How to Become an Entrepreneur Over 50? First, you must realize you’re never too old to start a business.
In fact, the older you are the greater chance you will succeed and you won’t be alone.
Paul Tasner became an entrepreneur at age 66 and succeeded. In this New Way Forward interview, he shares the how, the why, and the benefits of becoming an entrepreneur (at any age). He says it’s been one of the greatest things in his life and he says he would not have appreciated it as much as he does if he had done this in his youth.
Paul is among the millions of “older” entrepreneurs who are starting up. Baby Boomers for example are launching twice the number of businesses than Millennials do and have a seven in ten chance of success far surpassing other age groups. I
n the time of the pandemic, layoffs, the Great Resignation along with need and necessity (and ageism) are driving more and more people over 50 and older workers to become business owners. Besides providing the income he still needed, starting a business with all of the challenges as well as the joys, has been one of the most fulfilling things he has ever done and he doubts he would have found it to be that big a deal if he had started a business when he was younger.
His granddaughter thinks he’s cool because of it. Paul’s story can be an inspiration and validation for people over the age of 50 to start their own business as a way to provide an income, get around ageism in the job market as well as have a purpose and fulfillment.
Paul Tasner: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paultasner/
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Podcast Transcript: How to Become an Entrepreneur Over 50
Speaker1: [00:00:00] When I was fired, I was concerned about finances. This is not the way I want to exit the stage, you know, be, you know, this is not how I want to be remembered. I’ve never been happier at my work than I have since I launched this business. Nothing, nothing I’ve done in my career has given me as much reward joy challenge to as this. I don’t think I would have appreciated what I have right now. If I had done this as a twenty-something helping you find your new way forward to the best years of your life. This is a new way forward podcast with Paul Long.
Speaker2: [00:00:48] Paul Tanner, at age sixty six, became an entrepreneur. He is now a successful entrepreneur. He was let go from his job because of his age. He couldn’t afford to retire and live well decently for an extended lifespan. And so at first he tried consulting. But he’s like, Wait a minute, I’m not going out like this. I’m going to go for it. It’s my turn. I have something more to offer than as he you’ll hear him characterize was kind of a mediocre corporate career, and he succeeded. And by the way, he’s recounted this in a very short form in a TED talk that’s been watched by millions and for good reason, because so many people in this latter phase of life are becoming entrepreneurs, whether it’s something big time or a brick and mortar, or even just something they can do with their laptop. And in fact, most startups in the United States come from people in their fifties and forties and older. In fact, baby boomers outpaced millennials in the number of startups every year, according to Kauffman, by a two to one margin and have a much higher level of success. And it stands to reason you’ve got the experience, you’ve got the networks, you have the real drive and motivation and you’re going to hear about this. You’re going to get motivation, inspiration, tips and insights from Paul. Get a pen and paper and write these things down in this interview. So with all of that said, let’s get to it. Are you happy you did this?
Speaker1: [00:02:27] Unquestionably, happy I did this. I could give you the the longer answer, but go for it. Absolutely. I’m. The work I do, I’ve never been happier at my work than I have since I launched this business. Nothing, nothing I’ve done in my career has given me as much reward joy challenge to as this. It’s and I’ve had good, good jobs I’ve had. I’ve had several quote good jobs over the course of my career, but not even close.
Speaker3: [00:03:10] Really, just so what is it about it? I mean, because certainly we know either directly or by common sense. The starting up a business is hard and it’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of unknowns and risk and things of that sort. So what is what makes you so glad that you went through all of that when you could have been in glorious retirement, traditional retirement?
Speaker1: [00:03:38] We don’t play golf, so we can take that off, take that off, right? You know, as I said earlier, I’ve had good jobs, but they’ve always been jobs. I will say I don’t think I could. I don’t think I would have appreciated what I have right now. If I had done this as a 20, something you know right out of the gate started up a business with a couple of friends or something, I don’t think I’d have nearly the same appreciation for it as I do now. So in a sense, it came at at a perfect time in my life to give me an opportunity to contrast it with everything that came before it, and it’s just so much more rewarding. Um. Yes, it’s tedious and hard and full of. Pitfalls and. But it’s it’s all yours. I mean, you can go as fast or as slow as you want, the victories are all yours. The defeats are all yours. There’s just just such a sense of. Bright, really bright.
Speaker3: [00:04:59] How so, yeah, how pride.
Speaker1: [00:05:04] My granddaughter thinks I’m cool. I think she’s very cool also. I mean, she’s 15, but just. It’s everyone knows how hard and not everyone, but I mean, certainly those who have done it know how hard it is and those who haven’t probably have. Irrational fears about how hard it is, so the sense that I’ve done it, it just gives me a great sense of pride. I know how hard it has been and still is, but. It. It just feels like such it feels like such an accomplishment compared to landing a job. It just feels like so much more of an accomplishment than than that. And. As I said, I think it’s in my case, it’s so important that I’ve done it at this stage of my life, it really gives me a chance to savor it in comparison to everything else that I’ve done. I wouldn’t have nearly the same appreciation for it if I’d done this at 20 or 30 or 40. I don’t think I would.
