When the media and business communities highlight successful entrepreneurs, the traditional images tend to be techie and young. However, those examples don’t fit the reality: Many startup stars started later in life. According to a study in Forbes, “Against all stereotypes, [they] found that the typical successful founder was 40 years old, with at least 6-10 years of industry experience. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are more than 50 [years old than under] 25.”
Personally, I’ve started two businesses at two different phases of my life. I owned a day spa and hair salon chain in my early 30s. Now, I’m nearly 44, and I’m spearheading a law firm focusing on small business consulting and advocacy. I have taken inventory of the differences between opening a business then and now. Here are the 5 characteristics and circumstances which support the idea that there are benefits to stepping into the entrepreneurial waters after 40:
1. You are resilient. The building blocks of success start with a foundation of resiliency. Did you know that Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, sold paper cups and milkshake mixers until he was 52? Or did you know that Mary Kay Ash, sold books and home decor objects until she was 45? What were their 20s and 30s like? I’m sure they experienced many obstacles and challenges that they learned from, which created their path to later-in-life success.
2. Your personal life has more definition. When you are in your 40s, you have most of the answers to the questions you had in your 20s about your personal life. “Will I have kids?” “Do I want to be married?” Hopefully, that knowledge of who you are and what your life is allows you the freedom to choose what you want to do with more confidence from a business perspective.
3. You have some skin in the game. By the time you are in your 40s, the average person has worked for nearly 20 years. Financial investments such as your home and savings look good to banks and investors who want to support an endeavor with a committed owner.
4. You have experience. It should be obvious that experience weighs heavily as to why seasoned entrepreneurs have a leg up on their younger counterparts. Krisztina Z Holly notes that “[s]tudies have shown that for entrepreneurship, unlike typical markets, information networks are inefficient; this means founders identify different opportunities based on their unique prior knowledge.” In other words, your inside information is a huge advantage when you strike out on your own with limited resources.
5. You have learned to trust your intuition. One of the best skills that an entrepreneur needs is confidence and good intuition. The younger me was constantly worried about “what Aunt Betty thinks”. Now that I have experience and faith in my own abilities, my decision making skill are stronger. I believe it makes me not only a better leader, but more importantly, a more self-assured person.
Nicole Cober, Esq. is the Managing Partner at Cober Johnson, a law firm focusing on trademarks, brand licensing and small business consulting. She is a former small biz owner of the award winning chain, Soul…Day Spa and Salon. She is also a Legal Consultant for Washington DC’s NewsChannel 8 and author of soon-to-be released book: “CEO of My Soul: The Dos and Don’ts of Small Biz”. Follow her on Twitter @CoberJohnson and like her on Facebook @facebook.com/CoberJohnson. Visit her website at www.coberjohnson.com.