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 The country’s economic growth is a fact, the recession of 2007/2009 can be said to be outdated, but the rate of growth in wages does not resume, on the contrary: the average real family income has decreased from 2000 to today.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:
- Why this idea? Why should it work? You have to test your idea, can it convince customers, does it have a market?
- Because you? Do you have the requirements to manage a company based on this idea?
- 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”.