Being an older entrepreneur is no disadvantage when it comes to starting a business. In fact, research shows that the average company founder is 40 years-old.
While stories of tech-savvy twentysomethings striking gold with ground breaking apps seem to be the norm, the reality is that being a little older puts you at a significant advantage when starting a business.
Why? For the following reasons:
- You have more experience
- You know more people
- You have more financial security and risk aversion
- You have a clearer perspective on the world
Let’s consider these in more detail.
You have more experience
Intel. Lululemon. Gap. KFC. LinkedIn. What do they all have in common? Their founders were over 40 when they got things started (and in fact a lot older – 62 – in Colonel Sanders’ case). Indeed, in the USA there are more new entrepreneurs in the 55-64 age group than any other, according to a 2016 Start-Up Activity Index compiled by the Kauffman Foundation.
Put simply, starting your business as an older entrepreneur means you have a lot more experience. It’s not just about the amount of time you’ve spent in work though: it’s about the positions you’ve held and their tenure. Most people who’ve been employed for at least ten years usually have leadership or technical skills – often both.
Market knowledge can’t be underestimated and neither can your failures and mistakes – as long as you’ve learned from them along the way. Take Ray Kroc for example – a 52 year-old milkshake mixer salesman who saw that he was losing ground with his product offering.
However, after witnessing the rise of automobiles in America, and a lack of family-friendly roadside restaurants, he began taking an interest in a fast food franchise owned by a couple of brothers, eventually buying the company from them. The brothers’ names? Richard and Maurice McDonald.
Instincts like this aren’t just honed from work, though. Life experience accounts for a great deal as well, helping you have a better understanding of:
- Who you are
- What you’re good at
- What you need help with
- When to defer to outside expertise
You know more people
Something else life experience provides is a network. The longer you’ve been around, and the more you travel, work, and interact, the more people you know. And as any good business person will tell you, the key to success in any industry is often down to ‘who you know’.
Ray Kroc actually knew Walt Disney. They had once served as volunteer ambulance drivers together. So, when McDonalds was taking off, Kroc wrote to Disney offering to open a restaurant in one of his new theme parks.
While Disney turned him down (allegedly over a price dispute concerning French fries), it’s a prime example of leveraging a powerful contact with a persuasive offer. It’s a technique that’s certainly worked for Warren Buffet – the world’s third richest person.
Buffet didn’t become a millionaire until the age of 32, and hitting the billionaire mark just before he turned 60. A good deal of his fortunes were the result of partnerships with other prominent professionals.
You have more financial security and risk aversion
If you’re nearing the age of 40, you’re likely to have a few assets to fall back on – a car, a home, and some savings to support you in the early days of your new business.
In fact, the older you are the more likely you are to either own your home outright, or have significantly less personal debt than younger entrepreneurs – although the average age of the first-time home buyer is rising. Your net worth is probably much higher the older you are, and you’re also more likely to have more disposable income.
Statistics show that:
- Those aged 35-44 have a net worth five times higher than those aged under 35
- Those aged 33-40 spend USD 10,000 more per year than those a decade younger
However, if you’re older you may well have dependants as well – meaning additional financial responsibilities. But there’s also a good chance you have a partner with a good income too.
With more on your plate financially, you’re also more likely to be risk averse or at least more cautious, which can be enormously beneficial in business. While it’s true that the tech startup culture was forged in the spirit of risk aversion and high valuations, more experienced entrepreneurs champion risk calculation and mitigation as being critical in the pursuit of success.
You have a clearer perspective on the world
Business people with a few years of experience under their belts are much more likely to be aware of what different cultures and nations offer; possibly as a result of having travelled more extensively – for work or pleasure.
Consider British entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne – who apparently didn’t even have a bank account until the age of 30. He joined the British Navy as a young man which gave him a chance to travel the world, before beginning his first venture.
Then there’s Grace Lee, a 20-year veteran of the predictive analytics sector. Travel was her passion and it formed a large part of her work. Seeing an opportunity to combine her interests and expertise, she left her job to found her own startup, WishPoints, which uses data to gather travel discounts.
Even for those who don’t consider themselves experts, technology can be tremendously helpful for any budding entrepreneur – at any age. After all, we live in an increasingly connected world.
Ongoing improvements in technology, transport, and broader innovation means that growing a business in new markets is a lot easier than it used to be.
For experienced entrepreneurs looking for a place to establish a high-growth business, the world is full of attractive opportunities. Right now, the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is gaining an excellent reputation for having some of the world’s highest levels of international entrepreneurship.
One of the most celebrated examples is Dubai-based Ronaldo Mouchawar, who co-founded Souq.com in 2005 in his mid-30s. The company went on to become the largest e-commerce retailer in the UAE. In 2017 it had a valuation above USD 1billion, making it the region’s first unicorn company. Souq was purchased by Amazon that year, and Mouchawar is currently the Vice President of Amazon MENA.
Mahmoud Awad is a ‘serial entrepreneur’, with a success story spanning almost 50 years. He is managing director of the Dubai-based Concorde Corodex group of companies, making fire protection, water purification and specialist gas products. His other diverse ventures include a metal fabrication firm, a VAT refunds business and a chain of fish restaurants.
Dinesh Kothari worked for more than a decade in the UAE gaining valuable experience before making the move to entrepreneurship. In 1987, aged 37, he launched his first UAE business – a corporate advisory and investment banking business, closely followed by a marble and granite factory in Sharjah. He also runs schools, in both the UAE and India.
New Zealander Steve Ashby launched Businessmentals in 2017 to help would-be UAE entrepreneurs set up and forge ahead to success. A real advocate for mature entrepreneurs, 65-year-old Ashby claims that globally the average age of a person setting up businesses is 48.
The UAE continues to attract entrepreneurs from around the world and is now a recognised hotspot for establishing a startup – for the following reasons:
- One of the best countries globally for doing business
- Strong government support
- Excellent infrastructure
- No taxes
- High growth expectations
The UAE also has the highest proportion of entrepreneurs projecting to create six or more jobs in the next five years.
So if you’re thinking you’ve missed the boat where starting an enterprise is concerned, think again. Use your knowledge, networks, experience, and confidence in your abilities to find the right recipe for success – wherever that may be.