6 steps to start a startup successfully after 40 years

You are a forty-year-old, or maybe a fifty-year-old, with a long professional life behind you, but it is not said that your path has taken you where you wanted to be at this age.

As is the case with many, perhaps you are getting bored, or your salary is becoming stagnant, or what awaits you for retirement is not enough. Perhaps, despite having been working hard for years, you don’t know how to pay college for your kids. It is the right time to think about a change: to create a start-up.

How the world of work has changed

Over the past 25 years, the wages of 95% of Americans have remained virtually unchanged. The country’s economic growth is a fact, the recession of 2007/2009 can be said to be outdated, but the rate of growth in wages does not resume, on the contrary: the average real family income has decreased from 2000 to today.

Most people are under-employed and work part-time. On families the weight of education is always increasing, the cost of attending a private college has increased 20 times since the 1980s and it is essential to have a good degree to face competition on the job market.

Another big topic is retirement. In 1979 62% of employees in America had access to pension plans, in 2011 the percentage plummeted to 7%. This is due to federal laws that have changed the criteria for raising pension funds: employees are obliged to contribute a percentage of the paycheck if they want to access pension plans. For many people, the daily expenses and debts to be repaid are more urgent than the thought of retirement, so they give up.

The structure of the work itself has radically changed: over 54 million Americans have done freelance jobs in the past year, many via the internet, but the majority have worked by the hour in the service sector, cleaning homes or serving on premises. The “good jobs” in the production sector went from 44% in 1943 to 14% in 2014. The workforce has also changed: it is younger, more urbanized, more willing to move.

In this context, becoming an entrepreneur after 40 is a solution that allows you to regain control of your professional and financial life. It is not necessarily a question of quitting to start one’s own company, for many the right solution is to place a small personal business alongside the main job.

20-year-old businessman, a myth to dispel

Is the successful entrepreneur necessarily young?

No: according to data from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the largest number of companies are founded by people aged between 55 and 64. According to a 2009 study from the same source, successful entrepreneurs were on average 40 years old when they created their companies.

Entrepreneurs in their forties have decades of experience behind them. They work differently, have a different approach than the 20-year-olds just out of college. Skills, network of contacts and motivations are completely different.

As the psychologist Abraham Maslow states in his theory of the hierarchy of needs, the sense of what one does, the need to satisfy one’s own search for autonomy, weighs heavily. Money is not a strong enough push to sustain the momentum needed to start a business alone.

One of the most interesting reasons, however, is to have an impact on the lives of others: it is not only about personal benefits or for one’s family, but also about the responsibility to take on the financial well-being of another person when one is He assumes.

The crucial questions and the necessary skills

Starting a new business is hard work, it takes many hours and requires the ability to accept many “no’s”. You will have to be really motivated to do it. The motivation can come from the need to control one’s professional life, from the love of building things, from the certainty of having really had a great idea, from the desire to earn more.

But passion is not enough, you need the certainty of working in the right direction. What your compass will represent is your “why”, to be built clearly by answering these three key questions:

  1. Why this idea? Why should it work? You have to test your idea, can it convince customers, does it have a market?
  2. Because you? Do you have the requirements to manage a company based on this idea?
  3. Why right now? Is it the right time to build your startup? Are you financially ready? Is the market the right size?

The first skill you must possess, as an entrepreneur, is the right mentality: from the concept of “winning or losing” you have to move on to that of “learning by doing”, continuing to try. Every day there will be small setbacks and small victories, so you must persevere, thinking of your work as a process in progress.

Objectively there are disadvantages: in middle age the availability of time, the commitments towards the family and the financial situation are significant, but the two biggest limitations come from the availability of energy and the concept of oneself linked to the opinions of others.

The physiological ability to work is reduced compared to when you are 20 or 30 years old, it is natural. Less natural, it is the obstacle linked to the perception of you built by the social and family context. Young founders have the support of friends, parents and teachers on their side, while in middle age it is difficult to achieve the same: almost everyone will be more focused on risk assessment, perhaps they will be really skeptical.

For this, it is essential that you have the ability to know how to sell. You will have to be able to sell your vision ,  first to have the financiers you need and to build your team, then to reach customers.

One of the advantages is that at this age you have probably gained managerial skills, as well as professional ones: you know how to attract and select talents, guide them and build a great team. Leaders have focused teams because they know how to inspire them through difficulties, but above all because they are able to guide them in choosing what should be done.

