Telling the truth about SME life today

Five entrepreneurs over 50 who have showed how starting a business is done

Colin King 55

HMRC figureshighlighted that UK workers can expect their incomes to plummet by more than a third when they reach retirement. This was the reason why King decided to jump back into the world of work.

He suggested that you need to have saved up a large amount of money before retirement to “live reasonably well”. When he realised his family wouldn’t have enough finance, he started up his own business. Having previously worked as the owner of a garden centre, King found himself in a completely new direction: providing educational quizzes for school kids.

King admitted that although it was a gruelling affair, “it was a risk worth taking”.

“Whatever business you do, you’ve got to accept the fact that it might not go right,” Colin said. “When you get to my age, there’s not as many years to put it right again. So, in the early days of our business that was our main worry the fact that we might end up losing our money. But as we gradually spent more on the site and it became increasingly popular, it was evident that there was a market for what we were doing.”

Much like Taylor, Collin suggested that age brings experience. He explained that the ability to spot a “lucrative idea” was a skill that came with age. “Once you’ve been burnt two or three times”, he said, you “appreciate the need” to only develop “sound ideas”.

The myth of technology being a stumbling block for older Brits doesn’t prove true in this case either.

“Our particular business is all technology and over the last ten years it’s become essential to like it,” he said. “Fortunately that’s never been a problem for me, but friends of my age won’t even have a mobile phone and just don’t like the idea of it. So, you’ve got to have some sort of empathy with new tech and appreciate the value of some of these services out there. We wouldn’t have got our business off the ground without it.”

Paul Murray 63

Finance was also Murray’s main concern when he launched an HR consultancy.

“When I got to 60, I thought that was an appropriate time to look at my pension provisions, and I was dismayed to find that the pensions I had been paying into for about 30 years were only going to produce a fraction of what I was told when I took them out,” the former employment law advisor said.

Then in one fell swoop the government decided to move the retirement age forward nearly seven years. My wife is going to have to be nearly 67 before she can draw her pension.

Due to the success of his business, Murray keeps raising his annual targets. At the moment I feel I could work forever, and even at my age I have embraced technology,” he said. I worked out I needed just 12 clients to manage OK in a year. For my second year I moved my target to 15. And in my third year I raised the target to 20. My clients are all people who know me and value what I do.

He suggested that the first six of months of the business were the most difficult, having come awfully close to giving up during that time.

I have no idea about marketing, and of course the world has changed back in 1980 I got work through word of mouth,” he said. But when you are starting from scratch how do you get that first person in the first place

His first client came as he added his business to LinkedIn. Someone who he had once advised recognised his name and sent across a few messages.


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