Strategies and Resources for Starting a Business Later In Life
In my last post I argued that the answer to ageism is entrepreneurship. When you find yourself out of work later in life, you will need to create your own job. Note that I said “when” and not “if,” because it is inevitable for 80% of the working population. The unemployment statistics and the law of supply and demand bear this out, as well the dynamics created by an aging population and accelerated automation in every industry. If you’re not ready to go quietly into the sunset when your time comes, you’ll need some strategies and resources for starting anew.
There are a number of proven strategies available to you. You can start a business, join a startup, buy a business (or franchise), or be the business. Before I delve into each of these, allow me to outline some very basic steps for earning a living no matter what happens with your job.
- Stay current, be relevant. It’s easy to become complacent and stale. You need to keep up with the latest best practices in your chosen field, or those of the field you might want to jump into. Watch the programs and read the publications that follow market trends and new technologies. Be a shopper, a buyer, and an early-adopter of gadgets. Your kids and grand kids should be surprised to hear that you have tried the same products and installed the same apps they are using. If you understand the modern consumer mindset and their buying motivations and habits, you will always be relevant and in demand by companies who need to tap that knowledge and experience.
- Continue to build and expand your network. It’s easy to confine yourself to the people you have met, or only connect with those in your profession. You need to not only continue to build your network – especially with those just entering your profession, but you also need to expand your network beyond your current profession and sphere of influence. This includes investors, attorneys, accountants, entrepreneurs and creatives. These are the people who know where the action is – who keep up with what is going on. Get them in your network and develop a reputation for being one of them.
- Join communities, volunteer and contribute. It’s easy to stay home and focus on family and recreation after working hours. You need downtime, but you also need to see communities as an extension of yourself and your immediate family. Staying active outside of your job will keep you in touch and engaged. It is through these associations that new opportunities arise. A true professional finds meaningful ways to contribute and give back, and in return, finds meaning and direction for their own life.
- Upgrade skills, get certifications. It’s easy to rely on one’s former educational and training credentials as a calling card. Too many people get a college degree or a professional credential and think they are done. You are never done. See number 1 above. Most education and training quickly becomes irrelevant. Even if you are doing the minimum continuing education requirements that are mandatory in your field, you should always be adding new credentials, or becoming certified to perform other services. And even though much of this can be done today online, you should make an effort to attend classes, workshops and seminars in person, to get to know the instructors and other students (see numbers 2 and 3 above).
- Set goals. It’s easy to think it is too late to start anew, or to start a business, or to do something really great later in life. This is perhaps the biggest impediment to finding meaningful work and making a good living later in life. For those that practice steps 1-4 above, this thought never enters their minds. Well-known companies like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Kaiser Permanente were started by founders over the age of 50. Lesser known, but very successful companies, were founded by people well into their 60’s and 70’s. If you read their biographies, they all have one thing in common. They continued to set goals for themselves and do what was necessary to fulfill them. You don’t have to set big, audacious goals (although that is a tactic that motivates many to action). You can set a series of small goals that culminate into meaningful work and a very good living.
So assuming you take some of these steps, what are the strategies and resources available to you?
Start a Business
As I said in my last post, there has never been an easier or cheaper time in the history of the world to start and fund a business. The know-how and support community is everywhere; the funding options for good products and teams plentiful. You don’t even need an idea to start. You can apply to a startup accelerator like The Founder Institute. You can attend Startup Weekend, Switch Pitch, or 1 Million Cups. You can get help from the SBA and SCORE. You can subscribe to dozens of startup news feeds (SOS is one of my favorites) and join hundreds of Meetup Groups. The tools are also cheap and plentiful…here, here, and here.
Join a Startup
The startup ecosystem in just about every community in the world is bustling these days. Entrepreneurs are like insects…they are multiplying with abandon and living in the cracks and crevices of universities, corporations, non-profits, government agencies, and every other community institution. Most of them will die a quick and relatively painless death, primarily because they do not have theright talent. You can bring that talent. You have lots of startups to choose from. You can find them on Angel List and Gust. You can follow them on dozens of different crowdfunding platforms. You can join CofoundersLab, FounderDating,Founder2be, Founder Equity Directory, or any number of other startup founder matching services. If you don’t want to join a team, there are unlimited opportunities to be a mentor or advisor – often in exchange for equity.
Buy a Business (or Franchise)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the SBA, the number of businesses being started by people over the age of 50 is soaring. Many of them are choosing to buy an existing business or franchise. This route is often less risky and easier to fund than starting a business from scratch. There are tons of articles on how to buy a business or franchise. The best bet is to work with a business broker to help you find the opportunities that suit your experience and preferences. There are also a variety of no-money-down options and funding sources for buying an already profitable business.
Be the Business
This is the most common strategy for creating your own job. You can be a sole proprietor, incorporate yourself or form an LLC under a Fictitious name. All of these options are relatively inexpensive and puts you into business right away. The act of forming a business will move you forward, forcing you to package your expertise and services, and to begin selling yourself to others. Set up shop onUpwork, SpareHire, Toptal, Elance, or any number of other freelance sites. You can set your hours, set your rates, and even pick who you want to work for.
No matter what your age, or where you are in your career, practice the steps outlined herein to vastly increase your odds of staying employed. If you’re in the later stages of your career, out-of-work, or wondering what to do next, consider the strategies outlined herein. If you do, you will always find meaningful work and never find yourself out of a job.