June 4, 2020 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
An employment crisis for older workers is looming. We are facing an upheaval in work options like no other in our lives. We can’t wait for the cavalry. It’s not coming. How you position yourself for what’s coming — how you optimize your position in the market — will be critical to how you live through it.
We need to create independent platforms for generating work and income on our own terms. A late-career small business of your own may be just the right solution for you. If you are considering your own small business, there are ways you can plan resiliency into your model. Ask yourselves: How can we be proactive and position ourselves to take advantage of as many options as we can? You need to create your own solutions, ones that have value to the communities and markets you love. You need to incorporate market optimization.
But what is market optimization, and how do you build it into your startup? Market optimization is the work you do to make yourself known to the world as a vendor of services or goods that advance the goals you set for your company. What’s vital in this process is defining your company’s mission, goals and values in advance. Without these in place, your market optimization efforts will be wasted on chasing immediate fears and short-term fixes. Remember, you get to decide the real purpose of the work you do. You create a mission, values and goals around that purpose and then use the results to navigate your way into the market. You get to decide what good you bring to the world.
You must carefully define your mission, because this announces the problems you will address and your approach to solutions. You also need to be succinct and clear. You should be able to state your mission in 10 seconds.
Your values are the set of beliefs by which your new enterprise will operate, similar to guardrails on dangerous roads. They’ll keep you focused on your mission and the efficient pursuit of the solutions it proposes. If you want to make the world a better place, build your new enterprise around your mission and the values that you want to strengthen in yourself and in the communities and markets you want to serve. It makes you stronger and your new business more valuable to customers. You are not optimizing anything if you are driving off a cliff. You should be able to define the goals for your new enterprise in 10 screens or less.
Your business goals should be simple, clearly defined metrics you can measure. Goals help you optimize and complete your mission and put your values into action. You want to set goals that have a vital relationship to the health of your new enterprise. If you don’t have these goals to measure against, you’re throwing punches in the dark, and likely missing most of the time. The essence of market optimization is to take steps that strategically advance your goals while serving your mission and values.
With these in place you can effectively deploy the 10-10-10 rule. The first “10” is the ability to state your mission in 10 seconds or less. The second “10” is to present your values in 10 screens or less. The final “10” is to be able to provide a deep dive into your enterprise in 10 minutes or less for potential customers and stakeholders.
The problems our communities and industries now face can be the source of inspiration for your new enterprise. To optimize your efforts, you need to position your work to solve real problems. Problems are what entrepreneurs thrive on. In this case, running toward the sound of the guns means attacking the very issues now bringing pain to communities and markets you love.
While entrepreneurship is typically touted as a young person’s game, the reality is that most startups in the U.S. are generated by people aged 45 and above, with the greatest growth coming from startup entrepreneurs who are aged 55-64. People in this age group are generating millions of new startup enterprises, bringing financial resilience to their own lives and raising the tide for those they work with.
There is a new Renaissance age of entrepreneurship beginning. We will not revert back to lowest-common-denominator solutions that rely on unsustainable growth and get rich quick schemes. You have an opportunity to make the world a better place with your own enterprise. You have a chance to make yourself more resilient and economically independent.
Some of us may find sustainable ways to do this through brick-and-mortar retail, but most of us will launch as consultants and subject-matter experts, with specific knowledge and networks. Vast areas of the supply-chain system will need to be rebuilt to reflect the changing needs of the economy given the upheavals we’re going through.
An important recent paper by the software giant SAP concluded that all new supply chains coming out of this pandemic must be built with a balance of local and global suppliers. You should read this as a clarion call for entrepreneurship. The U.S. and most developed countries have lost their local/regional capabilities. Supply chains have been industrialized and centralized to the point where what remains can become as much of a threat as it is a blessing.
The SAP paper, without naming it in words, is calling for the creation of tens of thousands of new small enterprises, built from the bottom up at a local/regional level to serve markets they are near — physically, financially and in spirit. The rebuilding of a multi-trillion-dollar economy with an appropriate mixture of new local/regional solutions is nothing less than a call for millions of new small businesses.
The health crisis has been a tsunami sweeping away old business models. In addition to the destruction, it is leaving a clean beach on which small, agile entrepreneurs can rebuild new solutions that are more sustainable and are more capable of surviving future calamities.
How will you position yourself to take advantage of this opportunity? If you accept the misplaced prevailing wisdom that entrepreneurship is only for young people, you will be cutting yourself off from options for a creating a more resilient life. You are the face of the future. You have wisdom, knowledge, and networks you can apply to problems.
Solutions to the problems we now face do not typically require big money infusions. The solutions needed are based in human knowledge, goodwill and a determination to make life better. This is the model of an ageless entrepreneur. Your age is an advantage. Knowledge and networks are your currency.
You can start a small one-person consultancy to advise markets or communities you love. You will likely not have all the answers yourself, but as a small business built on networks, you have the infrastructure to put comprehensive solutions in place, no matter the twists and turns in markets and projects.
Related: The 3-Step Startup Journey
Market optimization is a tool you can build any new enterprise around, and markets will coalesce around your new enterprise if you bring clearly defined solutions, delivered in a context that represents your highest values and goals. You can prepare yourself for what’s ahead by creating your own small business entity that represents your own best skills, values and networks.
Be your own cavalry. Launch your own ageless startup. and put the next stages of your career in place for a better future.