Why age is no barrier to becoming an entrepreneur

Older man holding a stop sign
Stop thinking age is a barrier to entrepreneurial success!

Think you’re too old to strike out and start your own business? Think again. As long as you’ve got a good idea and the right attitude, age is no barrier to launching a successful company.

In fact, that extra experience you have could give you an advantage when you’re starting out as an entrepreneur. I may have set up my first business when I was 22, but during my career I’ve met many talented entrepreneurs who launched their companies much later in life.

Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone

The one thing you really need if you want to become an entrepreneur is the bravery to step outside your comfort zone and test yourself in a completely new situation.

There’s no denying this can be a big step, especially if you’re used to working for other people and following their lead. But if you’re passionate about your idea, you’ve done your homework and you’re prepared to put in the hard work and pick up new skills along the way, there’s no reason to let your date of birth stop you from following your dreams.

Rather than seeing your age as a problem, focus on the fact that you’ll have a wealth of skills and life experience to bring to bear in your new role.

Take a look around you

Sure, we all know about Zuckerberg and Musk and Chesky – the entrepreneurs who became incredibly successful at an incredibly young age. But there are just as many examples of successful business people who launched their own companies with a lot more mileage on their career clocks.

Finding out about these entrepreneurs and their stories could give you the inspiration you need to take the next step on your own journey to starting a company.

One of my favourite examples is the late Leo Goodwin. He worked as an accountant in America until the age of 50, when he saw a gap in the insurance market and launched the Government Employee’s Insurance Company (GEICO).

Working with his wife, he quickly grew the business and by the end of his first year, he had employed 12 people and was providing nearly 4,000 insurance policies. Now, GEICO has over 14 million policyholders and employs tens of thousands of workers.

Another inspirational story is that of Carol Gardner. At the age of 52 and newly divorced, she entered a competition to create a Christmas card featuring her dog Zelda. She won, and the positive response she got encouraged her to set up a greeting card company that she called Zelda Wisdom. A few years later, the business was valued at an impressive $50 million.

Wally Blume also arrived in the business world later in life. After a successful 20-year career in the dairy industry, he decided to open his own company in 1995. Called Denali Flavors, it specialises in creating and marketing innovative ice cream flavours. Its most popular product, Moose Tracks, makes around $80 million a year through licensing agreements.

Talented ‘older-preneurs’ like these show just how much can be achieved by going it alone and starting your own business – regardless of your age.

Chris Niarchos is a lifelong entrepreneur and founder of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

 

What you want to know about running a business (but are afraid to ask)

Picture of question mark icons
Chris Niarchos answers the business questions you may be afraid to ask.

Lots of people like the idea of working for themselves, but there’s no getting around the fact that taking that leap of faith and actually setting up a company can be a daunting prospect.

If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, here are a few questions you’ll probably want the answers to, but may be too afraid to ask.

What if my business fails?

It’s normal to have some doubts when you establish a business. I was just 22 when I set up my first company and I had anxieties about it at the time. When you’re new to something, it’s completely natural to wonder if you’ve got what it takes to succeed.

However, during my career I’ve learned that you can’t let concerns about potential failure stop you from pursuing your goals. It’s impossible to guarantee success with every business venture, but you can guarantee that you’ll keep going if things don’t go to plan.

It’s important to realise that many of the most highly regarded and successful businesspeople have experienced major setbacks along the way. What these people have in common is the resilience required to pick themselves up and carry on.

Sir James Dyson is a great example. The inventor and entrepreneur, who’s now said to be worth over £3 billion, went through his savings and over 5,000 failed prototypes before he developed the bagless vacuum cleaner that propelled him to fame and fortune. Speaking to Entrepreneur.com, the inventor said that failure helps you to progress. He added: “You never learn from success, but you do learn from failure.”

Will I be able to handle the pressure?

Pressure is an unavoidable part of running a company and you won’t really know if you can cope with the stress until your business is up and running and you’re faced with the challenges this brings.

