What age brings in business

What age brings in business

Entrepreneurship | Judette Coward-Puglisi

May 21, 2010







I bet you’ve seen them in the magazines. The young entrepreneurs, usually about 25. Tousled hair. Converse on their feet. Cocky. At the height of the Internet bubble in the early 90s, they were the toast of the Valley and world. They possessed a certain bravado and were determined to make millions before they turned thirty. Some of them did. Most didn’t. But the ones who survived, like the creators of Google, helped turn living-room startups into billion-dollar companies. They amassed enough wealth to retire without a worry and decide what kind of life they’d want at 30.

These entrepreneurs defy the statistics; the research that states only the top quartile of entrepreneurs make more wages than their corporate-employed counterparts and that 75% of business owners would be better off financially with a good old regular job. Still, it is not the ability to make enormous sums of money that I marvel at, but the ages at which they begin. These entrepreneurs are very young  and they raise a whole set of questions  with regard to when is a good time to start a business.

I started my marketing communications firms at age 29, and I will tell you if I knew back then the necessities for forming a  start-up, I may not have taken my leap of faith. I didn’t have a network. Certainly no real business experience and no wealth of any kind to bootstrap my business. The only thing I had was optimism and the ability to live like a minimalist, even before the term became fashionable.

I recently  read though that the best predictor of entrepreneurship is not age, not income, not wealth, it is ability. Oddly enough, think of a U- shaped curve. People with very low and very high  ability tend to start companies. The middle usually stays put. 

Here’s an excerpt from the  article:

“We hypothesize that individuals with very low ability are more likely to take up self employment. These individuals may simply lack the discipline to work under someone else’s authority, or in teams. They may also compare their low positions in their organizations and their low remunerations with those of higher ability individuals with similar human capital, and feel frustrated at the difference. They are therefore  tempted to strike it out on their own. It is an empirical question whether their self-employment income would be higher than their paid employment income.

On the other hand, individuals with very high ability are those with high energy levels, who get things done, who have strong interpersonal skills, and who are creative problem solvers. These individuals may feel that, in spite of their above average remuneration, they can do better on their own. This is because they have to share with their principals a substantial percentage of the value they contribute to their organizations. Finally, individuals of average ability are likely to be compensated in line with their human capital – they are therefore less likely to search for self-employment opportunities.”

I knew on what side of the curve I stood from very early on, what I didn’t know was that age can bring:

1) Money – It helps to have assets.

2) Connections – By the time you are 38, your friends and co-workers will have switched companies, changed jobs, and moved up the corporate ladder so there is easier access to decision makers and the people needed to help you get your business off the ground.

3) Wisdom – You don’t have to learn or invent many of the standard processes .

4) Patience – You learn how to wait for the pitch that is in your business’ capacity.

Still, as I grow older  and trade one set of skill sets for another, I recognise that age has less to do with success in business than opportunity and perseverance. Once you can spot the former  and do the latter, then go ahead, hitch onto your entrepreneurial star. Enjoy the ride.


One thought on “What age brings in business

  1. WOW! Would you believe that as I was reading your previous Entrepreneurial posts, I kept wondering to myself, "I wonder how old these people are? How old did they start? Am I too young?" Especially after reading the post where you mentioned Ms. Singh. And then bam! The very next post answered my question. (neat)

    I am 22 years old, and like your friend June, I’m an ideas person, but I never get off the ground with any. The number of business ideas I’ve had in my short working life would themselves have made me rich if they weren’t, as you put it, "cheap and plentiful."

    I keep second guessing myself though, and every time I think about getting off the ground with something, I tell myself that I’m too young, It’s too risky, I should get some more experience…yadda yadda, so on and so forth. But I fear that if I keep with this train of thought, I’ll never get off the ground with anything, and thirty years later I’d just be a close to retirement woman who can only reflect on the barrage of great ideas she had while she slaved in big corporate offices or for other, braver entrepreneurs.

    I do think though, that if any time to take such a big risk, is now that I’m young and single and my responsibilities still remain few, as opposed to taking the leap when, perhaps, I have a family who will be as much a part of the risk as I.

    What do you say? Do you have any advice for a young dreamer who, in the back of her mind and in her heart, knows that she has the talent and the ability?

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