Well over 300 people turn 60 every hour in the United States. Each of them is a Baby Boomer. Some are still enjoying self employment and would not consider retirement. They are an unprecedented generation both in terms of their sheer numbers and their collective insistence on reinventing the overall American landscape with oftentimes progressive notions of what it means to grow older. If, as the leading edge Baby Boomers began saying two decades ago, “40 is the new 30”, then 60 is now undoubtedly the new 50. This generation has been key to creating the successful environment in the business opportunity and franchise marketplace while enjoying the freedoms of self employment – Baby boomers reinvent retirement with self employment.
So, what’s an amazingly talented, vigorous, wise and determined cohort of well over 78 million people to do all day long when the old, outdated definition of retirement just doesn’t cut it? Many of them are opting for either part-time or full-time self employment. And a legitimate business opportunity or small franchise, one that they are passionate about and could really enjoy, may be their best option.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor and a recent study conducted by a Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, those 55 to 64 and older represent the fastest growing group of self-employed workers, and trends show that number will only increase. The reasons for this are many.
Some older workers have earned the right to retire through years of service, but when they actually do, that fantasy of having all the free time they could ever hope for wears thin after six months or so. Martin Lehman is a Counselor and the Marketing Director of NY SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” a nonprofit nationwide organization that offers free consultation and guidance to anyone interested in starting their own business. After years of working for others and finally for himself, he closed his women’s apparel business to retire. “The first day I asked my wife, ‘What’s for lunch, honey?’, and she told me right then to get out of the house,” he said. It’s a funny and surely somewhat exaggerated anecdote, but not too far removed from the tale so many others his age could tell. Ultimately, Lehman came to realize that he still had much to offer and was looking for a way to structure his time that would give him a sense of purpose. “I have to shave and get dressed. It’s mentally stimulating, and I’m still learning, even today,” he said.
Brian Strayer is the President of Slide-Lok Corporation, an industry leader in what is deemed to be one of the country’s fastest growing home improvement industries, the garage and overall home organization market. “Some of our most successful dealers have joined us in the latter part of their careers,” he said. “They are older, yes, but they are also oftentimes more savvy, stable and they know what is involved in buying and running their own business,” Strayer says. Asked for examples of older people who’ve decided to become part of the Slide-Lok family, Strayer cites just a few of many.
One “retired” gentleman in his late 50s wanted to start a family business that would be a legacy he could leave to his children. A year and a half and nine employees later, that same business is yielding close to $2 million in revenue. Mission accomplished. Another gentleman retired from a very large company after falling victim to cost cutting measures that resulted in a reduction in force. Much like Martin Lehman, he needed a reason to get out of bed each morning and out of the house, doing something he could really enjoy. For him, starting a Slide-Lok dealership was more a lifestyle decision, as opposed to a financial one. This gentleman wanted to earn money, sure, but he also wanted time to spend with family, to travel and to enjoy life. “Depending on the market you are in, Slide-Lok can easily provide you with a six figure annual income,” said Strayer, “but it’s really all about what a person wants. If you’re content with less, that’s great also,” he said.
What is being termed “lifestyle businesses” are a very attractive option for older workers who want quality of life coupled with additional income. For individuals seeking to share their long-held professional expertise with others who are new to the entrepreneurial arena, FranExpert is a tremendous lifestyle business opportunity. Marc Stephens is the Director of Franchise Development for Strategy Partners, LLC, which owns FranExpert. “We’re the recruiters and matchmakers for the franchising industry,” he said. “Our brokers, many of whom are starting their second careers as one of our counselors, realize their own dreams while helping others realize theirs.” Much like SCORE, the company also is an important source of guidance for individuals who want and need assistance in choosing the right franchise or other business opportunity for them, from a financial as well as a lifestyle perspective.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Owning your own business always requires some degree of risk. But no one wants you to jeopardize your financial future. It’s crucial to know that there are ways to mitigate risk, while enhancing the likelihood of success. That’s why it’s so important to do your homework, seek out advice and choose a business opportunity carefully. Here are just a few things to consider:
Start small. It’s fine to have an ambition about what it is you think you want to do, but you need to do some serious research to be sure. “Hang out and learn the business from the ground up,” Lehman says. “Offer to do the grunt work and learn the nuances of the business from someone who’s already done it before you jump in so you’ll know what you’re doing when you’re in charge.”
Find something you love. If you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself, to do something you always dreamed of doing, but never had the chance, then by all means, make sure it’s something you really enjoy.
Beware of scams. Above all, any business opportunity you choose must be reputable. Beware of high pressure sales tactics that overemphasize the need for you to make an investment right away. Watch for scams where the marketing of tangible services and products is secondary to recruiting others to sell beneath you. Some of these kinds of business opportunities are viable and reputable, some are not.
Seek advice. Consultation with an expert who can guide you through the questions you must ask yourself before you even think about buying a business opportunity or franchise is worth your time, and even your money. There’s too much at stake as one grows older, and time is of the essence, so getting it right the first time when you’re ready to go around a second time is crucial.
SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” offers business advice free of charge at its website (www.score.org), as well as in-person assistance through its hundreds of local branches across the U.S.
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Department of Labor; Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., Chicago, IL (May 21, 2007, press release).