Despite so much evidence to the contrary, there remains a misperception that going into business for yourself is what you do when you're young.
For people who see only obstacles, it's the perfect excuse for following the ageing crowd and giving up on dreams and ambitions. I call this "dream shrinkation".
The reality is that today, anybody with ambition, determination and courage can start a successful business - whatever their age. And it's true for the over-50s too. In fact, 'baby boomer' businesses are booming, as more and more of them take the entrepreneurial plunge.
In 2013, an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report on 'seniorpreneurship' revealed that around the world more people than ever aged 55-64 were considering self-employment as a late-career alternative. In the United States, entrepreneurial activity over the last decade has been highest among those aged 55-64, according to think-tank The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, while 80% of new UK businesses between 2008 and 2012 were set up by the over-50s.
Far from feeling they've missed the entrepreneurial boat, more and more 'silverpreneurs' are catching it. Some do so because they are struggling to find a 'proper' job after redundancy, or because they need more money in retirement. Others see it as a way to acquire the wealth they could never amass as employees, or because it's an itch they've finally got around to scratching.
So if going into business for yourself is something you've been thinking about, the only thing stopping you is ... you.
As someone who is more mature, you probably already possess many of the qualities of an entrepreneur, you just don't know it yet. Not only do you have extensive and in-depth experience of how the world works, you've also acquired a strong understanding of particular niches. You almost certainly have a wide network of useful contacts, and may well have money in the bank to invest in your business or tide you over as it grows.
And having experienced many different situations, you probably have greater resilience than when you were younger, so can bring a more rounded perspective to what you do, which will stand any entrepreneur in good stead.
Here are 9 ways to help you stop your dream shrinkation:
1. Start taking yourself seriously as a potential entrepreneur. Even if you don't have any real business experience, you do have a wealth of real life and professional experience that you can put to good use. Common sense goes a long way in business and you can always hire the extra support you need to fill in the gaps.
2. Keep your dreams to yourself till you're ready to share them with the world. Protect yourself from those who chip away at your business ambitions and try to dissuade you from taking the first step. Until your business ideas are well formed in your own head, don't share them with others who may not be as enthusiastic about what you are attempting to create. Don't allow the lower expectations of others to deflect you from achieving your goal.
3. Gain confidence by learning new skills. Build your business confidence by taking courses in appropriate skills. You'll never be an expert in every aspect of your business, however knowing enough will help you work out what support you might need and then ensure that you put the right people in place.
4. Seek out role models who inspire you. There are many examples of people who have set up in business after the age of 50 and are succeeding. You'll find plenty of similarities to keep you motivated. Remember, you can learn from anybody and anywhere, so keep your mind open and you will be constantly surprised by the opportunities that come your way.
5. Plan your move into business well ahead of time. Going from employee to business owner is a transition like any other you have been through during your corporate career, so give yourself time to prepare and adjust. Many under-estimate how long it takes to shift your mindset and approach from being employee to entrepreneur, so give yourself four to six months, perhaps even longer, to do the necessary research, get your figures straight and funding in place (if needed), and start working out the systems and processes that will make your company a success. Above all, continually work on your vision and what you want from life next as this will drive your motivation should things get slow or rocky.
6. Be clear about what you want. Choose a business that reflects your level of ambition and the effort you're willing to put in. If you choose a capital-intensive idea and are not willing to play big, the likelihood is that you will not have the emotional resilience required to succeed. Nowadays there are plenty of opportunities to set up a business that requires little in the way of start-up finance, so you really don't have to risk your life savings on a new venture, if this is what's holding you back. That should prove reassuring to the rest of the family too. In other words, get started with what you have and build this up, reshaping your ideas as your vision for the future becomes clearer.
7. Get comfortable with technology. Typically, if you are looking to set up a business at minimum cost, you will need to use technology to best advantage. Even if you used technology in your last job, you probably still need to familiarise yourself with other useful software, tools and apps that weren't relevant to your previous work. Make sure you have a 'techie' on your side who can make what you find challenging easy for you.
8. Don't be afraid of starting part-time. You don't need to make going into business an all or nothing moment. Many entrepreneurs have eased themselves in by working on their business in the evenings or at weekends. It may mean extra commitment and effort in the short-term, but it will be worth it in the long-run.
9. Get started today. Don't wait to have a brilliant concept, or for everything to be 'just right' before you start. That's just a recipe for procrastination and you will never get going. Taking the first step into the unknown will require a little courage, but once your business gains momentum things will start to fall into place.
So don't let age put the brakes on going into business. Instead, be excited by the opportunities it offers to add a new, rewarding and fulfilling dimension to your life, where you are the one in control.