Opinion

Move over millennials: Starting a business at 42 is now the new norm

5 min read

26 November 2018

Think that entrepreneurship is a young person's game? Well, research suggests that the average age of an entrepreneur heading a high-growth company is 45.

They do say that being an entrepreneur is a young person’s game.

When I founded Pimlico Plumbers, I was in my 20’s, and this is a trade which often involves lots of hard graft and stamina.

It’s probably no coincidence that the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg were also in their 20’s when they founded their respective business empires.

This might be where any comparison with yours truly ends. I’m more at home fixing a leaky pipe or installing a downstairs lav than getting involved in the world of tech!

Maybe it’s just the media image of entrepreneurs as young and thrusting but, it seems, the times they are a changing.

Older business owners employ 10 million workers in the UK, with 14% of over 60’s running their own business, either full or part-time.

Meanwhile, a further 9% freelance across a range of industries, according to a study (with no hint or irony!) commissioned by luxury retirement developer Audley Villages.

You may think that as a person approaches their later years, they might lose a little drive and ambition and yearn to put their feet up, perhaps in a luxury retirement village.

Speaking as someone who has been in the game a few years, I’m still as enthusiastic about my business as when I started out. In fact, I’m constantly looking at ways to innovate and improve so Pimlico Plumbers continues to be the best it can be.

After all, you don’t see people complaining about the likes of naturalist Sir David Attenborough, 93, Rolling Stone Sir Mick Jagger, 75, or broadcaster John Humphrys, 75 – not to mention the spritely 73-year-old spring chicken that is Sir Roderick David Stewart – who all continue to be amazingly successful in their respective careers.

And there should be no difference in the world of SMEs, because experience really does count.

According to various figures, the average age of someone starting up their own business is around 42 and the average age of an entrepreneur heading a high-growth company is 45.

But this latest study says that more entrepreneurs are now emerging who are over the age of 50, which is certainly at odds with the traditional image.

What is true is that older entrepreneurs are more likely to have a greater chance of success in launching a business, especially if they have more than three years’ experience in that particular area.

Often it’s that experience which is the key to successfully transitioning from working for someone else to launching a startup. Their experience tells them they can do a better job.

These days, as many companies continue to shed staff in the wake of the economic downturn and continuing Brexit confusion, some older employees find they have no choice but to go it alone.

I applaud anyone who makes the decision to set up their own business, no matter what the circumstances. It’s not always an easy decision and it certainly takes courage and determination, no matter how old or experienced you are.

Much of it is down to confidence and having someone who believes in you. That’s why many an entrepreneur stands a greater chance if they seek out a business coach or mentor to bounce ideas with and accept some sage advice.

While we are talking about experience, I’m also passionate about giving young people a leg up in the world of work. I truly believe in taking on apprentices as they are the future of the business.

But it’s also important to have a blend in any workforce. More than 10%of my people are in the over 50’s bracket, with some into their 70’s and it’s a real joy to see them passing on their knowledge and life skills to the apprentices.

Age shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone in business. What’s important is that you have a passion and a talent for what you do. If in doubt, just ask Sir Mick Jagger or Sir Rod Stewart!