Speaker3: [00:06:23] What? What kind of a difference do you think it’s made in your life that, in other words, contrasting this situation that you’re in today, now nine years later? So over the past nine years, as compared to what your life would have been like if you had followed some sort of traditional retirement, just not working anymore. Can you imagine that?
Speaker1: [00:06:56] No, I can’t. It is hard to imagine, especially now, nine years into this. I I think something else would have happened, I mean, I don’t know what it would have looked like. But something else would have happened, as I said facetiously, I’m not a golfer. I just I just can’t see myself in a. I don’t. I don’t feel like the kind of guy who would have had a traditional retirement. It just doesn’t seem to suit me
Speaker3: [00:07:31] And oh, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Speaker1: [00:07:34] I don’t know what it would have looked like if it wasn’t this, it would have been something like this. I don’t know what that means, but you know, it would have been something up, meaning it would have been something that I poured myself into and got a great deal of satisfaction from. And you know, who knows what that would have been? Maybe, maybe something in the not not for profit world or something where I would have felt a great sense of accomplishment or pride, as I said,
Speaker3: [00:08:01] Because obviously, obviously that must be important to you. And in fact, let’s even let’s even go back to. Uh, a little over nine years ago when the company where you are working with bid you adieu suddenly, but not totally unexpectedly, as you convey to me. Right? What? What drove you to make this decision to make this determination that I was going to start something up?
Speaker1: [00:08:35] You know, I there was no aha moment. There really wasn’t I’ve heard other people say that too, like people who ask, When did you have the AHA moment? Not too many people have it. I think it’s something that kind of washes over you slowly. But that’s that’s the impression I got from speaking with others about it. Not, you know, not a huge survey, but it wasn’t for me. It was not an aha moment. I went when I was fired. I was concerned about finances, and the first thing I did was jump right into consulting work, which I had done much earlier in my life, you know, out of a sense of. Panic, you know, out of a sense of needing to keep the needing to keep the cash flowing. And I think as I got into that, which I did immediately it and given my age, which at that time was now, you know, sixty four, sixty five. I this is not the way I want to exit the stage, you know, being, you know, this is not this is not how I want to be remembered. And. It really became an urgency then because I was 64 years old, this could have easily been my last act. And so I began to think about what I could do and and fortunately, I had the luxury of thinking about that while I was doing consulting work. So I didn’t have to, as you know, as one might do with a traditional career, I didn’t have to stop doing something to start doing something else. Although I believe nowadays people’s transitions are a lot smoother than that. They start thinking about something while they’re still doing something,
Speaker3: [00:10:28] Ideally, but surprisingly not many. So maybe this is helping some of those people.
Speaker1: [00:10:36] So I began to think, you know, what could what could I do? I think I always felt I would stick close to my knitting, as they say, you know, in the world of manufacturing or packaging and consumer products or things of that sort. Interestingly, a former colleague of mine who had the entrepreneurial spirit much earlier than I did had started his own business in in Asia. And knowing that I was now available, I reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be his North American sales manager. And I thought. I mean, I considered it, but first of all, I’m a dreadful salesman, so I didn’t want to do that to him. But it was in an area that that intrigued me. The work that he was doing intrigued me in terms of the environment and packaging for consumer goods and. And I turned him down gracefully, but I said, well. What about this? What? What if I start a business like yours, but here in North America and you manufacture my goods for me there in Kojima’s and China? Because I knew him and I trusted him and he would have been a wonderful partner, I thought. And. I knew there weren’t a lot of folks in North America that did what he did and if. You know, I didn’t even test them out because they were large companies, and I doubt it if they wanted to team up with somebody like me just starting out. And he said, Yeah, he said, that’s no different than you being my North American sales manager.
Speaker1: [00:12:30] I’ll still be enjoying the fruits of your labor. Let’s do it. And that’s kind of how I got into it, you know, through him. We started off very slow. And he actually dropped out of the picture a few years later. His his business just wasn’t going the way he had hoped, and he moved into some other endeavors. But but I found other partners through him and through my own work and and those are my partners today, actually. And. Two of my partners did something remarkable, remarkable for anyone, but certainly remarkable for anyone listening who has preconceived notions about what it’s like doing business in Asia. Two of my partners said to me. Granted, they knew me, so there was that trust factor. We know you’re good, we know you’re just getting started. You can pay us after you get paid. And that’s well, that’s a difference maker. That’s rare. I mean, if not, you know, unicorn ish and made all the difference in the world and it also. Made us partners for life, I mean, I my loyalty to them will extend, you know, infinitely. And they are my partners today, along with a few other manufacturers around the world. But they’re the primary partners that we have. And that’s kind of how it got started, so it was, you know, one event led to another which led to another and all of a sudden.
