Starting a business at any age can be a daunting and unnerving experience, never mind when you reach your 50s. At this age it’s often expected that you should be enjoying an established career, and perhaps have a few children and maybe even grandchildren in your life.
However, there are a new group of budding over-50 entrepreneurs rising, who want to pursue a lifelong dream and start their own business.
Here are some top tips and tricks on starting a business in your 50s, with the ultimate goal to help you aim for success.
1) Establish your point of difference – what’s your USP?
If you’re going to launch a new brand or service, you have to establish what makes you different, and identify why people should engage with you. Whether it’s a powerful backstory, a unique product offering, or something that’s simply never been offered or seen before, it’s imperative that you maximize on this, and make sure it’s at the forefront of all of your marketing and communications efforts. Without a USP you will find yourself lost in the crowd, and as result will find it difficult to establish yourself and take command of a gap in the market.
2) Identify why you’re starting a new project
Starting your own business is an incredibly testing and difficult time, and you must prepare to work the hardest you’ve ever worked in your life. Let’s face it, if you’ve quit your job to start your own business, there’s got to be an underlying reason as to why you’ve taken such a leap of faith. Was it that you fell out of love with your career, did you finally decide to pursue a life-long passion, or did you experience a life-changing moment that made you stop and decide to try something new? Keeping motivated when the going gets tough is so important, so whatever reason you have for starting, you must always remember why you are doing this.
3) Get to grips with all things social
Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and should form a vital part of any new business looking to flourish and grow in today’s economic climate. Unfortunately for us, we aren’t traditionally the most tech savvy when it comes to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so don’t be afraid to seek training and expertise from elsewhere to bring you up to scratch.
In my own business we had to invest in digital expertise to drive the business forward, and have found it to be hugely beneficial, especially when learning about the value of digital tactics such as email marketing and online customer databases.
4) Use your knowledge and past experiences
If there’s ever a time to reflect on your age, it’s now. Remember that age does equal wisdom, experience and the ability to reflect on how you’ve done business in the past and learn from any mistakes you may have made for the greater good. Being your own boss also allows you to put your own rules in place to ensure positive and productive working.
So, if you prefer to work from home in the mornings and from a coffee shop in the afternoons – do it. This is your passion project, and it’s essential you stay happy and content with your day-to-day activity, as it’s likely to consume a lot of your work and free time.
5) Don’t hold back
The best advice I’ve ever been given has been based not just on being commercially aware but being emotionally intelligent. We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to holding back in fear of rejection or failure, or because we feel the time isn’t quite right. But the truth is, when it feels scary to jump that is exactly when to jump – let go of your fears and seize the opportunity.
6) Be tech savvy
Starting your own business evidently means long hours, endless emails and numerous phone calls so it’s essential you stay organised, especially if you have a team working alongside you. If you decide to work remotely, like I do with my team, using online platforms and shared drives such as Google Drive ensure work is being done is “real time” rather than being reliant on team members sending the “latest version” back. Also using conference calls, FaceTime and Skype mean meetings can happen at anytime and anywhere, without everyone sat around a physical table.
7) Understand your customer
It’s so important to understand and know exactly who your customer is before embarking on any new business activity. Conducting market research should form a key phase of activity before you launch your business, as it will identify whether your strategy is feasible and profitable or not.
Whether what you’re offering is product or service led, you must immerse yourself in the mind of the customer – understand how they shop, where they shop, how they like to be communicated with and how much disposable income they have. Without such information you will find it difficult to determine things such as your price point, and which marketing channels to invest in.
8) Have a strong online presence
In today’s climate, the best way to test the water and see if your brand can survive is by having an online presence. Selling online can be beneficial to some businesses and especially startups, as it can allow you to go direct to your consumer. This can also be extremely beneficial, if you’re a product-led business, in keeping operational costs low and turnover high and means the only sales targets you need to meet are your own, and not those of stockists.
Selling online is also likely to reduce your overheads as you won’t be taking on store staffing costs to help operate the business. Once you have established a core customer base online and have a stable revenue stream coming into the business, you can then look for expansion opportunities with wholesale partners or by looking to open a physical store.
9) Learn the numbers and understand your cash flow
Like with social media, understanding the accounts side of a business can be a challenging thing to get your head around, especially if maths is something you haven’t engaged with for a few years. Understanding your cash-flow projections will determine the success or failure of the business, so again I would advise outsourcing the help of an accountant to ensure you balance your books and make sure you have cash injections that will keep the business afloat. This in turn will keep any stakeholders and shareholders happy, and which will ultimately ensure you’re on the right path to achieving profit.
10) Create your dream team
Starting your own business is nerve racking and at times incredibly lonely, so it’s essential that you build a team of people around you who will support you, motivate you and offer a helping hand or advice when the going gets tough.
The best way to build a dream team is to maximise on past and existing relationships, attend industry events, and also engage online in start-ups or business forums to meet like-minded people. Networking is a fantastic skill that will not only provide you with a support network but allow you to learn invaluable skills from other people who are currently, or who have already been through the journey. This will also enable you to continually evolve your business by adapting it in light of the people you meet, and the things you see and experience along the way.
Nayna McIntosh is the CEO and Founder of womenswear retailer & brand Hope