Question: “Retirement is around the corner, but I’m not ready to leave the world of work entirely. Is starting a business a good idea or not?” Lizzy
Answer: Greg Mitchell, owner of Philly Pretzel Factory in Red Lion, had the same question before retiring from the State police.
Before you decide to use retirement funds – or any other type of funding – ensure that you have a viable business idea, a comprehensive business and marketing plan, and adequate capital. Meet with a SCORE counselor who can provide advice and guidance for your new venture.
Retirement isn’t normally the ideal time to experiment with something new. Choose a business that you know, or one to which your skills are transferable. Buying a profitable existing business or a franchise, as Mitchell did, are options to consider.
Research the market.
SCORE, in cooperation with Shippensburg University Small Business Development Center, and York College J. D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship offers workshops designed to answer, “Is my business idea realistic?” The five-part workshop examines attendees’ proposed products or services from a customer perspective, helps analyze the competition, and provides guidance on market research. Then attendees get assistance in drafting marketing and financial plans.
Build a team of pros. SCORE recommends having an accountant, an attorney and an insurance agent on your team early in the start-up process. Each of those professionals should specialize in small businesses.
Plan to work longer hours. Many entrepreneurs work longer hours for less pay than they did when they worked for someone else. When an employee is absent, it’s often the business owner who has to fill in. “I knew I’d be working long hours,” Mitchell said, “but I didn’t realize how much my business would cut into time with my grandchildren.”
Get training. Business owners are ultimately responsible for all functions – marketing, sales, operations, personnel and so on. Most people who are retiring are experienced in some but not all facets of business and will need training. Mitchell had to learn the ABC’s of hiring and sales.
Don’t go it alone. A SCORE counselor experienced in owning and running food service businesses visited Mitchell’s store and offered advice. They also exchanged ideas via email.
Baby boomers need to be careful not to lose their life savings on a business venture that flounders or fails. But knowledge and experience put them in a good position for success.
Mitchell compared starting a business to his fourteen-mile runs. “Perseverance and staying power are important for success in running for fitness and running a business.”
Send your questions to The SCOREBoard, York SCORE, 2101 Pennsylvania Avenue, York, PA 17404, or e-mail them to Score441.YorkSCORE.org. Include your name and telephone number. SCORE is a nonprofit organization of volunteer business counselors covering York and Adams counties. They provide free confidential business consultation and mentoring and low-cost workshops for start-up and existing small businesses. For more information or to volunteer call (717) 845-8830 or visit www.YorkSCORE.org.