Boomers and Seniors, you knew you were a valuable asset to our nation, but did you know your entrepreneurship is adding an important dimension to your well being and to the economy of the U.S.?
In a webinar held on October 25, 2012 sponsored by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) entitled “Gray is The New Gold” experts described the growing phenomenon of entrepreneurship by the 50 and older set. It turns out that many folks over 50 or even over 65 are not just retiring to golf courses, but are working productively either in businesses they’ve created, as volunteers with community organizations, or as mentors for younger entrepreneurs!
Just think of your own situation. You’ve spent 30, 40, or even 50 years developing skills and expertise in one or more fields. You probably know more now than you ever have, and you can apply those skills to either a new business start up, or to volunteering at a school, or to mentoring a younger entrepreneur.
According to Edward G. Rogoff, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Management of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, The City University of New York, and one of the webinar speakers, almost 18% of those in the 55 to 64 age range are self employed and this increases to over 19% for the 64+ population.
Several motivating factors are at work here: the desire to use skills and abilities developed over a long career; to give back to the community; to gain greater work satisfaction that may have been lacking in recent jobs; and the need for income in a tough job market.
But there are important differences between older adult entrepreneurs and those 23 year olds coming out of business school. Older entrepreneurs are usually better capitalized with less debt. They have better and larger networks of connections and resources to draw upon; they have better customer connections and a vast knowledge base, all incredibly powerful tools for business success.
At the same time older entrepreneurs tend to be less facile with technology such as social media and web sites than younger entrepreneurs. Here is an opportunity to partner with a younger entrepreneur, possibly exchanging mentoring for assistance in utilizing media technology. Older entrepreneurs cannot “bet the farm” on their enterprise as younger ones may since they have less time to make up for losses if their enterprise goes down the drain.
The support of family and friends for skills and capital are as important to both older and younger entrepreneurs. In fact Dr. Rogoff pointed out that most business start ups call heavily upon family and friends, as did Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
So what does all this mean to you? Much! If you are facing retirement or already retired but are not satisfied with either your non-work routine or the lack of income, think of how you might marshall your resources to become a consultant, to start up a business, to volunteer or to mentor a younger entrepreneur. Ask yourself a series of questions:
What are you really good at?
What do you love doing?
What resources could you bring to bear on this venture in terms of networks of contacts, customers (or consumers of your services), sources of expertise, and capital if needed?
Then write down a simple plan of action – this does not need to be a formal business plan at this point, although as you progress you may want to prepare such a business plan. List who you should talk to, how you might promote yourself, and timetable for moving forward. The chances are very good that you will have fun and even make some money. Good luck!
Written by Bob Rodino, Ph.D.
Bob is Vice President for Planning and Finance of Senior Premier Dating, LLC, and is its Chief Financial Officer. He is also President and founder of California Seniors Santa Barbara, LLC a developer of senior housing, and President of Rodino Associates, a consulting firm in urban revitalization. Dr. Rodino received his Ph.D. in Urban Planning from UCLA in 2003. He was awarded a “Certificate of Appreciation” by the City of Los Angeles for his many years of work on Los Angeles economic development. In 2008 the UCLA Department of Urban Planning awarded him “Most Valuable Alumnus of the Year” for his work in creating and chairing a conference on affordable housing and transit-oriented development, and for raising money for student scholarships.