Category Archives: Entrepreneurs

Launching a Business

Thanks to a link provided by schoolteacher who has been using material from in her charter school classroom, we decided to update our page for entrepreneurs.  Here it is:

You may always have dreamed of being your own boss, or you may find yourself driven by an economic climate that opens new doors even while it closes others.   Whatever the motivation, welcome to the club.  You are in excellent company.  While young entrepreneurs tend to be the darlings of the media, the 55 and older cohort of entrepreneurs is growing faster and doing better. Why? Could be life/work experience, some cash from a downsizing, mortgage paid off, kids launched, and an idea that has been incubating for a while. Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life (Plume 2004) is packed with business ideas, from antique restorer to wedding planner. If your big idea isn’t listed here, feel free to drop me a line and tell me about it:

Obviously launching a business at any age is a huge undertaking and we can only scratch the surface of the subject here. The good news is, there is plenty of information available to anyone with access to a computer and Internet connection. Beside some fire in the belly and cash, what we all need as entrepreneurs is help from experienced business people who can mentor us through the startup process and direct us to the people and resources that help us grow.

Small Business Resources

As of this writing, Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is about to launch a newly designed website that will make it even easier to connect with experienced mentors — 13,00 of them — on line and in a new series of workshops on starting, managing and growing your business. A click will take you to an archive of business columnists SCORE has been around since 1964 offering free and confidential business advice that has helped millions of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Wall Street Journal Small Business is another excellent source of ideas and expert opinion.  The Small Business Guide covers everything from starting a business to selling it.

Another source of good general information for free is the Small Business Administration.   See also the Virtual Business Plan from Bizplanit.

Business Insurance is a handy guide to some basics including legal, marketing and personnel resources with live links to speed you there.

The independent entrepreneurs check out Working Solo (, the terrific site started by Terri Lonier (lone-yay) on the joys of being “boss-free.”  Ilise Benun’s Marketing Mentor is also dedicated to the soloist or small partnership. Get a free consultation, daily newsletter and preview of her books.

You can find lots of help by seeking out trade associations connected with the business you’re considering.  Trade associations can fast-track you right into the action, helping you connect with the people in the know, and perhaps even some financing sources.  When Paul and Sands Belizzi wanted to ranch alpacas in Northern California, they got started in just this way: Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (U.S.), 800-213-9522.

As the name suggests, the National Business Incubation Association “provides entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful.”

The U.K. has a model for what is possible when you have a champion.  In this case, the champion is Charles, Prince of Wales, and his organization is Prime-Cymru (Welsh for Wales),, dedicated to help would-be entrepreneurs 50 and older get a start.  Of the 600 start-ups Prime-Cymru has helped launch, only 6 have failed.

Inn Keeping

Thinking about owning/operating a B&B (who hasn’t)? You might want to contact theProfessional Association of Innkeepers International for some on the ground information.  Try out innkeeping for a season or a year.  Or check out house sitting via THE CARETAKER GAZETTE, (715-426-5500) published by Gary and Thea Dunn.

Owning/Operating A Family Business

If you do go into business for yourself, chances are you’ll find yourself (at least in early stages) working with your spouse or another family member.  A caveat: these partnerships are easier to get into than to get out of, so make sure you know how to end gracefully (and save the relationship itself).

The Center for Family Business has courses and more information on this topic.  203-932-7421.  Another resource: The Family Firm Institute, Inc.

And, don’t overlook your local Chamber of Commerce.  Knowing who’s who in business in your community can be a great way to test the waters.


There are literally hundreds of books on becoming a successful entrepreneur.  One of our favorites remains Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business (Fireside, 1998).  The co-founder of Smith and Hawken, he now leads The Natural Step, an organization committed to sustainable business practices.

Inc. Magazine remains a reliable source of information for the entrepreneur, whether you are just starting out or growing your business. We loved the recent coverage on balancing business with life featuring Pete and Laura Wakeman of Great Harvest Bakery. Search the Inc. site for this.

Also useful is Entrepreneur magazine, which also features a wealth of small business how to’s.