There are things you can do to lower pressure levels though. For example, try to avoid the temptation to micromanage all aspects of your company. Attempting to control every little detail yourself can mean your workload quickly becomes unmanageable. Alternatively, if you quickly get into the habit of delegating certain tasks to the appropriate people, you should find it easier to keep your to-do list – and consequently your stress levels – in check.

Also, try to understand that all entrepreneurs feel the pressure. This isn’t a sign of weakness, but it is something you have to learn to control. Many of the best businesspeople use pressure as a driving force to make them stronger and better in their roles. 

Who can I turn to if I don’t have the answers?

You can’t expect to be the full package when you first start out as an entrepreneur. There will be things you need to learn and you’re bound to make the occasional mistake. This is where a business mentor can help. A trusted and experienced advisor can provide you with invaluable advice and give you added reassurance and confidence when you need it most.

Businessman and author Zig Ziglar summed up this idea when he said: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a diverse portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

3 entrepreneurs who refused to take no for an answer

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, never submit to failure. Do not be fobbed off with mere personal success or acceptance.”

Nicknamed the British Bulldog and known for his tenacious spirit and unrelenting bravery, it was clear that Churchill adhered to this motto in his political life. In my opinion, he demonstrated the kind of persistence and courage that entrepreneurs need if they’re going to be successful.

After decades of experience in business, I am well acquainted with the word ‘no’, but I haven’t let it stop me from pursuing my dreams. I know, however, that when you’re faced with apparent dead-ends time and again and your goals seem unattainable, it’s tempting to throw in the towel. If you’re in this position right now, you might be inspired by the experiences of these entrepreneurs.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb

Picture of Brian Chesky on an ipad
Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky initially struggled to find investors but his company is now worth $24billion. (aradaphotography / Shutterstock.com)

CEO and co-founder of peer-to-peer accommodation rental company Airbnb Brian Chesky is worth £2.9 billion today and was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama Administration in 2015. However, at the start of his career, the now 35-year-old was also familiar with the word ‘no’.

Early on, Chesky and his Airbnb co-founders were introduced to seven eminent investors in Silicon Valley and pitched them in an attempt to raise $150,000 in exchange for 10% of the business. They received rejections from five of the investors, and the other two never replied! However, Chesky and his associates were undeterred and continued to pursue their goals. Today Airbnb is valued at £24 billion and has been used by more than 60 million people.

Kavita Shukla, Fenugreen

Kavita Shukla is the founder and CEO of Fenugreen, a social enterprise tackling global food waste with her own invention, FreshPaper, which keeps food fresh. The young entrepreneur has been awarded the INDEX: Design to Improve Life Award – the world’s greatest prize for design – and has been named in TIME Magazine’s ‘5 Most Innovative Women in Food’, but her success grew from humble origins.

Shukla started out mixing spices in pond water in her garage when she was 12 years old in an attempt to reproduce the benefits of a homebrewed spice tea her grandmother gave her in India. She eventually came up with the idea of creating a spice-infused paper that prevents bacterial and fungal growth, and worked on the product all through high school and university.

Despite failing to get the interest she needed from potential donors to create a large-scale non-profit, and being told repeatedly that she “needed more experience, more degrees, more money”, she persisted.

Shukla believed in her idea and invested $150 in spices and paper-making materials to create a local non-profit. The product became a huge success and is now sold in supermarkets in more than 35 countries worldwide.

Joy Mangano, Miracle Mop

Picture of Joy Mangano
Joy Mangano created the Miracle Mop to make her own household chores easier. (Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)

The story of Joy Mangano is the stuff of Hollywood movies – quite literally. Joy, a film loosely based on the American inventor and entrepreneur’s life, was released in 2015.

As a divorced mother of three struggling to make ends meet in the 1980s, Mangano found inspiration in the drudgery of household chores. Frustrated with mops that didn’t last long and required the user to bend down to wring them out, she created what would become known as the Miracle Mop.

She borrowed money to make 100 prototypes and started selling them locally. In 1992, a TV shopping channel bought 1,000 of the mops, but the executives asked her to take them all back when they failed to sell.

