The time has never been better to launch your own business. How can older entrepreneurs ensure their venture is as risk-free as possible?
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It has never been more desirable to be an entrepreneur. In recent years, we have seen a large number of small-scale start-ups achieve rapid global success.
This is thanks to both the advancements in technology that have made companies like Uber, and Deliveroo an instant success, and the plethora of support systems – city-based start-up incubators, crowdfunding platforms and mentorship schemes - which have made it significantly easier to pursue start-up dreams.
And it’s not just the younger generation taking an interest. A recent survey of HEC Paris executive MBA alumni revealed that over 20% of them intended to launch their own business ventures within at least three years of graduating.
Evidently, the age of these entrepreneurs is becoming a lot older, with more and more people leaving their established careers to launch their own business.
The survey found that the average age for an entrepreneur is now 38, as at this age after spending almost 15-20 years following one particular career path, many professionals find themselves stuck in a rut and strive for more fulfilling occupations.
Although money is clearly a driver for career progression, numerous surveys suggest that many entrepreneurs’ key motivations are instead related to gaining professional freedom or enhancing personal development.
Entrepreneurship is often a pursuit for ‘ikigai’; a Japanese term which means “to find one’s purpose”, and to make their passions profitable.
Risks to Start-ups
Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks, however those risks are far more significant for older entrepreneurs. Stereotypically, entrepreneurs are young, tech-savvy graduates, with little to lose when taking the plunge and starting their own business.
However, for middle-aged professionals, stepping away from career security to launch their own business ventures, the stakes are much higher.
Aside from having a professional reputation to maintain, many have a home to run and a family to support, meaning the consequences of a business failure are usually far worse. So what steps can older entrepreneurs take to protect themselves, when starting a new business venture?
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Secrets of Start-ups
Creating a truly innovative and successful business is rarely the work of one person, with only one in ten companies being run by a single founder, meaning one of the wisest steps for an aspiring entrepreneur to take is to bring a business partner or two on board early on and share responsibility.
Successful start-ups are always run within an environment where effective collaborations can be facilitated, sharing tasks between a select few skilled and diverse partners.
However, entrepreneurs must avoid hiring clones and look to unite diverse, but complimentary partners in order to foster a range of ideas and opinions, but also to help ensure their business is more robust.
As easy and tempting it may be to surround themselves with ‘yes men’, it is necessary for entrepreneurs to include those who may object to or challenge their decisions, in order to provide an alternative outlook and opinion.
These differences should not cause friction, but encourage synergy, compatibility and the challenging of unwise decisions.
So, though it is important to have diverse partners, it is also important to ensure that these partners have compatible outlooks, values and objectives, when it comes to ultimately deciding how a business should grow. Evaluating a team member’s compatibility is a highly complex, but useful task.
Company founders should ensure they take the necessary time to do this through exchanging views, outlooks and objectives, prior to bringing someone on board. This task should determine whether or not a potential partner will be heavily involved within the business and have their own decisions and ideas to implement.
Although having the right team is vital, it is useless without having the other key ingredients to start-up success; a simple, precise business structure.
This structure should set expectations and avoid confusion for partners, so that each individual team member knows their specific role and how it benefits the business.
Initial capital should be divided according to personal involvement and skills, with the most valued roles in a start-up usually being linked to development and marketing, therefore they should obtain an increased percentage of capital, in a fair and motivating structure.
The ability to unite such different and diverse profiles within a simple, but successful structure makes it possible to create a business like no other. However, it is still a possibility that this business may experience some problems throughout its ventures.
Entrepreneurs must plan for these problems, anticipating complications in order to be prepared to deal with these in a quick and effective manner. When problems are dealt with in a constructive way they can help a team to grow and bond just as much as any success can.
Entrepreneurs who manage these problems successfully can give their team direction as well as energy and meaning to their work.
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Business School Support
Unsurprisingly, a lot of would-be entrepreneurs make the decision to go to business school, in order to enhance their skills and ensure their business venture can be built on as solid a foundation as possible.
Business schools are increasingly offering their entrepreneurially-minded students greater careers support, providing start-up incubators, mentorship schemes financial support and additional, entrepreneurship-specific modules.
But, to cater to the growing number of mature entrepreneurs, such support systems must be made more readily available to their executive-level students.
For example, HEC Paris have built an entrepreneurship focus into their Executive MBA, to equip participants with both fundamental and practical skills for starting a venture, introducing a greater level of careers support and networking opportunities.
The digital capacity of the programme also provides more opportunities for the entrepreneurial-minded older student allowing greater flexibility in their study methods.
Should middle-aged professionals become entrepreneurs?
For middle-aged potential entrepreneurs there is good news, there has never been a better time to launch your own company.
However, entrepreneurs need to make the right decisions in the crucial early steps, to plan and build their business, ensuring that they link with partners who challenge them, but have the same overall goals and objectives.
A structure that is simple, but effective is just as important, ensuring every team member knows their position, personal involvement in the organisation and what their role achieves.