Older people have a number of natural advantages for becoming self-employed many of which have been identified in the literature. One resource that most grey entrepreneurs would appear to possess in greater quantities than their younger counterparts is the accumulated knowledge, skill, and learning that is acquired over a life-time of work. One factor portrayed as having impact on entrepreneurial success is technical knowledge (Jones-Evans 1996) although this is likely to be affected by the passing of time, particularly in terms of knowledge obsolescence.
Prior industry experience may give older people an advantage in identifying potential gaps in the current market (Storey 1994). Extensive management experience may allow the older entrepreneur to avoid many of the mistakes made by people unfamiliar with the task of organizing and managing a new or growing firm (Steiner & Solem, 1988). Other research has identified the importance of the professional and personal networks built up over the working life, Baucus & Human (1994) suggest that such personal links can help older entrepreneurs gain both finance and marketing support.
Another study focused particularly on the enterprising behaviour of the socially disadvantaged older people. It found that factors such as the social welfare benefits system had a negative impact on the willingness of older unemployed people to consider self-employment as a late career option. The gap between being outside the labour force (unemployed, benefits recipient or retired) and actually taking the step and contacting an enterprise support agency was also identified by the study as a barrier to entrepreneurship, this was particularly relevant for people who had been employees for 30 years or more. (Kautonen et al 2006).
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