The golden years are synonymous with retirement. I collaborate with and advocate for many senior citizens in my community, and the stereotype is that most senior citizens are not interested in entrepreneurship. The idea that older adults can and should start ventures as a viable solution to some of the economic challenges they face seem foreign to my peers and “experts” who want to help.
When Tom Flournoy was laid off at age 61 at the height of the economic recession in 2009, he was unable to find a job. He turned to family business. He tinkered around with his mom’s recipes and today Tom and Jill, his wife, own and operate Tom’s Tiny Kitchen Pimento Cheese based in Memphis, Tennessee. Their son, Ross Flournoy, is heavily involved with the business, while their daughter, McKenzie, works for them on occasion.
Here’s some advice from Tom for all of us:
Develop strong character traits no matter what your age.
I wanted to know Tom’s key to success. It may sound simple, but adhering to simple values has taken an unemployed older adult to a business with distribution in area stores, such as Kroger and Whole Foods. What are those traits?
Tom explained, “Persistence. Don’t take no for an answer. Hard work. Be willing, able and excited to start earlier and stay later than your competition. Treat those around you with respect. Be kind to and respectful of all those you encounter, whether they are employees, suppliers, or customers.”
These are not old-fashion values. Tom’s success demonstrates that living out these values every day can lead to success in business.
Use the opportunity to spend more time with children
One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard from senior citizens over the years is that their adult children and grandchildren are moving far away from home. The choice between finding a place to raise your family where “good jobs” are available and living in your hometown near your parents is something many families struggle with. Family business has been a vehicle for Tom to spend more time with his children.
Tom shared, “Being able to go to work every day with my wife and kids is a privilege. I’m very grateful for all the time we get to spend together.” At the same time, Tom does admit that spending all that time together can be a challenge.
Build trust with your spouse.
Tom and Jill are at the office by 7:30 a.m. Tom is involved in the production and delivery of the product to the grocery stores, which takes up much of the day. Jill stays at the office handling accounts, dealing with vendors and social media. They know their roles and they stay in their lanes, though help each other as needed.
Tom recommends that couples work together, if possible. The key is to have an open and trusting relationship. He understands the stress of running any type of business, and especially a family business. His advice is that couples must keep the lines of communication open. It’s crucial to be able to talk things through.
Get involved in the community.
Tom and Jill support several local events by supplying them with various cheese products. It’s a way to get the word out about their tight-knit family operation while supporting causes. Tom finds that people do appreciate and respond positively to their family story.
The temptation that many senior adults face is to remain isolated. Based on Tom and Jill’s experience, an added benefit of owning a family business is that seniors have an outlet to become more active and engaged in their communities.
Family business can foster closeness and intimacy among family. Tom explained, “The trust, bonds and affection of family make it a more intense, and ultimately, a more rewarding experience. If you have a warm, close, trusting relationship with your family, then I would certainly advise going into business with them if it were an option. There are no better partners to be found than family!”