Starting a Business at 40: Ten Tips To Make The Process A Little Easier

Starting a business after 40? You spring chicken, you! While baby boomers between 55 and 64 are currently the largest growing demographic to start businesses, the 40-year-old entrepreneur may appear at first to have an edge. After all, if 50 is the new 30, then 40 is the new “power age.”

Ten Tips To Make The Process A Little EasierAt 40, your vitality enhances the enjoyment of entrepreneurship’s perks: setting your own rules and being your own boss.

It’s also good fit for workers who know the ropes, have paid their dues, and are ready for a new challenge.

In fact, many people start a business not as a fallback, but because they have a business idea they want to build on. Whether aged 25, 40 or 70, people who start businesses exhibit classic entrepreneurial traits.

Still, starting a business after 40 isn't quite the same as starting a business in your 20s. The demands may seem, well, more demanding to someone nearing middle age, compared to someone younger.

How to make the process smoother?  Consider these ten tips for starting a business in your 40s and later.

1. Own your experience with pride. Many entrepreneurs start businesses related to work or hobbies they’ve done, or the knowledge they've accumulated in a career or raising a family. Wisdom earned by experience translates into leadership, people skills, and professional expertise. Inexperience wastes energy and leads to stupid mistakes. Seasoned workers naturally increase value for their customers.

2. Self knowledge is an intangible but valuable quality. We all know people who get their act together a little later in life. Perspective leads to astute business decisions. Finally you know how you work best, your skills, your teamwork, and how to acquire help. After 40, you know your own strengths and weaknesses better than someone just starting out, yet this new adventure will bring out the best (and the “not-so-pretty”) in you. Be prepared to get down and dirty with your true self.

3. Seek out professional training and advice. Don't feel like you have to re-invent the wheel. Visit the SBA, online sources, SCORE mentors, Meetups and local trade organizations. People love sharing what they know; keep an open mind to new ideas and mentors. Don’t be cheap! In addition to free resources, pony up some money for professional consultation. You'll realize the value of experts when one saves you from a costly mistake.

4. Make the most of the connections you already have. Whether you’ve been in the corporate world, or spent your time raising children or volunteering, people in your address book can grease the wheels of your new business. Chances are, your network was instrumental in your decision to start a business. For example, your colleagues in a past marketing department may be able to refer clients to your new graphic design firm; or your knitting group may champion your new yarn shop and tell their friends.

5. Speaking of networks, the Internet is an irrefutable fact. Get on board now and embrace the Internet and digital media to grow your business. There’s no better way to market and sell your products, programs and services. No giving yourself a pass because you’re “just not very technical!” Allow a substantial portion of your budget for sales and marketing. Direct mail, phone calls, and postcards are worth nothing without current technology, including social media and email marketing. These online tools are the key to your success. If you cannot or choose not to use them yourself, hire someone!

6. Only dip into what savings you can afford to lose. Use of your own funds may include leveraging your 401K: borrowing from it, investing in your newly formed corporation from your 401K, or (as a last resort) withdrawing it and assuming a hefty tax penalty. A better option, if you are starting a high-growth company, is to seek private funding. While investors may hinder your freedom to make decisions as your business takes off, you’ll sleep easier knowing you’re not risking your security.

7. Stay fit. Speaking of stressors, you’re about to find out how intense a new business can be to your lifestyle, family, health and sleep. It will affect every decision you make, including where you vacation and the books you read. Exhaustion derails the best of ideas, and the physical and mental demands of starting a business are real. Get as much sleep as possible, avoid alcohol, get daily exercise and drink plenty of water. Simple, universal advice -- but your success depends on it.

8. Consider franchising or buying a business. Starting a business is like building a plane as you’re flying it. The energy it takes to get off the ground is equal to the energy it takes to create it. Maybe you’re sure you want to own a business, but are not sure how to get one started. Buying a business that’s already running at full steam or franchising a business that trains you exactly how to achieve success, alleviates some unknown factors of being a new business owner.

9. Consider incorporating your business. Some new business owners believe that corporations are only required to protect you from lawsuits, but in fact, corporations have many fringe benefits. A good tax consultant can advise you of the perks. If you have a family, for example, a corporation may allow you to hire your kids, write off travel expenses, implement college saving plans and choose affordable health insurance. Incorporating also allows you to neatly keep personal and business finances separate.

10. Finally, get ready to work. Starting a business after 40 may be a no-brainer because you finally have the time, money and motivation to create your own destiny. Now adjust your mindset for unbelievable loads of hard work and hustle. The spiritual strength you find may be one of the gifts you didn’t see coming. Belief in yourself and a clear vision of your goals and outcomes are crucial to staying on track.

What are you waiting for? Ready. Set. Go!

Maxime Rieman is a writer for NerdWallet, a financial literacy website that helps consumers find affordable car insurance, budget for business, and make the right investments.
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