Believing strongly in her idea, Mangano refused to take the mops back and demanded the chance to sell them herself. In her first appearance, more than 18,000 units were sold. Within 10 years, her company was selling more than US$8 million worth of mops every year.

In 1999, she joined the Home Shopping Network, where she now generates in excess of £110 million in annual sales. Today, Mangano is said to be worth £38 million.

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of The Cobra Group of Companies, which specialises in incubating, developing and managing a diverse portfolio of start-up enterprises and successful companies.

What business lessons can we learn from the revised WTO figures?

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” John Allen Paulos

This quote may come from a mathematician rather than a business leader, but I think it sums up the mood of many within the business community right now.

Companies are having to adjust to major changes in the world around them. From the uncertainty triggered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU to slowdowns in major countries like Brazil and China, the global economy is going through a period of significant change.

Reflecting this fact, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) recently revised its forecast for global trade growth down by over a third. According to the organisation, growth this year will total 1.7 per cent.

This is down on its April estimate of 2.8 per cent. Responding to the statistics, director-general of the WTO Roberto Azevedo said the slowing of trade growth is a serious issue. He went on to suggest it should “serve as a wake-up call”.

Businesses must be prepared to adapt and innovate

It’s easy to panic when market conditions get tough, but instead of doing this, it’s important to try to take a step back and see what we can learn from situations like this.

To me, the WTO figures reinforce the fact that companies have to be ready to adapt and innovate whenever they are met with difficulties. By making sure they are agile and prepared to change their business models to deal with the challenges of the time, companies can protect themselves from a whole range of potential problems.

In fact, the savviest operators are often able to turn seemingly negative situations into positives for their businesses.

A business case in point

In a recent blog post, I referred to the example of the music industry and the so-called ‘lost-decade’.

As the digital revolution kicked in and people started to change the way they consumed music, the profits of traditional record companies tumbled from US$14.6 billion in 1999 to $6.3 billion 10 years later.

While many companies struggled in these difficult circumstances, some were able to overhaul their approach and went on to not only survive, but thrive. They did so by innovating and creating new, successful products.

As Paulos’ quote elegantly expresses, there will always be uncertainty. It’s knowing how to cope with changing demands that can bring people (and in this context businesses) a sense of long-term security.

Chris Niarchos is founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies. In his role, he is responsible for setting the strategic direction for all of the businesses within the group. Since setting up the company in Australia in 1988 at the age of 22, he has grown it into a successful international organisation. It is now a group of diversified companies specialising in managing and developing an exciting and varied portfolio of businesses.

What can an F1 pit crew teach you about teamwork in business?

From the likes of Lewis Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel, it tends to be the drivers in Formula One who get the attention. But without the precision teamwork of a tightly knit and talented pit crew behind them, these stars wouldn’t get off the starting blocks, let alone over the finish line.

As a huge fan of motorsport, I’ve often noticed the parallels between the teamwork involved in this sport and in the business realm. So, here are a few things I believe an F1 pit crew can teach you about the importance of working together within a company.

F1 pit crew works on a race car
Businesses can learn from the teamwork of an F1 pit crew, says Cobra Group founder Chris Niarchos

Detailed preparation = polished performance

A lot happens within a very short space of time when a car comes in for a pit stop. In under four seconds, a team of 16 or more highly trained and skilled people becomes a focussed, well-oiled machine to rival the one they’re actually working on.

Each individual is responsible for their own specific task and is dedicated to executing to absolute perfection. From operating front or rear jacks to making wing adjustments or “simply” holding the driver in place, everyone knows exactly what they have to do and how and when to do it.

This takes a vast amount of preparation and a huge amount of physical and mental training. It’s only by putting in enough practice hours that these teams can give a polished performance and keep their drivers in contention on the track.

In many ways, the same is true in business. The timescales and tasks may be very different, but the principle of doing thorough preparation is exactly the same. Companies that are rigorous and methodical in their approach – and that appreciate the importance of the work that goes on behind the scenes, and the people who do it – stand a much better chance of achieving long-term success.

Clear communication is key

Clear communication is a must between members of a pit crew and between these teams and their drivers. Before developments in technology made car-to-pit communication possible, pit stops were often chaotic and disorganised, especially if they were unscheduled.

