It’s obvious that there’s a substantial amount of entrepreneurial energy among older boomers.
That’s why Americans age 55 and up are the fastest-growing group of new business owners in the U.S. today. But feeling a strong desire to do your own thing is not enough to assure new business success. Here are 10 success factors you should consider before you decide to unleash your entrepreneurial zeal.
1. Can you clearly describe the problem your business will solve or the need it will satisfy? People and businesses pay for superior solutions—it’s that simple. So can you describe the problem you can solve better than others or the need you are tops at satisfying?
2. Are you comfortable with running a low-cost business? Some former corporate types insist on a fancy office suite filled with furniture that rents for hundreds of dollars per month. Some business concepts, such as high-end consulting, demand such an arrangement. The vast majority of boomer entrepreneurs, however, need to save on rent by locating at home; use every discount and deal around; and buy help from outside service providers “as needed.”
3. How comfortable are you with a shade of gray? Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that their most important motivating force is their ability to avoid “decision by committee” when they decide to turn an idea into a new source of revenue. But most will also caution that an entrepreneur’s life is often ambiguous until well into the business development process—this lack of initial certainty is not for everyone.
4. How good is your network? Before you start the first paragraph of your business plan, you should be able to write down a description of who will be your initial group of prospective customers—either by name or described by whom in your network can introduce you.
5. How does your life vision fit your income needs? Typically over-50 entrepreneurs come into the business planning process a bit burnt out emotionally from their time in the corporate world. Therefore, when asked to describe their ideal business venture, they often talk about how they only want to work part-time during a typical week and intend to not work at all some weeks of the year. This is fine, as long as you are realistic in what level of income you can produce from this time commitment.
6. Are you more of an outside or inside person? Let’s face it, many of us have had corporate jobs that did not fit our personalities all that well. Starting a business after 50 is a great opportunity to come as close as you can to “the ideal job.” So you need to be honest with yourself about what style of work best suits you—for example, do you thrive on mixing and mingling with people every day or do you prefer to work behind the scenes in satisfying your customers?
7. Are you willing to be taught? When you launch a business a bit later in life, you don’t have as much time to learn by doing. You may only want to run your business for five or six years, so you need to be ready to let others teach you what you need to know to fill in the blanks from your corporate career. And this sometimes requires sucking it up and getting instruction from a twenty-something-year-old.
8. Are you prepared to pump up your technology smarts? Chances are good that you know how to use a word processing program, send and receive e-mail and surf the web. For many new businesses, this may be all the technology smarts you need. But some businesses require a more advanced set of skills, such as running an e-commerce business where you need to know search engine optimization, autoresponders and shopping cart software. Make sure that you’re ready to get up to speed with the technology demanded by your particular business.
9. Are you ready to run it full-time for a while? It’s a very appealing notion that you can earn a $100,000-a-year income only working two days a week. And this is quite possible—just not in the first or possibly second year of your business.
10 How are your customer service skills? Sad to say, but not all corporate sellers go out of their way to nurture their customers. If you’ve worked for one, you may need to relearn how really good customer service is presented.
Jeff Williams specializes in guiding 50+ individuals to turn good ideas into great businesses. He is an author, coach, trainer—and a nationally known expert on bringing new businesses to life. His website at Bizstarters.com offers an extensive collection of business start-up articles, quizzes and assessment tools, including his free digital booklet “10 Keys to Starting a Great Business After 50.”