Starting a Business Late in Life: The Complete Guide


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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” These lines by George Elliot still ring true today in this fast-paced world, where people are so bent on being successful during their youth that they often miss their true calling. If you’ve recently realized that you’re truly passionate about business, but your mindset is holding you back, then drop all your anxieties, as there is a solution to them.

When starting a business late in life, first create the right mindset. Then proceed to identify your interested field’s scope, create a financial and business plan, brand your business, obtain legal licenses, talk with experts, make connections in the industry, and finally market your brand.

In this article, we will discuss the practical aspects you will need to focus on if you’re no longer young but wish to start a new career in business. Additionally, this article will focus on the mindset that you will need to cultivate to succeed in the business field, even if you’re a late-bloomer. Now let’s dive in!

Get the Right Mindset

Starting a Business Late in Life: The Complete Guide

Let’s be honest here; starting a business is no joy ride. There are going to be many ups and downs, a few mistakes, and maybe even some regrets. But at the end of the day, your mindset is what’s going to help you weather the storm. 

One of the most important things to remember is that age is just a number. You can’t allow that to hinder your decisions at any point in time during this journey. In fact, you can use your age to your advantage. Here’s why that’s possible.

You Have Experience and Knowledge

With age comes experience and wisdom. You’ve had your fair share of burdens during your youth, and you’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. It is safe to say that your mistakes may have been “educational” in many ways, which can now be applied to your new start-up. 

Even more importantly, you’ve met all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. This gives you the advantage of knowing how to read people and decipher whom you can trust and who you can’t. You also know how to keep a calm head in difficult situations (since you’ve been in them before), and this is going to be one of the most important traits of a new businessman. 

You Have Failed Before

One of the biggest hesitations and hindrances for young people who wish to start a business is the fear of failure. This not only holds them back but also influences all their major decisions in the business. 

But being someone who has passed the threshold of youth, you know that failure is nothing to be afraid of! You also know the true meaning of the proverb, “Nothing ventured is nothing gained.” 

Having the right attitude and mindset solves half of your problems. If you get over the fact that you’re not as young as most businessmen, you definitely can make your age work to your advantage in various fields, as we’re going to be discussing further along in this article.

The Advice of an Entrepreneur Who Founded His Company at 50

To find out what drives older entrepreneurs to create new ideas and implement them we interviewed one of them. Johann started a company producing electric motorcycles in 2009 when he was 50. You can find more information about his product in this video:

Q: “What motivated you to start the business?” 

A: “When I created my first company I wanted to know if I really had the capability of doing good work in my field in the way I decided to do it. At the time, the market niche for the product existed already, but we did it better and in a more qualified manner than many others. 10 years ago, I wanted to create a product to sell to the customer directly, B2C. And for me, the motorcycle embodies the idea of freedom.”

Q: “What were the key elements that finally triggered your decision?”

A: “It was the moment to take the next step, this was the real trigger. It is like the clock inside that strikes the next full hour. It is like being in movement and when your foot comes to the ground this is where you land, this is your next step.”

Q: “How did you feel when you started? Were you excited, a little bit scared, confident, or doubtful?”

A: “My feelings went from great confidence to strong doubts and even despair. But the basic feeling that this step was what I had to do. It is like the movement that pushes you forward. These doubts are utterly human but ridiculous in the context of the movement that is life. It is comparable to a mountain climber that has moments of doubt and fear, but he will not abandon because the summit has to be conquered.”

Q: “Were there any aspects that surprised you and that you did not expect as a starting entrepreneur?”

A: “There were almost only things that I did not expect. The quality of the product I had created – sustainability and environment protection – was not understood by the customer. This has changed now, above all with the “Fridays for Future” movement and our COVID experience. Governments around the world have begun to react. It is hard to change consumption habits and it took a huge push. It was difficult for me to accept that most people need much more time to react to changes in our environment than I did.”

Q: “What tips would you give to an older adult who wants to start a business?”

A: “Become aware of your dreams and desires and follow them. Do not expect it to be a stroll. It is an adventure that makes life worth living.”

Q: “In your opinion, is it ever too late to start a business?”

A: “What first comes to my mind when answering this question is: On my last day I would want to plant a tree. It is never too late, and every day is a new trial and beginning.”

Q: “In your opinion, what are the pros of starting a business later in life?”

