On Your Own

Is Coaching or Consulting for You?

OnYourOwnThink about how much intellectual capital is lost when an experienced employee leaves a company. That person has developed a knowledge base, the expertise, and the stature to work as a high-level professional.

If you have been fortunate enough to hold such a career position, chances are your value in the marketplace can apply to a potentially lucrative, flexible second career: coaching or consulting. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark, author of the book Reinventing You, offers some excellent advice in "How to Become a Coach or Consultant After You Retire."

Clark recommends giving yourself plenty of time to make the transition from your full-time job to becoming self-employed -- as much as a year or more. She recommends conducting a self-assessment skills analysis to determine where you need to improve.

Clark says it's a good idea to concentrate early efforts on recruiting clients, even if some are volunteer efforts: "To gain experience as a coach or consultant," writes Clark, "take on a few volunteer clients on the side, while you’re still employed, in exchange for testimonials and future referrals (assuming it’s a good experience)." She also recommends a sensible attitude toward marketing: "Recognize the goal of your marketing," Clark writes, "[is] establishing a baseline of credibility for when a potential client checks you out." And taking a break between your job and starting a consulting practice is not a bad idea, either.

Coaching or consulting is not for everyone, but it is certainly a viable option if you have both the depth of experience and the desire to run your own show.


Partners in Life and in Business

OnYourOwnIf you and your spouse have some basic business skills and you are leaving the traditional workplace, you might consider running a business together. Partners in life can be partners in business, although it does take a clear recognition of the differences.

My wife and I ran a small service business together after I left my professional career as an advertising executive. We used that business as a bridge from full-time work to part-time retirement. An unexpected bonus was that we were able to sell the business after seven years.

So what does it really take to start a business together? One of the most important things is setting boundaries. In our case, we tried to be as specific and detailed as possible in divvying up who did what, basing the decision on who was best suited to which area and tasks. We agreed early on that each of us would have responsibility for certain areas, but part of our mutual responsibility was keeping the other person informed about our respective areas. 

It may seem mundane, but you and your partner should sit down and put on paper every single function of your business and assign one of your names to each. Both of you should keep copies of the list so there is never a misunderstanding. It is also important to determine which decisions can be made individually and which should be made together. For example, any decision about financing your business should be a joint decision; which bills to pay when, however, probably doesn’t require dual decision-making.

Another area where boundaries come into play is personal versus business time. Being in business together often makes it difficult to separate your business lives from your personal lives. It is a real comfort to know that you can talk about business matters with your partner after business hours, but that can cut both ways. Hard though it is, try to turn the business switch off when you leave the office for the day (especially if the office is your home). You both need some breathing room away from the business – time for yourselves to talk about other things, to spend time together having fun, and to re-connect as a non-business couple.

Cover openWe were so invigorated by our experience being in business together that we wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

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If you have ever considered going into business with your spouse or significant other, this book is a must-read. It has received rave reviews from reviewers and readers alike. 

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Looking for a Second Career? Start with Questions

OnYourOwnPursuing a second career can be equal parts rewarding and scary. It may make sense to work in a field you're most familiar with, but it also might be that your goal is to do something completely different with your life during your "second act."

As with any research project (and that's what finding a second career really is), you won't have all the information you need to make a well-considered decision without asking the right questions. My retirement colleague Nancy Collamer, who I've quoted numerous times in the past, can help with that. Her article for U.S. News, "10 Questions to Help You Discover a Fulfilling Second-Act Career," is the perfect starting point.

Nancy says that the transition to a second-act career will be easier "when you build on at least a small piece of what you currently do." That was my experience: After I sold the direct marketing agency I started, I briefly worked for an ad agency in a senior marketing position. When I decided to retire from the agency, I leveraged my writing skill to become a freelance marketing writer and book reviewer. It was a relatively easy transition for me since I always loved to write. I also used my skills from starting and running a business to help my wife launch her own small business. (You can read the story of that business in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.)

These are a few of the ten questions Nancy suggests asking yourself before striking out on your own.

1. What opportunities, services or products are currently being overlooked in your industry? 

2. Which of your skills could you market on a freelance and flexible basis? 

3. Do you have technology-related expertise that could help someone become more efficient or profitable? 

4. What tools can you create to make it easier for people to do their job, accomplish their goals or enjoy their hobbies? 

See the other six questions, along with some additional helpful advice, in the complete article, which you can read here:

Done with Your Career? Consider Consulting

OnYourOwnAs Boomers transition from a full-time career to part-time work in retirement, they have a real opportunity to be a consultant, at least for a period of time. Depending on their field, some Boomers can even make consulting a long-term business. I can tell you from personal experience that consulting is a good way to ease out of a full-time professional career into part-time work during retirement. 

"Consultant" is a term that used to mean a professional with a consulting firm, but nowadays, a consultant can be anyone with professional expertise. Respected retirement expert Kerry Hannon shares these four tips for individuals who want to consider becoming a consultant when their primary career ends: 

  1. Become a member of a local industry association or organization. Join industry groups on LinkedIn. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences. Keep an eye on the association job boards and let other members know you’re seeking consulting assignments.

