How Older Entrepreneurs Can Tackle the Challenges of Starting New Businesses

While there’s no age limit to entrepreneurial success, it’s younger entrepreneurs who often get more attention in the news. Every day I get an email or two from PR firms asking me to write stories about a client, often a company run by a young founder. However, older entrepreneurs are building incredible startups too.

In fact, according to a 2019 “State of Small Business” survey by Guidant Financial and LendingClub, 57 percent of small business owners surveyed were over the age of 50, a small increase over 2018. 25 percent ranged between the ages of 40 to 49.

Older entrepreneurs may have distinct advantages over the younger ones, thanks to larger, more established networks, access to human and financial capital, and years of business knowledge and experience.

Despite these advantages, there are other aspects of starting or running a business that may be more challenging for those planning to pursue entrepreneurship later in life. Here are a few tips for older entrepreneurs.

Devote energy to finding resources and outsourcing.

Adding specific talent to the team helps. I brought in a twenty-something to help me with my email newsletters and marketing. It’s an area where I lacked skills and confidence. Now I can focus on applying my strengths to other aspects of the business.

Older entrepreneurs should cultivate advisor relationships.

An older entrepreneur in his 50’s who I worked with conducted a focus group filled with younger folks. It helped him get a better idea of how to meet their needs.

Don’t get stuck in the past.

Don’t lose track of the entrepreneurial spirit that made you curious, innovative, and open to new things. Something I’ve done that helps me get more in touch with why I work, or simply feel more accepting of change, is to go on a retreat. This gives me a “reset” that helps me return to work more refreshed and with more purpose.

If you’re still not sure if you should consider changing business processes, just remember what happened to Toys ‘R Us, Kmart, and other retail giants that were slow to change. Adaptability is a key entrepreneurial trait, and it can help you take your business to the next level.

Know your limitations but don’t let them define you.

Be aware of the changes you’re facing and continue doing what you can to combat aging. In my case, I notice signs that I need to slow down or spend fewer hours working before getting tired. Instead of growing frustrated, I try to consider embracing more efficient ways to schedule my time or different ways of eating that don’t slow me down in the afternoons. Explore possible changes to your lifestyle that may help you similarly.

Think about your exit strategy.

Consider when you want to retire, if a colleague or family member can take over, or whether you should sell the business. Set up meetings with a business advisor, financial specialist, tax professional, your team or other stakeholders. Then, create formal exit strategy plans and prepare all necessary paperwork.

Leverage special resources for older entrepreneurs.

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