Why 50 is the perfect age to set up a new business. By Shweta Jhajharia, The London Coaching Group
”Age could make you a more successful entrepreneur”.
When my father turned 50, he was at the peak of his career in management of one of the world’s leading metal producers. Another 10 years later, as he left the role for his first ‘retirement’, he carried with him the same passion he had always had for personal growth along with the years of wisdom he had accumulated working in leadership positions. At 67 today, he has just completed his Ph.D and is Head of Department at a leading Engineering College.
His remarkable achievement got me thinking. A lot of us look at aging as a natural burden and have a strange expectation that we need to stop working and stop producing great things when we reach a certain age. It’s as though we feel we have nothing left to give – when in fact the reverse is true! We have so much more to offer when we are that bit older.
Clearly, as exemplified by my father, this ‘winding down’ isn’t the case for everyone and I would argue that it should also not be the case for most of us. As Vivek Wadhwa says, “ideas come from need; understanding of need comes from experience; and experience comes with age.” Age is therefore one of the crucial ingredients of a great product and service.
While the glamour of the entrepreneurial world often goes to younger people like Mark Zuckerberg, the reality is that experience does make you a better businessperson. A study at Duke University examined 539 technology ventures and the results showed that there is double the number of successful entrepreneurs over 50 as there are those who are under 25. It also showed that in high-growth industries such as computers, health care and aerospace, the average age of the successful entrepreneur is 40! Clearly age is not a barrier.
The proof is in the pudding. Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals at age 76. The original creator of Coca-Cola founded the company with his reformulated beverage (replacing the cocoa with sugar) at 55. Colonel Sanders job-hopped most of his life and then at age 65 cashed his social security check and created the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. Ray Kroc, the guy who made McDonalds what it is today, only bought the business from the McDonald brothers when he was 59.
With so many examples out there of seniors taking the business world by storm, it is surprising that the general thought processes in our society still seem to be that business growth is for the young. On the contrary, I have always maintained that a large part of business growth is often consistent repetition of what already works, something that only experience can teach you.
A large part of this belief about entrepreneurship and age has to do with mind-set principles. We are told we are meant aim to retire between 60 and 70, and so many of us prepare ourselves for that by starting to wind down rather than opening ourselves up to new opportunities. We rarely entertain the notion that this could be the best time to start a new business or ramp up our business growth – we think the senior entrepreneur is a rare fluke rather than what should be the norm.
As a business coach, I often find our more seasoned clients are some of the best to work with. When they have seen how business works they are really aware of when to push themselves and when to ask for help. They are keenly aware of their strengths, and they know when an outside eye will help them achieve the next level in their business. They know what works and what doesn’t and they can, and do, avoid many of the mistakes of younger ‘first timers’.
Best of all, senior entrepreneurs know that talk is cheap. Action is what gets results and they know that they have to implement changes in their business, not just talk about it. The main qualifier that separates successful senior entrepreneurs from those in the ‘shutting down’ mode is their quest for growing, doing things that they have not done before, stretching themselves, stepping outside their comfort zone and believing that they can be more successful than they have ever been.
If you are nearing so-called “retirement age” then it may be time to revisit your mind-set. Are you winding down your brain, or are you revving it up? Which direction should you actually be heading at this point in your life? If running a business has always been your dream – then now is the perfect time.
This is the time to exercise your business acumen; when you are full of life experience, retain a greater awareness of the long-term implications and have a grounded outlook. This is when your creativity and innovation can flourish into a practical and successful business venture.
Experience comes with age – now may be the time to put that experience to use!
About the Author
Shweta Jhajharia is Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, an ActionCOACH company. Shweta is a multi award-winning business coach, recognised both by external bodies and the industry awards panels as the top coach in the UK, and the Number 1 ActionCOACH from over 1200 worldwide. Despite the competitive economy, her clients consistently achieve measurable double digit growth (over 41%) and are the most awarded client base in UK. See: londoncoachinggroup.com
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