Is There a Perfect Age to Start Your Own Business?

Posted on July 14, 2010


Entrepreneurship is a dream of many Americans, and there’s incredible appeal in being one’s own boss and making it rich off of that next big idea. Setting out on one’s own in the business world, however, is also fraught with risk. Most new companies don’t succeed, and often the question becomes, when, if ever, is it the right time to take that leap.

Some argue that entrepreneurship is for the young. Twenty-somethings are rarely used to a particular lifestyle of fancy cars, home ownership or even meals that consist of more than Ramen noodles. A lot of them don’t even have spouses or children to support. If they don’t succeed, a corporate world awaits ready to hire fresh, young faces, and often such a bold move, even when it doesn’t work out, is viewed as a sign of drive and ambition rather than carrying the stigma of failure.

In Entrepreneur Magazine, “Risk it When You’re Young” by Joel Holland cites Rich Aberman, 25, as one of these young entrepreneurs willing to drop out of law school and give his web company, WePay, a shot. Holland quotes Aberman as saying, “You have the degree under your belt … If you take a risk, and it fails, the worst that happens is that you have a unique experience that you can use as an impressive factor to get you into graduate school …If you wait …you are just piling on the reason not to take the risk, and you reduce the chances that you ever will.”

However, just as many analysts would argue that entrepreneurship is an equally appropriate option for the 50+ set. With more experience and more resources, Boomers are looking more and more towards starting their own business endeavors.

Also in Entrepreneur Magazine, “The Older Entrepreneur’s Guide to Success” by Jeff Wuorio cites Charles Matthews, executive director of the University of Cincinnati’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education & Research. “We’re seeing that the 50-plus generation has greater autonomy, flexibility and resources – both intellectual and financial – than ever before … They also have more experience than younger entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurship is on the brain for many right now as older workers face job losses and young people find themselves struggling in a nearly non-existent job market. However, Wired Magazine pointed out back in November of 2008 that it is exactly economic times like these that foster innovation. Following the Great Depression, the United States experienced an economic boom unprecedented in its history, “largely [due] to the tremendous backlog of innovation developed in the late years of the Great Depression,” says Rick Szostak of the University of Alberta.

FedEx and other great companies came out of the malaise of the 1970s. According to Wired, “This doesn’t mean that big new ideas emerge because of turmoil—in fact, the data shows no relationship between major breakthroughs and economic conditions. But the benefit of a global money drought is that competition tends to vaporize. And for some, the stress of tough times has an amazing way of concentrating the mind on the way forward.

Does one age group have an edge over the other in business? Can you be too young our too old to become an entrepreneur? Is there such a thing as an ideal age to “go for it,” so to speak?

I believe the answer lies not in the ages of those involved, but in the skills, capabilities, goals and passion they bring to the table. Any entrepreneur, no matter his or her age, should have a strong idea, make a thorough investigation of the market and clearly consider the pros and cons of such a major move. Knowing exactly where you are in your professional skills, in my opinion, is a key entrepreneurial skill.

These tips offered by Jeff Wuorio for older entrepreneurs apply to all:
1. Exercise caution, don’t over-spend and remember that all risk comes with the potential for both reward and ruin.
2. Get out there and know others in your field. Network, and be ready to hit the pavement. If you can’t sell your own product, chances are no one else will want to either.
3. Stick with what you know, and if you find yourself stuck, seek out someone to complement your skill set. Great with numbers, but don’t like crowds? Find someone else to help with the sales. Partnerships can benefit all involved.
4. Even on the darkest days, remember, “If the passion is there, stay the course.”

There’s no reason entrepreneurs of all ages can’t succeed without the right guidance, follow-through and critical thinking.

Mike Goodrich
Goodrich Law Firm, LLC