The Kauffman Foundation published a study in 2009 that says that “in every single year from 1996 to 2007, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20-34, averaging a rate of entrepreneurial activity roughly one-third larger than their youngest counterparts.”
The study also points out that:
- The 20-34 age bracket has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial activity.
- Long-term employment has fallen dramatically for people ages 35-64 over the past fifty years.
- With longer life expectancies and greater health in later life, older generations may continue to start new firms—or mentor young entrepreneurs.
It may seem strange to think that, “50-plus baby boomers now make up the leading edge of Americans who are starting new business ventures.” But when you take a minute to consider what boomers can bring to the table, it makes sense why they would be successful entrepreneurs. They are able to bring vital entrées to the entrepreneurial table like: “financial resources, extensive work experience and deep roots in their communities.”
As an older entrepreneur, I’ve been asked many questions about my decision to start my own business when I was so advanced in my career. Here are some of the ones I’m frequently asked:
What made you want to start your own company?
The risk of layoffs for PR/Marketing professionals in the post 911 business world led me to think of the value of reducing risk by having several employers, not just one. A past employer came to me seeking a contract arrangement and this became the first client of PilmerPR. We worked with them a total of eight years. Not bad, huh?
What has been the most challenging aspect of starting your company as an older entrepreneur?
What does that mean —older entrepreneur? Colonel Sanders was 65 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Age discrimination in the workplace is common and is a very bad trend. We are wise to respect the value of experience, not just youthful enthusiasm and good looks. Given my effective, experienced approach I accomplish more in four hours than most workers accomplish in an eight hour work day. However, sometimes I still put in an occasional 13 hour day.
What aspect of being an older entrepreneur do you think has helped you the most in your business?
Wisdom, experience, skills and a huge storehouse of knowledge qualify me as an “outlier” according to visionary author Malcolm Gladwell. You might say I’m a tall, pale Yoda without the big ears.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself just starting out in the entrepreneur business?
Come on in. The water’s warm. There are great advantages to being your own boss, as long as you are dedicated, tenacious, resilient, and can blast through terror barriers that impede progress.
All you baby boomer entrepreneurs, what would your answers to these questions be? What advice would you give to people just starting out? What advice would you give to people our age who are just starting out on their entrepreneurial adventures?