Thursday, 23 May 2013

Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you....

Talk about pressure. Earlier, the indomitable BBC waffled on through another meteorological punt, promising "...persistent, lengthening sunny intervals" and a "....sunny for some".  But despite the decided lack of sun, this posting isn't weather related. This is about a different type of pressure in the atmosphere. And not even work pressures - it's on the pressure to work.

Research out of the Kauffman Foundation documents that people over 50 years old are starting companies at 2X the rate of people in their 20's. This surge of entrepreneurs has moved from strength to strength so the AARP has teamed up with Kauffman to keep up the good work. For women, part of the entrepreneurial attraction lies in demonstrations of heroics in the flexi-bending of time. It does give some a clear shot at work-life balance, something that never quite felt possible while operating in traditional organizations.

The look and feel of combining work with caring responsibilities, in a personally manageable and controllable fashion, definitely holds appeal. This trend, however, is not exclusively for the energetic, Type A multi-tasker. Also on the rise are the newly retired but very much still in the game, as they prepare to embark on varying encore careers. According to Paul Irving of the Milken Foundation, speaking at their 2013 Global Conference, there are currently 9M workers in encore careers with a further 31M seeking options. The way we define retirement is shifting and the message that traditional retirement is being eliminated, is starting to be heard.

Which is why, a lower risk twist on entrepreneurship, may offer a higher likelihood of success. Being an entrepreneur doesn't have to mean the next Google or Tesla.  Going concerns can also offer fertile ground for fresh, while experienced brains to take a stab at existing businesses. Many family run businesses have inefficiencies borne out of allegiance to the founders original vision. More importantly, innovation is not the exclusive purview of the young. Even the most experienced hands might usher in a fresh approach.  Given that this scenario might have the added frisson of economic imperative, could make such proposition even more potent. Older people are not in a position where they want to lose but they are also not necessarily looking to knock one out of the park. Powerful stability in a pair of steady hands.

What you rarely hear about, however, is how many of those business dream startups fail to achieve lift off, leaving the would be entrepreneur dejected. Overcoming such failures is believed to be easier for the young, when their time horizon and optimism seems limitless. This is not the case for the older new breed of entrepreneurs. Older people have accrued some EQ, along with their IQ. They have seen that good things can come to those who wait and can  be ambassadors for new ways of thinking about new or existing businesses.

Still, risking capital or raising money in the current constrained environment, at a time when you expect to be living longer and quite possibly longer than your pension (if you are lucky enough to have one), may not feel empowering. It could also feel worrying. Sometimes reading about the success stories can feel akin to Chinese water torture. That steady drip, drip, drip of such impossibly good news, when I cannot conjure up a single entrepreneurial thought.

That said, more people are reconsidering the "what now?" part of this transition stage in our ever lengthening lives. The key gap however, is more about what individual circumstances will force people to do, than interest is staying engaged.  Bottom line, the pressure to perform in later life is coming and it will be unrelenting. It also represents an opportunity to fully participate in the longevity economy and enjoy a longer, brighter future.
No pressure.

Deborah Gale


  1. pressure indeed! feeling my age. wondering what to do with the rest of my life. frustrated that i have not yet answered this question for myself in a way that inspires. pressure!!! :o)

  2. Loved your comments, particularly about the absence of women on the panel. It reminds me of our republican congress have committees on birth control that don't include women.