I don’t know where it comes from, but this is a great proverb:
Like a flower, humans are either growing or wilting.
There is no standing still. Flowers are never just in the same state. They’re always moving one way or the other.
And if you observe people you’ll see that it really seems the same. We’re either growing or wilting.
Learning. Working. Moving. Hobbies. Traveling.
Whatever it is, it seems that humans need a purpose. They need to do something otherwise they start the process of dying…faster than they would otherwise.
In the last 10 years it’s become a bit of a notion that entrepreneurs need to be young. You have Mark Zuckerberg starting Facebook in his dorm at Harvard. Even before that you have Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard to start Microsoft.
But those are exceptions. The average age of successful businesses is about 42. And in recent years that average has been increasing.
I was talking with someone that was in their mid-60s recently. I asked them how they felt. They admitted that they had some aches and pains, but overall they felt good. They were still working. They were still active with hobbies. They seemed to live a life with purpose everyday.
And the cool thing was that they mentioned that they still felt the same as they did when they were younger. And that they possibly felt even better because of the knowledge and experience they’d gained.
When you’re young it makes sense that you think you’ll feel old when you’re old. But when you’re actually old you don’t necessarily need to feel old. In fact, many people still feel young.
And you can still accomplish great things.
Microsoft launched around 1975. 20 years later, Windows 95 played a huge role in making Bill Gates the richest person in the world.
Facebook launched around 2003-2004. It hasn’t even been 20 years and the company is already one of the largest in the world.
The point is that even if you’re in your 60s or 70s, you still have plenty of time to accomplish things. Even if you have one year left you still have time to accomplish meaningful things.
Here are a few examples of businesses started by those in their 40s.
I really like the movie, The Founder. It’s about Ray Kroc and his role in the McDonald’s we know today.There are some definite hard feelings about the brothers that started the first restaurant. But in the view of many, McDonald’s wouldn’t be what it is today without Ray Kroc. That’s how I feel.
Ray was 52 years old when he went to visit the McDonald brothers after selling them some milkshake mixers. He saw the opportunity and the rest became history. He accomplished quite a lot over the next 20-30 years.
Harland Sanders was 40 years old when he started a filling station in 1930. That year he also started selling fried chicken to customers in the station. That eventually turned into the Kentucky Fried Chicken we know today.
Herb Kelleher wasn’t quite 40 when he incorporated Southwest Airlines with a couple business partners. But he was 40 when a few years later the airline first took flight.
Herb was a lawyer with no experience in the airline industry. But the industry was appealing to him. It seemed like fun and it seemed like there was an opportunity.
Many 40-year olds are looking to slow down. Herb was looking for adventure.
The Dodge Brothers were in their 40s when they finally launched vehicles of their own. They had been in business longer making parts for other companies including Ford. But eventually they wanted to build their own, but it took awhile for them to do it.
Sadly, they both would die in 1920. They were only in the vehicle business for about five or six years. If only they would have had more time or started sooner.
DreamWorks launched with much fanfare in 1994. Three entertainment industry titans – David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffery Katzenberg. Each of the founders was over 40 at the time and had been in the industry for many years. But they thought they could do great things with their own studio and by the end of the ’90s and into the early ’00s they definitely released some great film and music.
6. American Express & Wells Fargo
Not many individuals are founders in two huge companies or well known brands.
But most people recognize the two brands above. They’ve been around for centuries. And one man played a major role in both: Henry Wells.
Both companies started around 1850 when Wells was 42 years old. It’s strange that his age at the time is the same age as the average founder today.
Or maybe it’s not that strange…
HGTV is perhaps the last successful cable media company. While the other cable channels have been in decline, HGTV has been growing. It will be interesting to see if they can continue their success. I’m thinking that they will.
Kenneth Lowe had been successful in radio and other entertainment arenas. Then in 1992, when he was in his early 40s, he was flipping through the newspaper when he realized something…
There was a cable channel for every section of the paper – sports, news, etc. – but not for the Home & Garden section.
Many people thought he was crazy, but he’s proven them all wrong.
8. GoDaddy & PXG
Bob Parsons was 46 when he launched GoDaddy in 1997. He was 63 when he launched PXG. GoDaddy has become one of the leading website companies in the world. And PXG, or Parsons Xtreme Golf, is quickly becoming a big brand in the golfing world.
Even if you’ve started one business – success or failure – there is no reason you can’t start more.
40 years old is young. There is no reason you can’t start a business at any age. There is a phrase in golf that I love. It goes that the golf ball doesn’t know who is hitting it. The same is true for the business world. The market doesn’t care who the business operator is. It only cares about value.
The only thing holding you back from success is you and the barriers you set for yourself. Like age.