2. Check your financial fitness
First, get a financial checkup. As someone with a few decades of work-world experience, you’ll understand the importance of paying down debt and drawing up a budget.
Some people consider relocating to an area with a lower cost of living, Hannon says.
“Pay attention to the bigger-ticket items, not just cutting back on restaurant spending, to make sure you have that ability to be nimble,” Hannon said.
One critical financial warning: Do not tap your retirement funds.That should be the absolute last resource you turn to fund a business.
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.
Don’t make any rash moves. Do your homework to see what you can do.
career transitions and retirement expert
4. Your value proposition
Look at the market and see what you have to contribute that no one else is doing. 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 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.
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 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.
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 still have to sell your idea. She recommends participating in Toastmasters, a local acting or improv class. Entrepreneurs told Hannon that marketing and selling — even if they had a great idea — was the stumbling block.
If you’ve never sold anything, consider a short-term sales job to pick up some experience.
“Be comfortable selling yourself,” Hannon said. “It’s all about sales.”