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WHAT’S THE RIGHT AGE TO LAUNCH YOUR OWN FIRM?


I’ve been having a rash of conversations recently with folks who are on the fence about starting a new business.

Most of these people are chafing in oppressive work environments, but lack confidence in their ability to strike out on their own.

Some feel they need more experience and more name recognition, others worry about having the energy level required to launch something new.

Almost nobody has ever said, “I feel like I’m at exactly the right age to start a business.”

In business, as in politics, as in life, you’re young until you’re old. One day you’re staring up at a bunch of grizzled veterans who are dismissing you as being “just a kid,” and the next day you realize you’re 15 years older than the next oldest person at that networking happy hour. So at what age, exactly, is that sweet spot of energy and experience?

The most recent answer, according to research done by the Kellogg School of Business, may surprise you. It turns out that at least in the tech sector, the super-hot spot for optimum entrepreneurial launch occurs at the sexy young age of 45.

Yes, while the 24-year-old founders are out posing for the cover of Fast Company, the seasoned industry vets are quietly pounding their keyboards in nondescript offices, making all of the money.

But does the same hold true for the campaign industry, where some people start knocking doors in high school and college degrees are basically optional? After all, we’re a bunch of adrenaline junkies, and we tend to work on some pretty accelerated timelines.

Like any good consultant, my answer is: It depends.

You’re “too young” to start a business if you haven’t yet identified a need that isn’t currently being satisfied by someone better.

You’re “too young” if you have no idea how to pay your personal bills, and can’t stomach the idea of borrowing money to float you until you figure it out. And you’re “too young” if you can’t handle major problems if there’s nobody else to escalate the issue to.

Conversely, you’re “too old” to start a business if the very thought of serving clients while marketing and selling is exhausting to you. You’re also “too old” if you have no idea how social media works. Or it’s been 22 years since you’ve actually seen the inside of a campaign office, and you had really expected to be permanently lying on a beach a decade ago.

The sweet spot of “readiness” is when you don’t feel flustered by almost any question about your area of expertise, are confident that you know how to invest $1 to make $5, and the thought of ever working for anyone ever again, frankly, makes you throw up in your mouth a little bit.

And if you’re working for other people who you’re fully convinced you know how to do literally everything better than they can, it might just be time to put your money where your month is.

Michelle Coyle is the founder of BGSD Strategies.

This article originally appeared in Campaigns & Elections on July 11th, 2018.