It is estimated there are now more than 5 million Americans age 55 and older who have their own businesses or are self-employed, according to the Small Business Administration.
Driving this trend, no doubt, are many Boomers who are looking for second acts or who have retired early. For some, it’s because they want to continue to be productive and do something new or more fulfilling. Unfortunately for others, the decision has not been by choice, but they were faced with job loss and the need to continue to work to support themselves. According to a recent Met Life Study more than 21% of the oldest Boomers are working full-time. Sadly, the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports the proportion of boomers at risk of not being able to maintain their standard of living or run out of money in retirement at 40%-50%.
The good news is it’s easier than ever to start your own business. There are more resources – everything perhaps except the funding, that is – available than ever before for anyone who is interested in learning how to launch a small business today, and make it thrive. So many, in fact, it’s hard to know where to start.
Having started several of my own small businesses prior to AVG, I can tell you how critical figuring out the financing piece is. But today there are more options than ever: a traditional small business loan, equity investment (i.e. Angels and VCs), or the newer crowd funding (ala Kickstarter, Indiegogo) programs or the leveraged-assets route (think of Airbnb – renting rooms in the apartment or home you own, no upfront investment required.) The latter two are particularly interesting for Boomers, who don’t want to be in a position where they put their retirement nest eggs at risk. The reality is that most ventures do not qualify for venture capital and never will.
I brought VC money into one of the businesses (an early .com) because of the need to move quickly. I have to say, in my experience, it was a bad mistake. I would not ever do this again. I became an “employee” and was dismissed at the first market downturn so they could package the business for sale. Beware, unfortunately once they make an investment, VC’s often want to bring in their own CEO talent…
Here’s the basic advice I give to anybody contemplating starting a new business or heading down the to road of entrepreneurship today.
Do your homework
Got an idea? Think it’s good? Do your due diligence.
What’s the problem you’ll be solving? Who’s your competition? What’s the business opportunity?
In addition to SBA, other online resources abound for finding best practices, useful info, news, trends and helpful resources, guides and mentoring. Inc. and Entrepreneur are the category stalwarts. Did you know that almost all of the leading business and news publications and websites also have vibrant Small Business focused portals and followings? Check out the Huffington Post, Forbes, CNN Money, Fox Business, NY Times and the Amex Open Forum.
Formulate and put your business plans down in writing
This means articulating and documenting your product offering, purchase and partner targets, doing the overall strategy, creating your elevator pitch, as well as doing numbers for projections for your first and five year plan, so that you can pitch and share it. Most of the publications and websites above offer good guides to writing business plans.
Take advantage of any technology advantage
Learn how online technologies and applications can help you get your business and brand get known.
There are many free resources out there. For example, get “The Beginners Guide to Small Business Blogging” by ConstantContact – a free but useful tool from the content marketing vendor.
Once you’ve gotten your business going, AVG will be a good resource for your digital practices. We often hear about big companies and big data loss but cyber security is a growing issue for small business. We have resources available. Check out our small business channel. We also offer a very useful Small Business IT Security Healthcheck checklist and an ebook, the AVG Small Business Digital Policy Guide.
Network and connect with others
Get out and meet with other entrepreneurs, people in your industry, mentors, experts and potential customers -whether you are looking to run your idea up the flagpole, still in the testing the water phase, or hunting for your first customers or new business leads. Take advantage of the opportunities from classic Chamber of Commerce events to social network meetups and Linked In Groups.
Up and coming co-working spaces have sprung up for entrepreneurs and startups across the country- including HatchTodaySF in San Francisco, the Grind in New York and Impact Hub, which started in London and is now global. Some are membership based and rent desks, tables or offices to individuals and small companies on a monthly basis.
Don’t get emotionally attached to the idea of the business
Set boundaries on how long you will go before it makes money. Be honest with your spouse/partner on expected financial strains, and have the courage to pull the plug if it goes wrong.
Bottom line: Starting your own business is exciting and can be rewarding. Just go for it!
May 12, 2014