The Good Life:

The golden age of en­trepreneur­ship

Cotswold Life - - NEWS -

If asked to de­scribe a modern en­tre­pre­neur, most peo­ple will likely jump to the im­age of a 20-some­thing founder of a high­growth tech start-up. This stereo­type is fu­elled by the sto­ries un­der­pin­ning a num­ber of the world’s best-known com­pa­nies. End­less front-page me­dia cov­er­age, along­side Hol­ly­wood’s fo­cus on high­light­ing the suc­cess of phe­nom­ena like Face­book and Snapchat, re­in­force the as­sump­tion that youth is the se­cret to suc­cess.

The huge amount of me­dia time given to pro­fil­ing suc­cess­ful young tech en­trepreneurs, along­side the me­dia pro­files built around the likes of Mark Zucker­berg, have cre­ated a pub­lic per­cep­tion that all start-ups are tech start-ups and are solely the pre­serve of the young. But this per­cep­tion is wrongly founded, and, given the in­evitable changes to the jobs land­scape that are ex­pected over the next few decades,largely un­help­ful.

While youth may be an ob­vi­ous part of the Sil­i­con Val­ley story, it is hardly the com­mon thread con­nect­ing the ma­jor­ity of busi­ness founders across the UK. The high pro­file ex­pe­ri­ences of young mil­lion­aires are only part of the story and en­trepreneur­ship is not re­liant on (nor lim­ited to) tech.

There is a great deal of ev­i­dence to sug­gest that, not only has en­trepreneur­ship been dom­i­nated his­tor­i­cally by more es­tab­lished busi­ness fig­ures, but the next few decades will see the age of the av­er­age en­tre­pre­neur drift ever higher. Shift­ing sands within the UK labour mar­ket have been well doc­u­mented. An age­ing pop­u­la­tion, along­side in­creas­ing lev­els of au­to­ma­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal change, are pos­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions about how we main­tain a thriv­ing and ag­ile work­force over com­ing decades.

En­trepreneur­ship has also never been a route just avail­able to the young. In fact, a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple over 50 are join­ing the startup com­mu­nity, many cap­i­tal­is­ing on the skills and ex­pe­ri­ence they have ac­crued over long ca­reers in or­der to start a suc­cess­ful busi­ness.

The In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors (IOD) stands out as an ex­am­ple of where facts de­part from fic­tion when it comes to en­trepreneur­ship. A re­cent sur­vey showed that 53% of IOD mem­bers de­fine them­selves as ei­ther an en­tre­pre­neur or com­pany founder. In ad­di­tion, 67 per cent of mem­bers are above the age of 50.

For those fac­ing the prospect of re­tire­ment or leav­ing life­long em­ploy­ment, start­ing a busi­ness can also be a great way to con­tinue en­gag­ing with work. It may not be ev­ery­one’s first choice for re­tire­ment, but it can keep an in­di­vid­ual busy, stim­u­lated and in some cases phys­i­cally and so­cially ac­tive.

For some, it may also be a de­ci­sion taken out of ne­ces­sity, such as the re­quire­ment for a sup­ple­men­tary in­come.

Ad­di­tion­ally, busi­ness acu­men will tend to im­prove with age, al­low­ing founders to bet­ter un­der­stand in­dus­try nu­ances, and to utilise net­works and skills built over their work­ing lives.

An IOD sur­vey showed that 86 per cent of mem­bers cur­rently work in a field that is re­lated to pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence. Ul­ti­mately, there is rarely a sub­sti­tute for ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly in com­plex in­dus­tries.

De­mo­graph­ics have also changed over time. When the state pen­sion was first in­tro­duced, it ad­e­quately re­flected the re­al­i­ties of the time. To­day it does not, with life-spans ex­pand­ing and the need for sup­ple­men­tary re­tire­ment in­come be­com­ing more ap­par­ent.

Politi­cians and busi­ness lead­ers alike are now be­gin­ning to search for how to ad­dress the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of th­ese huge chal­lenges.

There has al­ready been some po­lit­i­cal move­ment when it comes to con­tem­po­ris­ing the ba­sic state pen­sion age. When it was in­tro­duced in 1948, over­all life­ex­pectancy was 66 years for men, and 70 for women. At that time, the ba­sic state pen­sion age was 65 for men and 60 for women.

Nowa­days, with modern life ex­pectancy so much higher, the cost of the pro­gramme has in­creased far be­yond what was en­vis­aged by its orig­i­nal ar­chi­tects. To par­tially ad­dress this, pol­icy mak­ers have de­cided to in­crease the re­tire­ment age to 66 from 2020 be­fore rais­ing it again to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

This is a prob­lem look­ing for so­lu­tions and in need of more pub­lic de­bate, but what it does mean is that, more than ever, older peo­ple are in a good po­si­tion to start busi­nesses.

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