Resilience: The Most Important Quality for Encore Entrepreneurs
People ask me regularly, "What's the one quality that is most important for encore entrepreneurs?"
Every time that this question is posed, I find myself pausing to ponder. After all, there are so many possible responses.
But lately I've been gravitating more and more to the word "resilience." The ability to bounce back and keep going, no matter what transpires, is probably the most essential quality for encore entrepreneurs.
The resilience of which I speak is multi-dimensional. First, it is psychological and emotional resilience.The ability to keep plugging ahead in the face of wholesale disappointment or setbacks.
The second is financial resilience. Having sufficient funding to keep the business going in spite of disruptions to cash flow.
And third is organizational resilience. Having the bench strength to stay in the game if you lose a key employee.
Many encore entrepreneurs, of course, are initially a one-person business. In this case, there is only one key employee to lose. And this makes the second dimension of resilience — financial resilience, all the more important.
Special Challenges for Encore Entrepreneurs
To be sure, people starting a business at any age need resilience. It's particularly vital, however, for men and women starting their first business in their fifties, sixties, or beyond.
Not only do encore entrepreneurs face all of the potential setbacks of business owners half their age, they also must contend with contingencies that are unique to adults in the last half of life.
Many encore entrepreneurs are caring for aged parents, with all of the sudden and unexpected demands that such duties thrust upon them.
Other encore entrepreneurs are in the so-called "sandwich generation," taking care of their parents on one hand and still supporting their children on the other. Cash and time demands in the sandwich generation are incessant.
The Realities of Growing Older
And of course, there's the matter of health. As older adults we are simply likely to have more illnesses, diseases, and surgeries than we once did. And because our bodies themselves are not as resilient as they once were, illnesses, surgeries, and rehabilitation tend to sideline us or slow us down for extended periods of time. Should something like this happen to you, what will it do to your business?
Twice in my sixties I've had major health events that compelled me to set my career aside for four to six months. Because I was uncertain when — or in one case, even if — I would be able to return to my coaching and consulting practice, I had to put marketing on hold until recovery was nearly complete.
This meant that I came back to work with virtually nothing in my pipeline. It was rather like starting my business all over again. By the time I refilled the pipeline, I had gone eight to ten months without significant income from the company.
Hopefully your health problems won't take such a toll. But if they do, do you have the financial resilience to cope with the setback and move forward once the health episode is behind you?
Moreover, it's not just our own personal health that is an issue for encore entrepreneurs. If we are married, the health issues faced by our husband or wife are also on the rise, or soon will be. What will it do to the time that we have available for our business if our mate is struck by a debilitating illness or injury?
Nor can we forget our mate's parents. Their health problems can also make telling demands on us.
A Particularly Subtle Challenge
Then there's the elephant in the room that no one seems to talk about. Once you hit your late fifties, you start contending with the problem of age bias.
I call it the "elephant in the room" because age discrimination is supposedly illegal. But it's only illegal in an employee force (although it still goes on there often enough). There is nothing to prevent age bias toward a vendor or an outside consultant.
Age bias is far more common than you might have been prepared for. When it occurs, it's almost impossible to prove. But you know that it's happening, all the same.
I'm part of certain LinkedIn groups whose members are primarily older professionals. Their posts commonly voice frustration over doors being closed to them because of their age. And I can relate to their feelings, because it happens to me on occasion, as well.
Step Up to the Game
For all of these reasons, encore entrepreneurs must be more resilient than younger entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to emotional and psychological resilience. Several of the challenges which I've described are so consuming that they are a continual distraction, even when we are not dealing with them directly at the moment. They are always there, on the periphery of our memory, keeping us from undiluted focus on the task before us.
Of all the books that you've read and all of the websites that you've consulted in getting your business up and running, none of them probably mentioned resilience as a necessary element of your personality.
But the fact of the matter is, for encore entrepreneurs it's absolutely essential to develop emotional and psychological resilience; to start their business and maintain it with financial resilience; and to build their team in a way that gives them organizational resilience.
This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on August 7, 2014.