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Entrepreneurship isn’t really a young game

Research shows boomers are becoming entrepreneurs twice as often as millennials.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

We tend to think of our entrepreneurs as youthful, full of energy and moxie, and brashly defiant of the obstacles standing in their way.

Younger professionals are just better built for the 24/7 grind of starting a company, we say. It’s a notion that’s even been celebrated by one of America’s most successful young entrepreneurs of this century. In 2007, Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “Young people are just smarter.”

Well, young professionals, guess what? The olds are coming for your startups.

Yeah, seriously. A recent Gallup poll estimated that millennials become entrepreneurs only half as often as people over 50. The vast majority — 83 percent — say their main reason for launching a venture was a lifestyle choice or to increase their personal income.

According to Gallup, “Many baby boomers are looking for what the Small Business Administration describes as an ‘encore’ career. These boomer entrepreneurs are primarily choosing to start businesses because it allows them to be independent (32 percent), pursue their interests and passions (27 percent), or increase their income (24 percent), rather than committing to the grueling task of starting and managing a high-intensity, high-growth venture. Very few (10 percent) are pursuing an idea for a new product or service that solves a problem or meets an unfulfilled need in the market — the type of business that would typically have immense growth potential.”

“The doors to entrepreneurship open wider the older you get.”

Furthermore, “young, high-tech entrepreneurs may get the most attention from investors, but in the technology sector and other high-growth industries, boomers often outpace their younger counterparts in building successful businesses,” notes Gallup. To sum it up, there is no substitute for experience. “The wisdom that comes from years of professional and trade experience likely translates into better business performance for boomers.”

Gallup also notes that among adults age 18 and older who don’t currently own a business, boomers (12 percent) are twice as likely as millennials (5 percent) to say they plan to start a business in the next 12 months.

For young professionals who may often look around them and feel like every other young professional they know is doing great things and starting their own companies — everyone, that is, but themselves — this may be frustrating. Believe me, I’ve been there when it seems like all of your peers are enjoying major career successes and you’re just kind of … working. And now all of your older co-workers, who should be inching closer to retirement, are starting their own companies, too?

Sheesh!

But flip this lament on its head for a moment. Yes, it’s good for the economy to have older workers remaining in the workforce by starting their own ventures, opening doors for younger workers at the companies they’re leaving, and maintaining access to those older workers’ years of experience and institutional knowledge. It’s even better news for younger workers because you don’t have to worry that the opportunity to break out on your own has passed you by just because you’ve been with the same company for a number of years or started a family.

Honestly, it’s heartening to know that the doors to entrepreneurship open wider the older you get, and that it’s never too late to be an entrepreneur. I’ve got a lot of ideas, many of them half-baked at best, but time is still on my side, as it is for every professional younger than me who has always wanted to try to make a dream into reality but talked themselves out of it.

You may not be getting any younger, but the good news is that to start a new business, you’re probably better off if you’re not.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.

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