Speaker1: [00:14:12] I’ve got some customers and I’ve got some manufacturing partners and. Designers, et cetera, et cetera, and and the business was off, and it’s it’s admittedly been growing slowly. Right from the get go never took off like a flash. We’ve got some. We’ve got some big customers, but big in name only. The projects are very modest, but it’s nice to be able to. Bragging rights, you know, we’re doing business with Google or somebody that always helps, but it’s never taken off. And I think owing to a number of factors. One I touched on earlier. I’m a dreadful salesman. I’m laughing, but I think it’s true. I’m not a closer as they say. I keep my consulting hat on too long. And the other is that. Corporate America, when now we have customers in Europe as well, but the corporate world is slow to embrace sustainability, especially when it’s going to cost them another penny or two per package. And usually the difference is that small. But that’s not small when you’re selling a billion packages, so they’ve been slow to embrace it. But it is getting better. It’s it gets better month after month, constantly getting better. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if it hasn’t gotten better and better and better. Companies that wouldn’t take our calls now, call us so I mean. It doesn’t always result in a project, but it’s definitely better and it will continue to improve. I know that for a fact.
Speaker3: [00:16:01] I want to also go into to progress it and to give some people some insight of what to expect or can I do something like this? But before we do?
Speaker1: [00:16:12] Describe your business? Sure. What is it? I realized we did. We jumped into Chapter two without.
Speaker3: [00:16:19] Oh, and that’s OK. And that’s OK.
Speaker1: [00:16:22] Well, I touched on some of the the, you know, the the cornerstones of it. We design and manufacture packaging for all manner of companies. I said consumer products, but you know, we we don’t turn down very much in our business. So it’s gone beyond consumer products. You know, there’s a lot of outliers, probably more outliers than in liars, but basically consumer goods was our intent. Electronics, personal care, cosmetics, premium food products usually a little higher end kind of a product, a a product that can stand to pay another penny or two for their packaging without freaking out. So where we have our problem is with the with the really low, popularly priced goods that you find hanging on hooks at Walgreens or something like that, selling for three point ninety five dollars, you know, they can’t afford more than four cents for their package. So ours tend to have a higher price point. But gosh, we’ve we’ve we’ve done packaging for pizza boxes. We did digital digital gas meters for the Republic of Tunisia.
Speaker3: [00:17:44] But the differentiator? But you’re more than just a packaging company. In other words, you’re doing more than just supplying packaging. What is your differentiator in what it’s what
Speaker1: [00:17:56] It’s eco friendly packaging, its packaging created from waste. We we use waste agricultural waste. It’s all based on cellulosic fibers, the fibers in paper and paper goods and and in plants. And in fact, paper and sugarcane are two primary raw materials. When they extract the juice from the sugarcane plant, they’re left with this fibrous mess. Stover, right? Bogus. But yes. Ok. Lagos is the industry name for it in our industry, and it creates beautiful packaging. It’s certainly more expensive than paper waste, but it does create really premium packaging. So a lot of our potential clients like the look. Yeah, those are two primary raw materials, but we could use bamboo. We could use the the holes on rice kernels, anything that’s got a fiber in it. Wheat straw is a popular fiber for our kind of packaging. We don’t use it, but it’s popular among other companies. So yes, we create packaging from waste waste, fiber, cellulosic fiber. That’s the essence.
Speaker3: [00:19:19] And what drove you in that direction to offer that?
Speaker1: [00:19:23] That approach has always been in the marketplace, but never, never the. It was always kind of a commodity behind the scenes, nothing, nothing very sexy at all. Egg cartons are a prime example of the of the. Molded fiber packaging, the kind of work we do, but it’s sort of the it’s sort of the granddaddy of them and the earliest and, you know, most unattractive form, but it’s very utilitarian. It’s the acorn has been around for decades. But that’s the kind of packaging that we do. The tray that you take your coffee drinks out on it usually got four slots for your cups. That’s molded fiber packaging. And then you compare that to the kinds of things we do. It’s a whole different world, but it’s the same technology, though.
Speaker3: [00:20:17] Well, so this so, so doing it this way can certainly make you in business terms. It’s it’s a differentiator because people can promote the fact that we’re using a more sustainable, eco friendly packaging and such. But that does make you a social entrepreneur of which there’s a major trend and especially with people over 50 where you know you’re doing a business to try to make a positive impact or difference or solve every problem. So how important was that in the scheme of things of your life, of what your intention was and what you wanted to do and the impact you want to make so on and so forth? How important was it that you did something in that social entrepreneurial thing?
