Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength
Age is just a number. And the numbers show that more and more individuals aged 50 and over are entering the world of self employment, and in particular becoming franchisees. Here in the UK, the UK Office of National Statistics reported that in 2017, more than four out of ten new businesses were started by someone aged 50 or more. In the US, the Kauffman Index Report into the start-up landscape in 2015 concluded that 24 percent of new business founders were aged between 55 and 64 years old, a significant increase from twenty years before when only 15 percent of new businesses were started by members of the same age group. Everything suggests that this figure is continuing to rise.
So, why is there a surge in the number of “olderpreneurs” looking to launch new ventures post-50?
A report published by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) reports highlights some of the factors behind this growing trend as being a desire to work more flexibly and to have more control over working hours. Dubbed the “Sandwich Generation”, this age group are often juggling demands and caring commitments from aging parents, adult children and possibly grandchildren too and are looking to escape the traditional 9-5 as a result. Over 50’s are more likely to have capital to invest in a new business launch – they may have a pension pot to dip into, have inherited money or received a redundancy payment. On the flip side, state retirement provision means that many over 50’s can’t relax with the prospect of a leisurely and financially secure retirement and starting a business later in life can provide a much needed additional income. There’s then the elephant in the room of age discrimination from prospective employers. Many over 50’s report the challenges of trying to find new employment prospects when competing against younger candidates for roles, which prompts them to create their own opportunities.
Add into that the old adage of the mid life crisis – that realization that there could be more to life on offer and the desire to do something born out of a personal passion or interest – and it’s not surprising that more over 50’s are turning to self employment. But why the reported rise in the number of new franchisees in that age group?
The BFA NatWest report on the UK franchising landscape in 2018 tells us that whilst the average age of new franchisees in the UK continues to hover around the age of 40, the number of new franchisees aged over 50 rose from 14% in 2015 to 19% in 2018. 35% of all franchisees were over 50.
This could be in part be due to the significant growth of the personal services franchise sector which has more than doubled in the past decade. This includes industry areas such as personal and domestic care, pet and health and wellness services. These are sectors which tend to attract older franchisees and employees.
One other significant factor appears to be that many older entrepreneurs are looking for a business that they can launch and be fully operational within a short space of time. They may not either want or have the time to dedicate to starting something completely from scratch, learning along the way. They may also not want to be hands-on in the business on a day to day basis. These factors attract them into the world of franchising. The beauty of a franchise business means that of course all of the hard work has been done by the franchisor, the product or service is fully developed and the new franchisee simply has to follow the procedures and processes already set out. That way the level of risk involved in the venture is likely to be perceived as lower too.
Ken Barton is a franchisee with Minuteman Press, operating his printing franchise branch in Dublin, Ohio. He had previously had a 35 year employed career as a Certified Public Accountant and became a franchisee in his 50’s.
“I loved my work and enjoyed helping clients understand the financial aspect of their businesses. In my late 50s I started to think about finding an opportunity to apply some of the skills that I had been helping clients with over the years. And I wanted to find a business where I could surround myself with a team of people that could take care of clients so that I didn’t feel like I had to be hands on each day in the business” says Ken. “In terms of what attracted me to a franchise, I knew nothing about the printing industry when I started doing due diligence, so it was important to me to find a franchised concept that was proven and to buy an existing location rather than opening a new franchised location.”
Within my own brand, the average age of my franchisees is mid 30’s. That’s because we’re a baby and preschool brand which predominately attracts parents of young children to us, looking to work flexibly around family life, school runs and holidays. However our limited experience of having franchisees aged over 50 within our team has been an overwhelmingly positive one. They bring with them a wealth of experience from previous careers and have thrived on the challenge of learning new skills.
A great franchisee will have confidence, communication and personal skills, be financially and business minded, and have a realistic and practical approach to business – characteristics that older franchisees can most certainly bring to the table with years of professional and life experience behind them. And these are all reasons why the rise of the “olderpreneur” can herald a new lease of life, both for franchisee and franchisor.