Q: I have decided to take an early retirement package where I work and have a business concept in mind for a second career. However, I am concerned if my business idea can “make it” in this tough economy. Where do I go from here?
A: Once you know what you want to do with the rest of your life, it will be time to explore how to move forward into your encore career.
Today, many Baby Boomers are not simply delaying retirement, they are retiring retirement altogether by starting new careers. The fifty-five-year-old-and-up crowd is the only age group that is growing as a share of the workforce. More employers are recognizing that older adults bring skills and experiences to the table that can help the bottom line.
For years, the surge of nearly 80 million Baby Boomers into the second half of life has been described as a great gray wave, moving inexorably forward, building in size and momentum with every passing day. Boomers are likely to continue working, either part time or full time, as consultants or by setting up their own companies, surveys show. They want a “flexible” workplace that lets them take extended sabbaticals, then work intensely for shorter periods of time. They want to “phase-into” retirement by working fewer hours after 65 years of age.
In encore careers, most small business owners see their productivity and effectiveness, the ability to plan and the need to build skills in sales and marketing most important.
After working with entrepreneurs for several years, one major failing keeps surfacing -- too many have a fatal marketing "blind spot." These entrepreneurs thoroughly understand their technology. They may well be on their way to mastering the engineering and operational issues involved in delivering their product or service. Yet they persist -- often until it is too late -- in believing that the marketing issues are relatively simple -- because everyone will surely love their new product or service as much as they do.
Only after the product or service is "ready" -- or worse, after early sales attempts have bombed -- will they attempt to bridge the marketing gap. In my experience, this marketing "blind spot" is the single most common cause of startup failures -- in fact, I'm starting to believe, more common than all others combined.
That is why I recommend you test your business concept, on a confidential basis, with an experienced business consultant or mentor to get a feel for what it will take to build a sustainable business. Without having the experience of being listened to, engaging in brainstorming with and receiving encouragement from an independent expert, you are taking a huge risk in going it alone.
Several years ago, after observing both entrepreneurial successes and failures, I developed a series of seven marketing principles important to small business success. These guiding principles were published in The Entrepreneur Network newsletter and are available on the Internet, as the Signature Marketing Series, at www.TENonline.org/art/sm.html. I suggest you read them as background before moving forward with your business concept.
Yes, the global economy will be making a painful structural economic shift over the next decade. However, a recessionary period is an excellent time to build business because most prospective customers are ready, willing and able to abandon long-term business relationships, that are not working well, for ones that will allow them to do things quicker, better and cheaper. Also, information technology has improved small business productivity while making world markets accessible. Depending upon the product or service you plan to offer, many systems are in place to market globally, not just locally.
The most critical knowledge is self-knowledge. Understanding your unique capabilities and how to supplement them in building your new business is a good place to start while employed. Seeing ourselves clearly does many things:
• It allows us to control impulses and select the most appropriate behaviors.
• It shows us how to avoid reacting in negative and potentially self-limiting ways.
• Knowing our strengths and limitations makes us more understanding of others.
• Gaining an understanding of issues reduces conflict in us and in others.
Being aware of the affect of your personality and default behavior on people and future business decisions helps you to engineer a better communication and leadership style.
Spending a career as an employee has conditioned you to think as an employee rather than the self-employed. To move through this career transition will require you to exchange many of the assumptions and guiding principles that worked for you as an employee for those that work for a business owner. This will be vital in building a strong foundation from which to launch your new business.
Once you understand your personal capabilities and what you dislike doing, you will have a better handle on what you do best while off loading what you don’t do well to others. There are a number of books to read as you move from being an employee to an entrepreneur. Here are a few: The E-Myth Revised, Strengths Finder 2.0, The On-Purpose Business, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Can't Get Enough Leadership, and The Tipping Point.