The partners of Simon Associates Management Consultants are committed to helping young entrepreneurs, and particularly women entrepreneurs, take their ideas and turn them into successful business ventures. As part of our effort, in 2018 we started the Simon Initiative for Entrepreneurship through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St Louis.
Starting a company: how do you do it?
Often I get asked, what is it like to start a company? Or, what do you have to do to become an entrepreneur? Or maybe, lessons learned for developing a company? Or something else about being a business builder.
Thinking back, I can’t tell you how many startups I have tried that haven’t worked, or how many times I have been “On the Brink.” It is often easier to talk about your successes, not your failures. But I do have some tangible learning experiences from both successes and failures, and I think it is appropriate to provide you with a list of those so that hopefully, you don’t have to experience the same pain that I went through. Remember, it is a lot easier looking through that rearview mirror rather than facing the barriers in front of you.
A little background
On September 12, 2019, The New York Times published a special section on “Retirement.” One article that really reverberated for me was titled: “My Work Life Is Over. What’s Next?” The author states, “Many retirees do not have a plan” for after retirement. For some with health issues, retirement is necessary, but what about those who are healthy? Are they worn out after doing the same thing year after year and are glad to stop, or does their retirement date just appear on their calendar?
Believer in Blue Ocean Strategy®
Blue Ocean Strategy preaches that finding unmet needs is a critical element to continued organizational success. So, if you are a big believer in Blue Ocean Strategy, like I am, here are two companies that very successfully solve unmet needs.
The first is Warby Parker that provides extensive eyewear selection via the web. I am a user of their website, which lets me select exactly what I want in glasses at a reasonable price point. No longer do I have to settle for whatever my local eyeglass retailer has in stock.
I am also user of Harry’s, an online razor blade and grooming company. Great products that eliminate hassle. Best of all, I don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of shopping at a drug store or supermarket for razors.
The same guy co-founded both companies
Imagine my surprise when I picked up the November 2, 2018 Business Section of the NY Times and found out that the entrepreneur behind both businesses was the same person. Yes, Jeff Raider co-founded both Warby Parker and Harry’s. That’s pretty neat. And while I am not sure if Mr. Raider is a “card carrying” Blue Ocean Strategist, he certainly understands the underlying concept of a finding Blue Oceans.
Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted!
It is not easy being an entrepreneur. Starting an entirely new type of business is never easy. If you are in a startup mode, you often must turn out a product or service, make the sales calls, run the books and at the same time ensure that you are following your business plan. Often you don’t have people in the organization to help you reflect on this plan; think about the business, and bounce ideas off.
Getting the right advice is not easy
The New York Times had an article in the September 17, 2018 edition entitled: “Retire? These Graying ‘Encore Entrepreneurs’ Are Just Starting Up.”
It’s a great article! It focuses on people who have been displaced and find themselves out of work after 50. Their job disappeared because their industry changed or some other factor(s) impacted their company. They are all over 50 but want to—or must—keep on working.
As The Times notes: “Many entrepreneurs 50 and older said they have no choice but to look for new and creative ways to supplement their savings as they live longer.” These laid-off workers “describe feeling squeezed by rising rents and health care costs, and are facing uncertain job prospects and age discrimination, especially in industries where younger workers are less expensive and are often more fluent in digital and social media skills.”
People who want to start their own business are far from alone
Although it's becoming harder and harder to make serious financial returns in today’s retail world in the age of Amazon, there's still room for entrepreneurs to excel at retail and e-commerce. So how are some succeeding when so many are failing? By driving change. But to drive change—i.e., sustain growth in changing times—takes courage, stamina and ingenuity. And, dedication, persistence and a lot of hard work.
But even in today's harsh market demands and strong competitors, can young businesses still make it big and maybe even transform the world of retail? Yes!
As proof, take a look at this list of retail startups led by successful entrepreneurs that broke out of the pack in recent years, either through smart marketing, unique services or highly specific target markets.
How many times has someone said to you, “That’s a great idea, you should really run with it and make it a reality”? And how many times have you successfully converted a brilliant idea into a successful innovation? If the answer to the second question is zero, you're not alone. Unfortunately, most potentially great ideas remain dormant. Why? Most people don’t have the resources, courage, time and/or money to take action.
But bringing an idea to life is really hard. As the saying goes, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” It's mostly a battle against time (competitors with the same idea are often right on your heels), so in the beginning, the crucial parts of your business strategy should be planning and research.
More like a marathon than a sprint, the process of converting an idea into something real is an ongoing one. To help you on your journey, here are a few things every entrepreneur should know.
You've probably noticed them. Very likely, you're one of them yourself...a baby boomer who is approaching retirement age (or is even well past it). But if you're like many over the age of 50, you may be feeling the itch to start a business and go looking for new opportunities and untapped markets.
And why not? People over 50 have a host of things working in their favor, from decades of work experience to a valuable network of connections to the financial resources needed to start and run a new business successfully. All of these combine to make this a great time to take the leap and try turning your big idea into something big.
Here are two more reasons why the "over 50" age set is an opportune time to start a business: the internet revolution and the explosive growth of technology, both of which have generated important new tools for older entrepreneurs to consider. Running a thriving, modern company today depends on advanced technology capabilities and extensive internet knowledge, both of which you and your company need to have. Here are 5 things to consider as you start to develop a business strategy for these fast-changing times, which I'd like to share here:
5 tips for starting a business over 50
Do you have a brilliant idea for a startup but have little or no capital to bring it to life? Feeling guilty that you’re mentally running through a list of wealthy relatives and financially stable friends whom you can hit up for an investment? Don’t feel bad. Some of the most successful startups were funded by those nearest and dearest to the founder.
Why You Should Pitch to Family and Friends
It’s no secret that when looking for investors for your startup, the first people you should approach are those in your inner circle. In fact, they may even be offended if you don’t. Moreover, if you contact venture capitalists or angel investors first, these “financial types” may question why no one from your family, friends or community are backing you. This may in turn lead them to question your integrity and credibility.
Yet, it’s understandable why you might be hesitant to involve family and friends. Not everyone has entrepreneurial families (like Walmart) who get excited at the thought of a new business venture. For those people, it’s almost expected of them to either take up the family business or build something of their own, and tapping the relatives is practically a given.