Starting a business after 50

Life after 50 is a time of transitions. Often the children leave the house and most people have to leave their decades long careers. They start thinking about retirement, whether they can afford it or not. We often find many people over 50 struggling to find meaning in their lives. We however need to understand the with chaos and uncertainty come opportunities. The Kauffman Foundation, an organisation that studies entrepreneurship has found that increasingly the age group for starting businesses are those between 55 to 64. When we look at the wealth of experience people over 50 have garnered over the length of their careers, it sets them up perfectly for starting a business.

The combination of experience and expertise often helps in effective execution. Ideas are great but execution is everything. The same is true with strategy: strategy matters, but tactics—what you actually do –is what helps the company to grow. It is much harder to execute well when one has limited experience. It is much harder to make smart tactical decisions, especially when one has to make a number of decisions everyday. Science proves that one’s experience, skills, network and expertise are enablers of success. It is important to realise this and start believing in oneself, specially if one is willing to work hard and persevere.

It is interesting to note that many people over 50 years are now looking differently at retirement years. They are starting their second innings healthy, backed by vast experience and see another thirty years in front of them. They are not satisfied with the definition of retirement as being ‘done’ as there is a growing realisation that apart from money, there are several other benefits of starting business after fifties.

Starting a business after fifty can be a great way of reconnecting with one’s passion and finding a sense of purpose. It is also a great way of making friends with people who share similar interests. Even if one has saved enough, no amount of money will give a sense of purpose. Getting an opportunity to share one’s talent, passion and ideas with the world will definitely be an enriching experience. Starting a business forces one to stay engaged with the world. It gives an opportunity to focus on something positive and also  tell the world that one is not ready to be invincible.

It is however important to understand that getting finance after fifty is often difficult. It is only after one can show a viable product and a good market fit that things start working. At the planning stage itself one should focus on three essential areas:

  • Customer –that’s desirability
  • Infrastructure— that’s feasibility
  • Finance—that’s viability

In fact, one should start by doing research on the proposed product and start following the competitors. Apart from strong belief in oneself and having the willingness to work hard and persevere, the following are some of the tips for launching a venture

  • Identify your market
  • Calculate your start-up cost
  • Have a marketing plan
  • Use your contacts
  • Become an expert
  • Get to know social media and explore possibilities of using technology as an enabler
  • Set a timeline

Apart from that, never stop asking questions. It is important to talk to many people about the business and take their feedback.This will help one to move forward.

A very interesting trend emerging is that new enterprises are often co-founded by two generations this in turn leads to a lot of synergies. Older entrepreneurs have the wisdom, initiative, skills and experience and the young aspiring entrepreneurs understand the technology which is a large part of business today. Between the two age groups, many successful businesses have been started and many older workers are finding meaningful work in their businesses. Its not the age, it’s the vision. Starting a company at any age is possible and its time we shatter the entrepreneurs age bias. After all, age is just a number. The founders of Mc Donald’s, Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken were all over 50 when they established their businesses.

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