Robin Carberry thinking whether it's ever too late to start a business

Is it ever too late to start a business?

Gen Xers ask me all the time…Is It Ever Too Late To Start A Business?

How about NO!!!

I’m with Garth.  NO WAY is it too late. And hear me out because I have some really fun data to back that up!

Consider these fabulous stats about age and startup success…

A 50-year-old startup founder is 2.2 times more likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old.
A 40-year-old startup founder is 2.1 times more likely to found a successful startup as a 25-year-old.
A 50-year-old startup founder is 2.8 times more likely to found a successful startup as a 25-year-old founder.

Wait… it gets better!

A given 50 year old is nearly twice as likely to have a runaway success as a 30-year-old
A 60-year-old startup founder is 3 times as likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old startup founder–and is 1.7 times as likely to found a startup that winds up in the top 0.1 percent of all companies.

Yup. It’s real, y’all. A great big thank you to Benjamin Jones, a professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Javier Miranda of the U.S. Census Bureau, and MIT’s Pierre Azoulay and J. Daniel Kim for diving deep into some serious data in their study that completely upends the idea that launching a successful startup business is just for the kids.

“The longer you’ve been around, the better your odds,” Jones says.

Oooooh! I like that. That’s a great big permission slip, isn’t?

Before you turn away and think “well, maybe that’s true for other people starting a business in midlife, but I don’t know how to make that happen for me,” let’s talk about why it is not too late to start a business and why right now is the BEST time to do it.

First, the fact is that you are more ready, better qualified, and more capable than you’ve ever been before. 

You know what responsibility looks and feels like now. I’ve known some really dialed-in, focused, mature, responsible 20-somethings. But c’mon. That’s really the exception. As much as we didn’t want to admit it back then, we had a lot to learn. You know what paying the mortgage or rent means. Maybe you’ve raised a family. Perhaps you owned a business before. Or you support parents or family members who can’t care for themselves. We do a lot of growing up as adults – even after you are old enough to vote and buy alcohol.

Life and experience allowed you to pile up both the hard and soft skills needed to build a successful business. Your hard skills are, of course, the foundation you’ll build your business on. Whether you are an engineer or an account manager, a customer service representative or a recruiting coordinator, you have plenty of hard skills. In fact, you likely have a lot more skills that you give yourself credit for. If you’re feeling not so sure about that, download my 6 Key Shifts to Clarity for Midlife Career Changers to sort out your expert mojo and how you can use it.

Leadership, communication, problem-solving, flexibility, the perspective that allows you to look ahead to the next 5 minutes and the next 20 years are all crazy valuable soft skills when you start a business. And you’ve developed all of those muscles.

Second, your network is a hugely important and valuable asset.

I always knew networks were important. My dad drilled the importance of “it’s not what you know but who you know” into me both in words and in his example. My dad is a total network-leveraging PRO! 

Even knowing that truth, it wasn’t until I took my second dive into entrepreneurship that I started to really see the value of my own network. It, of course, was exponentially bigger in my 40s than it was in my 20s. 

But that also meant the networks of the people I knew had grown, too. It was a world filled with, as my friend Renee Hribar of Sell Like A Mutha© fame would say, potential connectors, collaborators, and clients (check out her awesome podcast here).

So, even if you are thinking about really making a life pivot, you are never starting from scratch. Your network is a source of friendship, support, market research, potential clients, education, internships, mentorship, joint ventures, business opportunities, and more. 

Third, it puts you in the driver’s seat.

You’re making things happen instead of waiting for them to happen to you.  Let’s be real. Older employees are more likely to get laid off often simply because they cost more. Back in 2008, I decided I was sick and tired of worrying about losing a job that was sucking my soul dry. Taking action to do something different gave me energy, power, and purpose. And it reminded me I had a lot left to do and contribute to this world.

Being in the driver’s seat means you are not waiting to be laid off, not hating the job that takes up most of your waking hours while you are waiting and hoping for retirement.  Instead you choose to leverage your skills, knowledge, and passions in a way that aligns with a real plan for the rest of your life. And that real plan has to do with…

Fourth, finding meaning and giving back.

So, you get to age 40, 45, 50, and you start to question why you keep trudging down a path that doesn’t feel right to you, wonder where you took the wrong turn, and start looking at what you can do to change course. 

While some refer to this time of life and reflection as a midlife crisis, for us I’m renaming and reframing it as the Gen X Reassess

Whether it’s because our priorities are different, the kids are grown and need us less, or we’re closer to 60 and 70 than we are to 20, as a generation we’re becoming more focused on what our lives mean or will mean, how we can contribute or give back. What’s beautiful about that reassessment is that if we do take action, we potentially have a lot more years to do some really cool, positive things.

Fifth, having passion and a purpose make you healthier and happier.

And that makes your life a helluva lot more fun! Multiple studies make the connection between a sense of purpose and your health and happiness.

Of course, starting a business isn’t the only way to bring passion and purpose into your life. But think about how different your life would look and feel if you replaced that 9-5 with a business that lights you up and makes a difference? I can tell you from personal experience and through the work I do with my clients, it is life-changing.

So what do you need to know or do before you take the leap? Check out the 9 things you need to know before starting your own business when you’re over 40.