Having just hit the grand milestone of turning 50, I’ve thought a lot about where I’ve been and where I’m going professionally. For nearly 20 years, I worked in a corporate atmosphere, and I recall the exhilaration, the excitement, the fear, and the uncertainty when I first hung my figurative “open for business” sign as a solopreneur five years ago at the age of 45.
I think entrepreneurs of all ages experience those things, but when you’re a little older they’re amplified as you leave the security of the comfort zone you’ve settled into over the years.
Starting a business later in life has its plusses. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, there are nearly twice as many successful entrepreneurs over age 50 than under age 25. And a report issued by the Kauffman Foundation indicates 40+ entrepreneurs are embracing the advantages of starting a business later. The percentage of entrepreneurs between the ages of 45 to 54 increased from 25.2 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2013.
The Pros of Starting a Business after 40
You Have a Broader Frame of Reference
The older you are, the more life and professional experiences you have to draw from when making critical decisions. Those years of lessons learned can help you identify risks, recognize opportunities, and navigate challenges. Use them to your advantage.
You’re More Financially Secure
While this isn’t always the case, you’re more likely to have saved some money and have some financial cushion as a 40+ entrepreneur. When times are tight as your business is in its early stages, you’ll hopefully have some funds to fall back on so you won’t have to survive on ramen noodles.
You Have a Better Understanding of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
When starting a business after age 40, you’ve likely worked in various positions, and have had more diverse responsibilities over the course of time than someone who is younger. You’ve had an opportunity to discover and assess what you’re good at—and what you’re not. That can be a huge advantage as a new business owner because you can more easily recognize what you can do yourself, and what you should delegate or outsource.
But it’s not all rainbows and roses.
The Cons of Starting a Business When You’re Older
You’re Set in Your Ways
As a 40+ entrepreneur, you might not be as open to new ideas and innovation. You might find it difficult to embrace or learn certain technologies. Starting a business when you’re a little older demands breaking out of routines and trying new approaches. If you’re resistant to change, your business could flounder.
Your Friends and Family Might Not Get It
Although they may mean well, your friends and loved ones might not be as supportive of your entrepreneurial endeavors as you’d hoped. They might fear for your ability to make ends meet. They might not like that you’re working long hours and can’t pay as much attention to them. They might be jealous. It happens. Communicating your ambitions to them and preparing them for the transition can help avoid conflict—and hard feelings.
Your Stamina Isn’t What It Used to Be
In my 20s, I worked three jobs and could function well on four hours of sleep day after day, week after week. At 50, if I go with less than six hours of sleep for just one night, I’m not nearly as cognitively agile—and I’m grumpy. It’s nature. As the years pass, most of us just don’t have the same energy level we did when we were younger. Starting and running a business are both mentally and physically demanding. It’s important to recognize and work around your limitations by taking care of yourself.
Regardless of your age, being a small business owner offers rewards and demands sacrifices.
Before you jump in…
And if you decide to move forward, embrace your unique qualities and use them to your advantage. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey!