I 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.