Jeff Berner’s The Joy of Working From Home: Making a Life While Making a Living (Berrett- Koehler Publishers, Inc. 1994) is a classic of its kind, packed with great ideas for you entrepreneurs and independent contractors.

Obama Meets Purpose Prize Winners

President Obama met with social innovators at the White House on June 30, including a half-dozen winners of The Purpose Prize, and lauded them for “succeeding where others have failed; getting real, measurable results; changing the way we think about some of our toughest problems.”

The president specifically called out “young-at-heart people like Robert Chambers, who finish out careers in business or health care or education, and instead of transitioning into retirement, they’re just too busy, they’re too restless, so they come back for an encore, plowing a lifetime of experience into helping people in need.”  Read more.

You are brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring

In May 2009, visionary author and speaker, Paul Hawken, gave a commencement address to the graduates of University of Portland.  He could have been speaking to those of the 50 plus generation.  Read this except:

“There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.” Read more.

Guy Kawasaki on Entrepreneurship

In his final posting for Sun Microsystems, business guru Guy Kawasaki offers “a list of the five most important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur.”

  1. Focus on cash flow. I understand the difference between cash flow and profitability, and I’m not recommending that you strive for a lack of profitability. But cash is what keeps the doors open and pays the bills. Paper profits on an accrual accounting basis is of no more than secondary or tertiary importance for a startup. As my mother used to say, “Sales fixes everything.”
  2. Make a little progress every day. I used to believe in the big-bang theory of marketing: a fantastic launch that created such inertia that you flew to “infinity and beyond.” No more. Now my theory is that you make a little bit of progress every day–whether that’s making your product slightly better, increasing your skill in one small way, or closing one more customer. The reason the press writes about “overnight successes” is that they seldom happen–not because that’s how all businesses work.
  3. Try stuff. I also used to believe that it’s better to be smart than lucky because if you’re smart you can out-think the competition. I don’t believe that anymore–this is not to say that you should strive for a high level of stupidity. My point is that luck is a big part of many successes, so (a) don’t get too bummed out when you see a bozo succeed; and (b) luck favors the people who try stuff, not simply think and analyze. As the Chinese say, “One must wait for a long time before a Peking duck flies into your mouth.”
  4. Ignore schmexperts. Schmexperts are the totally bad combination of schmucks who are experts–or experts who are schmucks. When you first launch a product or service, they’ll tell you it isn’t necessary, can’t really work, or faces too much competition. If you succeed, then they’ll say they knew you would succeed. In other words, they don’t know jack shiitake. If you believe, try it. If you don’t believe, listen to the schmexperts and stay on the porch.
  5. Never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do. This goes for customers (“fill out these twenty-five fields of personal information to get an account for our website”) to employees (“fly coach to Mumbai, meet all day the day you arrive, and fly back that night”). If you follow this principle, you’ll almost always have a good customer service reputation and happy employees.

I hold these truths to be self-evident and hope that you can use them to kick butt and change the world.

Facebook: The New Rolodex?

Once upon a time, a stuffed Rolodex was a sign of a well-connected, highly-motivated person, someone who did a lot of networking and gathering contacts on the hey-you-never-know premise. That was then. Today, we have other choices like LinkedIn which builds a professional network on the principle of six degrees of separation, that is, who you know, and who they know, ad infinitum. But it’s actually more, because there is huge incentive for members to build professional profiles, invite in associates and colleagues, get and give recommendations, and ask questions (starting a kind of forum). According to an article in Business Week (Business Tips for Late Facebook Arrivals) by venture capitalist, Richard Moran, we should stop thinking of Facebook as a place for young people to connect and share photos and hot new dance clubs, and embrace it as a very grownup tool to further our careers, businesses, and causes. Moran writes:

Your Rolodex is alive and following you. In order to close a deal recently, I was desperate to reach an executive. I called his office, sent him an e-mail, and even called his boss. Nothing happened for days. After all else failed, I checked him out on Facebook, friended him and he accepted my request although we had not met. I sent him a message, he responded, and the deal was considered. Facebook did in a matter of seconds what traditional telecommunications and e-mail couldn’t accomplish in days.

