18th January, 2017
You’ve been through the startup 20s and the growth phase 30s, so what’s in store for your 40s?
I speak with business owners regularly, and during our discussions, we often think back through our respective careers and compare notes.
One topic that often surfaces in those discussions is that of respect.
As you enter your 40s, people start to view you and interact with you in different ways.
You may find yourself older than many of your clients or customers for the first time.
This itself can you lend credibility as people start to look to ‘veterans’ for guidance and knowledge.
That’s certainly an advantage to play to as you enter your 40s, but of course you need to back that up with real-life experience.
The first semblance of grey hair will only go so far!
You’ve had plenty of time to learn, but a common trap people in their 40s can fall into is doing the same thing repeatedly.
A key for your 40s is to push yourself to keep learning and develop new skills and experience.
If you surround yourself with younger, talented people and encourage them to contribute ideas (and then act on the best of them) you will be in a healthy environment.
In terms of business life cycle, I like to think of the 40s for an entrepreneur as coinciding with a business approaching or in maturity.
Of course, this will vary from business to business — and you might be a first time entrepreneur with a startup in your 40s (if so, refer back to the key business points in the previous articles in this series).
However, if you’ve been in business for going on 20 years, the likelihood is you’re through startup and growth and are now the custodian of a mature organisation.
If this if you, then now’s the time to keep these strategies in mind:
If your business is doing well, resist the temptation to change because you are bored!
Keep doing the things that are proving successful and harvest the rewards.
If you have a solid business model and the right structure, now you can consider taking some more cash out of the business.
You’ve worked hard to get to this situation, and you should be properly rewarded for that work.
After all, you need to get enjoyment out of your work and your life!
Be aware of changes impacting your industry.
Because you’ve been working in it for a couple of decades, the temptation is to think you know it all.
Kodak’s executive team dismissed their own invention of the world’s first digital camera as no threat to their established business, for example, and found itself disrupted quickly.
There has never been a time like now for industry disruption, often driven by technological change.
It’s critically important for you to keep your antennae up to sense changes in the industry or economic landscape.
Now could be the time for you to bring in a couple of senior people to form a management team and take some of the reliance off you as the business owner.
Most businesses have management needs for marketing, sales, customer service, finance and administration.
If you’re in more than one of those roles, you could be stretched too thinly.
Prudent investment in smart people can make a huge difference, and, in some cases, can reinvigorate an entrepreneur to kick-start a secondary growth phase in their 40s.
The maturity stage of a business tends to be the longest phase in its lifecycle.
It’s when sales eventually peak, then start to decline.
This is the risk to be aware of in your 40s.
Just when everything seems to be going well, suddenly the business starts to struggle again.
This is perfectly normal but can be mitigated by understanding what is coming and thinking about how you can make a jump to a next phase of your business before it starts to decline.
One final key for your 40s; you’ll find you are much more resilient than perhaps you were in earlier years.
No doubt you’ve been knocked down and you’ve got back up and carried on.
If you’re like most successful business owners, you have faced tough times and got through it.
This lends perspective, and when facing adversity a calm, considered approach, while balancing risk and investment will often result in a decent outcome.
READ: Business planning for your 20s
READ: Business planning for your 30s