Now, thanks to the fact that drivers and pit crews can convey detailed information to each other during races, these stops are much slicker and lightning fast.

Effective communication is equally important within businesses. It can prevent misunderstandings, promote engagement, help drive innovation and foster stronger working relationships between colleagues.

Everyone has to play their part

Another similarity between F1 and business is the fact that, in both arenas, everyone involved has their individual role to play.

In the case of pit crews, tasks are broken down into the minutest of detail. There’s someone directing the car into the precise position, someone holding the ‘brake/in gear’ sign, one person dedicated to removing and replacing the wheel nuts on one wheel and other specialists assigned jobs like altering wing angles. It doesn’t matter how seemingly small the individual task is, every single action is essential in getting that car back on the track.

A business works – or should work – in much the same way. Of course, there are the people who have more visible roles, but depending on the size and nature of your business, you must also have personnel managers, finance and sales specialists, front-of-house people, IT experts and more all coming together to make sure the company runs smoothly.

No matter how big or small their roles may seem, every team member contributes in their own way to the overall success of an organisation. I have learned that it is worth remembering that and acknowledging those who operate behind the scenes just as much as those whose work puts them in the limelight.

As founder and chairman, Chris Niarchos at the Cobra Group of Companies sets the strategic direction for all businesses within the group and ensures that the critical objectives of these businesses are met.

Why leadership doesn’t have to be lonely

Being a business leader can give you a great sense of professional achievement and satisfaction, but it does also have the potential to be lonely at the “top”. You have ultimate responsibility for the success of your company and this puts you in a unique position within your company seroquel medication.

However, my own experience as an entrepreneur and in leadership roles tells me that heading up a business doesn’t necessarily have to be isolating. Drawing on observations I’ve made throughout my career, here are some suggestions that could help you to stay connected to the people around you.

Encourage a cohesive team

People sometimes mistakenly think that being in a leadership position means you must have all the answers. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of tapping into the talents and experience of others.

Great leaders build strong teams around them and encourage people to connect and collaborate with each other. In turn, this builds a strong sense of team spirit that reaches right to the top of organisations.

If you cultivate a business culture in which your colleagues are part of the decision making process and feel connected to your company’s underlying goals and objectives, you’re much less likely to have the sense that you’re on your own.

Reach out to others for support

It’s also important to realise that it’s okay to ask others for help and support. Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be infallible. Even the best entrepreneurs experience difficulties from time to time – and being able to turn to people can help them cope.

Connecting with mentors or fellow entrepreneurs can be especially useful if you’re just starting out in your business career and I’ve found that these relationships can last throughout your career.

This idea is at the heart of Appco’s business model. Our business is built on the philosophy that, regardless of whether you’re an Appco employee or a self-employed contractor within our face-to-face marketing and fundraising network, you are in charge of your career, but also have the mentoring support and expertise of the Appco network to help achieve your goals.

Make yourself approachable

The way you interact with your colleagues will also have a big impact on your connections to people in your business. If you come across as aloof or intimidating, the people around you are more likely to keep their distance.

I have made an effort throughout my career to make myself available to people at all levels in our organisation, and at all stages of their journey in the wider network. I hope it has been as beneficial to those around me as I have found it myself.

Ultimately, I believe that  a very big part of successful leadership comes down to being approachable and welcoming input from others, which also allows you to continue to work more closely with – and learn from – your colleagues.

 

As the Cobra Group of Companies’ chairman and founder, Chris Niarchos has many decades of experience as a business leader and knows how to overcome a range of challenges associated with running a company. He has steered the Cobra Group to international success and continues to strive for excellence both for the company and himself.

3 important lessons I’ve learned in business

To be successful in business, you have to be able to adapt and to pick up knowledge and skills as you go. You learn from mentors, colleagues and competitors, and you take lessons from both your achievements and your mistakes.

Absorbing all of this information helps you to grow not only as an entrepreneur, but also as a person. Following are three important lessons I’ve learned during my career.

