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New Business After 50 -
Mistakes Not to Make


Starting a new business after 50 involves all the risks and pitfalls of starting a business at any other age. The one difference is that if you make a significant wrong turn then you haven't got as many working years left in which to make up lost ground. In the light of experience, here are two major mistakes to avoid.



My working life had been spent building a small horticultural business which was sold when I was 50. The sale of the business gave my wife and I a degree of financial security but certainly not enough to live on for the rest of our lives. The terms of the sale precluded me from starting a new business in horticulture and therefore a "New beginning" was not just desirable it was necessary.


Mistake Number 1 - Not Understanding Your Customers

During 30 years in horticulture I had sat through courses on effective supervision, man management, delegation, financial structures, health and safety, time management, indeed the whole plethora of learning that is required to manage a modern business. A recurring theme through every class and seminar was that management disciplines are the same in every business.


What the courses failed to teach me was that every SECTOR of business has its own individual rules. In addition you get to know who to trust and who to be weary of, who to emulate and who to confide in during times of trouble. When you move between sectors all of this unconscious learning is no longer valid - you need to forget it or suffer the consequences....


In our case we developed a product for packing away part-completed jigsaw puzzles that was better than anything else available; sure enough the largest retailer of jigsaw puzzles came knocking at our door. I moved from a world of large scale buyers in garden centres whom I knew into the world of toys and gifts inhabited by buyers I didn't know.


Sales went exceptionally well and Christmas orders came in quicker than our manufactures could cope with. We had agreed to supply the retailer within a given timescale but surely the company would realize that the unprecedented demand was impossible to meet, wouldn't they? Not so. For every item sold we made a profit of about £1.00 but the retailer sued us for loss of profit of £10.00 on every item we DIDN'T sell! The net result was a major loss.


Mistake Number 2 - Choosing the Wrong Suppliers


Moving on from the multiple store disaster we recognized the power of the Internet and decided it would be better/safer to sell direct to consumers ourselves. Our "Niche product" was ideally suited to this method of selling.


We knew a guy who knew a guy who built websites and we commissioned him to build a website for us. The site looked good but nobody found it.


We were then told about the magical realms of search engine optimization (SE0) and that we hadn't got any! We commissioned a second website from a very smooth talking salesman. Same result, it looked good to us but behind the scenes in this mystical kingdom of unseen computer code all was not well.


Not until our third attempt did we find a reliable designer who could "Make the site sing". The results of the first two wrong turns were three years and several thousand pounds wasted.




Whatever business you decide to tackle spend endless time getting to know and understand your customers. Spend double endless time researching your suppliers.



Colin King and his wife, Lisa are now in their late 50's and run two successful businesses. www.jigthings.com sell a range of jigsaw puzzle accessories and www.educationquizzes is a subscription website for schools and individuals at the KS3 level of education.




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