Speaker1: [00:21:05] Very. That was one of the major boxes I needed to check off. I have to feel good about what I was doing. And you’re right. I mean, I should add to the profile of our business. Our intent was to replace plastic packaging. Not all plastic packaging, obviously, but but the unnecessary plastic packaging. Not everything has to be encased in plastic. Yes, there be kind of tough to sell you a bottle of milk that wasn’t in a plastic container or glass. But but so many other things do not need to be encased in plastic, and that was our intent to replace plastic packaging. And most of the business that comes our way is because a company does want to replace their plastic packaging. They’ve grown tired of it. We just had a chat with a food food service company in New Orleans, they provide ready, ready to eat meals for companies and and it’s just wonderful listening to the fellow, the founder talk about how he just hates looking at his packaging he hates. He knows he sends out thousands of these every day, and he sends out thousands of black plastic trays with his food in it. And he said, We take great pains to provide good, healthy meals to our clients and we put them in these plastic trays. And he said, it’s breaking my heart. And, you know, I don’t often hear that from from a potential client, but it’s it’s beautiful music when you do. So that’s that’s that’s the customer that we’re looking for. And yes, being a social entrepreneur, as you said, it was really important. And I did I did get to check that box off and it makes me feel good. And.
Speaker3: [00:23:00] God forbid, we don’t feel good about what we’re doing, so how many congratulations. Going back to the beginning, I mean, you said you are not the entrepreneurial type and you had had a very successful corporate career. And obviously, that gave you many skill sets and such. But not viewing yourself as an entrepreneur and corporate life doesn’t necessarily prepare you for being an entrepreneur. I mean, how was that early going, given that? I mean, how prepared were you and I and I especially think of somebody watching this who say, I’m not an entrepreneur, I don’t know how to be an entrepreneur or that’s somebody else. How much did that prepare you? How hard was that to? Up, learn and be able to do it.
Speaker1: [00:23:45] That’s a great question. You know, in the way that many people would gauge their success in the corporate world, I did not have a successful corporate career. Yes, I was a solid resident of middle management, maybe upper middle management on some occasions, but I never broke through to, you know, to the boardroom or anything like that. And it became apparent to me early in my career that I never would. But I saw what it took and I wasn’t like those people. I was going to say I wasn’t like those guys because most of the time it was those guys. Certainly, you know, 40 years ago it was it. Did you know when I started out in a corporate job, I did have aspirations of running the company someday. I was disabused of that pretty quickly. Youth, yeah, I just didn’t have, you know, and and and this is actually a compliment. I just didn’t have what it took and I didn’t want what it took. I saw those people that were scratching their way to the top. I didn’t. I wasn’t like them and didn’t want to be like them. I was fortunate I’ve always had manufacturing related jobs, and I was fortunate that many of my jobs were outwardly focused, meaning they weren’t internal manufacturing roles. There were roles in which my my employer outsourced their manufacturing and I was responsible for for all of that work. So I got to face outward. I got to face the real world, so to speak, rather than the internal world where everything revolved around the corporation itself. And this world was populated by entrepreneurs, and I was really drawn to them.
Speaker1: [00:25:58] You know, they were charismatic. They were. Clever. They were successful. I like them, I like their company, I like their style. But I wasn’t learning from them, I mean, I was just admiring them, I don’t think I wouldn’t have called any of them mentors in a way. So was I prepared to be for what it took? I wasn’t prepared in any formal sense. That’s for sure. But I was prepared to do what it took and. I. No matter how tedious. And I must say most of the work I do is rather tedious, it’s not all sexy and strategy based, and it’s tedious. It’s. Um, or as the gentleman said to me once I was on a panel. I can’t even remember what the subject of the panel was, but it wasn’t a virtual panel, it was a real panel. And the gentleman next to me was it was about, I think it was about senior entrepreneurship. The fellow next to me was an attorney who got into the music business somehow, and he was based in Florida, Miami and I forget what we were talking about, but it was a kind of a nuts and bolts panel about senior entrepreneurship. It’s quite successful music. I mean, some of his. Some of his recording artists were names we knew, and I think we were talking about finances. He kind of leaned over to grab my ear so nobody else would hear, and it was the last thing I ever expected out of his mouth. And he said to me, God, I just love sending out invoices,
Speaker3: [00:28:02] Which is kind of what kind of what it’s all about. Yeah, so.
Speaker1: [00:28:07] Oh, I’m sorry. I definitely could relate to that. But it’s the last thing I expected out of his mouth.
Speaker3: [00:28:15] What? What did it take? I mean, what was it? So you didn’t have an entrepreneurial mindset per say, you didn’t certainly have any entrepreneurial experience. What was it like for you actually doing it, and I say this in kind of a gut check for people who are thinking about it or going, this isn’t for me. So I imagine there’s some positive things for you to say, but. I mean, it must be scary, it must be daunting, it must be. Why am I doing this? Who am I kidding? Did that happen? I mean, what was it like?