1. It’s impossible to control everything

No matter how much of a perfectionist you are and how tight a grip you want to keep on your company, the simple fact is you can’t control everything.

Trying to micromanage every aspect of your business can reduce your ability to focus on strategic planning – not to mention spiking your stress levels unnecessarily. As a leader, you have to be able to take a step back and delegate tasks to the appropriate people.

There will also be a range of variables outside of your business that you have little or no control over, including the prevailing market conditions. It means you have to be flexible in your approach and ready to tailor your strategy to suit changing circumstances.

2. Patience is an important virtue

It’s true that a small number of businesspeople seem to propel themselves to instant fame and fortune, but the vast majority of entrepreneurs have to work hard over a sustained period of time to achieve their goals.

This means that patience is vital asset among business leaders. You need to have foresight and dedication to stick to your path and realise your ambitions. Anyone who has made it to the top thanks to hard work and perseverance – and that’s most people – will tell you that this makes the eventual rewards all the more satisfying.

3. Keeping your focus is crucial

After reaching a particular target or milestone, there is a risk that entrepreneurs – who are always juggling multiple priorities – will turn their attention elsewhere and lose their momentum. If you want to achieve sustained success and company growth, you’ll need to be able to maintain your focus on all areas of your business.

One of the things that has helped me to remain motivated throughout my career is my desire to ‘Be Something More’. This phrase was printed on a poster that I put up on my bedroom wall as a youngster living at home and it has helped me to shape my approach to work and to life more generally.

‘Be Something More’ reminds me to continuously strive to achieve the most for my businesses, myself and, just as importantly, for the people around me. This guiding principle is so important to me that I decided to make it the catchphrase for the entire Appco Group.

 

As chairman and founder of the Cobra Group, Chris Niarchos has achieved global success as an entrepreneur. His journey began at the age of just 22 when he started his first direct sales company in Sydney. He had a vision of growing the business into an international organisation and, through hard work and skill, he has succeeded in his ambition.

4 ways to future-proof your business

Starting a company can be difficult enough, but the real challenge is ensuring that your business stands the test of time. According to research conducted by Professor Richard Foster at Yale University, the average lifespan of a business listed in Standard & Poor’s 500 index of leading US companies fell from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years in 2012. However, from my own experience as a business leader, I know there are ways to future-proof your business. Following are four tactics that could help you to increase the longevity of your enterprise.

1. Keep tabs on emerging technology trends

Technology is progressing at a phenomenal rate and so to ensure you don’t get left behind, it’s crucial that you keep tabs on emerging trends within your sector. By making sure you have access to the most up-to-date and efficient equipment and systems available, you can reduce the risk that your rivals will gain a competitive advantage over you. Making sure you have the best possible resources does require investment, but this will be money well spent if it prevents your company from losing relevance and being side-lined by more forward looking competitors.

2. Take steps to protect your brand

The internet – and particularly social media – means it’s now easier than ever to spread the word about your products or services and to build up your brand. However, the web also means that news of bad customer experiences can spread quickly. It’s important to take careful steps to protect your business’s reputation by doing everything you can to make sure that every customer has a positive experience when they deal with your business.

3. Nurture the talent within your team

Your people are your most valuable asset. Their hard work, expertise and insight could help to steer your business to continued success. However, to ensure you make the most of the talent within your team, you must take steps to nurture it. This involves providing people with necessary training, as well as mentoring opportunities, rewarding good work and making sure everyone has access to skills development and career opportunities. Doing these things should mean you are able to attract and retain the best people – and it will help those within your organisation to fulfil their potential.

4. Don’t let nostalgia get in the way of progress

There’s a certain reassurance that comes from maintaining continuity within a business seroquel pill. However, it’s vital that you don’t allow nostalgia to get in the way of progress. If your procedures aren’t agile and responsive to change, everything from your recruitment process and day-to-day operations to your marketing techniques and branding may benefit from an overhaul. Making changes to the way your company does things may pull you out of your comfort zone, but it could help you better reflect the current business environment and sustain longer-term success.

