If you have already reached middle-age without achieving much in the way of entrepreneurial triumph, you may worry that you have left it too late. It is easy to feel intimidated by the current crop of twenty-something tycoons who often had their first taste of success when barely out of nappies. Cynics may enjoy a bit of consolation by deciding that these go-getters were just lucky, or they were born with a silver-spoon in their mouth, but this type of rationalization only provides false comfort. It is much better to put our focus on those who managed to find success later in life, so we can be inspired to follow their example.
“I’ll tell you, there is nothing better in life than being a late bloomer. I believe that success can happen at any time and at any age.”
A late-bloomer is someone who doesn’t become successful until later in life (usually over 35). There are many reasons for why it can take some people a long time to blossom. It may be that they just haven’t had the opportunity to shine, or perhaps it was necessary for them to spend years gaining the knowledge and experiences they needed to achieve their goal. One of the wonderful things about life is there is always the possibility to change path and move in a new direction, so it is never really too late to achieve greatness.
Not only is it possible to find success later in life, but there are also a number of advantages to being older. You can benefit from all the knowledge and experience you have accumulated over the years, and this can give you an advantage when it comes to making decisions and providing for the needs of customers. It is also less likely that success is going to go to your head because you will have had time to develop some wisdom about life, and older people tend to feel more confident in themselves.
Here are just a few examples of entrepreneurs who were late-bloomers:
Reid Hoffman graduated from Stanford College in 1990 with the urge to change the world. but no idea about how he would go about it. He felt a bit aimless for the next 12 years, but he decided that the best way for him to make a difference was to become an entrepreneur. During this time he worked for IT companies like Fujitsu and Apple eWorld.
In 1997 he created a social media business called SocialNet.com, where the focus was on online dating, but it didn’t prove successful. He left to join the board of directors at PayPal. It wasn’t until age 35, after he co-founded LinkedIn that he started to experience real entrepreneurial success – this social media website now has over 259 million users.
Jack Weil continued to function as a capable CEO until his death in 2008 at the age of 107, so he really is a remarkable character. His company, Rockmouth Ranch Wear, sells clothing and paraphernalia based around a cowboy theme.
He didn’t open his first shop until 1946 when he was 45 years of age, but he was able to build a business by providing for the needs of ranchers in the Denver area. He slowly built up his company until he became one of the major suppliers of cowboy gear in the world. The peak of his success occurred in 2005 when his clothing was used in the movie Brokeback Mountain.
Harland David Sanders is probably the best example of a late-bloomer, and he the perfect inspiration for anyone who thinks they have left it too late to leave their mark on the world. He worked in lots of jobs including insurance seller, blacksmith’s helper, farmer, steamboat operator, fireman, railroad worker, filling station attendant, and salesman. Harland was in his sixties when he tried his hand at selling food.
It was the middle of the Great Depression, but he didn’t have many options left for making a living, so it must have felt like an act of desperation. In the beginning, the Colonel didn’t even have proper premises, and he would serve the meals in his living quarters. Harland went on to develop a secret chicken recipe that proved to be so popular the he was able to create a franchise. KFC now has 18,000 outlets in 120 countries, and his image can be recognized by most people on the planet – not bad for a business started by a 65 year old.
Ray Kroc was 52 years old when he found the project that allowed him to blossom. He was selling milkshake machines in California when he met the McDonald brothers. Ray was so impressed with their restaurant that he asked if he could begin building a franchise. Things worked out so well that he was soon able to purchase the company, and this freed Ray Kroc so he could focus on worldwide expansion. McDonalds is now the largest hamburger chain in the world, with annual profits of about US $5.5 billion.
Wally Blume was 57 years of age when he left the security of job in a diary business to start his own company. Denali Flavors is one of the most successful premium ice-cream companies in the US, with one product alone (Moose Tracks) making about US $80 million per year.
Going solo at an age when most people would be thinking about retirement was a huge risk, but it has definitely paid off for Wally. His years working in the diary business meant that he had all the knowledge and experience needed to invent ice-cream flavors that he knew would sell. It also helped to already have contacts and have developed a deep understanding of the industry before he went it alone.
Gary Heavin is the CEO of Curves International. This business, founded back in 2004, has become the leading name in fitness around the world, with over 10,000 locations. He has also made it into the Guinness Book of Records for creating the fastest growing franchise.
Gary was forty years old when he first opened up shop. He has experienced plenty of failure in his life, but it led to massive success. His first fitness business went bankrupt, and at one point he was sentenced to jail for failure to provide child support. Gary is a great example of how people can face failure many times before finally finding a path to success.
Henry Ford is one of the most successful businessmen of the twentieth century. His parents had expected him to take over the family farm, but at age 16 he left his home to get a job as a machinist in Detroit. By age thirty, he had managed to work his way up to chief engineer, but it took another 10 years before he was able to launch the Ford Motor Company.
One of the first cars his factory produced was the Model T, and it was a huge success because it was so affordable. He was able to provide his vehicles so cheaply because he was able to mass produce using assembly line techniques. Henry Ford was a bit of an enigma, and some of his personal beliefs would be considered repugnant (there are rumors of links to the Nazi party), but he still a good example of an entrepreneur who bloomed late in life.