It is necessary to choose with extreme care what to do, prioritize, know how to say no: you must learn to face things with a “just do it” approach. The perfectionist in you may not like it, but keep in mind the old saying: “perfect is an enemy of good”.

Do things and remove them from the list. If there is a need for improvement, you will know soon enough and you can work on it again. The first thing you need to get is proof that your idea is good for customers. To do this, defining what must be achieved is the winning method: plan your goals, set deadlines.

Another ability to grow, as an entrepreneur, is the ability to delegate. Once you have chosen the right people, let them work with confidence: it is essential to verify that they understand what you want and when it needs to be done. Consider that your network is a key factor for success. The people you know, who you can reach, the people who have had the same experience before you: join the startupper community, you will find that you can receive a lot of support and also learn from the mistakes that have been made by others.

Thanks to the help that the internet and technology offer, there has never been a better time to start a new business, and not only in the technological field: information, access to people, tools, support: an entrepreneur with a simple connection the network can work with and for the whole world.

The cost of launching a new business has collapsed, everything is much more accessible and the fact that power has moved a great deal in the hands of consumers has transformed the whole industry, opening up new possibilities for those who now appear on the market. In addition, online commerce is now consolidated for both physical and virtual products.

Even learning what you need is easier: everything is just a click away, there are free or low-priced courses, the skills are accessible and transversal: you can learn everything you need, from creating a website to the rules for pay employees, when creating a presentation for investors.

Speaking of raising capital, one cannot fail to mention crowdfunding: an alternative financing model to support projects, companies and individuals. There are hundreds of crowdfunding platforms on the Internet that today orchestrate investments for startups.

14 Questions to ask to find and verify the idea

Van Barker founded  YardStash  because he needed a cheap and simple solution to keep his children’s bikes in the yard. Sara Schaer created KangaDo to meet the challenge of coordinating the transport of children to and from school with her other activities. This shows that you can find your idea from the job you are doing, from the problems you encounter daily.

Here are some questions for your “idea machine”:

  • What frustrates me in the world?
  • What would I like my current company to do for its customers?
  • If I were a customer of my current company, what would I ask for?
  • What do I like doing so much that it doesn’t feel like a job?
  • What can I teach?
  • What beautiful things do people say about me?
  • Which products or services are basically thorns in the side?
  • What do i need?
  • Which company am I afraid to interact with?

Once identified, you must evaluate your idea by analyzing it as if you were an investor: you are!

  • What problem does it solve?
  • Can you identify an revenue stream?
  • How big is the market?
  • What makes your product unique?
  • Will it be possible to scale it?

Checking the potential of your idea is important, Google has many tools that can help you, starting with Ads that allows you to check the prospects of a project by analyzing the searches that are made for certain keywords.

The importance of reconciling work and family

Launching a business is very stressful, time consuming and dedicated, it also poses an economic risk and therefore your family should be informed and should agree.

The first step is to communicate correctly: your spouse is a key factor for the success of your initiative, you must be sure that you have him by your side. Your motivations must be clear and above all shared, it will be your wife, or your husband, the person who will help you to support the will to go on even in dark times.

If family is a priority in your life, balancing work and private life will be critical to success. Remember that not all entrepreneurs give up putting their children to bed or are constantly participating in business dinners.

Lew Cirne, founder of  New Relic  , had made an unwavering commitment to leave the office at 5 every evening because having dinner with his family was one of the most important things in his life, doing so did not limit his success.

Your “why” will be your compass

Your “why” must be powerful to get you off the sofa and start working on your business, especially when things are not going as you wish. You must feel attracted to what you have to do, not pushed to do them.

The method of coach Tony Robbins suggests to visualize your life as you would like it to be and to do it every morning to give new strength to your motivation. Visualize your “why”, think about how you will feel when the thing you need to do is done. When the book is written, the product shipped, when you can conduct your business from a beach.

It is very important that you do not feel alone: ​​be supported by a coach, attend the community of people engaged in your own sector, exchange your opinions with entrepreneurs who are living or have lived the same experiences.

An important resource is represented by the “responsibility groups”, online or local. These are people who meet regularly to share their goals, encourage and support each other: in practice, the members of the group hold themselves responsible for each other’s goals and, week after week, they monitor progress together, until it is reached. of the result.

There is nothing better than feeling alongside a team when it comes to persevering.


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