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Boomer Business Ventures -What They Mean to YOURS

By Mary Lloyd

When the going gets tough-as it has for many 50+ professionals, the tough get going-into their own businesses. Think again if you're assuming that has no impact on your own business. These new ventures could become invaluable resources, key business partners, or stiff competition. You get to decide which.

The siren's song of wanting to see what happens if you do it your way gets stronger as you get older. When a downsizing or outright corporate implosion mandates going in a new direction, workers over 50 are far more likely to start their own businesses-and are in a much better position to succeed, according to Ed Rogoff, co-author of The Second Chance Revolution: Becoming Your Own Boss After 50. Rogoff is currently Chair of the Management Department in the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, City University of New York and was named 2010 Outstanding Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year by The United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Starting your own business can be an outstanding strategy for someone with a lot of experience. According to Rogoff, those ventures have a much greater likelihood of success because they are typically both better capitalized and have far more extensive business networks in place.

But what does that mean for your own business?

For starters, small business is our best hope for new job creation. In the last fifteen years, small business has created about two thirds of all new jobs in the US. That trend is a key ingredient in our national economic recovery. At a minimum, you want these endeavors to thrive so they hire more people who will then have more money to spend on what you sell.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here's more to think about:

You might benefit from outsourcing to a new small business with strong experience in what you need done.

We've been cutting, cutting and cutting for more than two years now. As the economy starts to heat up, some of what you need done is going to have to be done by someone who's not currently on your payroll. A permanent hire is premature and training a temp you might not keep is a waste. Outsourcing has that same training issue in it-unless you go with the mature players. Look for the people with experience as outside resources for what you need done. Lots of experience. The more they know, the less likely you'll encounter "bad surprises" in what they provide. It may turn out to be the best way to get things done long term or it may be an interim measure. Regardless, you'll have one more ace to play whenever you need it.

There may be products they need that you sell.

A 50+ business start-up is about passion. Older entrepreneurs want a sense of purpose in what they set out to do. For some it's about proving what they know will work. For some it's making a positive difference by doing it a new way. It's often about "giving back." Are your sales methods going to work with this kind of customer? These entrepreneurs will be looking for resources they sense are partners to their success not just people who want to sell them something.

Some of them are doing things you may want a piece of.

The really smart corporations will see this for what it is-a sea change. People between the ages of 50 and 75 make up a third of the labor pool and almost 70% of them plan never to retire. The people in this cohort are currently close to invisible as a market segment. They will create products to serve their peers that might dovetail well with what your business is already doing. Perhaps some of these "older entrepreneurial" start-ups are partners you would do well to have.

You may be squandering your company's opportunities by riffing or retiring this talent in the first place.

Instead of watching as a key player becomes a successful entrepreneur-maybe even with a resulting loss in your own market share-consider helping them become an "intrapreneur." Setting up a small business inside your bigger business using experienced talent might give you the perfect mix of innovation and seasoned decision-making needed for solid success in a new arena. Getting this talent to work exclusively for you may simply be a matter of creative work design. Or it may involve creating a whole new venture. Either way, keeping the people who know what they are doing working with you can make a huge difference.

What happens if you ignore these new businesses?

Those who love inertia hope the answer is "Nothing." Don't bet on that. Someone is going to benefit from what they know, the risk they've decided to take, and the energy and savvy they bring to the table. They won't all succeed, but their chances are much better than the accepted average. This is especially true now that they are being offered resources such as Rogoff's book that are tailored to them.

So what are you going to do? You get to decide-thrive with them or wish you had?