5 Reasons People Over 40 are More Likely to Succeed When Starting a Business

by | First Steps

It’s never too late to start your own business. In fact, the data shows that older may indeed be better when it comes to launching a new venture.

The average age of a successful founder is 45.

While the media may put most of their focus on entrepreneurs in their 20s — especially in Silicon Valley — that biased coverage obscures the fact that in the real world, successful founders definitely skew older than that.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Older entrepreneurs simply have more to bring to the table. So it’s not surprising that people with more experience, both professionally and personally, have better odds of building a successful business.

But media bias is what media bias is, and it’s easy to get the impression that if you’re not in your 20s you’ve missed your chance and it’s too late. If you’ve ever felt that way, then it’s time to get in touch with the many advantages that come with being older — and how those advantages will make you more likely to succeed, not less.

Here’s a look at just 5 of the things that entrepreneurs over 40 have going for them that younger people don’t.

1. Experience.

According to research from the Harvard Business Review, the average age of a successful startup founder is 45. The empirical evidence shows that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged, not young.

When you have more experience — whether it’s experience in your specific field, in business in general or life experience — naturally you’re going to be capable of performing at a higher level than those who don’t.

Your expectations are more realistic. You’re more capable of staying focused and not getting distracted by shiny, new objects or fads. You can keep your eye on your business rather than looking over your shoulder at what the other guy is doing.

But perhaps most importantly, your extra years of experience give you a longer view, a wider perspective and a better understanding of how both business and the marketplace work. You’ve seen more, you’ve done more and you’ve experienced the ups and downs that come with business and in life — so you’re better prepared for what lies ahead.

2. Existing Network.

Older entrepreneurs don’t just bring more experience to their business; they bring their network of relationships. These relationships — both personal and professional — can play a pivotal role when it comes to:

  • Customer introductions and leads.
  • Partnership opportunities.
  • Accessing top talent as you build your team.
  • Recommendations and introductions to vendors and suppliers.
  • Receiving advice and support (formally and informally).
  • Getting candid feedback.

In a nutshell, your network can help you improve your business by helping you:

  • Navigate roadblocks.
  • Avoid pitfalls.
  • Accelerate your learning curve.
  • Open doors to people and resources you might not otherwise have access to or be aware of.

To top it all off, if you need outside funding, you’re more likely to have wider and deeper networks to tap into. Friends, family, past business associates — all of these people can help provide seed funding or help connect you to people who can.

3. Patience.

Those who have a few gray hairs have seen their share of economic booms and busts (like the recession of 2008 and the dot-com bubble circa 2000). They understand that markets go up and down and up again, so they’re more resilient when it comes to staying the course through challenging financial times or when things don’t go according to plan.

Because of that, they find it easier to tap into a more measured sense of optimism and a deep understanding of the long view. Their ability to be patient when it comes to growth, or waiting for a market to rebound is a real advantage over the reactionary nature of their younger counterparts.

But where this really becomes an asset is in planning. Many entrepreneurs in their 20s don’t have the patience to sit down and write an actual business plan, where they take the time to figure out all the important details and do the legwork to sort out nuts-and-bolts of their business. When older entrepreneurs start a business, they’re not interested in winging it or taking shortcuts. They know the value of building a solid foundation for their new venture.

4. People Skills.

The older people get, the better they’re able to understand the nuances of how to connect to, interact with and manage other people — and that makes them more likely to succeed at accomplishing the things they care about.

With customers, they can step back and more effectively put themselves in other people’s shoes to better assess both tangible and hidden wants and needs. They’re better at empathizing and understanding motivations. Even their listening skills are better (since they’re more aware that they don’t know it all).

With employees, these more advanced people skills help older entrepreneurs have a better grasp of how to inspire and motivate others, and how to build a team and company culture that function in a healthy and productive way. They have the benefit of more years of socializing and networking, of building the “soft skills” that foster a thriving team dynamic.

These people skills also come in handy during the hiring process. You’ve got to be able to tell who’s going to be a good fit for your team, and who isn’t. You’ve also got to know how to manage the individual strengths and weaknesses of the people working for you — and the people skills required for that are not something that younger entrepreneurs are going to have a lot of experience in.

5. Self-Funding.

Older entrepreneurs are also frequently more capable of self-funding their startups. A study conducted by crowdfunding platform Fundable shows that for most entrepreneurs, access to personal savings, retirement accounts and home equity — assets that few 20-somethings enjoy — is where they get their seed money. Those personal assets can also function as collateral for loans they may want to take out to fund their business.

Entrepreneurs over 40 are also more likely to have a working spouse — with health insurance. This helps create a financial safety net that can reduce the financial risks associated with new ventures.

It’s never too late to start a business.

Age truly can be an advantage in starting a business — so don’t listen to the media. You can appreciate what you’re good at, and play to your strengths. You know your weaknesses and what you’re not so great at, but you’re also more comfortable asking for help and seeking out expert guidance or advice from friends, colleagues and experts.

Images of 20-somethings may sell more magazines, but at the end of the day, older entrepreneurs have much better odds of winning at business.

P.S. If you’re working on your business plan, I’m happy to work with you one-on-one, or take a look at my DIY Business Plan Kit. It will walk you through all the important parts, and help you create a plan designed to serve your new venture well.

HELPFUL HINT: You can choose to invest time in building a strong business plan before your business launches, or you can invest time afterwards fixing the problems that crop up because you didn’t. One of my favorite quotes says it best:

“There’s never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over.”

— from documentary film Biggest Little Farm

Want help starting your business? Click here to learn more.

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