Senior Entrepreneur. The very concept of that phrase probably seems odd, doesn’t it? After all, we often hear about the latest 20-something wunderkind who is taking the tech world by storm; or about youthful siblings who end up on Shark Tank hawking their start-up. Indeed, younger entrepreneurs get lots of attention, but there IS such a thing as the senior entrepreneur, and it IS possible – even likely – that they actually enjoy less risk and more opportunity than their younger counterparts. From hard data to meaningful intangibles, senior entrepreneurs often have much to gain. Let’s take a closer look:
Why Older Business Professionals Become Entrepreneurs – and Why They Don’t
The older business professional typically becomes a senior entrepreneur against their will – often because they were forced out of a corporate job after decades of service and commitment to their industry. Frankly, ageism is real, and it catches many by unhappy surprise. Suddenly on the outside looking in, they find ageism working against them again in a tight job market as they face off against younger competitors. Disappointment after disappointment eventually leads the outplaced senior business professional to consider self-employment. Sparked by desperation, but fueled by soul searching and a rekindled willingness to dream and dare, the senior entrepreneur is born.
On the flipside, however, is what keeps older business professionals from taking that entrepreneurial step in the first place. What drives this reluctance to take a chance before being forced out of the corporate world? I think this hesitation has three components: 1) a false sense of corporate security, 2) misinformation about the chances for success, and 3) a fear that decades of experience will be forfeited in pursuit of dreams deferred. Let’s dispel these one by one:
Time was, you went to work fresh out of school, continued to learn on the job, and proved yourself an up-and-comer. You rose through the ranks and suddenly found yourself 25+ years into a solid career. When you started, perhaps you shared the expectation of your parents, that the right thing to do was to stay the course, continue on your path, and enjoy the security of the corporate environment. But one day you woke up and realized there was no real security working for others. You saw this handwriting on the wall with economic reversals when good people lost their jobs even if you didn’t. You saw it when companies merged and industries fell victim to technological advances. You saw it in the faces of the next generation of up-and-comers, gaining on you. Yes, you saw the handwriting on the wall. You see it. And that handwriting says, “There is no such thing as security working for someone else!”
Chances for Success
Another factor that holds many people back from exploring opportunities to become a senior entrepreneur is misinformation about the chances for success. It is conventional wisdom that most small businesses fail, and that starting over is likely to be a very costly lesson. Indeed, according to a study noted in an insightful TED Talk by Paul Tasner, co-founder and CEO of PulpWorks, Inc., the success rate for younger entrepreneurs is a discouraging 28%. However, that same study found the success rate for senior entrepreneurs to be 70%!
And if you think being a senior entrepreneur is rare, think again. According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, “Americans in the 55-64 age group start new businesses at a higher rate than those in their twenties and thirties. This has been true, by the way, in every single year” beginning in 1996.
Forfeiting Your Experience
Many older business professionals fear they will be unable to continue to benefit from the decades of knowledge and wisdom gained throughout their careers. While it’s true that moving into a new field requires new learning, it is ridiculous to believe past learning is meaningless. Indeed, perhaps this equity of experience and knowledge and wisdom is a key factor in the higher success rate enjoyed by senior entrepreneurs.
Simply put, it’s been our experience at Sales Xceleration, working with numerous richly experienced licensed Advisors, that gray hair can boost your credentials, with clients finding considerable value in years of experience and acquired real-world wisdom.
Hard Data, Meaningful Intangibles
The research data noted above should help dispel the risk of taking a chance on yourself as a senior entrepreneur. But there are other reasons, more compelling reasons, to take your eye off perceived obstacles long enough to focus on real opportunities. In other words, forget for a moment what you might risk and consider instead what you could gain. Our Advisors tell us again and again they became independent consultants to take back control of their lives. They tell us they enjoy newfound freedom to work according to their own wishes and passions. They tell us they have more family time. They tell us they can finally use their experience to give back to smaller businesses in desperate need of their wisdom. And they tell us they feel respected again, something they had lost in the later years of their corporate service.
They tell us, too, that they found unexpected benefits of being self-employed. Benefits like the tax advantages of having a home office, saving considerable time and money by no longer having to commute and travel extensively, and the joy of their company realizing the results of their own labors.
The Bottom Line:
Becoming an entrepreneur at any age, of course, carries some risk. But becoming a senior entrepreneur is often less risky and brings many opportunities for success. We’ve seen this reality at Sales Xceleration as so many of our licensed Sales Advisors use their unique skills, talents, experience and wisdom in service to small- to medium-sized businesses nationwide. They’ve taken the chance and focused on gain rather than on risk. If you’d like to learn more about their stories and opportunities available to you, contact us today at 1.844.874.7253.