Let’s take a look at why Generation Xers are seemingly in a better position to start a business than their younger counterparts
What comes to mind when considering the profile of an entrepreneur? You wouldn’t be alone if this title prompted thoughts of a young, aspiring business owner at the beginning of a 30-plus year career. This stereotypical notion of what it takes to be a successful business owner is often what stops an older entrepreneur in their tracks – a fear that, in their 50s and 60s, they may simply be too old to take on a new challenge. But, as I’m about to discuss, there are multiple advantages to starting a business later in life. As we recognise Global Entrepreneurship Week (16th-22nd November), let’s take a look at these advantages and why, in many ways, Generation Xers are seemingly in a better position to start a business than their younger counterparts.
Now, this may seem rather self-explanatory but you can’t put a price tag on life experience. As the great Rocky Balboa once said: “Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.” Whilst a millennial or Generation Zer may be more openly enthusiastic about launching a franchise, a more mature person will understand that challenges provide an opportunity for learning life lessons. Younger business owners that haven’t been through tougher life experiences, whether professionally or personally, tend to approach the challenge under a cloud of naivety and with unrealistic expectations.
Relevant experience isn’t necessarily limited to that of the sector you choose to go into. Whether you’ve run a team of staff or handled the operations and productivity of an assembly line, this insight will stand you in good stead as you take the helm of your new venture. Decades of workplace experience, as an employee or an employer, will also equip you with a critical phenomenon – hindsight. Younger entrepreneurs may be inclined to keep their fingers crossed and wait for the revenue to roll in, whilst your realistic caution will put you at an advantage when it comes to planning the long-term growth strategy of your franchise.
It’s not what you know but who you know
Creating a network of valuable contacts and mentors isn’t something that happens overnight. Whether you’ve consciously kept in touch with your corporate peers throughout your career or just sporadically checked in with acquaintances, you’re bound to benefit from the insight of others as you move forward with your new business.
A business owner with a vast and relevant little black book of contacts will often succeed where others have failed, simply because they will be able to rely on the opinions of those who have lived through the multiple scenarios linked with starting a new business. And, depending on how long you’ve worked for and how many industries you’ve worked in, the more people you will have accumulated. Some will be able to advise you, whilst others may even want to work with you.
The stakes are higher
Those choosing to go into business later in life often do so to create liquid assets for future plans. In most cases, this would refer to early or, at the very least, a comfortable retirement. Perhaps you’ve spent the majority of your career working for someone and now you see the value in being your own boss. With fewer years to establish your legacy, the stakes are higher. This will encourage a sense of required success and, ultimately, means there’s less room for mistakes.
Older entrepreneurs regularly wrongly assume that they are less of an appealing prospect because of their age but it is for this very reason that you may seem like more of a solid investment for a franchisor. Bear this in mind when researching franchising opportunities and communicate your motives for launching your own business during discussions with a franchisor.
A legacy that keeps on giving
Studies have shown that older entrepreneurs are much better mentors for younger successors. Essentially, when an older person invests in a franchise, they will scope out the talented individuals who have the potential to take the reins when the time comes for the franchisee to move on to pastures new. One of the biggest challenges that franchisors continue to contend with is maintaining the longevity of its franchise network from generation to generation.
A younger franchisor tends to come into the network and build a profitable business, that they will either run for the rest of their working days or sell on once their franchise agreement term comes to an end. An older franchisee will be inclined to establish the business from the ground up, whilst paying close attention to the people within their business and seeking out an equally dedicated and loyal individual to take over operations at a suitable stage. This is succession planning at its most successful – starting with the exit in mind.
Before disregarding opportunities in franchising past the age of 55, embrace your unique qualities and recognise ways in which you can use them to your advantage. I’m proud to represent a franchise network of diverse ages, beliefs and cultures. I see value in their varied and combined experiences and encourage a culture of sharing in knowledge for the benefit of each other. The UK franchising industry is made up of thousands of equally dedicated business owners, each with their own story to tell.
Maybe it’s time you plan for the next chapter of your own story.
Justin Nihiser is the CEO of kids coding specialist, Code Ninjas. At locations across the UK, Canada and the US – where the brand was launched in 2016 – kids learn to code in a fun, safe, and inspiring learning environment with a game-based curriculum that they love and through which their parents clearly see results.