[An excerpt from Workarounds: 50+ insider tactics for age 50+ entrepreneurs]
If you’re serious about building a successful business, I’m convinced that you need to be all-in. Your work is not a sideline, side job, gig, second job, moonlighting work, leisure pursuit or side hustle. You’ve decided to use your years of experience, skills, knowledge and ideas to create a sustainable business venture… or have you?
Just look at business social network profiles of deeply experienced people who proudly describe their own businesses. Then, look at their profile summaries. If they read like cover letter statements and resumes, chances are that those people are really looking for jobs rather than being fully committed to entrepreneurship. If everything pitches their experience, skills and knowledge within the context of their companies, then it’s clear that they’re committed to their own enterprise.
I’ve heard the following statement from a fair number of my associates: “I want to keep my options open in case someone wants to offer me a job with benefits.” One associate is an accomplished professional who launched an online digital advertising training program a while back and was enjoying reasonable success. “I want to hedge my bets just in case things get rough on my own,” she said.
This possibly-committed-but-I’m-not-sure approach is risky both ways. To prospective clients, she looks like she has set up a side venture and may or may not be around for an ongoing relationship. To potential employers, she appears to be someone who wants to be self-employed and might not stick around long at a job if things take off for her venture. Or, maybe both audiences conclude that her business is just something to fill in an employment gap and they’re unsure which direction she wants to go.
This is a common pain point for us at this point in our careers. With entrepreneurship comes risk. There’s also the out-of-pocket costs from having to fund our own benefits and business expenses. Employment, especially for long-time job holders, is attractive even if the work might not be so meaningful and there’s a chance of being laid off at any time.
As an advocate for entrepreneurship, it should be no surprise that I’m all for making a 100% commitment to our business ventures. This simplifies our thinking, actions and authenticity when building our businesses. It reflects our confidence that we can successfully pursue our work. The only pain points are the ones we cannot prevent or avoid, which are part of entrepreneurship.
If commitment to your own venture is a pain point, I have a suggestion. Go all-in for a defined period, say one year. Align everything in your minimum viable business plan (explained later) to this time frame. Set milestones to measure your progress.
If your venture takes off quickly, then your decision to continue should be a non-issue. But as you near the end of that commitment period, objectively assess what you’ve accomplished and how your business is trending. Have the courage and confidence to keep pressing forward if there are promising indicators. Most importantly, be realistic about how long it takes to build a business like yours.
When you reach a point where you’ve lost confidence that your business will succeed, look for pivots to repackage and redirect your value proposition as another business. No one counts your failures. Everyone knows that’s the way entrepreneurship works. Re-group, re-commit and move forward with the knowledge of what worked and didn’t work.
If you decide to pursue a job in your career field, you already know how challenging that will be due to ageism and hiring trends within your industry. That’s why I believe entrepreneurship is the best option for many of us, even if there are mis-steps and failures along the way. A failed business venture does not make you a failure. It really is a learning experience. The key is to use that knowledge to help you move on to your next venture.
Doug Freeman is the author of the book Workarounds: 50+ insider tactics for age 50+ entrepreneurs. It’s a practical start-up and marketing guide specifically for self-employed people over age 50. The book is based on his 30 years of freelancing, consulting and start-up experience. Doug also writes about this subject on LinkedIn and Medium. His book is available in print and e-book format through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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