In praise of older entrepreneurs
Grey-haired “50-somethings” make the best small business owners for several reasons
I was clicking around the internet recently and checking out some of my favourite sites for small business owners and I realized that most of the entrepreneur images depicted young, good-looking, 20-something millennials.
I saw sites with images of young people crowded around a conference table. Young people scribbling strategies on the wall. Young people feverishly pounding their MacBook keyboards. Rarely did I find an image of someone who looked over 40, and even fewer images of a grey-haired entrepreneur who looked like me.
And that just seemed wrong.
Because starting up a business isn’t exclusive to young people
There’s this romantic notion of the “young startup entrepreneur” in his or her 20s or 30s slugging their way to success.
It’s misleading because, in fact, the majority of small business owners in Canada are older and not younger. It’s similar in other countries, too.
According to Industry Canada, 47% of small business owners are between 50 and 64 years old. For medium-sized businesses, that number jumps to 51%.
Clearly, those websites I visited need to upgrade their visuals to better reflect the small business landscape.
Why older is better
It got me thinking about why people in their 50s make great entrepreneurs:
They have more work and life experience. This allows the mature entrepreneur to make better, more informed business decisions.
They enjoy access to capital. Someone starting a business in their 50s or 60s likely won’t need a bank loan, unless they intend to launch a large enterprise. Because they are older, the mature entrepreneur has personal savings, home equity and established credit.
They are well connected. Several decades of work life should mean that a 50-something entrepreneur has plenty of professional contacts. Grey-haired folks understand that who you know is generally more important than what you know – and they can effectively leverage existing relationships to help achieve their business success. Younger entrepreneurs are still building their networks.
Some of the greatest businesses in the world were started by entrepreneurs over 50. Charles Flint launched IBM at age 61, Bernie Marcus co-founded Home Depot at 50, and Colonel Sanders started franchising his Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in his 60s.
Plenty of patience, too
Age brings patience – a willingness to put in the time to see results. 50-something startups aren’t in a big rush to “scale up” the business or scramble to make an unrealistic profit in the first month of operation. They understand good things take time. They know rushing can cause ruin.
Now I’m one of them
By the time I post this article, I will be 50 years old. Until now I dreaded the idea of turning “half-century”, but the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to this next chapter in my self-employed life. Unlike 25 years ago, I’m feeling very confident in my abilities. I’m focused on what I want. I’m optimistic about my future.
50-something is looking good.
If you’re thinking about starting a business in your 50s, or you already run one – congratulations, because you're with millions of other mature entrepreneurs who are also pursuing a passion.
The startup images lie.