The Problem: It’s a Battle of the Ages
In marketing and in business, age is often seen as a negative. If you get too old, you need to retire. If you are too young, you don’t have experience. Millennials are addicted to social media and Baby Boomers are addicted to the “good old days”. In the job market, Millennials are often pitted against older generations, who have more experience. On a larger scale, companies who have been around for a long time are battling start-ups for the hearts and minds of customers who don’t see business the way older generations did.
Not a happy picture, is it?
The Mission: Create a World of Entrepreneurs
Fred Dawkins would agree with you. He would also agree that everyone (individuals and businesses) have to find a better way to cope with these rapid changes. His approach, however, is not to focus on inventing the next tech startup or on chatting with Millennials on Twitter.
Dawkins is the author of “Ageless Entrepreneur: Never Too Early, Never Too Late“. He believes that the answer lies in expanding the idea of entrepreneurship, no matter if you are 17 or 71. He wants small businesses to stop fearing the “big companies” and thrive within their niche.
He wants to create a world where entrepreneurs are ageless.
The Message, Part 1: Age is Not the Obstacle
Dawkins, like many others, believes that rapid and unpredictable change will be a constant in today’s world. While change and unpredictability has always been a part of life, the level of change is at unheard of levels. Businesses must now face increasing competition from outsourcing, technology and globalization. Only those who thrive will survive.
His answer to this change is where Dawkins differs from the rest. Rather than look forward to capitalizing on the next debate on “Big Data,” Dawkins advises that entrepreneurs go back to the concept of entrepreneurship. Focus on getting the business right: concept, planning and execution. That will hopefully ensure your business has a stable foundation to move forward.
The changes caused by technology and outsourcing have disrupted whole industries, so Dawkins shifts readers’ focus to themselves. He advises readers to focus on continually growing and refining their skills and taking on upward-moving opportunities. Although the ways we interact have changed, there is one thing that has not. People want a good product or service and are more than willing to pay for it.
The Message, Part 2: Embrace the Obstacles of Entrepreneurship
Dawkins, however, steps back from heralding a “golden age” where everyone and anyone can make a quick buck as an entrepreneur. He embraces a careful approach to entrepreneurship coupled with hard work, mentoring and networking. He demonstrates this through the use of an extended entrepreneurship workshop led by Sam McLeod, a childhood friend of the author, which forms the core of the book. McLeod leads a group of nervous wanna-be entrepreneurs to become empowered business people.
His message to his group of wanna-be entrepreneurs (and readers) focuses on moving past old ways of thinking (“Every business needs to be a tech start-up”) and obstacles (“I’m too old to start a business”) toward solutions. To illustrate his point, McLeod brings in speakers who developed businesses out of simple ideas without the need to invest in venture capital or high-priced loans.
He calls in a teenager who started a successful errand-running service for seniors, as well as his grandfather, who started a transportation service for seniors. He calls in a former college student who opened his own house painting business because he couldn’t find a summer job.
McLeod’s point in bringing these people in is to show that our old belief in “safe careers” or “the perfect time or perfect opportunity” for a business is misguided. There will always be obstacles. Entrepreneurship will always be hard. There will always be unpredictability. The key is finding the best way to address and manage the unpredictability to reach your goal.
Critique: Great Motivation Aimed at the Nervous “Wannapreneur”
One glaring feature of “Ageless Entrepreneur” is its focus on small business. The majority of the advice in this book (about 95 percent) is aimed at the individual who wants to start his or her own company. The focus is on encouraging “wannapreneurs” or people who want to own a business, but feel it’s too risky. Dawkins does not deny the risks of entrepreneurship, but he advises readers to work through the obstacles, rather than stop because of them. He mentions often in the book that obstacles represent a problem to be solved. It is up to the entrepreneur to figure out when it will be solved, not if.
Another feature of “Ageless Entrepreneur” is the intentional focus away from tech startups. Dawkins isn’t particularly a big fan of tech start-ups (crowded market, risky capital, etc) for wannapreneurs. He would rather have aspiring entrepreneurs cater their own talents (tech or not) to a niche audience and grow from there. He advises finding and working with mentors and networking groups to expand and develop the pipeline of business.
About the Author
Fred Dawkins is a Canadian entrepreneur and author. He can be found online at his website (http://fcdawkins.com/) or on Twitter (@dawkinsfred). His book, “Ageless Entrepreneur: Never Too Early, Never Too Late” will be available on Amazon May 9. This article was prepared from an electronic copy of the book made available for reviewing purposes.