Speaker1: [00:28:52] Well, I’ve I’ve I’ve had those reactions, you know, at at times, I mean, they’re by no means make up the the majority of my inward thoughts. Not at all. But, you know, I can get I can like, like everyone, I guess I can get into a funk about something, you know, several things go wrong in a row or something like that. It’s the exception to my to my attitude about about the business. Uh, the the the amount of I used the word tedious, but I mean, I’ve never found it, you know, tedious in the way I’ve found doing other things, you know, in the corporate world. Tedious. There are so many details and I mean, really small details that one has to. You’re faced with them every day, just an enormous amount of details, and you’ve got to. Do them get past them, get on to the next one and the next one and the next one. And in between all these details, there are different opportunities that are a little grander in scope. And so, you know, it’s it’s a real joy to embrace those and. I guess what I’m saying is there’s. And I think I am a fairly reflective person. There’s not a lot of time to, you know, sort of sit back and question whether this is, you know, the. Question whether this was the right thing to do or something it.
Speaker1: [00:30:46] It’s always felt like the right thing to do, I’ve never really felt like I need to take some time and think about this because it’s just not working out. It’s never been like that. So I’m, you know, I don’t want to say that I haven’t really thought deeply about what I’m doing. You know, I’ve been so tied up in the weeds, but I’ve said this to other people. I am doing. I’m doing a lot of the same things I did when I was in the corporate world. I mean the non the non entrepreneurial things, you know, the the the more operational things, the more technical things. I’m still involved in manufacturing operations, in logistics and calculating this or that and. It’s very much like what I did in the corporate world, but it’s the other parts, the part that make it an entrepreneurial venture, securing a customer and, you know, doing all of the administrative things that one needs to do in order to keep a company floating and progressing. That’s different. Of course, I never was involved in that. And that’s just a learning. That’s that’s I mean, I don’t want to minimize it, but you just find out what you need to do or you make a mistake and you correct it and. But I have said so many times that I think because it because the work itself is not so different than what I did.
Speaker1: [00:32:24] But it feels like worlds apart because it’s my work now. I’m not doing it for the man, I’m doing it for me, and that makes all the difference in the world. And I’ve said this to on other interviews. I’ve said this that, you know, people wonder about what they should do in retirement. They don’t want to retire. And I’ve maintained that. Why not, why not consider unless you’re just done with accounting, you know what I mean? But why not consider continuing what you’re doing, but doing it for yourself, setting up your own accounting business? You’ll derive so much satisfaction from doing it yourself or else prove me wrong. But I mean, it worked for me. I’m doing what I did as a corporate person, but it. It was nowhere near the same kind of satisfaction. Nowhere near. So I think there’s a lot of folks out there who in retirement could merely extend what they’ve done during their careers but extend it as as their own business. Or if you want to be a professional. You know, zydeco musician, go ahead and do it. I don’t want to stop you, but what if what if you’re looking closer to home for something to do? Try doing what you’re still what you’re what you’ve been doing, but set up your own business.
Speaker3: [00:33:55] Yeah, it’s it’s leveraging the skills and talents and experience that you have. Finding other people to fill the gaps of what you don’t have and maybe even maybe even parlaying your skills and talents into something completely different, which many corporations are making their people doing anyway, because the way you’ve been doing it doesn’t work anymore. But we’ll train you to take those skills and exactly test them this way.
Speaker1: [00:34:18] Exactly. Especially if especially if you essentially liked what you were doing, but you hated the grind. You know, you hated the meetings, you hated the bosses, you. But if you like the work, I mean, if you if you derive some satisfaction, I mean, whatever, whatever compelled you to choose that line of work, know when you were twenty two or twenty five. Think about that. I mean, you can have that back. Doing it on your own, you
Speaker3: [00:34:46] Did a TED talk that’s had over two and a half million views. For good reason, not every TED talk gets those kinds of numbers.
Speaker1: [00:34:57] So especially I will take issue with you there, you know. Yes, you’re right. But the TED platform, my choice is huge. It’s huge. The TED platform is huge. And you know, when I was at Ted, I heard it said many times you could get on that TED stage, you know, the the red dot and just belch for 15 minutes and you’ll still get two million views.
Speaker3: [00:35:25] Well, yeah, but but but by the way, you won’t get on. And that’s the other validating thing about what you shared in that TED talk. You said you’re not going to get a TED talk, by the way, not a Ted X talk. Correct. Correct. You’re not going to get on that red dot unless you’ve got something that people need to hear. It’s been validated. So, so encapsulate, if you will. And in the show notes, I’ll have a link to it and it’s worth watching. Share your point, well, the fundamental intent that you had with that talk that did resonate in so many people viewing it. I’m.
