Starting a Business Archives
Life after 50 is a time of transitions. Our kids have left the house. Many of us are, by choice or necessity, leaving our decades-long careers. We are thinking about retirement, whether we can afford it or not. Is it any wonder that so many people over 50 are struggling to find meaning in their lives?
One of my favorite things about running Profit After 50 is that I get to find out about all of the amazing projects that you are working on. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder, with so many successful older entrepreneurs out there, why aren’t more people over 50 starting their own business? What’s holding our generation back?
When it comes to starting a business, is it better to focus on quantity or quality? Should you try a lot of things and be ready to “pivot”? Or, should you focus on building a single “perfect” product that you can be truly proud of? This is not a trivial question. In fact, based on the conversations that I have had with other entrepreneurs over 50, this one choice can make the difference between start-up success and business failure. To explain why, I’ll need to take you back to school – to art school to be exact.
Building Sixty and Me has been an incredible journey. In many ways, the company achieved “success” in the first year. We built a community of 50,000 women over 60, were featured on CNN and Facebook’s business page and launched 2 products. But, in other ways, we are just at the very beginning of our journey. I didn’t fully anticipate the number of pivots that we would need to make in the first year, or, frankly speaking, the amount of work that it would take to get us to profitability.
While our mission is far from being reached, I wanted to take a few minutes to look back and provide some advice to older entrepreneurs who are just be getting started. After all, I learned a lot of lessons the hard way! Here are the 11 things that I wish I’d known before starting Sixty and Me.
Let’s start with some good news. If you have taken the time to identify your strengths and brainstorm business ideas, you’re already ahead of 90% of people who dream about starting a business. While others fantasize about financial security, you have taken action. By now, you should have a rough idea of the kinds of business opportunities that you are interested in. Now it’s time to refine your ideas so that they can form the basis of your profitable business.
It may sound strange, but, I’m proud of the fact that Sixty and Me didn’t make any money in the first 6 months. Taking the time to nurture and understand my community, instead of jumping into product development, allowed me to build a solid foundation for my business.
As a new business owner, you are under constant pressure to validate and quantify the success of your idea. Some of this pressure comes from friends, family and investors, but, most of it comes from yourself.
When I asked the 44,000 members of the Sixty and Me community what was preventing them from starting a business, by far the most common response was “I don’t have a business idea.” As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, the first step to take when starting a business is to examine your own strengths. But, what next? How can you convert your passions, experience and skills into profitable work? How can you find a business idea that is right for you?
Whether you are setting out as a consultant, building an information product or opening a coffee shop, starting a business is tough. So, it’s no surprise that we look for validation wherever we can find it. We refresh our Facebook page to see our posts gaining enough “likes,” we check every morning to see how many people visited our website and we monitor our Twitter accounts for new followers every day.
There’s only one problem. These metrics have next to nothing to do with the health of our business. At best, they are harmless little addictions. At worst, they have the potential to kill our motivation and may even decrease our chances of success. Let me explain why.
Most people think that successful businesses start with an idea. They don’t. Successful businesses start with a person. More specifically, they begin when a person recognizes his or her unique talents and sets out to improve the lives of others. If this seems obvious, think about the number of people who never start a business because they “can’t think of an idea” or “don’t know where to start.” Many of these people could become successful freelancers, small business owners or entrepreneurs, if they examined themselves before looking for ideas.
Does the way we think about words like “retirement” and “bingo” change our behavior? Could aging stereotypes even have an impact on how many of us decide to start a business after 50? According to a 1996 study by John Bargh, and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there is reason to believe that they do. As a result, it is more important than ever for us to redefine retirement and provide positive examples for each other of what we can accomplish in our 50s, 60s and beyond.