Entrepreneurs Over 50

I gave a lecture the other day on “How to Be Your Own Boss” and was surprised by the number of ‘grey hairs’ attending. In fact, a full 65% of the audience was over 50 years old. Hmm, it seems this baby boomer demographic is saying something people are not getting. Who thought older people wanted to be entrepreneurs?

Most people assume that being an entrepreneur is for those young, ambitious, risk takers who have a great idea right out of university but this assumption is increasingly being tested by baby boomers.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Baby Boomers are living longer, have a longer retirement and with this economy, often need extra money. The boomers I know (and I am one of them), can’t afford to retire and those who can, are bored with the lack of reward and purpose.

When I look at my closest friends every one is an entrepreneur. We are all, what some people would, call seniors but don’t say it to our faces. We are energetic, risk taking older entrepreneurs who will probably die with our boots on and a deal in the works.

When a career-focused baby boomer is laid off after 25 years in a company or the company closes, it is truly difficult to find employment. If they retire at 60 they have a good 20 years of working at something if they wish. Twenty years is the length of a career to some people.

Certainly people over 55 are still productive, have loads of experience, most have financial resources to start a business and many, if given the option, would prefer to continue to work for someone or themselves.

I met an acquaintance at the airport waiting for an early morning flight. At 6 am we were the only people at the gate so had time to chat. He is in his late fifties and was in the second year of a new career as a CEO of a tech startup. I knew he had recently retired as the VP of a major bank so I asked him why he immediately went into a new venture.

His answer surprised me. He told me he had a great six-figure pension from the bank and since he liked the startup’s philosophy he felt he could invest time in the business and give them expertise and experience that he knew they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. He took no salary for the first year and a small salary in the current year. He called it paying it forward – because he could.

If you think of the possibilities of what his action represents it is a new paradigm of entrepreneurship. Instead of retiring to the garden, the beach or the cottage a senior executive can help fledgling companies succeed with their knowledge and experience. Even if the boomer isn’t entrepreneurial he can still be useful post-retirement. I almost feel like opening a placement agency for retired executives to pay it forward.

I’m not suggesting boomers all go out and start a corporation but a part time business can be both rewarding in time and money. I met an 89 year old South Asian woman in a lecture who asked me how she could start a business. Everyone in the audience laughed at the suggestion that a woman of her obvious age could be an entrepreneur. I didn’t laugh and helped her.

My bud’s 6 year old daughter had a lemonade stand the other day and made $16 at fifty cents a glass. I told her dad to get a Square for his iPhone so she can take credit cards next time. Entrepreneurs can be any age.

I’ve spoken to a few people about Boomer Entrepreneurs and find it amazing that so many think it is a great idea that someone should push harder for funding and education. It is amazing that all that expertise is going to waste in retirement.

Thinking forward I am setting up a video series on how to start a business and – you guessed it – one of them is going to be for people over 50.

I’ll be checking ID’s at the door!

Gary is CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc., and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Communications, as well as, Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus). Gary can be reached at ceo@garybizzo.com

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