And then, of course, there is, the aim of which is to help you meet other retirement-resistant grownups who are eager to educate themselves about the possibilities of life beyond their core career, and instinctively understand that community is what makes makes this important transition smoother, more rewarding, and fun.

Sole Proprietor

If having your own business has been a lifelong dream, chances are you will start out as — and possibly remain — a sole proprietor. Legally, a “proprietorship essentially means a person does business in his or her own name and there is only one owner,” according to Wikipedia’s definition. These days the slightly antique IRS category of sole proprietor could includes everyone from the 50-something employee-turned-consultant, to a life or career coach, freelance commercial writer, motivational speaker, cruise ship lecturer, professional organizer, yoga instructor, or massage therapist, to name a few popular late life career choices. There are some distinct advantages to running your own business, tax-savings and the speed with which you can make decisions and respond to opportunity perhaps the most obvious. Anyone with a good idea can get into business at minimal cost. About $5,000 is typical to set up with the basic tools for a home-based enterprise.

Yes, small can be beautiful, and it appears may become the encore career of choice for many. In Free Agent Nation: How America’s New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live, Dan Pink predicted an explosion in independent contract workers, soloists and owners of microbusiness, a trend he believes is already reworking work itself. One example in our area of South Florida (more retirement central than a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit) Kinko’s is open 24/7.

To be a successful soloist, you have to be self-sufficient and comfortable wearing many hats. It also helps to know yourself well enough to know what you don’t know, and what, when and where to outsource, in effect, building your own team of specialist/ sub-contractors. After all, being small in size doesn’t mean you can’t have big ideas. Luckily, there are any number of excellent resources so that you don’t have to go it alone. And many of them market themselves by giving away tons of free, valuable advice (take note). Here are three of our favorites, all small business owners themselves:

  • Terri Lonier’s Working Solo is a must read. See Terri’s excellent piece on Networking for the Terminally Shy.
  • Our former neighbor and friend, Ilise Benun’s excellent Marketing Mentor is another resource that belongs in your toolbox. Ilise is also the author of The Art of Self-Promotion.
  • For guerrilla publicity that really works, Joan Stewart’s Publicity Hound will inspire you to get going. Sign up for her free newsletter. Just say we sent you.

The Leisure Economy?

Now’s here a new wrinkle (you should pardon the expression). According Canadian economist, Linda Nazareth, leisure is the new, new thing that will shape the way we live (and work!) Here are eight trends — some self-evident, some whimsical — outlined in her new book: The Leisure Economy: How Changing Demographics, Economics, and Generational Attitudes Will Reshape Our Lives and Our Industries (Wiley 2007):

1. In the Workplace, It Will be Time to Welcome Back Fido

With more people looking for leisure or retiring early, companies are going to have to put up with more special requests from employees – like maybe to bring the odd dog, or cat or budgie into the office. Think the days of the boom.

2. Saying “I Was Here All Weekend” May Make You Seem Like a Loser Rather than a Hero

It’s very ‘baby-boomerish” to brag about working flat out all the time. Gen Y is into having a life; they’ll work, but they want their leisure too. (By the way, they know how to use technology so they know they don’t have to be in on the weekend anyway).

3. If You Don’t Know How to Knit, It Will be Time to Learn

Boomers have been too busy working to take up hobbies. When they retire, they are going to make leisure pastimes huge – even if they have to learn how to knit or rughook or how to play with model trains first (caveat: education will be the biggest growth industry, but it may not be traditional education).

4. Chopping Up Your Own Carrots May Seem Like a Reasonable Thing to Do

In the leisure economy, some people will be coping with lower incomes, so they will not want to pay for the convenience of pre-chopped vegetables or the like. And they’ll have more time to do the chopping. Keep an eye on the restaurant industry – it could be forced to adjust as more people cook.

5. People Will be Hitting the Road – and Not Just on the Long Weekends

More “leisurites” means more travel – but a different kind. The new leisure class will have lots of time, so can think in terms of seeing lots of different things, maybe over the course of a few months.