4 skills that will set you apart in business

Anyone can set up their own company, but it takes a certain type of person to climb to the very top in the business arena. Following are four skills that I believe help to set people apart as successful entrepreneurs. If you are planning to start your own company, it’s worth asking yourself which of these skills you already have and which ones need to be developed.

 

1. Excellent communication

Being an effective business-person is about more than having great ideas. To achieve your goals, you must also be a convincing communicator. As well as delivering powerful presentations to potential investors or customers, you will need to use language that motivates and energises the team you put together around you.

Don’t be put off if your communication skills aren’t quite up-to-scratch right now; this is something you can work on over time – and the more experience you have, the more confident and effective you are likely to be when it comes to expressing your ideas.

Many of the best business communicators were lacking in confidence and finesse when they first started out as entrepreneurs.

 

2. Foresight

Market conditions are continually changing, so to achieve lasting success with your company, you must have the foresight required to anticipate new trends and developments.

For this reason, successful businesspeople tend to be natural innovators. They are curious about what lies ahead and are always looking for ways to improve their companies and to address the challenges not just of the present, but also of the future.

This allows them to create dynamic, flexible businesses that are robust in the face of change. In contrast, those who are reluctant to move with the times are likely to get left behind by their more forward-looking competitors.

 

3. The ability to discover and nurture talent

No matter how talented businesspeople are, they can’t keep their companies running singlehandedly.

All savvy entrepreneurs understand that to make a success of their companies, they must put together a team of skilled and dedicated people generic seroquel. As well as discovering talented individuals, this involves nurturing people’s skills to enable them to fulfil their potential.

To do this, it is necessary to offer appropriate training and mentoring, give people attractive career development opportunities and reward hard work and success. Those who fail to understand the significance of discovering and harnessing talent can quickly run into problems.

 

4. Strong organisational skills

Knowing how to plan and prioritise tasks helps entrepreneurs to meet important deadlines and to stay on top of their hectic workloads.

Without a strong time-management strategy in place, businesspeople can find it impossible to deliver products or services on time and to the necessary standards – and their stress levels can soar as a result.

 

With decades of experience as an entrepreneur, Chris Niarchos at the Cobra Group has detailed knowledge of the skills and traits that people need in order to thrive in the business world.

Is fear of failure standing in your way?

As a business leader, I am well aware of the challenges associated with fulfilling your potential and striving for success. One of the biggest barriers that can stand in people’s way is the fear of failure – all too often, it prevents talented people from pursuing their dreams. However, there are ways to tackle this obstacle. Following are some insights that could help you to free yourself from self-doubt.

Embrace and accept your mistakes

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you test your abilities and embrace new challenges, the chances are you will sometimes get it wrong – at least to begin with. But this isn’t a reason to shy away from giving it a go. Everyone who has achieved big things in their careers has made mistakes. This is simply part of the process, and it provides you with invaluable experience and an opportunity to learn important lessons for the future.

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t

Never ever sell yourself short. Instead of focussing on the things you can’t do, think about all the skills you already have and those you’re in the process of developing. It might help to start a list of the capabilities you possess and the achievements you can claim – big and small,– and add to it as you acquire a new skill. It’s a simple way to see the range of qualities you already possess and how many you develop over time.

Don’t compare yourself to others

We all have role models who can help us to channel our ambitions and stay motivated. However, it’s important not to fall into the trap of continually comparing yourself to others to the extent that you end up feeling inadequate. Everyone is different, no one is perfect and even the most successful business people experience difficulties and doubts. By all means, take inspiration from others, but forge your own path that is defined by your own goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

While it’s important to define your own career goals and path, it’s also important to reach out for help when you need it. This is a skill that every successful business leader and entrepreneur has to perfect. Whether it’s asking for support from family and friends or seeking out mentors with expertise in your industry, or simply delegating tasks, having an effective support network in place is essential.

 

Chris Niarchos knows what it takes to overcome the fear of failure this post. As well as building a successful international business from scratch, he has earned respect through his talents on the racetrack. In this Dailysportscar interview with Chris Niarchos, he suggested he used to be an “awful racer”. But through perseverance, he went on to achieve impressive results before retiring from the track many years ago.