Older Workers Must Be Proactive About Their Future

Rather than simply keep your head above water, take steps right now to build economic resiliency.

learn more about Rick Terrien

By Rick Terrien

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Rick Terrien is the author of Ageless Startup: Start a Business at Any Age, via Entrepreneur Press. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound.

The world has changed. This is not a drill. Older workers are especially vulnerable to being left behind. No matter what our career is, we are all facing a new normal in our work life. There are more than 100 million people in the U.S. between the ages of 40 and 65. All of us need to consider new options to create value and work in the future. If older workers wait for help, we will likely find ourselves waiting a long time.

We need to get ahead of this entire problem, not just the immediate issues this crisis presents. Planning for the recovery means taking stock of where you will be working 10 or 15 years from now — or even a couple years from now.

You can choose a course for yourself of just keeping your head above water in roiling business currents, or you can take active steps right now to build more economic resiliency into your life. A better approach is to be proactive about your future and begin building more stable platforms under yourself.

Being proactive allows you to grow your networks and put the building blocks in place to work and contribute as long as you want. For most people, it is easy and inexpensive to launch one-person Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). Creating a professional business shell around yourself gives you an independent economic platform to experiment with as you test and grow your business model.

Having your own small-business shell around yourself does not guarantee success, but it does give you access to tools you will need to succeed. You need to start there. Trying to operate as an individual, without the benefits that an LLC or other entities offer, can put you at a disadvantage with work partners, customers and your own operations.

New ventures of every kind are needed right now to meet the opportunities ahead. Entrepreneurs fix problems. If you don't see enough problems in the situation we're in, you're not looking. You don't have to leave your day job if you have one. A much better approach is to gradually transition from paid employment to self-employment, working out the details of your new enterprise while you still have some financial support.

Related: Laying the Groundwork for Your Ageless Startup

Once you establish your own base, you can begin reaching out to other entrepreneurs, creating valuable networks that you can all bring to the market. Proactively planning your career in this environment is not a lone-ranger policy. You need to first wire up your own small-business platform and then begin reaching out to other independent entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

No one person is an expert at everything. However, we are all great at something we know and love. Start there and then build teams of collaborators around yourself. By aligning your new small business with other entrepreneurs, you can aggregate sufficient knowledge and know-how to offer customers comprehensive solutions to changing problems.

Build your know-how networks as a marketing tool for this new environment. You are offering the world not only your own solutions, but the more comprehensive solutions only available through curated teams. You can build your own valuable teams and join others, project by project. Once you begin building your list of collaborating organizations, you have the makings of a proactive, long-term plan to grow your new enterprise.

In this new paradigm, business projects can emerge as "intentional startups." A city needs a new plant to produce X. A business needs a new service to provide Y. A nonprofit needs to expand into Z but doesn't know how. You as the entrepreneur and the convener of teams of support businesses can offer turnkey solutions by creating an intentional startup out of the skill sets you've assembled. You and your team can come together for whatever time is available to initiate and launch your solutions, then move on to new projects.

You are not alone. Of the 32 million businesses in the U.S., 25 million are one-person (non-employer) businesses. As a solo entrepreneur, you can position yourself at the exact point in the value chain where you provide the most effective solutions. Consider those 25 million small businesses your collaborators.

In this model, work you excel at doesn't have to emerge solely from your own marketing efforts, but will develop over time as other entrepreneurs seek out your specialty for emerging projects. You can proactively manage your career by creating new options that work for your needs, that focus on your skills and knowledge and that fit into the time you have available.

How can you make an ageless startup work for you? Consider the benefits:

• One person businesses can be planned and launched for a few hundred dollars.

• Your own small business gives you the freedom to work on whatever you most love in communities and markets you are passionate about.

• Ageless entrepreneurs excel at working from home.

• You can work as much or as little as you choose.

• You can minimize your risk by creating a freestanding entity with built-in liability protections.

• You can minimize your risk by documenting and adhering to your mission, values and goals.

• You can minimize your risk by creating your own guidelines for the kinds of work you want to engage in and eliminating projects that don't meet those standards.

• You create value by offering specific solutions to problems you are familiar with. You create value by teaming with like-minded entrepreneurs, from anywhere in the world, to create comprehensive solutions to those problems. Collaboration just might be your superpower.

Older workers face many new uncertainties in this "new normal'. We can let ourselves be swept up by the tides of turbulence surely ahead of us, or we can proactively take the steps needed to make ourselves more economically resilient.

Related: Why Marketing Activities and Tracking Will Help Your Ageless Startup Succeed

The world needs you. The communities and markets you love need you. Society needs new ideas and new solutions. You have the knowledge, the know-how and the networks to join this fight and to make the world better for all involved. Take the proactive steps needed to get your next act underway. I recommend starting small, starting smart, and starting right now. It's not hard. It's just new.

Rick Terrien


I am a lifelong entrepreneur with a focus on sustainability. My own business launches that have exceeded 40 years, 20 years, 10 years and five years. I was awarded U.S. Small Business New Product of the Year, as well as Fast Company's Fast 50 (now The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies).

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