Not too long ago when we thought of entrepreneurs an image of 20-somethings came to mind. Entrepreneurs we thought came from the ranks of the young. But in the future that won't be the case for many of the small businesses that form the backbone of the U.S. economy.
Small business is graying. And that should come as no surprise. That great bulge of population known as the Baby Boomers has changed everything it has touched in its generational march, and Boomers are getting pretty gray.
Fortified with corporate buyouts, early retirement, stock options, and severance packages, people who once would have been thought of as being in the twilight of their working lives will be carving out second or even third careers as small businesses owners.
The Boomers in their fifties, sixties, and seventies will be a different species from their parents. They'll be more likely to take on new challenges than to look for a place in the sun. For many, owning their own business will be a long sought dream, a chance to cap a lifetime of work with a more personal and individual accomplishment.
Vendors will have to be ready to respond to older, savvier business owners, many of whom will have worked for companies very much like those trying to sell to them. These new small business owners will be more sophisticated and knowledgeable than earlier, younger first-time entrepreneurs.
Expect them to have well-honed negotiating skills and acumen out of proportion to the size of their businesses. Don't be surprised if they are better versed in procurement procedures and marketing tactics than the people selling to them.
This will be a new breed of entrepreneur. They won't be the young, high flyers of the 1990s dreaming of IPOs and constantly recurring triple-digit growth. Many will be going into business with an expectation of establishing moderate but steady revenue streams.
They will have established strong reputations. Many will be acknowledged experts in their fields, and they are likely to have contacts at high levels within some of the world's largest corporations.
In short, the graying of entrepreneurs will change the way organizations large and small do business with smaller enterprises. Small business is trending older. The way in which individuals and companies respond to that trend will play a large role in determining their success or failure in the small business marketplace.