The mature (50+) first-time entrepreneur

Government stats suggest that the fastest growing group of new business owners/entrepreneurs are those aged 50+ and the rate of this growth is increasing in terms of newly registered businesses.  Ageism and discrimination towards older employees has increasingly become part and parcel of our business landscape, making it really difficult for people 50+ finding meaningful employment.

In my view and not to disparage the ‘bright young things’ talented as they are, but the wisdom that comes with age and experience needs to be harnessed not overlooked if we are to have a strong and vibrant economy.

I think the government projections are right because, as a recruiter, I spent many hours encouraging those more mature candidates who were likely to be overlooked for a ‘job’ to consider self-employment.  One of my mantras was that of course you need an income but perhaps you don’t necessarily need a boss”.  It was my pleasure to help those I could with setting themselves up and establishing their first business.

Whilst I love and encourage this new-found entrepreneurship in the 50+ age group, the sad truth is that, whilst many more mature entrepreneurs are indeed packaging up their skills, knowledge and expertise to take them to market under their own banner, it is not always a matter of choice but one of necessity.  Many are setting up a businesses as a way of employing themselves when employment options allude them.  They still have mortgages, kids at school etc., a means to make a living is essential.

Does it matter what sets you on the entrepreneurial road?  

No not really.  Certainly not in terms of being able to build a successful business, because that’s open to all of us if we put the hard work in but there is no doubt that sometimes your WHY can be either a confidence-builder or a confidence-kicker.

It should makes no difference if you are a former Accountant who is happily building a great bookkeeping business or a former hospitality worker establishing a great coffee house OR you are now making your living out of cutting other people's lawns .

Making your business work for you is the key, making sure it fits the lifestyle you want for your family and you reap the rewards that come from great customer service and happy clients/customers.

There is a certain amount of freedom in running your own business but there is a certain kind of ‘crazy' in those of us that do!

Becoming an entrepreneur at a later stage in your life can be daunting and stressful but also extremely rewarding and life-changing. A recent British study suggests that

businesses started by people in their 50s are much more likely to survive than those on the other side of the half-century mark

Unique Challenges for the over 50+ Entrepreneur

Support and Funding available

Quite rightly, there is a huge amount of support and funding available from investor groups and governments to encourage and help millennials to start businesses, but it seems there’s less support for the 50+ Entrepreneur.  A new business established by a more mature worker doesn't seem to take on the all important ‘start-up' status which many funding options are tied into.

One of the ways that this challenge can be met is to seek inter-generational collaboration.  If you have a viable business idea, it could be that combining your wisdom, skills and experience with younger entrepreneurs who usually have an innate understanding and grasp of the latest tools and technology is the way to go.

That way tapping into the funding options might be a little easier.

Newly found isolation

No matter what age, for most of us starting a business for the first time can also be lonely and you can feel isolated.

If you are a 50+ entrepreneur, it is likely your previous work life would have been as a part of a team where decisions were discussed jointly and projects managed through regular meetings with fellow employees and sharing ideas and trouble-shooting solutions.  This is not so for the sole-trader or micro-business owner.

Many years ago, when I started my first business, I remember my first day in a ‘serviced office’ with an empty filing cabinet; a phone (with zero contacts) that didn’t ring, plus my newly purchased laptop that I quickly discovered didn’t actually come with any software.  Duh!

All my working life, I had been part of the corporate scene where everything comes to you ready for you to do your thing, all the tools at your disposal.  At 50 years of age, opening a new business in the very competitive recruitment industry was both challenging and exciting.   But I distinctly remember my embarrassment in having to rush back to Officeworks to get the software I needed installed on my laptop.  The drive back to my serviced office had me wondering what the hell I had done and questioning was I really up to this!

Many mistakes and many achievements later, my 10-year recruitment business provided me with some of the most rewarding aspects of my working life, not the least of all being able to offer employment and training within my business to others.

When you start a new venture you very quickly realise you are ‘it’.  You are a team of one and likely working from home, at least at the outset of your business venture.  Your skills and expertise haven’t gone anywhere but the inability to bounce ideas off others can make you second guess every decision you make.  This loneliness and isolation can leave some people paralysed in terms of being able to make quick decisions, to be responsive to customers’ needs and this will surely impact their business.

Taking Advice

Just because you’re supposed to be older and wiser – don’t be afraid to seek advice.

I have been fortunate to have great people, wise people come into my life over the years.  They took on an advisory role usually over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, they became the people I trusted to share my vision with, bounce my ideas off and I don’t know where I would be without them.  They know who they are!

I like to think I have been this person for many aspiring entrepreneurs along the way also.

The passing on of shared knowledge and wisdom is such a privilege to both the giver and receiver.  If you are of an older generation (50 years +) you will likely have benefited from being mentored, guided and supported throughout your early career.

I was very lucky to be mentored or ‘taken under someone’s wing’ in many of my workplaces in my younger years.  I appreciated it then and learned from it and have been an advocate for ‘mentoring’ formal or informal since my early days in business. It is a real shame that this organic type of mentoring has all but disappeared in business today.  Back in my day – ha! I can't believe I'm actually saying that – people took on the role of mentor naturally and voluntarily and, even more significantly, this was respected and welcomed by those being mentored.

So, for those who have taken the plunge, now that you are a team of one, look out for the wise people you already have in your life, someone that you respect and just go ahead and ask if he/she would be willing to take on this role.  If the people or person hasn’t come into your life just yet, hang on in there because this will happen and don't get hung up about the age of an Advisor, both my business partners are younger me.  I am as happy to take their advice as they are mine.

However, if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and a lack of good advice is holding you back, perhaps you should be proactive in seeking a Business Advisor or Mentor to work with you.

Although it is your business and you are the one on this journey solely responsible for the outcome, a good Advisor will be there to guide you through the tough decisions.  Because this relationship can become quite close and intense even, it is really important that you choose an Advisor well.  You won’t click with everyone but there is a great feeling you get when you do.  Trust your instinct and go with it.

If you're Perth based and would like to catch up for a coffee to discuss your business idea give me a call on 0403 343 300 or send me an email angiemardon@engineroomhub.com.au.  If you're looking for a fantastic Coach/Business Advisor you should catch up with Annette Stanton for a coffee and chat to see if you are a fit for each other.  I have no doubt that, at the very least, you would come away with a sprinkling of Annette's ‘wisdoms' and her amazing insights.

If you are thinking about starting a new business you might like to check out Many Rivers.

A wonderful organisation that works with Australians around the country who want to start or grow a small business or ‘microenterprise’. Their clients possess the ideas and skills to start a business but for various reasons, have lacked the financial or practical business support to do so. Their work is made possible by the financial support of philanthropic donors and foundations, along with corporates, Indigenous corporations and government partners.

If you're Perth-based you can call Joy Thacker, Many Rivers' Microenterprise Development Manager on 0434 973 278 or send her an email joy.thacker@manyrivers.org.au.  I am certain she would love to hear from you.

  • Engine Room Hub

    Angie Mardon is the founder of Engine Room Hub and a serial entrepreneur. She is a long-time champion for the vital SME community and entrepreneurs who keep our economy vibrant. Though not officially a business coach she regularly shares her know-how and expertise by mentoring business owners and helping them get started in business.