By Joe Casey
Different things can prompt you to ponder the question of whether or not to become an entrepreneur in the mid-to-late stages of a corporate career. An acquisition. A restructuring. An early-retirement buyout offer. A new boss who wants his or her own people.
There’s a cyclical nature to life in the corporate world that can be akin to the movie Groundhog Day. It’s easy to feel like you’ve seen all of this before. A commute doesn’t help – it’s only fun the first 500 times. Do you ever find yourself wondering Is this all there is?
Sometimes questions come from within. A sense that it’s time for a new challenge. A sense that you’ve accomplished all you can on the corporate side. A curiosity about what would happen if you struck out on your own. A desire to finally be your own boss.
I always wanted to own my own business. I wonder if I could do it now? Maybe you’re ready for more freedom and flexibility. Relatively few companies offer phased retirement options for people to gradually shift to retirement at a pace that’s right for them. Or perhaps you have a lot more to give and you feel like you’re being held back. You know you’re not done yet, but maybe that’s not how your company sees you.
A recent New York Times piece profiled “Encore entrepreneurs” who’ve left the corporate world for various reasons and reinvented themselves by starting their own businesses. Many (like me) were triggered to pursue this route following the financial crisis ten years ago. What many of these people have in common is that they have found a way to use their skill set in their own business while doing something they truly enjoy. Some are also fulfilling a higher purpose. These stories show people who are finding that an entrepreneurial path is offering them a way to work longer than perhaps they would have on the corporate side.
Starting your own business is not easy. The statistics on failure rates of new small businesses are daunting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of small businesses fail in Year One, 30% in Year Two – and half end up failing after five years. It’s not for the faint of heart.
The good news is that experience does count. A recent article by Kerry Hannon in Next Avenue cited studies showing that older entrepreneurs (45+) tend to have higher success rates than younger founders. Why? Deeper industry knowledge and overall business experience can provide an edge.
As one of our Twitter followers, Joseph Tomlinson, a retirement researcher/actuary, reminds us that people should be extremely careful not to tap any funds earmarked for retirement to start a business. While we focus on the non-financial side of retirement, this is a wise warning (and one that I have heeded in starting two coaching practices since taking early retirement 9 and 1/2 years ago).
Dorie Clark joined us on our podcast The Retirement Conversation and shared her advice on how to leverage the skills and expertise you’ve acquired in your career as an entrepreneur – and her story of how she’s doing just that.
Listen to our conversation with Dorie Clark here
Joe Casey is a former senior HR executive at Merrill Lynch, who’s in his second act as an executive coach and retirement coach. He helps people design their second act careers at Retirement Wisdom.com.