If you are not constantly reinventing yourself and your business, you are quickly left behind. This is true whether you are a 25-year-old entrepreneur or a 60-year-old business owner. There are many aging entrepreneurs who need to get ready to FIGHT!
I heard something recently that got me more than a little stirred up! I was in Boston speaking at a conference for a group of business owners (who happen to be mostly 50 shades of gray) about technology trends in business. (Don’t get me wrong, if it weren’t for the close relationship I have with Miss Clairol, I would be one of those 50 shades.) There were a couple of speakers before me and one in particular, was speaking about generational differences in today’s workplace. He kept referring to himself as old and making very generalized statements about the “millennials” in the room. “Millennials don’t like getting up early.” “Millennials sit on their phones during family dinners and company meetings” “Millennials wear flip-flops to work.” (That was a new one to me.)
These are untrue statements for many of the young people in my own life, including my 20-year-old daughter who tells me to “hang up and hang out” when I check my phone while out to dinner or sitting with her. But what set my blood to boil was when he said that the older generation doesn’t need to learn about “all of this social media stuff” or even understand it, they just need to bring in the millennials to interpret for them. We were there talking to business owners, not seniors in nursing homes. These were people who I assume want to stay in business.
Nothing chaps my hide more than people hiding behind lame excuses to why they don’t embrace new tools or why their business is going down the toilet. If you feel you are too old to learn and stay relevant, you should get out. Retire. Let your kids or grandkids take over the business. Here was a room filled with hundreds of experienced businessmen (and a handful of women) who have a lot to offer and yet many had decided they are too old to learn anything new, and now a “so-called expert” was reinforcing those beliefs. INSANE!
Here are my reasons that those of us “more mature,” “tenured,” “experienced” should still be leading the way when it comes to using today’s tools to build our business:
As we age, we tend to have more time for learning and experimenting.
When I first started my business in 1995, I was a working mom with 3.5 kids (I was pregnant with our 4th when I jumped from the corporate cliff into the entrepreneurial ocean) and between shuttling kids to and from sporting events, school, and friends’ houses for play dates, I don’t know where I found the time to learn to use the tools of the day—which included waiting to log into AOL and see if anyone sent me an email. Today my kids are grown and I don’t feel guilty staying up until midnight creating a landing page or editing a short video. We simply have more time. You get to decide whether you want to spend that time learning and staying relevant or watching a few more episodes of Wheel of Fortune.
We have more real-world business experience.
Once you’ve been in business for a few years, you know your customers a little better and you understand how business works, and you have experiences to draw upon to handle situations, so when there is a new tool, you should be able to assess quickly how it can be used to connect with new and existing customers. It’s not about the technology and how to set up Snapchat or Facebook live, it’s about the relationships and how we can use the new tools to connect with people. Sure you still have to learn to use the new app or tool, but you learned how to program a VCR to record shows for the kids, you can do anything you set your mind to.
We are determined not to get old before we GET OLD!
I saw a great quote on someone’s Facebook page that said, “Fight like you’re the third monkey boarding the ark… and it’s starting to rain.” You are not out until your brain convinces you that you are out. Do you remember when your parents were your age? They seemed OLD. They weren’t starting businesses at 40 or 50. Most were checking off the dates on a calendar counting down until retirement.
My mom was ready to retire, get her old-lady perm and spend her days in her house dress watching game shows. Well I am not ready for that old pasture. I have more fight in me than most young people who are just starting out. I will stay up later, learn more, and get up day after day to do it again and again, because if that ark door is closing and the floods are coming, I will claim my spot inside, next to the outlets, for my laptop and phone to stay charged for those forty days!
You may not have been born playing with iPads and computers but remember, we weren’t born knowing how to use a microwave oven, but we sure figured that out. There will always be new things to learn, regardless of our age…NEVER GIVE UP and STOP LEARNING!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you ever let those thoughts cross your mind or those words cross your lips, “I’m too old for this”?