Amid the rampant pessimism over the state of America's economy, the fate of baby boomers appears particularly gloomy: rising white-collar layoffs, loss of long-term employment and the prospect of a very slow jobs recovery. I've gotten resumes and new business cards from several victims of the recession...all come from the managerial or executive ranks of a organizations they had served for years. The title on every card is "Consultant." That's a new, boomer-age term for "looking for a job without appearing to be unemployed."
But a couple of those business cards say "Founder" or "Principal" or "CEO." And their owners are proud to announce a new direction in their careers...one that characterizes them as boomer-age entrepreneurs.
That's not as odd as it sounds: a recent Kauffman Foundation study found that front-edge baby boomers (between 55 and 64) have a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those in the 20-34 age group that most people characterize as the prototypical entrepreneur. The report went on to speculate that America might be "on the cusp of an entrepreneurship boom -- not in spite of the aging population but because of it."
The message: age is irrelevant to entrepreneurism. Moreover, experience may give you an edge; you’ve already seen – or made - some of the classic mistakes that younger entrepreneurs make. But not everyone can fit comfortably wearing an entrepreneurial hat. Here are three questions to ask yourself:
- Can you live with uncertainty? By definition, entrepreneurism is a journey without a detailed roadmap. Unpredictable things happen, and start-up companies must adapt on the fly. If you can’t be comfortable with uncertainty, your chances of success are much slimmer.
- Do you have a customer in mind? Sales guru Brian Tracy defines business success as finding customers and fulfilling their needs. While the product-based companies get written up in the business press, most start-ups begin with people or companies that have needs. Filling their needs makes them customers, and - voila! - a business starts. That’s an over-simplification, but - if you don’t have a customer in mind - expect a longer wait between start-up and profitability.
- Where’s your support team? You probably can’t afford staff, but you do need help, in the form of counselors, technical advisors and cheerleaders. You’re going to need wise counsel to avoid potholes and detours on your journey; technical support (everything from a computer geek to Kinkos and UPS) to meet customer needs; and encouragement from peers and loved ones. The lone entrepreneur is a myth.
If you have all three, you have a far better chance at start-up success. If not - and you’re still determined to become an entrepreneur – put these on your priority list. And for more information on sources of start-up help, view this article on networking opportunities in Central Ohio.