A: “When you’re older you have more experience. This means that your technical skills are developed. But more important are resilience and patience, the capability to watch yourself and the situation from a distance, and above all the network you have already created.”

Q: “What are the cons?”

A: “Life experience makes you be more careful, sometimes even fearful. You’ve lost your youthful light-heartedness.”

Q: “Would you start a business again after this experience?”

A: “I’ll do it again and again until my last day. For me, life is just like that. I have the responsibility to use the talents life gave me in the best way I can.”

Our hope is that this interview motivates you to consider the possibility to become an entrepreneur yourself, no matter how old you are, as long as you want it and your situation allows for it. Please reach out to us in case you want to know more about the entrepreneurial adventures of older adults.

Now, let’s dive into the details of how to start a business later in life.

Identify the Scope of Your Field

The first thing to do is to conduct extensive research in the field of your business. Let’s face facts—you don’t want to get into something without being absolutely sure that it has great scope in the market. To do this, you need to know an estimate of how much you’ll be investing in this project. Ensure that there will be a great profit from it, at least in the long run if not immediately.

If you really want this to work precisely, document everything from scratch to make sure you’re not missing any loopholes. Here’s a list of things you need to consider when drafting the first plan of a business project:

  • The project’s goal (be very specific about your desired outcome)
  • The main objective of the project
  • All the tasks that will be involved
  • The entire cost and funding
  • A timeline of the project and the goals

Once you’ve put things down in black and white, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your project and how much work and money you will have to invest to see it through. Additionally, the best thing you can do is run a comparative analysis between the other markets in the same field. 

This will help you get a clearer perspective and understanding of what your business should work towards as well. You can learn so much from existing markets in your desired industry. This will also give you ideas of how to make your brand better than theirs, if and when you find anything lacking in their brand. 

One of the main mistakes people make is to jump into business the minute they think they have a great idea. This may not always work out, so it’s good to know if there’s actually any potential for success in the field you want to get into. 

Assess Your Finances

This part is crucial. You’re aging, and you definitely don’t want to spend your last few decades in debt because of acting without foresight. To avoid this hassle, you need to have a clear strategy of how you’re going to be financing your new business. 

Do you have all the finances you need, or will you have to borrow money? And are you planning to quit your current job and solely rely on the profit that this business is going to make? These are two of the most important questions you need to consider before stepping into a new business. 

These questions may not be a big deal if you’ve got a safety net (financially) to fall back on. But if this isn’t the case, you need to pay double the attention to the previous paragraph. While getting finances initially may not be very hard, you need to know if you’re going to make the desired profit from it. 

It would be best if you thought about the business’s pros and cons and everything that may go wrong. Once you’ve done this, you can think of whether or not there are solutions to the worst possible scenarios. This will also help you analyze the risk factors involved in the business and whether or not it’s worth it (especially if it’s going to be your only source of income).

Assessing your finances before you take any big step towards your business will also open new funding opportunities that you may not have considered before. For example, several loan programs are offered for small business startups by the Small Business Administration that is worth looking into.

Come Up With a Business Plan

Starting a Business Late in Life: The Complete Guide

Once you’ve figured out the scope of your business field and also assessed your financial needs, you can then move on to developing a killer business plan. This process is important as it helps you ponder on your business’s various aspects as you attempt to formulate them into actual strategies.

If you’d like more light thrown on what a professional business plan looks like, you can check out this list of its main subheadings below.

A Summary 

This will help people understand what your company is and how it intends to succeed in the industry. It’s similar to a mission statement, and also includes other details such as who the leadership team comprises, the number of employees, and the growth plans for the consecutive years.

Description of the Company

This essentially tells people what your business stands for and how it is going to benefit them. Give a detailed description of who your consumers are, what the business was built for, and, most importantly, how your company or business is different from the others in the same industry. List out the advantages your business has to offer.

Market Analysis

Through market research and analysis, you can understand your target audience and their behavior, preferences, and needs. Doing a competitive research analysis will also help you identify the various strategies used by other competitors. 

According to the U.S Small Business Administration, gathering demographic information about your market, audience, and competitors will help you understand your business’s advantages and limitations.

Management and Organization Structure

This step involves defining your business’s legal structure, whether the business is going to be incorporated as a C or an S corporation, and if there’s a partnership or a sole proprietor. To make things easier, you can make use of an organizational chart to list out who is in charge of what under different categories.

