AFRICANGLOBE – After an almost three-decade long career in public relations, Lynne Strang decided she was ready for something different. She wanted to be her own boss, which would let her set her own schedule and work from home. “I longed for more flexibility,” she says, adding that in addition to wanting to be around more for her two children, she desired the freedom to volunteer at will.
Strang left the comfort of her office job to become a communications consultant and freelance writer. She also published her first book, “Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: 8 Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40.” In addition to sharing her own story, Strang interviewed dozens of other entrepreneurs who started their businesses after the traditional midlife point. “I was looking for people who were established with at least three years of profitability,” she says.
As a result of her research, she concluded that entrepreneurship late in life can be a path toward greater fulfillment – and financial security. “A lot of people still harbor this desire – the great American dream of starting a business. I wanted to affirm that it is possible. They’re ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” she says.
Motivations varied greatly, she says, spanning from the desire to earn more money, stay busy and active and have a more flexible schedule. “You don’t necessarily work fewer hours, but you might have more control over where and when you work,” she says. Many of the entrepreneurs she interviewed also said they wanted to set an example for their children and grandchildren, planting that entrepreneurial seed for future generations. And sometimes, she says, “It was about the desire to fulfill a lifelong dream.”
Sometimes, people only felt they had the flexibility to leave a steady paycheck for an entrepreneurial pursuit after their children were grown and they had fewer financial obligations. That was the case for Strang, too: When her children were young, her husband, also an entrepreneur, was building his retail bicycle business. “Our household needed my steady paycheck and the health insurance available from my employer,” she says. When she left the full-time working world, her youngest child was in high school.
For the entrepreneurs featured in her book, financial success did not always come easily or quickly. Initially, many of them earned less money than they did when they worked for others, and some went through stretches when they couldn’t pay themselves a salary. Strang took a pay cut to work for herself, but she says she could afford to do so after living below her means for so long and maxing out her retirement savings account along the way.
For anyone aspiring to start a business after a more traditional career, Strang suggests first scrutinizing personal finances. “All too often, money management behavior isn’t assessed, and it should be,” she says. She suggests taking a close look at your credit history, any debt and your budget, especially if you plan to borrow money from a bank in order to start your business. Her book includes a financial self-assessment quiz, which includes questions about whether you have an emergency fund and your credit card habits.
She also suggests building a strong network of in-person and online support. That includes old-fashioned networking at business events and also through social media. Some entrepreneurs she interviewed listed technology as one of their weaknesses, so they worked harder to get up to speed. “The most skilled entrepreneurs set aside time every week for networking,” she says.
Lastly, Strang urges her fellow late-blooming entrepreneurs to refuse to see age as an obstacle. “Some people shouldn’t be starting businesses. Maybe they’re not driven enough or haven’t quite found the right idea. But age itself isn’t an obstacle. For some people, with age you increase your chances of being successful, because you have other skills you didn’t have at another age,” she says. In particular, older entrepreneurs tend to have more wisdom, resilience and specific skills that they have developed over their previous careers.
Strang also urges older entrepreneurs to take advantage of the resources available to them, including AARP, the Small Business Administration, SCORE.org and RetiredBrains.com. “There’s never been a better time to explore,” she says.
By: Kimberly Palmer