Ideas are simple, markets are complex.
Alas, we have come to the end of my three-part look at entrepreneurship after 40. Just in case you missed it a quick overview: Part 1 was a general exploration into the age and success issue, while Part 2 was about a specific entrepreneurial task: problem identification. This final part is going to be about complexity, or more specifically complex tasks and how it relates to being an over 40 entrepreneur.
Now the kicker to my theory was summed up in my opening quote, that if you look at it, the idea for a business is actually quite simple. Any one-line pitch is essentially an exercise in simplicity. Take for example Adeo Ressi’s one sentence format: “My company, _(insert name of company)_, is developing _(a defined offering)_ to help _(a defined audience)_ _(solve a problem)_ with _(secret sauce)_”. Simplicity in itself is great because it provides clarity, a sense for where your business is going to go, the very essence of strategy. Simple is cool right?
Now take that simple idea and plug it into a real world market place. All of a sudden the perceived simplicity disappears (often very quickly) and you start to see what the market actually does. And often it doesn’t do what you think or want it to do. So you need to continually adapt your business model assumptions. Famously covered by Eric Reis in The Lean Start Up, it is this process of hypothesis testing and learning that will determine your success. And the faster you go the better it is. Your ability to deal with the underlying complexity of coordinating all that activity is the key.
In addition, starting and running a company is essentially an exercise in complexity management. Building up the capabilities to execute your business model takes some expertise, planning and basic business foundations that come with experience. There are many tasks to complete, compounded by trying to prioritize what needs to be done given the reality of limited resources( ie Cash and Manpower), in a limited time frame (ie Runway). Talk about a pressure cooker! And how you ultimately cope with adapting to all this will determine the success of your start-up. That is the reality.
So why would I think that over 40 entrepreneurs have a good background in complexity? If you have ever bought a car, bought a house, got married, or tried to get your children into Primary school in Singapore, then you start to understand. Of course, not to mention several years in the workforce where we gain an understanding of business practises and essential skills such as the building up of networks. My theory then is that us older folks, with a bit of experience under our belts, have a lot to bring to the table as an entrepreneur.
There is one big caveat to all this though. Actually age doesn’t matter. What really matters is uncompromising faith, boundless optimism, incredible perseverance, a love for the word ‘No’ (albeit that is a learned response) and the desire to really, really succeed. My favourite quote that sums it up nicely is from Sir Winston Churchill, “ Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” If that doesn’t define entrepreneurship, than I don’t know what does.
Thank you for reading my articles, I do hope you enjoyed them. Please feel free to comment , share and/or track me down with a burning question, I am easy to find on Linked In or Twitter. Until we meet again.
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