A majority of start-ups all over the world are founded by young men and women in their twenties and possibly in their early thirties. While the ideas are excellent and their energy levels are great, most start ups start to falter within a couple of years because of poor or inadequate control systems, over aggressive scaling up, weak financial planning, insufficient focus on people management etc.
At the same time, thousands of senior managers are retiring from the corporate world at the young age of between 60 and 65 years after spending almost four decades in specialized and general management positions in major and smaller corporations. Yet they clearly have at least another decade of work inside them. They know what it is like to run businesses and tackle the challenges of building them.
Passion of the Young with Wisdom of the Old
There is a huge opportunity to bring together the vision of the entrepreneur and the experience of the older manager in an unobtrusive and non-threatening manner. Not every senior manager has the energy or the risk taking capability to start off on their own. The older managers, in the twilight of their careers, are not yet ready to hang up their gloves. They are looking to stay occupied, earn some money, and give back their life’s learnings. Further, these senior citizens will be much more stable for a start-up – they will not resign and walk away in a hurry because another exciting opportunity has come up.
Bringing Best to the Table
In addition to watching the back of the entrepreneur and guiding them when the ship hits troubled waters, such individuals will also bring in strong knowledge gained through several years of experience in areas like:
- Good Governance Practices: All start-ups should normally be started with the objective of building a strong and stable business which can mature into an institution. A strong Ashutosh Garg, Founder and Chairman, Guardian Pharmacies senior partner will ensure that the entrepreneur focuses on building good governance and transparent practices in the organisation. Even something as mundane as ensuring board meetings are held on time. Properly recording the meeting minutes is where start-ups have been known to slip up.
- Fund Raising: While most startups are looking for funding from angel Investors and private equity investors, there is a large domain of raising funds from banks through debt and working capital financing. A good senior finance expert will bring in contacts and experience to reach out to the banking system.
- External Relations: Most businesses, irrespective of the sector they are addressing, need a strong connect with the external world. These connections could be with bureaucrats, politicians, environmental activists or the local councilor. A strong and experienced senior citizen will have the patience to handle these external challenges.
- Legal Processes: In addition to hiring legal help during formation and fund raising, most businesses are faced with a lot of legal challenges. Once again, an older and more experienced manager will bring wisdom in handling such matters.
Teamwork - All it Takes Having mentored several entrepreneurs, I have seen the value of a person who has “been there done that”. For the entrepreneur, it is a very lonely job and there are very few people he can trust. I have often said that the combination of young energetic legs with grey hair would be a win-win combination for all start-ups. To draw a parallel from hockey or football, the entrepreneur is the centre forward rushing to shoot goals and the older manager is the goal keeper who will protect the companies turf and ensure that self-goals are not scored!
(This article was first published in the December issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)