Is Age A Factor In Starting Businesses?
So many people want to start their own business, but what is the ideal age to start one? In many cases, this is even more important than knowing what business to put up. Markets change rapidly—a golden opportunity today may turn into a losing venture if you wait until next year. On the other hand, being personally unprepared would be courting disaster.
The ideal age for being an entrepreneur is hotly debated. In our age of instant gratification, there is a tendency to advocate starting at the earliest age possible, with some even suggesting dropping out of college if there is an opportunity. Most people who do not come from a family of entrepreneurs know only of those tycoons they read in books or see on television.
Getting A Role Model
The tendency is to see the unusual as the rule. As often mentioned, a dog biting a man is not newsworthy, but a man biting a dog will be exciting to know because it rarely happens. And so you hear of people dropping out of college and with almost no capital, starting a business and becoming rich in just a few years. This is entertaining and gets attention, but it is ridiculous to think that you can easily do this yourself unless you are a certified genius and very lucky, too.
A common role model is the fresh graduate (or someone with just a few years’ experience) who immediately starts a business after college. Business magazines and TV shows are full of this stereotype. This is far more realistic than dropouts being successful, but upon looking further, you will see that there are many aspects that the average Filipino cannot duplicate. Many of these yuppies come from elite schools where they have both superior education and connections. Another important difference is that most of them have affluent parents that can loan them the capital they need.
Despite the support network of those who started direct from college, I wonder how many were actually able to sustain their success. From what I have seen, those who start directly from college without any experience find it hard to succeed unless they come from an entrepreneurial company and are already well-exposed to business. The one great advantage of venturing this early is that there are no dependents to worry about and youth allows you to have more years to recover from failure.
The Ideal Age
The age group of late 20s to mid 30s seems to be the ideal age, as people of this group already have experience and are still young enough to possess a lot of energy and stamina. However, this is the age where most people start building their families, and having dependents make a lot of people reluctant to take risks. Nevertheless, those who are determined would somehow find ways. One of the spouses could continue to work while the other establishes their business.
Those who are middle-aged may have the best chances if they have managed to build up financial reserves. At this point, either their kids may already have finished college or they have already saved up for this expense. One may not be as physically active as before, but his savings and his experience would more than make up for the difference.
The biggest barrier for this age group to go into business is the so-called “golden handcuffs”. Resigning from one’s company means forfeiting his regular salary and substantial benefits. This is a valid point to consider especially if you are the conservative type.
On the other end are the retirees or those already senior in age. They have already collected their retirement benefits and have plenty of cash to invest. Assuming you are around 60 years old at this point and in good health, then the opportunities are very bright. Most likely your kids have already finished school and you have already accumulated quite a nest egg. You are at the peak of your business capabilities with numerous contacts from your long career. People now are living longer life spans due to modern medicine and a 60-year-old may have decades of productive life.
No age is right for everyone. Ultimately, you have to consider many factors and weigh them carefully to see what fits your circumstances. Having said that, it is my observation that almost everyone talks about starting a business but few are bold enough to actually put their money where their mouth is. Overcome your fears and realize that business, like life, is a calculated risk.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. C-4, Sunday, January 12, 2014. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.