6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The pandemic is dealing all of us, especially older workers, a hand that is full of danger and opportunity. Don’t waste a crisis. If you have the ability to start your own small enterprise, you can change the world from your home office.
Most people view this as simply doing the same work from a different location, while others will view it as a new opportunity to work for themselves. Whatever your outlook, setting up a remote home office is the first step toward creating a network of like-minded professionals in similar circumstances.
Anyone can use this sea change in remote-work opportunities to launch new small enterprises that they control, whose values represent their interests in communities or markets they are passionate about. And it can create a particularly significant economic opportunity for people exploring entrepreneurship in the second half of life. In a post-pandemic world, no one cares about pretense. No one needs to be impressed by elaborate commercial settings. The world needs competence, problem-solving and sustainable solutions.
Small groups of independent entrepreneurs, working remotely from one another geographically, can come together to tackle significant societal and commercial issues quickly and effectively. But how do you make this collaborative model work while working from a home office?
Create an LLC
First, you need to professionalize your service or product offering by creating a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to house your business life. While this is technically not required, it is for most other professionals you want to deal with. An LLC will cost a few hundred dollars to establish, but it is the best money you can spend when entering commerce.
LLCs also allow you to publish the public “rules” for your business. Anyone you want to sell to or collaborate with can look at your LLC structure to see what’s behind your offer and how the entity will behave under varying circumstances. LLC status will allow you to establish separate banking and accounting channels to keep from muddying the waters between personal and business finances.
There are other, more complicated business entities available, such as S-Corporations, C-Corporations, partnerships, etc. If these seem worth researching given your personal circumstances, seek legal advice before taking action. While these can all work, the LLC is the minimum, and typically most appropriate, business-entity strategy for the majority of us to professionalize our work.
A New Collaborative Model
I’ve personally taken the initative to help found a new nonprofit with the aim of encouraging peer-to-peer collaboration among independent entrepreneurs working remotely from one another. The ultimate goal is to nurture common ground and new business opportunities. The effort, called The Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs (CAE), will be based online and launch this summer, offering free training information and paid networking services for those exploring entrepreneurship in the second half of life.
In the past, I often wished these kinds of forums existed. A case in point is the current startup I have been helping launch for the last couple years. Three small independent businesses — from three different locations — came together to address a problem one community was facing. A regional utility based in Pittsburgh convened the discussion, and our three small companies came together to address those issues. In short order, we formed a new organization (Food21), outlined its mission, values and goals and implemented the action steps that are now setting standards for how regional food systems can be rebuilt to become more resilient and sustainable.
In this case, the three entrepreneurs had worked together in the past and knew the ethics and character of the people we were combining with. The Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs will scale that vetting process with a goal of launching and networking thousands of new entrepreneurs in the second half of life.
The Food21 model is an excellent example of an intentional startup that centers like the CAE can facilitate launching. Problems are identified; a convener brings together professional small businesses with the requisite skills; proposals are made; and solutions are launched. Intentional startups are here to stay, and having a platform to certify the participants and enable these kinds of solutions to flourish will be critical to their success.
This is not for everyone. Many older entrepreneurs may want to tuck into their own niche and plant their flag there. However, many of us — especially those of us working remotely from home offices — can utilize this CAE model (and it is just that, a model, and anyone can and should incubate similar platforms for their industry) as a strategic advantage for growing their enterprises. Individuals won’t have to have all the answers. As projects arise, they can search other like-minded entrepreneurs through these digital platforms to bid on projects they all care about, bringing to the table specific expertise needed to complement others in the group.
The Scaling Power of Peer-to-Peer Networks
You can utilize these kinds of professional networking services — however you access them — to meet and greet new peers, market to new customers and find advisors you may need to assist you and your work. As you grow your involvement in these networks, you become more economically resilient and sustainable. At minimum, you’ll gain exposure to new ideas, new tools and, importantly, new and emerging work for your new enterprise.
Employers can utilize these centers to help their older workers transition to working independently. This could be an ideal way to retain key talent within industries, while offering workers good options for building more independence and control into their late-career options. In the post-pandemic world, where new models will be required, industries and communities can utilize these centers to preserve and grow vital markets that might otherwise be lost to layoffs, firings and forced retirements.
The world will still rely on global supply chains after the current crisis passes, but there is now a clear consensus that supply chains also need to be locally resilient. We need the skills, knowledge and networks that older workers represent, and we can create tools and platforms to help them succeed as independent entrepreneurs, working remotely and effectively to bring about the changes the world needs.
Related: Starting a Business That People Need
Offer your ideas and hard work to the world. Join with other professional entrepreneurs. Build resiliency and independence for yourself, your loved ones, communities you love and markets you are passionate about. Welcome!