It seems that it is often young entrepreneurs who make the headlines and receive most of the recognition for their accomplishments. Think of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) and Pete Cashmore (Mashable) — all in their early 20s, and high up on the list of successful entrepreneurs. But the age of the founder is not the primary factor that determines whether or not a business will be successful. These six successful entrepreneurs, with ages ranging from 40s to 60s, show that the success of a business is not directly related to the age of its founder.
In fact, there is an argument that those who start businesses later in life have a better chance of reaching success: Studies have shown that if you're over 55 years old, you are twice as likely as your counterparts who are under 35 to launch a high-growth startup. Not convinced? Here are 10 reasons you would make a better entrepreneur now than you would have when you were younger.
1. You have life experience.
The most obvious and undeniable benefit of starting a business later in life is the fact that you now have years of life experience to pull from in your new venture. You are seasoned in the ways of the world, and you have a level of business acumen that you didn't have in your 20s. You are more patient and willing to take each step in the business startup process (even the steps that aren't a lot of fun) one-by-one in order to give your business the best chance it has at success.
While you may not have hands-on experience in every segment of the business startup process, it is very likely that you understand the importance of things like having a business plan, creating a solid financial plan and conducting thorough market research. And you know who you need to help you with the pieces you can't do yourself. Which brings us to reason #2...
2. You know more people (and they know people who know people).
At this stage of your life, you have likely built a large and diverse network of peers and colleagues. And because a new business often requires a village to thrive, your connections will be invaluable as you get started. Think about all of the experts you have met in your life that could share their advice or provide services to help you in your new venture—attorneys, accountants, marketers, venture capitalists, financial planners, real estate agents, contractors, designers, and writers. This depth of a thriving network often takes years to build, so age is certainly an asset in this situation.
Having experience in the business world, you also understand the importance of networking and are able to ask for introductions when needed to move projects forward. This can often expand your network by double or even triple, giving you all of the resources you need to get started.
3. You know how to set and achieve goals.
Goal setting is an integral part of starting and running a business and is necessary on a consistent basis during the life of the business. In our younger years, we don't always understand the power of smart goal-setting for getting from one place in life to another. As a seasoned goal-setter, the process of outlining a desired outcome, as well as the actions you will take to make that outcome a reality, will come as second nature. Your life experience will also help you remain objective as you consider different paths you can take to reach your goals so you can move forward in a more efficient, cost-effective and productive way.
4. You may have an advantage with investors.
While young entrepreneurs are often favored by investors because it can be easier for them to get a bigger ownership stake and have more control in the business, it can be argued that older entrepreneurs offer better chances of success because of what they bring to the table. According to Entrepreneur.com, many venture capitalists are looking for older, seasoned and experienced entrepreneurs who have "been there, done that." As Susan Schreter points out, the best investors are opportunistic, and by backing older and wiser entrepreneurs who have already made mistakes, they are able to make smarter investments.
5. You know what you're passionate about.
Many young entrepreneurs know they want to start a business of some kind, but they may not know exactly how they want to do it. This is because they haven't had enough time to develop an idea of what they are truly passionate about. Richard Branson says that "Passion is one of the most effective motivators when it comes to launching a business—and often one of the strongest predictors of whether an idea will lead to success." Without passion for your work, it's very likely your business idea will fizzle out at some point. Older entrepreneurs know what they enjoy doing—and what they don't—and can tailor a new business to fit that.
6. You have knowledge that is valued in today's economy.
In recent years, there has been an economic shift from industrial to knowledge-based, which means most of us have the opportunity to continue working well past the traditional retirement age. In fact, age makes us more valuable as professionals because it often means we bring more skills and knowledge to the table. This holds true for entrepreneurs, too. This economic shift will support older entrepreneurs who decide to make a go of it later in life because you can transform your experience into a highly sought-after commodity.
7. You are financially secure.
Starting a business when you're young means you will probably be juggling the cost of business ownership along with the rest of life's major investments many of us face: mortgage payments, children's expenses (childcare, education, sports, vacations), healthcare, insurance, automobile payments, student loan repayment and retirement savings. While the expenses never really go away, the older you get, the more likely you are to have paid off a significant percentage of the big stuff. This frees up cash to invest in your business. Plus, having less financial responsibilities makes the idea of starting a business less risky since theoretically, you will have a lot less to lose if things don't work out.
8. You have a lot of startup options.
When you're young, you have limited experience, a limited network, and limited capital, so your startup options are often limited as well—usually, a bootstrapped startup is the only way to go unless you can secure the ever-elusive financial backer. As a financially secure, seasoned professional, you have more options when it comes to your path to entrepreneurship. Sure, you can start a new business from the ground, but that is not the only option on the table. You can buy into a franchise, leveraging the power of an already successful brand and making it your own legacy. You can also form a partnership with a fellow entrepreneur and split the costs, workload, and profits. Or, you can become an investor yourself, moving to the other side of the table by providing capital for someone else's business idea. In return you get a percentage of the business, leaving the "in the trenches" work for them to handle.
9. You've failed before.
Failure is a part of life, and the older we get the more failures we have on our tally. Whether you have two big failures on your list or 22, they are a huge benefit for two main reasons. First, the most valuable part of each failure is the lessons you learned in the process. Each failure taught you the importance of being prepared, hard work and why you need a contingency plan. Second, your fear of failure is probably a lot less significant now than it was in your youth. Since being afraid to fail can result in an inability to make a decision, lack of confidence and inaction, having less to fear can be a powerful reason why older entrepreneurs have an easier start.
10. You are self-confident.
You know all of these failures we just talked about? In addition to valuable lessons learned, these failures also create one more big benefit as soon as you are able to rebound—they boost your self-confidence and motivate you to do better. Many young entrepreneurs have high self-esteem and a certain level of confidence naturally, but much of that comes from pure optimism that their business idea will turn into a hit. Optimism is definitely needed when starting a business, but when you take that optimism and add in confidence that comes with a track record of proven success, it's unbeatable. As a seasoned professional, you have already experienced both wins and defeats, and have emerged with a powerful confidence that will allow you to take the challenges of business ownership in stride and come out ahead.
So if you are getting older and feel like your chance at entrepreneurship is fading away a little bit every year, think again. Now just may be the perfect time to take the plunge and start a small business.