Speaker1: [00:36:09] Well, I think, you know, first, I’ll go back just a couple of steps and talk about what brought me to Ted, which was kind of a. You know, just one of those interesting events in one’s life. I was in Mexico in 2015 at a wonderful event. Actually, it’s a it’s a bit like Ted. It’s sort of Latin American Ted in a way. And and the organizers in in it’s in Puebla, Mexico. The organizers would, you know, they like that comparison. I don’t know that Ted likes the comparison. They don’t like they’re very. They guard their brand very closely, so, but it is very much like Latin American Ted, although they have people from all over the world, and I met a lovely woman there. We were both participating as competitors with new businesses, which I won, by the way. Congratulations. It was wonderful and she was the runner up and we became pals. And she’s from India, and she had a wonderful business catering to remote villages and helping them with their medical needs, et cetera. And she said to me. My, my kids, these medical kits that I provide throughout remote India are plastic. Do you think I could get those made out of your sugarcane waste? And I said, absolutely. Long story short, she became my customer and and the good one, and I was on the phone with her one day about something very detailed, just a load that was held up in customs.
Speaker1: [00:38:05] And she said, I’ve got to I’ve got to jump off, but call me back. I’m three hours ahead of you and I said, Well, where are you? Because India is 12 and a half hours. Oh, I’m in New York. Oh, that’s great. What are you doing there? I’m at Ted and I. I thought, Ted, who? What do you mean? She said, Ted like Ted talks, I’m I’m going to be giving a TED talk. I’m a TED resident. And she explained to me what that was and said, That’s fantastic. And and then she paused, and she said, you should apply. Really, she said, yeah, I think what you’re doing would be really fascinating to these folks, why don’t you apply? And and I did, and I was accepted, and it’s it’s a fascinating program. It operates twice a year. It’s called the TED resident program two times a year. They invite 25 or so people from all over the world to come to New York to TED headquarters, and we spend four months there. Together, there’s a section of the building reserved for us. It’s an open office area where 24 people have their spaces because everyone has a life there.
Speaker1: [00:39:29] You know, everyone can’t put their life on hold, so they have to continue doing what they’re doing. Hopefully they can do it successfully from a remote location and. There are no rules, except. Keep, keep doing what you’re doing. Of course, we don’t want your life to suffer as a result of this. Collaborate with each other wherever you can and give a TED talk for months from now on a subject that is compelling. And there are numbers of people from the TED organization who worked with us and helped us, and I felt kind of fortunate. I already had an idea in mind what I wanted to talk about as I as I started to think of the practical. Oh my god, I’ve got to give a TED talk. In four months, I had a pretty decent idea that I wanted to talk about the environment. I wanted to talk about entrepreneurism, which I was a new member and I wanted to talk about ageism, which I was experiencing. And and the directors of the program said phenomenal. It’s like the perfect wave will will fashion your speech or you’ll fashion your speech to talk about all of these things because they all connect in you. They all connect. So no no one better to talk about them than you. And that’s how my talk developed.
Speaker3: [00:41:05] And so the talk to me said, I mean, again, I’m going to have the link to it so people can watch the whole thing. But what was your point? What were you hoping to do with it?
Speaker1: [00:41:16] I think I certainly wanted to convey the difficulties in in starting up a business. I certainly wanted to point out the environmental crisis we were having because of the plastic pollution. And I very much wanted to underscore the ageism in the marketplace, whether you’re an entrepreneur or just someone working for the man. And and I think that sort of took over if you had to rate those those pillars of my talk, I think the ageism just kind of took over the number one spot. At least it did for me emotionally. I think it was a more it was a more emotionally charged pillar of my talk than the environmental issues or the entrepreneurial issues. And I think. Probably because I was experiencing it.
Speaker3: [00:42:20] And what what I took from it, what really hit me, I mean, I heard all of those things. Was the encouragement, I mean, to me, I got a lot of encouragement out of that talk that about this time, as you touched on earlier, this time of life and there are there are so many people succeeding of it, which is a validation for the fact that this is a great time of life, great time of your life to be able to accomplish and also benefit personally from doing something like this, right?
Speaker1: [00:42:53] Yes, I did. I didn’t mean to be a Debbie Downer about please.
Speaker3: [00:42:58] Come on, Paul.
Speaker1: [00:43:00] No, no, you’re right. I did want to be encouraging and most most of the I mean, to this date, I’ve not gotten a negative response to my talk, you know, from the people that send you notes and I’ve gotten hundreds, probably thousands of notes. They’re all wonderfully complimentary. I mean, you’ve you’ve inspired me. You made my day. You made my week. You, you changed my life. I mean, they’re they’re really humbling notes and in inspiring seems to be one of the major themes. And I can’t tell you how, how phenomenal that makes me feel. It’s just, I mean, hear someone tell you that you inspired them. It’s I. I mean, even if my kids said that to me, I’d be on cloud nine, you know, for the rest of my life. But to hear it from strangers and hear it over and over again, it’s it’s an unbelievable feeling.
