By George Meszaros, Co-founder of Success Harbor
There are many myths about baby boomers and getting older. The one that drives me crazy is the misconception that boomers are too old to start a business. In business, age is an advantage.
We’re never too old to dream big. Ray Kroc was 52 years old when he set out to build the most successful fast food chain in the world: McDonald’s. Tim and Nina Zagat were both 51 years old when they published their first collection of restaurant reviews under the Zagat name. Not only can people start a business after 50, but we’re more likely to succeed if we do.
Research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation shows that entrepreneurship is on the rise among the ages of 55 – 64. Entrepreneurship grew from 14.3 percent to 23.4 percent from 1996 to 2012 in this age group, and it’s expected to rise even further in the years to come.
Here are seven advantages to starting a business after 50:
1. With Age Comes More Respect and Experience
Younger entrepreneurs have to waste a lot of energy on proving themselves simply because of their age. While a teenage entrepreneur is more likely to be a tech whiz, she or he will have a lot of convincing to do to sell an enterprise client in a board room. Older business owners, even first-timers, can draw on a lifetime of experience working with people and making deals in their previous jobs.
2. Older Entrepreneurs Have Empathy and Perspective
Younger entrepreneurs are often described as hungry, driven and innovative. Many of them are very intelligent risk-takers. But you rarely hear young business owners described as “empathetic” due to their inexperience. Older entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have learned a greater understanding of others and tend to be better at appreciating their target audience, allowing them to create and/or choose the products/services that will resonate and sell the most. In addition, this empathy helps so-called seniorpreneurs better interact with their staff. The ability to care is not a weakness but a business advantage that older entrepreneurs have.
3. Driven by Meaning More Than Money
Entrepreneurs who are driven by something more than money are more likely to succeed. Older entrepreneurs tend to start businesses because they’re looking for a change. They seek a more fulfilling life and they understand that doing something for the money alone can be very dissatisfying.
According to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, as we grow older, hunger for meaning drives us, making us feel more alive. Erikson explains that healthy humans go through eight stages of development from infancy to adulthood. The seventh stage of development takes place between ages 40 – 64 and centers around productivity and creativity. Older entrepreneurs are often able to channel this drive and focus their energy around creating a successful business.
4. More Options for Business Financing
While it’s great to get angel investors or venture capitalists to invest in your business, most businesses are self-funded. More mature people are more likely to be able to come up with the necessary capital to start a business, and they have a better chance of being approved for business financing should they need it.
The best small business financing options for older entrepreneurs include:
- SBA loans. Because these are often dependent on a business owners’ credit score and spending history, older entrepreneurs have a better chance at being approved due to their mature credit.
- Business credit cards. Again, approval for credit cards requires a good credit score, which older business owners are more likely to have.
- 401(k) business financing. Rollovers for Business Start-ups (ROBS) give entrepreneurs an opportunity to invest funds from an eligible retirement account into a small business or a franchise without incurring any tax penalties. Because baby boomers have been investing in their nest egg for longer, they usually have enough funds to cover startup costs.
5. Baby Boomers Have Larger Networks
From finding new customers and vendors to looking for start-up capital, older entrepreneurs are more likely to have the connections they need to succeed. Time-and-time again, we find that the proper network is essential in building a successful business, and older business owners have a larger network of experienced people they can integrate with their team. Younger entrepreneurs, on the other hand, reach out to high-school or college buddies they have never worked with before, hoping that in the end they’ll be able to work together.
6. It’s Now or Never
Many people don’t think they have a chance to start a business at a younger age. Children are still small, the mortgage is still unpaid, and there are too many other responsibilities to take the risk of starting a business. The very same people often want to have one last shot at becoming an entrepreneur when they’re older. It’s less about becoming rich and more about their final chance at making their dream of entrepreneurship a reality. Younger entrepreneurs know that time is on their side, so if they mess up, they will get a second or third shot.
7. Older Entrepreneurs are Better Equipped to Deal with Failure
Let’s face it, the possibility for failure as an entrepreneur is always in the cards. As we get older, we’ve made some mistakes along the way, and we’ve dealt with rejections, disappointments and failures. More mature entrepreneurs tend to have a more significant social and family support structure. Such a background gives them more resilience in case they fail.
The truth is there has never been a better time to be an older entrepreneur. If you are 50 or older, you have the skills, the maturity, the experience, the capital and the network to win in business. Just make that leap!
George Meszaros is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Success Harbor, a business hub dedicated to providing advice for small business owners and start-ups through interviews, original research and unique content.