Marketing Strategy

This is one of the main factors that will help build your connections and your business, so you need to make a detailed strategy that markets your product or service efficiently to the target audience. Under this section, you’ll focus on your marketing and sales strategies and ideas. 

Funding Request

If you’re planning to ask for funding for financial needs, you’ll need to make a clear request stating how much you’ll need for the next five years or so, and what exactly you’ll be using the money on. 

Under this category, you will also state whether you would like debt or equity, other terms you’d like to apply, and the exact length and time the funding is supposed to cover.

These steps will ensure your business starts off on the right footing. It will also give you a chance to test the waters instead of stepping in with no clue where you’re headed.  

Branding Your Business

Once you’ve got the previous section covered, you can move into the next step of establishing your business. A good branding strategy will help attract customers to your products and services. Also, good branding will help make marketing and publicity so much easier. 

When trying to come up with an effective brand, here are a few types of brands you may want to consider. Your business will possibly fit under one of these, making it easier to decide how to classify and frame your brand.

  • Attitude brands: This type is usually used to promote ‘feelings’ rather than physical attributes. A few common examples are deodorants and sportswear brands.
  • Symbolic brands: Like attitude brands, symbolic brands attempt to appeal to the emotions of the customer differently, like how banks and insurance companies try to depict safety and security.
  • Functional brands: These brands appeal to the physicality of a product, rather than concepts and emotions. It strategically convinces customers as to why the product or service is more functional or unique than that of its competitors.
  • Own brands: These are brands that usually carry the retailer’s name, and are also referred to as private labels or store brands. They are commonly used by small business owners or large supermarket chains.

Based on one of these types, you can frame your brand depending on what service or product you’re offering. 

Prioritize the Legal Issues in a New Business

Taking care of the legal issues when starting a new business can be a tedious task, but is undeniably essential. Here are some of the legal requirements you will have to adhere to.

The Legal Structure of the Business

This is the legal structure or status that your business is registered under. A legal structure impacts how a business runs and also has implications on how you pay the taxes and keep the accounts. 

Here’s a list of the most common business structures people use around the world:

The Trademark

Your business’s name is very important, as that is how customers will identify and relate to it for as long as you’re in business. However, choosing a name can be a bit of a struggle as you need to extensively search the web for any other service that might have the same name. 

Using the name of another business can result in you getting wound up in unwanted problems like the trademark opposition action, so it’s best to be safe than sorry. Once you’ve come up with an original name, you can register your brand’s name and logo as a trademark. 

The sooner you do this, the better, as it will prevent someone else from using the same name before you do.

Business Licenses 

Before you get into the business, you will have to obtain various licenses that permit your business to exist and function efficiently. Most licenses depend on the type of business you’re running, but you will most definitely need to obtain a business license, trading license, and sales tax permit

To learn more about what licenses you will need to obtain before you can establish your business, contact your local government agencies, and ask for guidance.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-disclosure agreements are used to protect your business and company. Before entering into contracts or agreements with suppliers or partners, make sure you have the right confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.

Zoning

If you’re looking for a location where you can set up your shop or business, make sure you’re aware of the zoning laws in that area. Do the research and ask the local government bodies for help, as you can end up setting up your shop in an illegal area if you aren’t careful.

Talk With Experts

Starting a Business Late in Life: The Complete Guide

Starting a business from scratch on your own can be a difficult task. Which is why it is important to get all the advice you can before you make any important decisions. Talking to experts in the field who have decades of experience can help you see things from a new perspective and give you the assurance you need to get started. 

In addition to this, an expert has probably made loads of mistakes and will, therefore, be able to guide you in the right direction. You can also figure out the tips and tricks of the trade while you’re at it.

Along with renowned experts in the field of business, you can also consult with business coaches or mentors because getting advice from people who have been in the field for ages and have seen similar business startups can make a world of difference. They may even know of specific strategies an older person can use while stepping into the business arena.

On a side note, always be receptive to advice and criticism alike. Positive criticism from experts and customers is truly a blessing in disguise, as it’ll help you identify the flaws in your business and rectify them.

Also, remember that you can never be too well informed when it comes to business, so you may even consider taking a class on business startups and marketing. This will enable you to get better acquainted with the process and industry.

Connect With People in the Same Field

Connecting with people who have been in the same field can be an educational experience. They have the practical experience and used to be where you are right now. Their advice can help you along the way. 