Speaker3: [00:44:07] You. So thinking of someone watching this who again is thinking about it or maybe hasn’t thought about it or doesn’t view themselves of it again, I think watching your TED talk is inspirational. And and you also go into the facts and the numbers. I mean, as I’ve been touting the Kaufmann index saying that boomers lead millennials in the number of startups in the United States every year by a two to one margin and as you call out CMI in the UK, said that there was a 70 have like a 70 percent success rate. Yes. And whereas millennials have a twenty eight percent success rate, wow. I mean, so so what would you what would you say to that person who’s maybe just starting to warm up to the idea might be still going, Who am I? That’s things that other people do. You know, I’m no Steve Jobs. You know, what would you say to them?
Speaker1: [00:45:10] I’d say just that. Just just what you said, Paul. You’ve got a seven out of 10 chance of being successful going into this. I mean. I mean, those are damn good odds
Speaker3: [00:45:25] In business that that is well above the norm for almost any kind of
Speaker1: [00:45:30] Success. Because you’re experienced, you’re you probably are a little more risk averse than Mr 20 something because he or she knows that if this fails, I’ll just get back on my horse and start another business next week. You don’t have that many startups left in you when you’re sixty six or seventy six, so you’re probably more risk averse. You’re going to think it through a lot harder and longer. And you got a seven in 10 chance of being successful. And it’s probably hard for someone to believe sitting here today wondering, what am I going to do? You know, I’d really like to do something. And I know that that is a hard thing to. Take in, but the numbers don’t lie. The chances are, when you’ve gone through this process and thought about what you’re going to do and gotten into it. Seven out of 10 times, you’re going to be successful. Wow. I mean. I mean, if you can really put your faith in that stat and it’s a it’s an honest to goodness statistic. That’s exciting.
Speaker3: [00:46:40] And I’ve also heard to that and some very notable, well, grounded sources that. Although it’s mostly anecdotal or trend based, is that there are a lot of people over 50 who are becoming entrepreneurs because they have to because of the ageism thing or they can’t find a job. And you have to wonder that given this coronavirus COVID 19 pandemic situation and we’re in the recording of this, we’re in the midst of all the lockdown, but that the economy and jobs and business and how people are going to earn income and how companies are going to hire a workforce, it’s going to be radically different. Meaning, hey, it could be a real challenge to keep or find what we’re now going to say, which is traditional employment that may be radically different forever after we’re done with this. But the second thing too, is is that there is a fundamental premise that with change, with a problem, with a crisis, there are needs and therefore where there’s a need, there’s an opportunity right on on a small scale and on a giant scale. So we’d seem like this is this may be a critical option for you, your life and income, as well as an opportunity to solve a problem that we’re going to have. Exactly.
Speaker1: [00:48:05] I think for those contemplating or maybe, as you just said, maybe contemplating entrepreneurism now, whereas never before did they embrace it in this fashion. I think the it feels funny saying this in the midst of this crisis, but I think the future looks rosy for them because again, as you pointed out, it’s going to be vastly different in a way, in a way that resembles more like what we’re doing during the crisis and, you know, working from home. I mean, many companies are going to discover much, to their surprise. I’m not sure why. It should be surprising that that they can survive very nicely. Yes, they can’t manufacture their products at home, but they should. They can sure as heck manage manage the business remotely and successfully in many ways. So the workplace is going to look quite different. And you know, what’s the next step to managing successfully from home is managing successfully, you know, from someone who’s an outsourced expert at it?
Speaker3: [00:49:23] And I like that, I mean, and that that that is a huge success factor. You’ve even touched on it that, you know, no one’s good at everything and so you do an honest self-assessment. I call it a gap analysis. I know technically that applies to something else, but it’s like, what am I good at and what am I not good at and where I’m not good at it? You know, you can you can hire, you can hire somebody else to fill that gap, that’s better at it or something that I’m just don’t want to do. I’m not the numbers guy, so I want somebody else to do that because
Speaker1: [00:49:57] I don’t it exactly.
Speaker3: [00:50:00] So on a personal back to the personal basis where you kind of found yourself now after nine years of it, I want you to share the story and then talk about it from a personal standpoint. You told you told me the story about a couple of researchers that in a big insurance company that called you and not so much the back story, but what was the bottom line of what they said to you about what you’re doing?
Speaker1: [00:50:28] They were among the people that reached out to me after my my TED talk. They must comb the the animals of Ted for insurance related stories or something. And they were from Aegon a g o n, and it’s a worldwide life insurance company based in the Netherlands called Trans America here in the States. They said that did I did I recognize that what I was doing was the absolute best thing you could do to extend your life? And if I thought about it, you know, in fact, I thought about it while I was talking to them. Of course, they would love anything that extends your life because they get your money.
Speaker3: [00:51:15] But that’s also what an insurance company does. They are researching trends. And how can we keep our customers alive to help our actual actuarial
Speaker1: [00:51:26] Tables bless their hearts? They just want us to live forever. So, yeah, we never have to pay out of benefit. All.
