Let’s hear it for older entrepreneurs
Don’t buy into the idea that kids own innovation. Use age to your advantage
SOMETHING’S BEEN BOTHERING me more and more over the past couple of years. It’s the notion that older entrepreneurs don’t have the skills and talent to compete with those in their 20s. It’s disappointing to me that the macrotechnology shift to a mobile and social media landscape has siphoned the confidence from some great entrepreneurs exposed to the thinking that they’re “outdated” or “not good enough.”
I want to tell you that there’s no set age for entrepreneurship. I started my first “franchise” as a kid, running five lemonade stands; by the time I was 13, I was selling baseball cards for thousands of dollars at New Jersey malls. Now, I’m 41 (not 21!), and I’m going to keep building businesses for another 40 years no matter what the 20-somethings are doing.
Whether you fall in the 40-to-60 or the 60-to-80 age range, those of you who think you’re not able to compete with the younger crowd are underestimating yourselves. You’re probably too focused on your failure to grasp Snapchat in one day, or insecure because you didn’t grow up with computers, or frustrated that you type slowly on your smartphone.
It’s not the technology that’s the problem. Millennials are no different from your generation when it comes to being affected by cultural shifts. In the 1940s, people had their heads in the newspaper and their ears to the radio. By the 1960s, all eyes were glued to the TV. Today, it’s the mobile device that rules. Big shifts are a fact of life. Stop using the current tech shift as an excuse. Stop dwelling on the idea that you’re “old.” Take a hard look at your advantages. Realize that 20-something entrepreneurs don’t have the experience you do. They’re often fresh out of school and naive, and they lack real-world savoirfaire. They likely haven’t faced much adversity, and the economy has been relatively benign to them. It’s been so easy, in fact, that the entrepreneurial lifestyle has become a fad hyped by influencers on social platforms like YouTube and Instagram. I believe we are currently living in the golden age of fake entrepreneurs.
Get over the notion that Millennials have an edge because they are young. Youth breeds confidence, but you have years of running a business on your side. Use that to fuel your sense of self. If you are an accomplished entrepreneur, there’s no way you’re going to concede to somebody who’s 20 to 30 years younger. If you were a great entrepreneur at that age, there’s no reason why you can’t be a great entrepreneur now. Trust your ability and your record of achievement.
How do you do that? My best advice to you is to focus on the things you’re good at while respecting the evolving demands of a digital world. You need to have all the ego that comes from your experience as well as the humility to understand that the playing field is different now. Yes, we have entered a new era, and, yes, you do have to be familiar with apps and devices. But hasn’t the ability to see and capitalize on trends in a fast-changing world always been the challenge of entrepreneurship? If you are a truly great entrepreneur, the only thing stopping you from keeping up is your lack of confidence.
So pick up your phone and download Snapchat and any other app that feels exciting to you. Play with Facebook’s and Instagram’s live features. Please— don’t let this era pass you by. Being a great entrepreneur, no matter your age, is such a huge advantage right now; you’ll regret it if you don’t keep trying. Entrepreneurship is a mindset, and the generation gap you’re afraid of can actually work in your favor.