BABY BOOMERS BASICS FOR STARTING A BUSINESS

just startAre you nearing retirement whether forced or voluntary? Are you wondering “what’s next”? Are you kidding me? As a Baby Boomer, you are among the best positioned for success as an entrepreneur! Why? There are many reasons but here are my two favorites:

  • You have 20-30 years of experience to draw from
  • You have 20-30 years of contacts to call on

Most small businesses fail because they are under-funded, poorly managed or the owners don’t have the proper experience. As a Boomer, you can avoid these potential pitfalls and you have a 20 year head start on younger entrepreneurs!

There are many options for starting your own business. But before you explore any of them, you must start reprogramming your mind. I’m coming from the assumption that you’ve been working in a J-O-B for the last 20 years or so. If so, you’ve been unknowingly institutionalized! As an employee, your brightest light is dimmed by most corporations’ cultures of conformity, being a “doer” not a “thinker”, and blending in at all costs. The goals you pursued were set by someone else and, if your experience in corporate was like mine, they weren’t very inspiring. Your days probably went something like this:

  1. You woke up to a ringing box
  2. You ate breakfast out of a box
  3. You got in a box (or in many boxes) to get to work
  4. You rode up to your floor in a box
  5. You did your work in a box
  6. You got back in the box to head home
  7. You ate dinner from a box
  8. You watched the box for a few hours
  9. You went to back to your box to bed
  10. You started all over again – 5 days a week – 50 weeks a year

As a business owner, the keys to your success are written on the outside of the box! You can’t operate in a box. Ladies and gentleman, you are free to roam! Let your mind wander. Let your passion soar. You are in the box no more!

Reprogram Your Mind

The switch from employee to entrepreneur takes some mind work. It will take some reprogramming to realize there are no consequences for failure as a business owner. As an employee failure can lead to being passed over for a promotion, not getting the next big project, being demoted or even fired. As an entrepreneur, you fail your say to success. Something goes wrong? You dust yourself off and start again. You’re only accountable to yourself (and maybe a business partner if you go in that direction).

In order to make a successful move to entrepreneurship, you must surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Trust me – you’ll need them when you have those stumbles or when things don’t go as planned in your business. You want to feed your mind with positive information. Instead of TV, go to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com) and watch some inspiring videos by people like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Robert Kiyosaki. Make your car your rolling classroom by getting audiobooks from the library. Start with classics like Think and Grow Rich, How To Win Friends & Influence People and The One Minute Millionaire. There’s a list of my favorite business books on my website (http://tamigaines.com/entrepreneur/). Set a goal of reading a book a month (at minimum).

Evaluate Your Options

Your journey to entrepreneurship can take many paths. The pros and cons of each is for another article but here’s a few ideas if you don’t want to pursue your own idea right away:

  • Purchase a franchise – this is an expensive option but the right franchise guarantees your success…eventually. You can get more information http://www.entrepreneur.com/business-opportunities/
  • Go into business with someone who owns a business – bring your experience, contacts and enthusiasm to someone who’s up and running but needs a jumpstart. But partners…
  • Get started with a network marketing company – low start-up, proven poducts or services and great companies have strong training programs. I’ve been involved with network marketing for more than a decade and I’m a huge fan of stepping into entrepreneurship as network marketer. My favorite company is Javita Coffee. There’s only 3 products that 95% of the population drinks every day! Brilliant. Check out yourbeanstalk.com.

If you want to pursue your own venture, there are three steps to start you on the path.

Step 1: Begin Developing a List of Ideas for Your Business

I often get asked by would-be business owners, “I don’t know what to do. How do I come up with some ideas”? Anyone can become a machine for generating business ideas. You have a deep base of knowledge and experience that other people would pay for. Try this exercise:

Sit quietly in a place where you can reflect on your entire life. Take a piece of paper and a pen and begin writing the first things that come to mind. Do not edit yourself. Do not judge your answers. Write the first things that come to mind. Answer:

  • What were your great accomplishments/successes at your job?
  • What do you excel at professionally?
  • What do you excel at personally?
  • What do you do better than most other people?
  • What do other people compliment you on?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • What volunteer work do you do?
  • What’s your typical role as a volunteer?
  • What are you truly passionate about?

From your list of answers, circle the common elements. For example, perhaps in your job, you were a highly effective team leader. You volunteer as a coach for the local baseball league. People often compliment you on your ability to bring together different types of people successfully. The common thread there is that you’re a strong leader who gets results. Can you start a business helping corporations build stronger teams or write an e-book about the principals you use to develop strong teams.

Step 2: Do Research to Narrow Down Your List

Take the strongest ideas on your list that repeatedly come up and begin to delve into their possibility. The first question you should ask yourself is “What am I the most excited about”? Where your passion flows, money goes! If you aren’t excited about an idea, you won’t pursue the idea with energy and enthusiasm. Once you’ve narrowed down the list, begin asking your potential customers, suppliers and competitors probing questions to further develop your concept.   What do they like? What other ideas do they have? What challenges do they bring up? What would prevent them from purchasing from you? There’s no timeframe for this process but do not get analysis paralysis! If you’re hearing the same thing over and over again, you have your answer! Remember, be sure to listen more and talk less during your research phase. Don’t get defensive – just the information you need to either validate or dismiss your ideas.

Step 3: Put Together a Mastermind Group

Join or assemble a group of diverse people to meet with on a weekly basis. Diversity should be reflected in their culture, economic backgrounds, industry, experience, beliefs and knowledge. Work with your mastermind group to set goals and allow them to hold you accountable to taking action. You can also brainstorm ideas and solutions to problems with your mastermind group. The ideal group should be equally committed to the group’s success, achieving individual goals and be willing to give the time necessary to do so. There are many great resources online that give information on how to start your own mastermind group. Here’s my favorite: http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2011/12/01/the-power-of-many-start-a-business-mastermind-group/

Step 4: Partner with a Young Person

Your 20-30 years of experience have given you great skills but you may be missing some key technology pieces. How do you reach out to a lifetime of contacts? How do you promote your business efficiently and effectively? Through social media! If this is a new area for you, find a young person to work with to learn social media (like Facebook and LinkedIn). They might also know about new technology that will help you execute your business plan and even brainstorm with you to generate cutting edge ideas. You will learn valuable skills from each other. Remember that being adaptable is a critical skill for successful entrepreneurs and a much younger colleague will gently remind you of that! Being a lifelong learner could take your business idea to a place you never thought of.

Step 5: Just Get Started!

The most important thing you can do to start on your way to business ownership is to GET STARTED. Throw out the excuses. Move past your fear. I have failed my way to success and you can too. Every failed effort means your one step closer to your goals. Embrace the concept of “sloppy success”. It’s my favorite saying and one of the guiding principles that has led my entrepreneurial ventures.

The closer you are to retirement, the closer you are to freedom! Don’t waste this time. This is YOUR time to see what you’re really capable of! I’ll leave you with a powerful quote from Les Brown:

“You don’t have to be great to get started but you have to get started to be great.”