When Kerry Hannon told me last year that she was writing a book about older entrepreneurs, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Her book, Never Too Old to Get Rich, was released a few days ago, I devoured it immediately, and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it’s her best book yet.
Kerry has been writing and speaking about jobs and careers for older adults for close to 30 years. She is the jobs expert for AARP and contributes regularly to The New York Times, Forbes, Money, U.S. News and World Report, and many others. She has been featured as the money and career expert on TV talk shows over the years and across the spectrum. Her many books on these topics have guided dozens of older adults into new and more rewarding careers. With her focus now on entrepreneurship, she is addressing the timely migration of workers of all ages away from W-2 jobs and into a self-driven model of income production.
With her credibility well established, anyone interested in looking at opportunities to start their own business should run to the bookstore to get their hands on Never Too Old to Get Rich to learn about how other older entrepreneurs have approached it and what led to their successes and failures.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the book is the statistics Kerry has gathered to support her proposition that older entrepreneurs are better positioned for success than their younger counterparts. Here is a small taste of what she learned:
- The highest rate of entrepreneurship is among the 55-64 age group
- Greater than half of all small business owners are over 50
- Older adults experience less difficulty obtaining the licenses, permits, and loans than their younger peers
The point is that many (maybe most) people would prefer to be their own boss and those with a healthy amount of business and life experience behind them are better equipped to make the move.
This book is so much more than a compilation of statistics about what drives business success for older adults. It is also interesting and fun to read – even if you aren’t considering starting a business next year. Kerry did her homework not only on the computer, but out in the field and she recounts the stories of quite a diverse bunch of folks who made it work. Some are shopkeepers; some are artists; some are in finance; some are in the food business; some are in the music business. They are women and men; they are of various races and religions; they are of different socio-economic backgrounds. Some of the stories are about for-profit businesses and some are social entrepreneurships (non-profits). They are all fascinating to read. She recounts the many lessons they learned along the way and the challenges they faced as well as the triumphs.
To uncover the true gems of wisdom from these stories, Kerry captures highlights from the in-depth interviews she conducted with the women and men who provide the proof of what she is telling us in this book. Those interviews reveal some of the mostly-invisible hurdles these entrepreneurs encountered and the vital lessons they learned from them. Lessons like study the market, spend adequate time preparing, draw up a thorough business plan, be realistic about cash flow and personal finances.
Most of the entrepreneurs whose stories Kerry recounts say they wish they had done it sooner. I came away thinking maybe they could have, but maybe the alternative is true: they did it at just the right time – for the market and for themselves.
Kerry devotes a respectable amount of space in this book to helping would-be entrepreneurs understand how they might finance the venture they are considering. She includes a list of what she calls the “nitty-gritty” on start-up funding and the cost and risks associated with each. There is no one-size-fits-all program for financing a new venture. Most people cobble together their financing from a variety of sources. Each venture is unique and Kerry wisely doesn’t endorse one source over another.
Kerry also discusses ways to create a successful partnership. As with the rest of her topics, she illustrates the importance of solid planning and strong communication with several relevant examples of partnerships that worked well and the difficulties they overcame. Some of her partnerships are peers; others are junior-senior in nature.
Female entrepreneurship is the topic of an entire chapter. Kerry begins it with an impressive statistic from actuarial data: women over 50 are twice as likely to be successful as other entrepreneurs. However, that factoid is no surprise to those of us who spent years in the trenches, watching our male counterparts get the promotions, the raises, and the plum assignments we were qualified for. I struck out on my own at age 40 and never looked back. Kerry recounts a similar tale. She no doubt had her pick of millions of baby boomer women who had started consulting practices, retail shops, restaurants and bakeries, private schools, theater groups, etc. etc. etc.
There is help out there for women who want to start businesses and Kerry advises taking advantage of it. She suggests assembling a support team, finding a mentor, getting some coaching or taking a few classes geared toward women. The Small Business Administration and many colleges offer such courses throughout the year.
Reading Never Too Old to Get Rich is easy and enjoyable. Kerry has peppered the book with checklists, interview scripts, resource lists, advice from those who have walked the path, and quotes from her experts. It could easily serve as required reading for any of the courses mentioned in the paragraph above. And the value here is not limited to newbies. I’m not starting a new business again any time soon, but I learned a few marketing lessons that I can put to use this year in my coaching and speaking practice.
One thing seems obvious to me after reading this book. The message isn’t as much about getting rich monetarily as it is reaping the reward of following your passion. Your business may do very well, financially, and that’s great, but the bigger payoff is getting to do something you enjoy, being your own boss, and creating something meaningful in the world.
By Dr. Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D., CRC
Read more from Sara by purchasing her book : Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers.