Jeremy Gray – The Geriatric Entrepreneur
IBGR. Network. The World of Business at Your Fingertips
Is retirement not for you? Me neither! I have always known that retirement did not hold any attraction for me. Those financial product advertisement promising early retirement never resonated.
As Elizabeth Queen of England, who is still active at the age of 95, says “If I stop, I will drop.”
In season 9 I will share with you my experiences running a consulting business that delivers the much targeted six figure income. I also invite you to join me, as I build my business plan to escape the tyranny of the clock which limits my earnings to the hours I work. Over the next five years I plan to build an income portfolio that will support my family into the future. Please join me as I plan that journey.
Episode 9. Starting an entrepreneurial second career is good for your physical and mental health. Here’s why.
I was chatting with a colleague last week; she had retired from the military with a military pension. She works long hours even though she has no financial need to do so. During our talk she mentioned that it is not uncommon for military retirees to die not too many years after retirement. And I also have heard such stories, although not about military folks. Yet in general people are living longer, so most of us do live long past retirement. I decided to do some internet searches to see if there was any research that bore out the fact that continuing to work in later life does improve the quality of those “retirement” years.
And indeed, there's increasing evidence that the payoff of working past age 65 may go beyond income. Some studies have linked working past retirement with better health and longevity.
A 2016 study of about 3,000 people, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggested that working even one more year beyond retirement age was associated with a 9% to 11% lower risk of dying during the 18-year study period, regardless of health.
A 2015 study of 83,000 older adults over 15 years, published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggested that, compared with people who retired, people who worked past age 65 were about three times more likely to report being in good health and about half as likely to have serious health problems, such as cancer or heart disease.
Other studies have linked working past retirement age with a reduced risk of dementia and heart attack.
On the other hand, working past retirement age might not be beneficial to health for everyone.
Suffering stress on the job has long been recognized as a risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke.
If your job is physically demanding, you may have an increased risk of injury.
If you feel your job lacks meaning, if you're bored, or if you feel "burned out," that may add to stress or affect your mood.
Several studies have found health benefits to retiring. For example, a 2010 study of 14,000 people, published in The BMJ, found that retiring was linked to a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms.
On balance the jury seems to side with working past retirement is generally beneficial.
It seems to universally recognized that staying mentally, socially, and physically active, which working may enable you to do, is good for health.
Mental stimulation and problem solving are good for maintaining thinking skills; social engagement is associated with staving off chronic disease; and staying physically active, even if it's just walking, can lead to both better health and sharper thinking skills.
Let’s take a look at the negatives we listed above and see how they apply to launching your own business after retirement.
Stress on the job is detrimental to health. I would not deny that there is an element of stress in running your own business. There will be days when all does not go according to plan. Times when despite your hard work the payoff you had hoped for does not materialize. Periods when it seems there is no progress towards success. But working in your own business you are in control. You can limit the impact of stress. Recognize that there are no overnight successes. The overnight successes reported in the press are often long time in coming. Dorie Clark’s book the Long View is a great read if you feel things are taking too long. For more details on my companion website Ctrl+Click here.
You manage your working hours, both how long you work and when you work. There is no clock to punch. I work quite long hours because that is my nature, but I can always take a break when I feel the need. You will need to accommodate your client’s schedule. I recommended not scheduling anything a couple of days each week, say Tuesdays and Thursdays, to give you a high degree of flexibility.
Control the financial stress. When planning your business, decide how much you can afford to lose, and plan accordingly. Still within budget? Then there is no problem. Fear of failure? At least you tried. Which is more than many others do. When I was living in the US I used to fly in competitions organized by the International Aerobatics Club. This is not as fancy as it sounds, the IAC caters for all levels of skills, from the very basic to the folks that fly for their country in international competitions. I flew in one of the lower skill categories. At one event I was having a bad day, I was well down the rankings, near last. I was bemoaning my position to a fellow pilot who did not fly in competitions. His comment really struck home. He simply said, “You are on that side of the fence, competing. I am on this side of the fence, watching.” By trying, you are on that side of the fence competing. Not merely watching.
The second listed negative is the risk of injury if your job is physically demanding. This is a risk that is entirely avoidable in your own business.
The third negative was if you feel your job lacks meaning, if you're bored, or if you feel "burned out," that may add to stress or affect your mood. It is to be hoped that your own business does not make you feel bored but if it does, reset. Do not feel bad, owner burn out is one of the leading causes of failures in startups.
A couple of weeks ago Anand Sanwal of CBInsights shared a story about a dog lying on a nail. It goes, a man walks into a bar and orders a drink. A dog lying on the floor close to him emits a loud wail. The man asks the bartender what’s wrong with the dog? “Oh! he is lying on a nail.” A few minutes the dog moans again. Why does he not move the man asks? The bartender replies, “it probably does not hurt enough for him to move” Anand uses this as an analogy for folks who say they would like to start a business but do not have enough motivation to actually do so.
Get off that nail, get moving, improve your health and get on that side of the fence and start competing. You will be glad you did.
Episode 10 Is there a demand for my Product? Part 1
The CB Insights tech market intelligence platform analysed why 110 Tech Companies failed. The leading cause of failure was that they ran out of money.
The second most common cause of failure was that there was no demand for the product or service.
How can you avoid spending hours and money developing your business only to find that no one, or at least not enough people, wants your product or service?
Mobile-focused streaming service Quibi, which shut down in October 2020 just 6 months after launching and raising a mammoth $1.8B, found itself in this position. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and chief executive Meg Whitman said in a letter to employees at the time of the shutdown:
“There were ‘one or two reasons’ for Quibi’s failure: The idea behind Quibi either wasn’t strong enough to justify a stand-alone streaming service’ or the service’s launch in the middle of a pandemic was particularly ill-timed. Unfortunately, we will never know, but we suspect it’s been a combination of the two.”
Before you start your business do your research and make sure that customers are interested in buying your product. You believe in your product but in reality, it’s probably not perfect. That’s why you need demand validation.
To test and validate your business idea ask three questions:
Behind these questions are further questions. Who are my potential customers? Will my solution appeal to my potential customers? How much are my potential customers willing to pay?
Using your best thoughts on the answer to these questions start to sketch out your value proposition or unique selling proposition. A unique selling proposition, which defines your company’s unique position in the marketplace, is an important part of creating pricing power and a business that customers genuinely love.
A strong unique selling proposition lets you to stand apart from competitors and actively focus your energy on creating things that cater to your ideal group of customers.
As Seth Godin put it:
Instead of working so hard to prove the skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers. They deserve it, after all, and they’re the ones that are going to spread the word for you.”
Having a unique selling point—even one that ostracizes some prospective customers—is a competitive advantage that allows you to avoid the trap of trying to please everyone.
Why You Need a Unique Selling Proposition
It’s likely that many of your prospective customers have difficulty deciding which option in your industry is the one that deserves their time, money, and trust.
This selection can be a daunting process for customers that don’t have the experience to know what separates one competitor from another.
That’s why it is your job to assist them by making your unique selling proposition obvious, different, and memorable enough that they can see exactly what your business has to offer that the other guys do not.
At this stage you only have ideas, guesses, hypothesises that need to be confirmed or refuted. How can this be accomplished we will cover next.
Conduct what can be thought of as internal research or desk top research. Use sources that are available to you to start to refine your ideas.
Use the three questions you asked yourself earlier to begin your demand validation.
Objective is to confirm that your potential customers really have the problem you think they have, and they would be interested in your solution.
Avoid confirmation bias.
People searching for solutions often use Google. Find out what people are using Google for.
Use Google’s Keyword planner to find out how many people search for specific words or phrases.
Make a list of the terms you think people will use when searching for a solution for the problem you are trying to solve.
It is to be hoped that many people are already searching for your solution. If not; then it’s back to the drawing board.
Identify potential competitors using the same key words. Analyse their value proposition. Can you do better? Can you see a gap in the market? Take FedEx’s classic USP:
“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
Canva is an online design and publishing platform aimed at making it easy for anyone to create and share vector graphics. Its USP reflects this:
“Empowering the world to design”
It’s a nod to the simplicity of Canva’s tools. It also separates the platform from competitors like Adobe’s PhotoShop and Illustrator, and ProCreate, whose products are aimed towards experienced artists.
While rival tools offer more advanced editing features, they come with a steeper learning curve. Canva’s drag-and-drop shapes and elements let complete novices design a professional image, flyer, or document in minutes.
By understanding its place in the market, they’ve been able to unearth a competitive advantage. It’s a lesson in how to turn what could be seen as a weakness into a strength.
Join appropriate forums where your potential customers may be found. Ask about their problems and current solutions related to your business idea. Are people suggesting work around solutions?
Episode 11 Is there a demand for my Product? Part 2
Consider the marketplace:
If the results of the research covered in Episode 10 has shown that there are potential customers for your product you need to learn more about them.
Zoom down from the 30,000-foot view to get real answers to questions such as:
Are people willing to pay for your product? How much? How do they solve their problem currently? What do they think of your idea?
The more specific the better. Facebook, LinkedIn are too broad. Focus in on your likely potential customers. Bloggers Influencers Podcasters who comment on your chosen field.
Identify your ideal customer, where will they be found? How do they make their buying decisions?
Launch your minimum viable product.
The Minimum Viable Product evolves from the Lean Start Up Theory. Which espouses the fail early philosophy.
MVP is the first working version of a product, with just enough features to satisfy potential clients and collect & analyse their feedback to develop the next product version, with minimum effort and resources required. The next, complete product version is developed after elaborating on the initial user feedback.
A minimum viable product is not an MVP until it sells.
Example of an MVP – Amazon;
Most people know that Amazon began as an online bookstore. You may be unaware, though, that Jeff Bezos started out by buying books from distributors and shipping them to customers every time his online store received an order. Growing book sales meant it made sense to keep adding more products to the store, then acquire warehouses, and finally provide each user with a personalized experience on the website.
The virtual MVP.
No money to build an MVP or pay for advertising? Consider content marketing. Write a blog with content that your target market might find interesting. Using the knowledge you have learned about where your customers hang out – post messages etc directing folks to your blog.
There is no substitute for research. It can be frustrating when you just want to get up and running.
But more haste less speed. The steps covered in this series Is there a demand for my product can help you avoid the second leading cause of failure for startups.
Episode 12 How cofounders can prevent their relationship derailing.
Do not go it alone is a common piece of advice given to entrepreneurs when launching their business. Maybe you are considering starting your second career with another like minded colleague. My advice, go for it, likely you will be more motivated when being held accountable by your colleague, you can celebrate your successes and support each other in times of stress. Plus, you will find new ideas and concepts working together. However, it is also possible that your views will not always align and even the strongest relationships can fall apart under the strains of business.
I recently read an HBR post by Alisa Cohn titled “How cofounders can prevent their relationship derailing. It contains much useful advice that I feel is worth sharing. If you wish to read the full article Ctrl+Click here. CB Insights found that 7% of company failures were due to disharmony among the start up team.
The Cofounders Prenup.
Alisa starts her article suggesting you create a Cofounders “Prenup”
If you are unfamiliar with the word Prenup it is an abbreviation for prenuptial agreement in which parties about to get married agree before the marriage on how certain assets will be divided in the case of a later divorce. The intention of this Cofounders Prenup is provide a guide for you and your cofounder through topics that will impact your relationship.
Alisa recommends you ask each other these questions:
I can imagine going through these questions is going to seem awkward, maybe even a bit of a waste of time, but it would be good to know this now rather than finding out a few years down the road that you and your cofounder were never aligned in your visions.
Alisa’s second piece of advice is to clarify your roles – in detail. In the excitement of launching your new venture you make not take to time to explicitly layout what your cofounder and you are responsible for. And what decision making authority each of you will have. You may want to set financial limits such as agreeing that each of you can spend up to a certain amount say $5000 without reference to the other. Or you may prefer to provide decision making authorities based on areas of responsibilities.
It is all too easy to say your cofounder will be the CEO and you will be the COO. But what does that really mean? And do not make the mistake of agreeing that all decisions will be made jointly. That will only slow things up.
To learn from a real world example of how joint decision making impacted a start up, you can listen to my show about Quincy Apparel The two co-founders, unwilling to strain their close friendship, shared decision making authority equally with respect to strategy, product design and other key choices. This slowed down the decision-making process which is critical in a fast paced industry such as fashion. The failure of the company also drove the two, formerly close friends, apart. For a link to that show Ctrl+Click here.
Discuss the What If? Questions.
A good discussion to have now is to talk about your possible reactions to various potential scenarios. It is impossible to predict the future, but it is possible to discuss scenarios that might arise. Such as:
Spend regular unstructured time together
In addition to regular business meetings with an agenda, schedule unstructured time to relax together to build and maintain your relationship. This builds trust, which is essential to ensure you work well together, support each other’s decisions and handle any conflicts that arise.
This is even more important if you are geographically apart, and these days it is becoming to work with colleagues in different countries. A partner in one of my ventures lives in Guangzhou China. We use WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp and Zoom to keep in touch. We are in contact at least once every two weeks. Alisa Cohn recommends a similar regular contact schedule. She mentions some cofounders who recognized that if they did not speak every couple of weeks small issues began to build up, they misinterpreted each other, and petty disagreement began to arise. Their solution: To schedule a non-cancellable recurring call. They find it time consuming but the confusions that arise if they do not talk take even longer to resolve.
Note from my experience this is even more important if you come from different cultures. Now that travel is beginning to open up again, considering scheduling face to face meetings.
Hold Conflict Meetings
Handling Crucial or Difficult Conversations well is a skill that few of us possess. Most of us either avoid the conversation entirely or handle it badly.
Conflicts are almost inevitable in any business relationships and the best way to handle these is with practice. Alisa Cohn suggests you put time on the calendar to hold conflict meetings, time set aside to talk about the tough issues. She says this may seem hard at first because at the outset you may have little to disagree about. But making a regular event from the start will help you build the skills you need.
One resource I have found extremely useful in building my skill in handling crucial conversations is a book by the same name, with the subtitled “Tools for talking when stakes are high” Co-authored by Messrs. Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. For more details please go to My Library page on my website thegeriatricentrepreneur.com For a direct link Ctrl+Click here
I am committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed. I can bring the experience of 30+ years of experience at the C-Suite level in an MNC from Europe, North America, and Asia. Combine this with eight years of helping a diverse range of businesses and I can provide you with practical solutions to any difficult problem may be facing.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for chat via the following links:
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