  2. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to help you reach small businesses in your town. These organizations often don’t have funds to hire someone full-time, but may need your expertise and experience. Also check out temporary agencies that specialize in placing experienced professionals in short-term gigs.

  3. Know your rates. Research what other consultants in your field charge. Many consultants have websites where they publish set rates or a range. You might also ask fellow consultants straight out what they charge. Whatever your source, set your rates accordingly based on your experience and skill set.

  4. Market your services to nonprofits which have a mission that resonates with you. They often hire project-based or contract professionals. Consider offering your services pro bono to develop your relationship and gain references for future jobs.

This is excellent advice, part of a longer article about "Working in Retirement" that you can access on Kerry's blog here: http://kerryhannon.com/?p=6125

Becoming an Over-50 Entrepreneur is Nothing to Laugh At

OnYourOwnI have long been an advocate of starting a business if you are over the age of 50. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, my wife and I started a small, local service company in our mid-fifties and ran it successfully for seven years before we sold it. You can read about our experiences in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

With a new year upon us, maybe you have the entrepreneurial itch. If so, you'll be encouraged that at least one expert thinks older entrepreneurs have distinct advantages over younger entrepreneurs. Richard Eisenberg of Next Avenue interviewed David Deeds, the Schulze Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship of the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. Deeds is also editor-in-chief of the Entrepreneur & Innovation Exchange (EIX). When Deeds was asked about the advantages an entrepreneur over the age of 50 might have, here's what he said:

"As someone who just turned 55, I think there are a lot of advantages, and far more advantages than disadvantages.

"In your 50s, you have experience, knowledge and wisdom. You’ve seen a lot of things while you’ve worked in your career, or in a multitude of careers or jobs. You probably have some financial wherewithal. You’ve established a network over your career that you can get feedback from — maybe potential customers or engineers or designers you can learn a lot from over a cup of coffee.

"To be honest, the only serious disadvantage I see is societal perception that entrepreneurship is for wide-eyed twenty-somethings. That is wrong. One thing we know about entrepreneurs: They are as diverse as the population. There’s no magic test that says you can or can’t be one."

For those who are looking to start a business, Deeds advises:

"The most important thing: Do your homework. Talk to potential customers and people who have the problem you’re trying to solve with your business. Then start iterating simple prototypes. You’re not going to get it right at first and you don’t want to go all in until you’re close to getting it right. Don’t quit your day job until you’re ready. And don’t bet the farm.

"The other thing I’d say is to put together solid financial plans. You’re in an age group that wants to have a nice retirement and travel. So plan for yourself and for your venture. As you start a business, your personal and venture finances will merge very rapidly."

You can read more from David Deeds in the Next Avenue article here.

5 Tips for Boomer Couples Who Want to Start Their Own Business

OnYourOwnFor the over-50 set in particular, the economy has created a new breed of entrepreneurs: couples who want to start their own business. For many couples, working side by side seems like an ideal solution, a way to combine being your own boss with spending more time together. The first thing couples learn, though, is meshing their personal and business lives is a special challenge. My wife and I started a small service business in our late 50s and managed to make it work. Here are five tips based on our experience to help make your journey easier.

1.   Share a Passion

Your business is likely to be more successful if you share a passion. It could be anything: an interest in art, a love for animals, a concern for the environment, or something else. It’s important to then determine if that shared passion can be translated into a viable business idea: something people want to buy. The best way to do this is develop a business plan that proves what you want to do can be turned into a sustainable business.

2.   Fill Each Other’s Gaps

We learned that we each had particular strengths and weaknesses when it came to running a business. It would be easy for these qualities to become irritants, but instead we worked collaboratively to fill each other’s gaps. Everyone is good at some things but not so good at other things. If you can learn to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, accept each other’s strengths, and work toward a common goal, your business will benefit – and so will your personal relationship.

3.   Set Goals Together

When you set goals together, you automatically internalize them. Writing down goals and agreeing on them makes them real. You want to set a goal that makes you reach a little but is still achievable. We set goals for lots of things: the starting date of our business, the number of clients we wanted to acquire, our anticipated income each year, and even how many years we wanted to run our business. Our goals helped us visualize our success.

4.   Build Your Knowledge Base

In your business, you learn there are things you know and things you don’t know. When you encounter something that goes beyond your joint areas of expertise, you either have to quickly acquire the knowledge you need or get outside support. If you always have a thirst for knowledge, seek out answers, and view co-owning a business as a learning experience, you will be more likely to succeed.

5.   Maintain Your Perspective

Fully expect that your business will have its ups and downs. That’s why it’s important for both of you to maintain your perspective and keep yourselves grounded. You want the business you operate as a team to enhance rather than detract from your personal lives. It should fulfill a personal dream both of you have and take your relationship to a new dimension. Running a business will be challenging and sometimes seem overwhelming, but maintaining your perspective will help it be fun and rewarding.

LMMH book cover-jpgFor more tips, read the book Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business by Barry Silverstein and his wife, Sharon Wood (GuideWords Publishing, 2015). It's available in print and eBook formats. To get the paperback at the special discounted price of $10.95 (a $6 savings), go to www.createspace.com/5616668 and enter the code: GKYC7AGA.