Forming an effective network is one of the most acclaimed ways of ensuring a new business flourishes, so this is something you’ll definitely want to be doing right from the start. 

There’s no typical method you can use while making connections in a new business, but having a Linkedin account will make the process easier. Follow business pages that are similar to yours and form a bond with their owner. In no time, you’ll have a network that is willing to help and guide you along the way. 

Apart from all this, always remember to use your judgment when taking or leaving advice, as not everyone has your best interests in mind. Make sure you study a person before taking their advice on anything related to your company or business.

Advertising and Marketing

Promoting your business is the final and most important step in enabling your business to succeed. Even though it’s a startup, any business can pick up quickly if it has been promoted and marketed in the right way. 

As mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to enroll yourself for a course on marketing if that’s something completely out of your scope. Today, technology gives you the benefit of taking classes online from your own home’s comfort, so joining a course shouldn’t be much of a problem. 

If you’ve never taken one before, you can check out an app called Coursera, which gives you certified courses from reputed universities worldwide. Marketing is one of the most popular courses on its site, so you may want to check it out if you’re interested. 

Here are some tips and strategies that you can make use of while promoting your brand and business for the first time.

Use Local Listing Services 

You can use local business listings to showcase the portfolio of your business online. Registering your brand with Google Services is a must as that will allow your business to be displayed on google searches and google maps as well.

Another similar service is offered by Yahoo, which also follows a similar registration procedure online and functions in the same way. Microsoft’s Bing is another search platform that is widely used by Microsoft users in which you can register your business. 

Make sure you register yourself in as many places as possible, as that will increase the range and popularity of your brand.

Use Social Media

If social media is something you’ve never really cared much for before, now is the time to pull your socks up and dive right in! Social media platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, are used by millions of people (young and old) every day. 

Having a social media page for your business on all these platforms can definitely give you a huge boost in publicity and marketing. 

If you’re clueless about how social media works, you can hire a social media marketer who will market your brand online to a large target audience. 

Start a Blog

Blogging isn’t something that requires strategic planning and posting, so you can start a blog for your business with little to no help. Use the blog to describe and promote your products and services to a large audience. 

If you’ve never blogged before, consider using apps like WordPress that have a clean interface and design. With the right social media strategies, your blog can be promoted on your social media pages and help you connect with consumers directly. Additionally, with enough traffic, you’ll be able to monetize it and get an extra income.

Cautionary Advice

Starting a business when you’ve passed the prime of life can be a daunting process. There are so many legal issues you will have to stay updated on apart from managing a growing business’s financial needs. 

Here are some words of caution that can help you stay away from trouble by expecting the worst and being prepared for it:

  • Don’t put yourself in debt if you’re nearing retirement. Debt can be hard enough to deal with when you’re young and can end up ruining all your life’s work if not executed in the right way. If you need to borrow money for your new business, be ready with a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Always leave room for error and expect the unexpected.
  • Don’t start a business based only on your passion and emotions. It may have always been your dream to have a business of your own. But, don’t use that as the only reason for getting into something so big and deep. Weigh the pros against the cons and only step into it if the risk factor is very low. This will save you a lot of regret in the future.

On a lighter note, don’t completely rule out the possibility of you ever running a successful business. According to Forbes, most of the successful entrepreneurs and business people are middle-aged or older

In fact, it states that older business owners have the advantage of being more successful as they have more experience in management, marketing, and finance. Experience truly is the best teacher, and you can’t beat that!

Summary

This article summarizes the key factors you will have to remember when starting a business late in life. Here is a quick gist of it below:

  • Have the right mindset.
  • Identify the scope of your field by analyzing the target audience.
  • Make sure you have got financial security and a safety net to fall back on.
  • Come up with a comprehensive business plan.
  • Focus on branding your business perfectly.
  • Be aware of the legal issues in business. 
  • Talk with experts and other people in the same field. 
  • Be innovative in your marketing, and leave no stone unturned.
  • Always be cautious before you take a big step in any business.

Hopefully, this article answers all your questions. Now all you have to do is find the courage to begin! In the words of Samuel Beckett – “Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.” 

Sources

Ruth

Hey there, my name is Ruth, I'm in my late fifties. My life was turned upside down a few years ago as I experienced a burn-out. But I saw it as a sign that something had to change in my life. I'm happy I used this tough experience as a stepping stone. I now feel happier than ever and hope to inspire you to do the same, no matter how old you are.

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