Speaker3: [00:51:35] Well, do you feel that way? I mean, like, how do you feel when you get up in the morning and especially now compared to your corporate days?
Speaker1: [00:51:43] No comparison, no comparison. And just to finish what they said, you know, having something compelling to do in your senior years and and they were quick to point out that that does not include golf, you know, or and a lot of other non, you know, just but that’s not a compelling thing to do. That’s a nice it’s it’s a good exercise. Yes, and it’s good socialization. But to have something compelling to dive into every day just. It’s just an enormous boost to longevity.
Speaker3: [00:52:19] Well, it keeps it keeps you relevant to. Yeah, you have challenges, which means you have successes, you have contrast in life, you know, you think, Oh, I’ll be able to sleep late and then you’re able to do it for a little while and then all of a sudden it’s like, now it’s depressing to sleep. Exactly. You have to you have to have that.
Speaker1: [00:52:40] So yes, it’s there’s no comparison. I think you and I talked about it. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and look in my inbox and see see what’s in there and what new business has come our way. Or whereas in my previous life, I used to pray that my inbox was empty.
Speaker3: [00:53:04] That’s a great that’s a great analogy. Can I use that I like?
Speaker1: [00:53:08] Yes, absolutely.
Speaker3: [00:53:09] What so to two final questions. One. So if I’m if I’m on the fence of it, or maybe I thought, Well, who am I to do that? But you’ve warmed me up? What would you say to me if we’re having a cup of coffee going, Paul? I just don’t know if I’m right for this, but I feel like I need something in my life. What would you say to me?
Speaker1: [00:53:35] I would encourage you to try it, I would. I will encourage anyone who give me an opening. If they’re even vaguely considering this, I would do my best to sell them on giving it a try because. B, because, yeah, because if they’re successful and seven out of ten times, they will be. They will look back on this as the best time of their life. Well, if if they’ve spent the previous 40 years in a in a corporate job. Don’t look at this as the best time, certainly the best time in their professional lives. And that’s that’s another interesting issue here, separating when when when you go off and punch the clock for somebody. Your personal and professional lives are pretty separate. And in some cases, much to your detriment. You know, families that grow up without us, you know, a parent, because he or she just couldn’t turn it off and. My, especially at my age and in my circumstances, I we we do have an office, we have a shared space as so many people have these days, but we don’t, we don’t use it very often. We don’t use it for meetings with a client, and most of our clients are not local, so it’s rarely something we need to do. Most of my work is from home, and my professional life and my personal life are completely intertwined.
Speaker1: [00:55:25] Right. You know, if there’s a movie that just came out that my wife and I are dying to see, you know, we’ll go off and see it in the afternoon, you know, before the before the theaters are crowded or something like that. Yeah. I just feel I’m constantly doing personal things during the course of my day, you know, texting, texting my daughter or talking to my son or wrapping a gift or whatever it is, my day is filled with personal endeavors as well as my, my work and my work. Can take place. Any time during the day, I mean, some things you have to respond to right away, of course, but but we have we have some customers in Europe and we have partners in Asia, so it feels like I’m on a twenty four hour clock. I’ll be answering a message in bed at night, at midnight because it’s 3:00 in the afternoon in in Hong Kong. My life, personally and professionally are. A mosaic of some sorts. And that’s not something that I was used to in the corporate world, they were, you know this and you had that. And this works so much better, so much better. And that’s that can. That can be if you set it up that way. That’s how it can be for you.
Speaker3: [00:56:58] What kind of impact are you hoping you’re having?
Speaker1: [00:57:02] Well. I my kids are grown and they have they have careers, they have careers of their own, I mean, I guess, but none of them, they could all drop what they’re doing and do something entrepreneurial. None of them are entrepreneurs. But at least they have they have some role model of what it’s like to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit even in later in life. So I say that I hope I’m setting a good example for my grandchildren who haven’t become entrepreneurs yet, I don’t know. I don’t know what they have, but they’ll always remember, even after I’m gone, they’ll always remember what it was like for Poppy, you know, as an entrepreneur and hopefully have a good impression of that. And, you know, just just from just from my work, like my TEDx talk will live long after me. Inspiring people to embrace entrepreneurism and hopefully embrace an endeavor that doesn’t further erode our society or our planet. It’s not just it’s not just enough to be an entrepreneur, I think, you know, there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there who are doing some pretty nasty things as entrepreneurs. That’s not the. That’s not the legacy you want to leave. Hope I’m. I hope I’m setting the kind of example that I would have liked set for me. Or others?
Speaker3: [00:58:53] And that’s a good that’s a good road map to follow. Paul, thank you so much.
Speaker1: [00:59:01] My pleasure, Paul, thank you. You’ve been listening to a new Way Forward podcast with your host, Paul Long.