You've heard the saying: "Some people see things as they are and ask why. Others see things as they might be and ask why not." Entrepreneurs (loosely defined as those who create a new business in the hope of making money or otherwise adding value) are and need to be "why's guys," focused on both the why and why-not questions.
A famous Yankee catcher named Yogi Berra once said: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Many of the 99 million Americans who are 50 and older (50+) have come to a fork in the road, and the question for them is which one to take: To sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by, or to find ways to remain productively engaged. One way of taking the latter path is to create a new business.
A number of these people who had working careers followed the policies and practices of large to mid-sized organizations. Some may have yearned to be their own boss and "do their own thing," but they had priorities: Raise a family, pay for the schooling of children, etc. Now they need to realize that, through their years of working for others, they have acquired a personal talent bank: Experience, expertise, seasoned judgment, proven performance, and perhaps even some accumulated wisdom.
As they begin to understand that 30 years were added to life spans during the 20th century, they may be wondering what to do with their increased longevity. Today's high unemployment and low economic growth, projected for the foreseeable future, provide only limited options to continue working.
Fortunately, one viable road to take is to become an entrepreneur, to create a new business and to "march to your own drummer." Having spent the past 44 years as an entrepreneur, I would like to list my view of the required attributes to be successful in this pursuit:
• Commitment to purpose with passion
• Courage and willingness to take risks
• Positive attitude, opportunistic view
• Strength of character and fortitude
• Ability to engender trust, confidence and respect, and to develop credibility
• Vision and ability to see things as they might be and to anticipate change
• Self-confident, assured
• Creative and innovative spirit
• Decisive and results-oriented
• Resourceful and resilient
• Persevering and tenacious
• Ability to accept rejection and turn failures into learning opportunities
• Strong negotiating skills and ability to develop win/win results
While this list may seem daunting, the backbone of the American economy is new-business creation and small businesses. Over the last 16 years, companies with fewer than 100 employees created 60 percent of new jobs while large companies eliminated 4.4 million jobs. Important qualities that built America include independence, individuality and self-reliance.
Now is the time for people 50+ who are sitting on the sidelines or will be there in the near future to explore the entrepreneurial route. As that famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."