Older Entrepreneurs Continue to Break Ground

OnYourOwnI've written before about the older entrepreneur phenomenon. For many years through the Small Business Center at my local community college, I counseled hundreds of small business owners in branding and marketing. A considerable percentage of those business owners were 50 or older.

A recent New York Times article confirms the high level of interest in business ownership by Boomers. The article cites a compelling statistic: According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), "one in four people between 44 and 70 are interested in becoming entrepreneurs." The article also mentions that the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, found that over 24 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2015 were 55 to 64 years of age.

When you think about it, Boomers are perfectly positioned to go out on their own. Unlike younger entrepreneurs, Boomers have already acquired a portfolio of skills and a wealth of knowledge, distilled from their own careers working for someone else. Both their business experience and their maturity combine to make them credible business owners and potentially reduce the risks of starting a new business. Still, many Boomers may lack the funding or confidence to take the plunge. That's why it's encouraging to see more and more programs popping up in support of older entrepreneurs. The Times article references a number of such programs around the country, including a partnership between AARP and the SBA.

As I've mentioned before, I'm an example of the older entrepreneur trend. My wife and I leveraged our skills and started a small service business together in our fifties, ran it successfully for seven years, and then sold it. Operating our business was a great midlife experience that allowed us to do something we enjoyed and generate income after we left our professional careers. Admittedly, not every couple can work together, but it worked for us.

So if you have the urge to start a business, know that you are in good company. There are plenty of Boomers doing the same thing.

Creating a Company Over Age 50

OnYourOwnEntrepreneurship is alive and well -- surprisingly, especially over the age of 50. It's logical in some respects for the 50-plus set to be thinking about starting a business. Careers in later years seem to decline for any number of reasons, including layoffs, age discrimination, and burnout. The good news is that creating a company over the age of 50 can be an invigorating experience.

Michael Glauser's new book, Main Street Entrepreneur, doesn't concentrate exclusively on entrepreneurs age 50 and older. Still, almost half of the hundred small town business owners he met during his research trip across America were in that age group. Glauser tells Richard Eisenberg of NextAvenue.org that these entrepreneurs have advantages: "The obvious one is that they've been in an industry for a number of years, so they really know it and related industries. ... The second thing is they know how business works; they're not young or naive. And they're pretty sure their business idea will work before they launch it."

Glauser also notes that this is a great time to start a company. "There's a growing preference for small, local companies," he says. "Also, powerful technologies now let you do business with the same kind of tech equipment that only large corporations could afford in the past." In addition, says Glauser, "there are a lot of new financing formats, like crowdfunding, to test products before you spend a lot of money on them."

Read Glauser's full interview on NextAvenue.org here.

By the way, my wife and I are proof positive of what Glauser learned. We started a small, local service company in our mid-fifties and ran it successfully for seven years before we sold it. You can read about our experiences in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.

More Gigs to Start in Retirement

OnYourOwnI've written about the gig economy before -- but it continues to make news as a new economic factor in our society. While gigs, or short-term freelance assignments, are appropriate for any age group, they seem to be tailor-made for Boomers who are looking for creative ways to generate income without the commitment of a full-time or even a regular part-time job.

As an example of what kinds of gigs are available for Boomers, Katie Little, writing for the CNBC website, offers "25 Side Gigs You Can Start in Retirement." Here you'll find some great ideas, everything from consultant and interim executive to Uber driver, Peace Corps volunteer, virtual assistant, and tutor.

Check out this helpful article. There are all kinds of opportunities for Boomers who are willing to think differently about employment. Start gigging!

Creative Ways to Make Money on Your Own

MusingsA recent post on the Retired Brains website (highly recommended for Boomers) caught my eye. Entitled "5 New Ways to Own Your Own Business," the post listed some creative ways to make money on your own, primarily through the new "sharing economy." Among the ideas were becoming a driver for Uber or Lyft, renting your home through Airbnb or HomeAway, and becoming a pet sitter through Dogvacay.

What struck me is that non-traditional work opportunities like these never even existed a few years ago. Now, through a combination of our online-enabled world and the concept of taking on "gigs," options are opening up to Boomers to replace the the more typical part-time work with a former employer or in retail, fast food, or hospitality. Gigs can provide a means to generate income to supplement Social Security and retirement savings while also giving a Boomer the chance to enjoy greater flexibility and be self-employed. Boomers who have been pursuing professions or careers on a full-time basis for most of their adult lives may find this novel type of work to be different and maybe even invigorating.

So when you consider what to do next and you still want to make some money, you might find an opportunity among the many services that use independent contractors as part of the sharing economy.

By the way, have you considered another creative way to make money: starting a business with your spouse? My wife and I started a service business together and generated pre-retirement income for seven years. Then we sold the business. Learn how you can do this too in our book, Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business. For the month of July only, the eBook version is available from Smashwords.com for half price -- just $3.50! To get your copy in any eBook format, including PDF, visit: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/568837. When you check out, enter the code SSW50 to get the eBook for just $3.50. This special offer is only good at Smashwords.com through July, so order today!