The narrative of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice should be widely promoted and encouraged across all generations, as it is never too late to start a business. It has actually been shown that older entrepreneurs are more adept at building resilient businesses.
According to Anton Roelofse, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited, the 2018 Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey revealed that 80 percent of entrepreneurs in South Africa are under the age of 45, with the majority of entrepreneurs reported to be between the ages of 25 and 34. “In light of the high prevalence of unemployment, there is no reason that entrepreneurship should be reserved for the younger generation. Considering that only 20 percent of entrepreneurs are over 45, it is now more important than ever for older aspiring entrepreneurs to realise that the country needs them and it is never too late to start a business,” he says.
Delving into the reasons for this low rate of entrepreneurship among older generations in South Africa, Roelofse refers to the 2016-2017 Senior Entrepreneurship Report. “According to the report, older individuals have the lowest confidence in their ability to start and run their own businesses, and many believe that entrepreneurship is a young person’s occupation because the majority of entrepreneurs are young.”
In contrast to these beliefs, Roelofse says that it has actually been shown that older entrepreneurs are more adept at building resilient businesses, which is especially crucial during times of slow economic growth. “If more older entrepreneurs follow their entrepreneurial dreams, not only will more jobs be created, but the idea of entrepreneurship will become more socially accepted for all ages and hopefully have a ripple effect.”
As such, it is vital for older aspiring entrepreneurs to realise that they are more equipped than they think to start and run a business, says Roelofse, who lists five pointers to boost older aspiring entrepreneurs’ confidence:
► Work experience: Starting a business at a later age means that the entrepreneur will have a lot more work experience. This will be extremely beneficial as it will contribute to the entrepreneur’s leadership skills, business management and acumen, problem solving skills, and industry experience, should the entrepreneur decide to open a business in the same industry.
► Personal networks: It is often said that it’s not what you know, but who you know, and as one grows in age, so do their personal and professional networks. Older entrepreneurs will therefore be more likely to know other established professionals who they can turn to for advice, collaboration, and offer their services to.
► An established passion: Older entrepreneurs tend to be less restless in their pursuits, as they have had more time to figure out what they are most passionate about, which can often be a driving force to start a business as well as motivate their success in the future.
► An understanding of your strengths and weaknesses: Due to older entrepreneurs’ work experience, they will know how to leverage their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses in order to grow their business. It will also assist with hiring the right employees with the required skills or knowing what services will need to be outsourced.
► Stability and time: Older aspiring entrepreneurs often have more of a stable family life with older children and may also be more financially stable than those that are younger and still building their lives. This can lend itself to freeing up more time both physically and mentally for an older entrepreneur to focus on starting and growing their business.
“Age should be seen as an added strength, not a hindrance, when it comes to entrepreneurship. And aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of their age, should be encouraged and supported to contribute economically,” Roelofse concludes.