A blog rated “Adults Only”

16 September 2010

Randal Charlton

Randal Charlton, Executive Director, TechTown

If you are under 18, it is my advice that you should really stop reading and click to another page.

Come to think of it, this blog isn’t suitable for anyone under 28, 38, or even 48, so it might be better if you also clicked your mouse to another page for material more suitable for your age.

Okay, since you are still with me, I assume you are a senior, sporting a grey hair or two, and earned the hard way through experience and the occasional hard knocks on the journey of life.

I think it was Oscar Wilde who commented that “youth is wasted on the young.” As someone now in my seventy-first year, I have to agree. If only, if only I had known what I now know back when I was 21, I could have made a much better job of…. well, never mind, there is no point in looking backwards.

As seniors, we have to look forward and that includes dealing with the challenges that this generation of older folks face.

Many of us have had our retirement portfolios seriously diminished by the financial crisis of 2008. Many folks over 65 are realizing that they need to keep working well into their 70s to generate enough income to keep going. But here’s the good news for us golden oldies. In my non-medical opinion, two medical advances have dramatically enhanced our useful lives. These are joint replacements and cataract surgery. We are no longer condemned to stagger around assisted living facilities in Florida at the risk of following our walkers blindly into the facility swimming pool. We have no excuses for inaction.

It also seems to me that the generations following us need a little support to dig the country out of recession. Here is one opportunity to deliver that help.

Accelerate Michigan is running a business plan competition with hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. There is a special category and prize for seniors in recognition of the fact that the more mature among us have made more business mistakes and, hopefully, learned from them. I expect interesting entries from my peers, and a lot of them. One of the surprising facts to emerge from an analysis of our FastTrac courses for new entrepreneurs is that fully one-third of our 3,000 attendees in the last year have been over 46, and 10 percent of those have been over 56 years of age.

I still blush when I remember the absurd forecasts of the first business plan I wrote back in my twenties.

I had no idea about margins needed to cover operating costs, much less how big the market was and how I would deal with the competition. That first business plan was based on more fantasy than a Harry Potter novel. I projected a modest loss in year one, break-even in year two and a profit of a gazillion dollars in year three. In those days, three years was off in the far, far distance. Today, it seems like a short 36 months to get a business up and running.

Over the years, the plans I authored were gradually a little more grounded in reality, but it wasn’t until I was over 60 that I produced a plan that could be reviewed three years after it was written without inducing gales of laughter.

Now I know there are many seniors out there who learned the business lessons of life a lot faster than I did. So I believe we could be a force to be reckoned with in this competition, producing thoughtful, experience-based plans.

While the young are sidetracked by the delights, distractions and delusions of youth, we seniors can come up with experience-based creative plans to help drive Detroit and Southeast Michigan in a new direction. I am looking forward to meeting the winner of the senior award, but you know what? We oldies might even grab the big $500,000 open prize.

To learn more about the Accelerate Michigan business plan competition, click here.

TechTown is proud to be part of a senior engagement program funded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. You can learn more about this program, called BOOM! The New Economy, be sure to attend TechTown’s First Friday event on October 1, where I will discuss how we plan to enlist the talents of 40-plus adults to help baby boomers into the ranks of entrepreneurship. Register now by clicking here.

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Source: TechTown Blog

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