THE AGE OF ENTREPRENEURS – IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT

By G. A. FINCH

I serve on an advisory board of a small company and the president of this company asked me to attend her inauguration as a member of the second cohort class for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses in Chicago.  This is an initiative driven by Goldman Sachs and its local partner, City Colleges of Chicago, to generate economic growth and job creation through small businesses by facilitating their access to business education, financial capital, and business support services.

Age Is Just A Number

As I watched the recently graduated first cohort members speak about their exceptional experiences in the program and the second cohort members speak about their dreams, aspirations, and ambitions, I was struck by the ages of these eager beaver entrepreneurs.  Yes there were a few twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings, but a large number of them were middle and advanced middle age.  Some had been in business for 35 years and some even had MBAs.

Judge George Leighton

What did this plurality of older entrepreneurs show me?  It shows me that enthusiasm, energy, motivation, and achievement cannot be limited by age.  It reminds me that when you stop growing and learning, then you are in decline.  You are done. Asian and African cultures put a premium on age and wisdom.   In the U.S., we have become defined and intimidated by a youth-obsessed culture.

Continuous Learning

The fact is that you do not really hit your stride until middle age in terms of competence, confidence and knowledge.  Middle age and older are the stages in life when you begin to reap the dividends of your experience and skill sets.  Most importantly, though, is to continue to broaden your experience and expand your skill sets.  You must always be in a learning mode.

My mother exemplifies the learning mindset in that she went back to college in her late fifties and she is always intellectually and socially curious.  I also saw this energetic mindset when I recently attended the dedication of a courthouse in honor of retired federal Judge George Leighton, who practiced law until he was 98, and will turn 100 in October of this year.  Judge Leighton still plays chess every day.

Maturity As An Asset

There is so much human capital in older executives, entrepreneurs and professionals that can and needs to be continuously exploited.  Our nation cannot afford not to use this older human capital to leverage and grow our economy.  I am comforted to see that older hands are helping to drive the entrepreneurial spirit in our small businesses.  I will be as delighted to see when more older, experienced hands remain in the executive and professional suites using their talents to push our economy forward.  I am glad my own law firm embraces and practices utilizing older talent – that philosophy has helped our firm thrive.

No matter how old we are, as long as we can do it, we should be in “the hunt” for business and professional development, success and achievement.

3 responses

  1. Once we stop learning, we stop living! What are we without the challenges to face, obstacles to overcome and goals to achieve.

    Our society use to view getting older as focusing more on retirement and a life of leisure and less activity. I’ve notices that now, getting older and closer to retirement only means preparing to step into your second act and for some third and fourth!

    The value of the older generations continuing to invest in our societies is in fact invaluable to us.

    I play allot of golf and I sometimes schedule a tee time at the golf course for just myself. When you go to the golf course by yourself, you usually get randomly paired with a group. I had the great pleasure of getting paired with a group of business men in their late sixties. These gentlemen met and served in the Vietnam War together. They promised each other that if they made it out of the war that they would stay in touch and they have kept that promise for decades. I thoroughly enjoyed the four hours that I spent on the course with them and walked away feeling truly enlighten by the experience.

    The power of wisdom gained through years of live experience cannot be valued and even as one of the most technologically advanced societies in history, it will never be replaced.

  2. G.A., the points were made very well. The human capital mature busness owners and professionals offer in their business ventures collectively, I believe will play a significant part to forwarding the economy’s improvement.

    • Merilet,

      We as a nation simply cannot afford to waste the well developed human capital that is our older executives, entrepreneurs and professionals. We certainly need to continue to invest in the educational development and workforce training of our youth while continuing to benefit from the returns on investments that we have already made in our older workers and business and professional personnel. Enterprises engaging in age discrimination are short sighted and self limiting.

      G. A.

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