Layoffs, health problems and other challenges are pushing baby boomers out of their jobs earlier than they might have intended, spurring many to hunt for new employment or change career paths altogether. And unlike their parents, many baby boomers see no reason to quit working just because they hit 65--hey, age is just a number! In fact, a study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, found that most boomers plan to work past the typical retirement age.
Entrepreneurs who want to provide them with career counseling must under-stand their varying needs. "For the people who have lost their jobs through layoffs, this is a crisis," says Heldrich Center director Carl Van Horn. "For the ones who are voluntarily changing careers because they felt unfulfilled in their first 20 years, it's a journey."
"These days, people actually talk about retirement careers, not just retirement," says Laura Berman Fortgang, 43, author of Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction and founder of Now What? Coaching, a one-woman business that earned $459,000 in 2006. "Over the past five years, my clients have almost exclusively become people who want to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives."
Thinking of launching your own baby boomer counseling business? Follow these tips:
- Know your customer. There is a wealth of information on the internet about careers and life change, and many baby boomers will find everything they need there. The boomers who will seek counseling are going to be more affluent and educated than the norm, according to Carl Van Horn, director of Rutgers" John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. "They"re not going to want to walk into a cubicle environment," he says.
- Be a joiner. Baby boomers seeking this kind of service aren't likely to look in the Yellow Pages, says Van Horn--trust and confidentiality are big issues for them. They'll probably ask friends and colleagues for referrals, much in the same way that they look for financial advisers. You don't need a large investment of capital for this business, but you have to invest heavily in face time. Join the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lions Club, and other local business organizations; go to church meetings, golf outings and local film festivals--and hand out thousands of business cards.
- Observe careful growth. Clients are going to expect very personal, customized service. As entrepreneurs in this field attract more clients and grow their businesses, they have to be careful not to lose that personal touch. "Big firms are good at transactional businesses, but entrepreneurs are good at personal service," Van Horn says. "It's the difference between dealing with Amazon and your neighborhood bookstore."
- Develop an umbrella of services. According to Laura Berman Fortgang, 43-year-old founder of Now What? Coaching in Montclair, New Jersey, sole practitioners should aim to provide an assortment of services at various price points because "there's only so much money you can make in billable hours--you need some passive income streams." She provides three months of personal coaching for $4,000--but also offers books, CDs, home study kits and weekend seminars to her clients.