6. There’ll be Lots of Volunteers – But They Won’t Want to be Candy Stripers, Thanks Very Much

Boomers may be open to the idea of volunteering, but many will want to use the skills they developed when they were working in professional fields. Problem? The volunteer sector isn’t well set up to receive their talents, so they may lose them altogether. And keep an eye on Gen Y volunteers. They’ve spent years volunteering in school, and could be convinced to keep at it if organizations manage them well.

7. If You’re Looking for a Business to Start, Try a Moving Company

Boomers will be tapping into the value of their homes in the GTA and looking for cheaper places to live. They’ll pull up stakes at a quicker pace than their parents or grandparents. Gen X and Y may move too: they’ll want to try out telecommuting and they don’t have to be in big city-centres to do that.

8. Loitering Will be Encouraged

Or at least it will be by smart companies. If people don’t need to rush back to work, they’ll stay in stores longer, and smart ones will offer them comfortable spaces to hang out (Starbucks gets this), or things to do (talk to a nutritionist in a drug store or take a craft class at a craft store).

Interestingly, Nazareth’s book foreshadows the latest Metlife Mature Market Institute survey of leading edge boomers, which we found full of surprises. Boomers Ready to Launch finds that “Contrary to what most of us have believed about the baby boomers who came of age in the turbulent 1960s, the group is very much like the ‘Silent Generation’ that preceded them,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“Despite the social and political turbulence of their youth, these leading edge boomers have established very traditional lifestyle characteristics. They were married once, had two children and feel they’ve done a decent job of caring for their family, their community and themselves. They really are more like Ward and June Cleaver than we may have thought and they might be classified as ‘conventional.’ Just 2% say they attended the Woodstock Festival of 1969.”

“They’re comfortable being identified as a baby boomer, and contrary to claims that they’re not ready to retire, only 18% dislike the term ‘retirement’ to describe their next transition.”

Bottom Line: there isn’t one. Trend-spotting makes for interesting books and surveys. But as you know, and Peter Drucker famously said: The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Have What It Takes to Launch a Business?

This is an interesting question and one probably not asked often enough by would-be entrepreneurs, which explains why so many businesses never make it to Year Five. Even the most well thought out new venture carries a certain amount of risk, which is part of the attraction. It’s one thing to risk money, time, and energy when we’re in our 30s or 40s, and quite another when we are 50 or older, for obvious reasons. So even if you have a great idea and the money to invest in it (or know how to raise it), it makes sense to put yourself through at least one assessment of your potential as an entrepreneur. Here’s a pretty good one from, twenty-one questions that will help you get clearer about communications skills, self-confidence, how you deal with uncertainty, financial issues, partners or employees, to mention a few essentials. Fun to take. If it turns out that you don’t have the right stuff, take heart. All it has cost you is a few moments of soul-searching.

We also recommend Michael E. Gerber’s The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, especially Part II, The Turn-Key Revolution: A New View of Businesses. What we learned from this book is very simple: a successful business is one that can and must outgrow its founders. It can be franchised, scaled up, whatever buzz word fits. Two other gems: “Without a clear picture of the customer, no business can succeed.” “Ask yourself: Does the business I have in mind alleviate a frustration experienced by a large enough group of consumers to make it worth my while?” Read it before you take the plunge.

In Business For Yourself

A few things converged in the last two days that make this a timely topic.

First, AARP Bulletin’s cover story, You Be the Boss which reports that half of all entrepreneurs are baby boomers, 7.4 million of them. Whatever your age cohort, if you are considering joining the ranks of business owner, Questions for the Self-Starter are helpful, as are the notes on franchises. Business Week’s article about Second Acts is also worth your time.

Terri Lonier, founder of Working Solo, offers Top Ten Trends for Solo Businesses in 2007. One that caught our attention, green businesses. With global warming now unequivocal, the smart money is betting on all kinds of opportunities to address the growing need to reduce one’s carbon imprint. You don’t have to be a soloist to benefit from Lonier’s insights, both practical and visionary.

Many soloists and couples in business together, start out — and sometimes remain — in a home-based office. If the idea of working out your home appeals to you, here are a few thoughts on the subject based on our nine-year experience.