Almost everyone thinks about starting a business at some point. The thought may enter your mind when you come up with an ingenious way to stop your ice cream cone from dripping, or when you get a job and realize you want more control over your work, or when you hear about the multi-billionaires of the world and start fantasizing about making your own riches.
Whatever your motivation, if you’re going to start one, there’s an ideal time to do it — while you’re still in your 20s and 30s. Why is that?
1. Long-term potential returns. First, imagine for a moment that you’ve built a successful business. It’s profitable, stable, and generates a nice six-figure salary for you. Assume that this setup can continue indefinitely, and that you enjoy the work. Wouldn’t you want to reap the rewards of this setup for as long as possible? If so, it pays to start your business as early as possible. Yes, it’s an optimistic scenario, but it’s an achievable one, even if it takes you two or three tries to build a successful enterprise. The bottom line is, the more time you can spend as an entrepreneur, the better long-term returns you’re going to see.
2. Risk tolerance. Let’s face it — not all startups are going to make it. You need to be realistic about this, regardless of your age. Starting a business demands a lot of upfront investment, in both time and money, and you’ll bear significant risk, both in your finances and in your current or “backup” career. Just like in financial markets, the younger you are, the better you’re going to be able to tolerate that risk; you’ll have fewer responsibilities, fewer commitments, and much more time to make up any losses you incur. Therefore, starting a business as early as possible mitigates your potential losses.
3. Energy and motivation. It takes a lot of work to run a startup, too. Don’t forget that. Though not written in stone, it’s a general rule that younger professionals have more energy, motivation, and enthusiasm than older generations. You may be a youthful spirit for the next several decades, but the thing is, you can’t know for sure. What seems like a solid “maybe” idea now may become a “no way” idea in 10 years, and the work you’d throw yourself into now may be work you’d avoid at all costs next decade. Every year, your energy and motivation will decline. Take advantage of them while you have them.
4. Adaptability. Younger people tend to be more adaptable. A part of the reason is that they’ve had a shorter amount of time to be exposed to the norms and rules of the professional world, and are less committed to those entrenched ideals. A bigger part of the reason has to do with our unique technological age; we face major technological disruptions on a regular basis, and the only way for companies to survive is to adapt and integrate these new technologies. In your 20s and 30s, you’ll stand a better chance of recognizing and incorporating these new technologies quickly (and as you get older, the rate of development for these technologies will grow even faster). Start a business while you’re more nimble, and you’ll brave even more volatile waters.
5. Serial entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs who truly love entrepreneurship end up starting multiple businesses, becoming serial entrepreneurs in their own right; it’s as if they were born to be entrepreneurs. And for the most part, every new business they start is better than the last, thanks to their previous experience, new contacts, and broader perspectives. Starting your first business when you’re in your 20s or 30s sets you up for a longer period of time to start even more businesses; essentially, you’ll be maximizing the potential experience you can gain, and greatly increasing the number of businesses you can start. Don’t throw away that potential by waiting around.
None of these reasons are meant to imply that you can only start a business when you’re in your 20s and 30s, or that if you’re in your 40s or over, you’ve missed the boat. On the contrary, older entrepreneurs often carry more experience and decision making abilities, and are extremely capable of building effective businesses. However, the unique blend of advantages that younger adults have make it a highly strategic time to start up a business.
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, and the thought of entrepreneurship has entered your mind more than once, don’t write it off as a pipe dream. Dig into some research, explore your ideas, and make the most of your youth by pouring your energy into a business. No matter how it turns out, you’ll be glad you did.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!