What do you think of when I say the word ‘entrepreneur’? I’m sure it’s not a million miles from a 20-something, fresh out of university with energy and drive in abundance. Media focus is often on the spirit of younger generations, ignoring that actually, the average age for starting a business is not the mid-20s, but mid-40s.
I was recently picked amongst Vauxhall Motors and Management Today’s 40 over 40, with 39 other business men and women who shun the idea that being over 40 is past your prime. In business, it’s never too late to take a pause, rethink your career path and ensure that it’s aligned with what makes you happy. Gone are the days of linear career paths; my own career has fully embraced the career cycle, flexing to my professional and personal circumstances.
I know that It’s not always easy to take the leap. When you’re young you have less responsibilities; you don’t have a family to provide for or a mortgage to pay. It can be difficult to have the confidence to work for yourself, but once you’ve identified a new desired career path, it’s important to make sure you have a clear vision of how you’re going to achieve it. Whether that’s meetings you need to set up, funds you need to raise, people you need to convince; laying out clear objectives is the best way to keep you on track.
Since appearing on Dragon’s Den, a lot of people ask me for advice, so here are a few things that I think are important for anyone planning to change careers later in life.
1. The first thing is that you need to manage your own expectations. Starting a new business, career or even going back to school doesn’t happen overnight. If it’s a hobby you want to turn into a business, you DON’T have to take one huge leap. It might be a good idea to keep your current job going or consider going part-time, to keep a stream of reliable income to support your future venture. This might help manage personal stress, especially if you have a family to provide for.
2. One of the best things about taking the career leap later in life is that you can build on the professional relationships that you already have. Connections are invaluable, and whatever you want your new sector to be you need to be making sure you are getting out there. Use the connections you’ve already made to meet new people. You never know where a door might open for you and being proactive gives you the best possible chance at meeting the right contacts.
3. One of the hardest things about starting a business later in life is getting to grips with the latest technological advances in marketing. If you aren’t particularly social media savvy it can be difficult to get the company the promotion it needs to be successful. Take time to learn about how to use sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It may seem menial, but growing a following can be a great way to market your new business.
4. Mentors are also super important. Having a confidant that you can rely on to give you support and advice when needed can be such a confidence boost. It doesn’t need to be a Chief Exec or MD – just someone you trust, someone who has experience and someone who will help give guidance through rough patches. If you don’t think you can afford a mentor, take advantage of the government-backed free mentoring service www.mentorsme.co.uk. Always remember in business – where there’s a will, there’s a way!
But the most important thing – HAVE FUN! Take the leap, work hard and enjoy what you do. Whether you’re 22 or 52, follow your ambition and enjoy the ride!