Starting up at 50 plus: Why the second half of life is the ideal time to start your own business

Gründen mit 50+ | Gastartikel von Geli Nelißen

Guest article by Geli Nelißen

Finally being your own boss, realizing yourself, and passing on life experience – these are common reasons for people aged 50plus to become self-employed. At the same time, there is great respect for starting anew in the second half of life: We all know that the job market is not forgiving once you reach a certain age. As a best-ager, you’re supposedly part of the old guard and quickly sidelined.

As a leader in an international corporation, I had to experience this myself and was confronted with the question “What now?” My answer was to step into self-employment at the age of 55 – my personal success story. Today, I support other founders on this path and show that it’s never too late to start anew.

Three things that make founders 50plus successful

Overall, it’s a combination of several factors. But three things I want to highlight here.

Knowledge and Experience

Late founders have years of professional experience, know their industry and its mechanisms. They can better assess whether a business idea is viable and weigh potential and risks more effectively. They generally plan more foresightedly and can organize themselves well. If you start your own business in the same industry where you were previously employed, you also have the advantage of being able to tap into contacts and potential customers. An existing network is very valuable, especially in the beginning.

Personal Traits

What will also determine your success are personal traits like discipline, determination, and understanding of people, which are much more pronounced with age. The latter will particularly help you build a team and lead employees. This is not relevant at the beginning of the startup – initially, it’s wise to streamline operations to keep expenses and investments manageable – but later, the right employees can significantly influence your company’s success.

Financial Flexibility

Another important point is your financial background. At 50 plus, you generally have more monetary leeway in the form of savings, passive incomes, or life insurances. At the same time, you can more easily get a loan from banks because certain securities are on your side. All of this gives you valuable breathing room when starting up and a better, more relaxed starting position.

Why I Started My Own Business at Over 50

Due to my late husband’s illness, I had decided to take a career break to care for him. My then-employer guaranteed me to return to my position as a leader. Only, the agreement was not honored. While I did receive a settlement payment, at 55, I found myself at a crossroads in my life where I had to make a decision. What do I do now? Establishing myself in the job market at this age is anything but easy. While I was invited to job interviews, nothing came of it – nothing that would have been financially attractive to me.

So, I made the decision to start my own business. At first, my surroundings reacted with incomprehension: Why do you still want to work – you have a widow’s pension, you have income from rental properties? But I had the ambition and firm determination to work again and give something back to the world with my skills. After all, I hadn’t pursued two degrees and worked in leadership roles for many years for nothing.

What You Can Learn From This

In the first year, I ran my company alone to save costs and quickly gained two medium-sized clients. Then I started building a team. Here, my leadership experience at the corporate level came in handy. My most important learning, which I also pass on to my clients: Pay your employees generously from the start. Satisfied employees will do anything for you and support your growth. There were phases where I paid my employees more than myself as the boss. That’s also entrepreneurship – knowing what is needed at a certain moment and putting yourself aside if it benefits the company in the long run.

I share my experiences and knowledge in my book “Start-up – How to Build Your Own Business in the Second Half of Life” (in German).

Important Points for Taking the Leap into Self-Employment:

  • Evaluate your business idea. What is the market situation, what is the demand?
  • Get clarity about your expenses: Will you work from home or rent office space? Choose a flexible framework at the beginning and opt for Ikea rather than designer furniture.
  • You need reliable technology. It’s worth investing in something decent from the start.
  • Write a business plan focusing on the next one, three, and five years. Most fail in the first year – so it’s important to have your finances and goals in mind from the start.
  • Seek support through mentoring or business angels and turn to technology and startup centers. There, you can not only rent space but also get technical support, advice for your self-employment, and exchange with other companies.
  • Basically: Don’t give up! Setbacks are part of it. The important thing is to keep going.

Important: If there’s something you can’t do or don’t know how it works, buy expertise. Especially a good tax advisor. This way, you set your company on solid ground and don’t waste precious time on things outside your genius zone.

The Best Comes at the End

If you dare to take the step and as a best-ager, dare to create something of your own, be sure: It keeps you fitter than any gym. You will be consistently challenged in a positive way and continue to develop! Nothing makes you feel as young as having your own business. And one more tip in the end: The best time is always now.

About the Author

Geli Nelißen is a business consultant and author of der German book “Start-up – So baust Du Dir in der zweiten Lebenshälfte Dein eigenes Business auf”.

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