Entrepreneurial considerations for the mature professional
Others in your age bracket are hanging it up, checking their retirement saving, and hoping to soon check out of their professional lives.
But not you.
Though you're over 50, you feel as if you're just hitting your professional stride. You're accomplished, confident and still hungry. You're itching for your next big challenge. But unfortunately, you've climbed as high as you can go within your current organization.
You know you need to make a move. Is it time to search for a new position, or time to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur?If you're a mature professional, it's natural to have doubts about your ability to raise venture capital - let alone build and run your own business. Conventional wisdom suggests that youngsters have definitive advantages when it comes to entrepreneurship:
- They're driven by a "nothing's impossible" attitude.
- They're more nimble, energetic and focused.
- They're well-versed in tech.
- They have less to lose, and fewer commitments to tie them down or hold them back.
- Life lessons. Often, there's no substitute for the perspective and insight experience brings. It's called the "school of hard knocks" for a reason.
- Broad networks. Thanks to decades of friendships and professional relationships, you likely have a much broader and deeper network of professional contacts than your younger counterparts.
- Influential friends. If you stack 50 of your friends against 50 of the typical college graduate's friends, whose do you think are wealthier, wiser and in higher or more influential leadership positions? Sometimes, entrepreneurial success is all about whom you know.
- A track record of success. When challenges present themselves (and believe me, they will), you have decades of successful work experience to boost your confidence and guide your decision making. Young professionals? Not so much.
- A "one last shot" mindset. For a 20-something entrepreneur, failure may be no big deal. After all, he has decades ahead of him during which he can experiment, bomb and try again. But if you know in your heart that this is your last chance, you're more likely to have the desire and commitment needed to get it right.
- Leo Goodwin founded GEICO at the age of 50.
- Harland "The Colonel" Sanders first franchised his Kentucky Fried Chicken business at age 62.
- Grandma Moses received her first big break as an artist in 1938, at the age of 78.
- In 2014, 55- to 64-year-olds accounted for over one-quarter (25.8%) of all new entrepreneurs - up from just 14.8% in 1996.
Could a second career as an entrepreneur be a charm for you?
Only you can decide! But as I mentioned in my earlier HuffPost Business article, "Ready to Ditch the Training Wheels?", I believe becoming a successful entrepreneur takes three things: the right personality, a great idea and good timing. Use these questions to determine if entrepreneurship may be right for the next phase of your well-established career:
What's your risk tolerance? At this stage in your career, does the unknown create a knot in the pit of your stomach, or still make your pulse race? Make no mistake about it; becoming a late-career entrepreneur is a gutsy move. Be sure you have the mental fortitude before you take the plunge.
How viable is your concept? You may be undeniably passionate about your idea; otherwise, why would you consider leaving a secure position this late in the game? But to succeed, it also needs to be a sound business concept. Conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis - and invest in sound market research - to determine viability.
Is it a good time to launch? Use the data you gather from your SWOT analysis and market research to assess whether the timing is right - and seek out the advice of other mature entrepreneurs.
The truth? Success can come at any age. So don't let the Michael Dells and Mark Zuckerbergs of the business world intimidate you. Forget about your age. If you're passionate, risk-tolerant and have a sound concept, your "second time around" as an entrepreneur may very well be the gem you've sought your entire career.