Danny Lieberman, founder of Pathcare, the private social network utility for improving doctor-patient relationships talks about caring for people over the age of 50+ and helping overcome age discrimination.
At age 52 I was CTO of a credit card startup that crashed, and went through the trauma of a company that rapidly broke up, leaving me holding the bag with my engineers.
Since my first allegiance is to people that work for me, I made sure that salaries were paid (which was no small feat, begging and cajoling the investors into doing the right thing).
After the crash and burn, I set out to look for a job.
Three months later, I realized that there are plenty of ways you can tell someone over 50 that he need not apply – “we need this specific skill”, “you are overqualified”, “we don’t have anything suitable for a person of your caliber”….
In my case, I was very fortunate.
A former client invited me to lunch seeking some free advice on a new application he wanted to develop. At lunch, I told him that “if you raise money, I’ll do more than give you free advice, I’ll develop it for you”.
Two months later, he had raised a little seed money and we were off and running. I rolled up my sleeves and started coding again after a 10 year hiatus.
Six months later, I brought in one of my engineers from the crashed startup and we were cooking. We joked about it – drinking cheap Turkish coffee (the fuel of programmers); that if we ever made some real money, we’d get an espresso machine with decent coffee, because this cheap Elite stuff is really vile although the caffeine experience is fair enough.
If you asked me, I could write a book about being self-employed after age 50 and surving a startup that crashed and burned.
Instead, I will attempt to share a few insights which I hope will be helpful, if you find yourself in this situation.
Lesson no. 1 – Invest in yourself not in some company that doesn’t want you
You’ve been telling prospective employers how experienced you are, and how flexible you are and how much knowledge you have and how much experience you have managing engineers and writing budgets. You’ve been desperate enough to lie about your age and/or dye your hair (this article refers to men and women by the way).
If you’re so good, you owe it to yourself to create your own business and prove your value, the same kind of value you’re pitching to prospective employers. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should they?
Lesson no. 2 – It’s easier to learn marketing and sales than a lifetime of learning
You went to the school of hard knocks, you have 20+ years experience and if you want, you can learn anything. You can acquire sales skills easier than your competitors can acquire your knowledge.
Just because you never were in “sales” before, doesn’t mean you cannot do it. Some people are natural sales people, others have to learn.
After you read those 2 books, you will be buzzword compliant and ready to start mining your private social network for resources.
Your first stop in your private social network is the best salesperson you know. Ask your salesperson friend to coach you. If you have to pay someone a little money, it’s cash well spent. Even if you think you know how to sell, ask for help.
Selling is like shooting free throws. You need to practice 2-3 hours/day. I’m not kidding. The best way to practice is to engage with prospects.
Lesson no. 3 – Make a business plan.
That’s right. Pretend you’re the CEO and do a business plan. It’s pretty easy. You don’t need a Harvard Business School MBA (my son who did a Columbia MBA says that HBS stands for “Half Bull Shit”). If you’ve never written a business plan before, dig into your private social network again and ask a CFO/VP Biz dev friend to coach you. They will be more than happy. Here is an outline:
The Business Plan for over 50s
Identify your opportunity
1. What value do you provide your customers
2. What kind of profit, risk/return you can make
3. Is your venture a “Good fit to the founders capabilities”
4. Is it a durable idea, i.e. is there a large enough window of opportunity to build and grow a business
5. Is it amenable to financing, will external capital assist the business development ( I actually liked this one a lot, because practically no business plans I’ve ever seen really analyze how well the proposed venture is amenable to financing. It’s more
like we’re top notch entrepreneurs and I need 3M in seed, but not more because we don’t want to get diluted…)
Evaluate your new business
1. Estimate the Market (Analysis of growth, size, total available market)
2. Who are the competition, assess, find an edge
3. What are the economics of the opportunity
4. What resources are required
1. What new benefit do you provide
6. Awareness or latency of demand
7. Name potential cases/clients
9. Utility relative to substitute products/services
1. Price constraints
2. Supply and demand for product/service
3. Elasticity of demand
5. Fixed and/or variable costs of operation
6. Cost increases
1. Revenue sources
2. Cost drivers
3. Investment size
4. Critical success factors
1. Executive summary, 1 page
Lesson no. 4 – Ask for the deal
We’re dipping back into your private social network again – this time to generate deal flow.
Most sales by independent consultants, business developers, programmers, coaches or whatever, are made by word of mouth. Make a list of all the people who like you and appreciate what you’ve done over the years. Call each one up and ask them straight out for a lead or sales referral. Go back to former employers and pitch yourself.
Lesson no. 5 – Build up your private social network.
Setup a WordPress blog with your domain and put up a page with a clear statement of what you do and how you’ve helped people over the years. Write a Linkedin profile and join some groups in your area. Spend up to 20′ / day interacting. No more.
Lesson no. 6 – Don’t bother cold calling or going to networking events.
They’re a waste of time and will never get you business. If you need interacting with people, go to bars or midnight carwashes or the gym but don’t kid yourself – networking events for a 50 something independent entrepeneur are a waste of time. If you were a hot 20 something, then the picture would be different. Don’t feel bad. For hot 20 somethings, even 38 is over the hill.
Lesson no. 7 – Stay in shape.
Work out. Ride. Swim. Whatever you jive. At least 3 times a week.
Lesson no. 8 – ABC – always be closing.
Every conversation, email, discussion and interaction with friends in your private social network should be subtly focused on bringing in new business. Listen to what other people say – try and frame it into an opportunity, but don’t be pushy.
Lesson no. 9 – Be optimistic.
When you see someone – especially on a sales call – smile and think “I just want for this person to be happy”. After a while it will become a habit.
As I noted in my post “Turbocharging the doctor patient relationship with optimism” – optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy:
- If you have high expectations for your business you will always feel better.
- Optimism is not only the the result of closing a successful deal, it also leads to it. If you expect to do succeed, you will put more effort into making it succeed.
Lesson no. 10 – Better to act then to do nothing.
You are wondering whether to cold call the CEO of Company X and thinking how you could pitch your services.
Don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Just do it, but before you do it, remember that selling is a premeditated sport. Write out a script for the call and try it out on C-level executive friend or former colleague in your private social network; someone who is really tough. Just remember that you are selling a meeting with the CEO. Not a $5M deal. Just a meeting.
Dig into your private social network again and see if you have a friend who can make an introduction for you. If not, that’s fine. Go for it.
When you get a secretary gatekeeper giving you the cold shoulder, ask to speak to the CEO. Use your former title. Make friends with the secretary. If she bounces you to a VP, that is also good. Have her transfer you and tell them that the CEO referred you. Get the meeting.
If you do something and flub it, you can fix or try again. If you don’t try – then you never had the chance and it’s impossible to fix something that never happened.
- Just between us - Private messaging 1 on 1, group message from doctor to patients.
- Sharing that is so simple - Share your files, your guidance, your experience, your comments.