By Erica Wolfe-Murray
One of the best adventures you can have as you get older is to start your own company.
Why be chained to the daily grind of a larger organisation with all its politics, jockeying for position and petty rules, when you can be your own boss?
As people reach their late 40s, early 50s, the question ‘is this is?’ seems to raise its head more frequently. Hungry young challengers snap at their heels, redundancy hangs over their heads, they are a big payroll expense or, after years of doing the ‘same old, same old’, need a change – the reasons for wanting out are myriad and complex. Yet with over 20 years of working life ahead of you – it’s not too late to start your own venture doing something you really love. If you recognise some or all of these factors, find a pen and paper, pour yourself a coffee and let’s think this one through.
Your hopes and dreams
Start by listing six or seven hopes and dreams – ensure they are a mix of both personal and professional. Where do you want to be in your career in five to seven years’ time? Once you have nailed these, ask whether these are going to be achievable where you are currently working.
Before I set up my latest venture – I knew that there was no way I could do what I dreamed of where I was, so had to come up with a new plan that made sense for me.
Plot your working life in detail
Before you decide what you want to be doing if you start your venture – really review your career in detail. List all the companies you have worked for, as well as the clients/customers that you have been responsible for. On a second separate list – note down what you were actually being paid to do in each role throughout your career. Not the job title, but the day-to-day functions, such as ‘business development targeting companies manufacturing car technologies’, or whatever.
A friend came to me feeling lost, not knowing what to do next. He left having written the above two lists feeling confident and inspired, realising he had so many more contacts, and capabilities than he thought. Going back over his career in this way reminded him of precisely why he had got to his current high position with his current employer. And it was a trajectory completely unique to him – as yours will be to you. This will prove invaluable in planning what your start-up could be.
Note down your passions, skills and talents
Many people start their own companies because they want to follow a passion. Work out what you really care about. Is there a business potential in this? Add an adjacent list, detailing your skills – these will be things you have learned to do well and, when aligned with your passions, can provide a potent mix for a start-up idea. And then finally – what are you talented at? By ensuring those talents relevant to a small business are featured in the mix, you will have a rich cocktail to start honing down what you want to do.
Research, research, research
Before you can launch any small business based on your experience, capabilities, passions and skills, you need to have a very clear understanding of the market/s you are entering, the impact of emergent trends and your potential competition. Harnessing the dynamics of all of these will help you formulate your model more clearly.
And be realistic – the view is very different from inside a big company to that of a small start-up knocking at the door.
Only start doing a SWOT analysis once you have done 1-4 points above. Most people do this too early when they are planning a business, but it is crucial to leave it until you have really unpacked your capabilities and what is happening in the outside market.
Remember Strengths and Weaknesses come from you and your past, Opportunities and Threats come from external factors you will have discovered doing point 4) above.
Nailing Your Offer
Only now after much thought and work will you be able to really determine what venture it is you could set up and start looking at the actuality and the financials. Whether it is a café, a consultancy, an e-commerce site, an app developed for a particular target grouping – the process is still the same.
This list could go on endlessly but there are plenty of start-up websites and books to help you further. Many of them focus on the younger entrepreneurs rather than those leaving company careers to start afresh. But success is on your side…
Research shows that starting a company in your 50s has a better chance of success, than if you start one in your 20s or 30s. The reasons for this were found to be greater levels of saleable skills, wider range of contacts and potential business leads and customers, experience at managing budgets, cashflow and all other financial issues, as well as well-thought through growth planning. And you will be well versed in understanding how to adapt to changing market conditions after all those years at the coalface.
So plan ahead, think everything through thoroughly and if it all seems sound – go for it!
About the author
Erica Wolfe-Murray is the UK’s leading business expert and the founder of Lola-Media.co.uk.
Erica’s new book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business’ is out now. Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business and developing greater commercial resilience – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.