Archive for February, 2011

Dale Klein Joins The Re-Invention Connection

February 24, 2011

Hello Boomers,

The latest Baby Boomer Entrepreneur to join The Re-Invention Connection is Corporate Communication & Speech Specialist Dale Klein.  We hope her story of Re-Invention will inspire you to find the answer that is right for your future.  

The Re-Invention Connection by Dale Klein, M.A.

Questions are the most powerful aspect of communicating, particularly with ourselves; what questions have you asked yourself lately? In fact, I’m confident that in large part I’m the entrepreneur I am today because of the questions I’ve been posing to myself for quite some time.  Let me give you an example:  Why am I in this job? How did I end up here?  What other options exist for me? 

Do any of these questions sound remotely familiar?  While questions can be very telling, at some point you also want to provide answers.  As I look back at my career history I believe I’ve been questioning myself for the better part of my work life.  This stemmed from my sense of dissatisfaction and frustration and often being in a quandary about how to resolve those feelings.  After all, I had pursued a “stable” professional path as a Speech & Language Pathologist, earned an advanced degree and was in an industry where there was high demand.  Seems like it all pointed in the right direction and yet those questions nagged at me, relentlessly. 

Without any particular direction, I decided to make a change.  Since I no longer identified with being a clinician, how about becoming a Supervising Speech & Language Pathologist?  While that may sound like a reasonable question, there was one small problem.  This is a highly coveted role and therefore openings were virtually non-existent; so much for making a change.  Not being willing to maintain the status quo, I came up with the proverbial “Plan B.”  Since my clinical experience afforded me familiarity with healthcare, I decided to begin my search for a management position within this arena.  Of course this prompted yet another question:

What are my qualifications to become a manager?  Unfortunately I lacked a sound response but desperation overcame me and before long I found myself on my second career track.  Recognizing that I was indeed capable of being hired it seemed only reasonable that at long last I would have found the “missing puzzle piece,” but after multiple job hops it was apparent that wasn’t the case at all.  What else was left?  Now that was a tough question! 

Between investing 8 years as a clinician plus another decade or so as an administrator, I could feel the “clock ticking” and still no answers to my ongoing questions. Towards the latter part of my management experience I revisited my initial profession and became aware of what was known as Corporate Speech Pathology.  As interesting as this sounded, it clearly meant becoming an entrepreneur and the mere thought of the word sent chills down my spine.  As you may have suspected, I now posed a new set of questions to myself.  They sounded like this: Are you crazy? How will I survive? Do I really have what it takes to run a business?  The more I considered this route, the more rampant my self-doubt became.  And then…it dawned on me that I didn’t have to bite off more than I could chew. 

My next decision was to explore this pathway on a part-time basis while holding down my full-time job as an Internal Medicine Practice Manager.  It certainly made for some very long days plus giving up weekends but it was the only feasible way I could see approaching this.  Additionally, it afforded me the financial security from my full-time job.  In some ways it was analogous to putting my big toe in the water without jumping in all the way. 

When looking back at this conservative decision, I still believe it was the right one for me.  During this period there was considerable trial and error, largely because I didn’t have a mentor or really anyone to offer me guidance.  Once again, my reliance on asking questions came in handy as I quickly realized how little I knew about business start-up.  To promote my services, I contacted The Knowledge Network (local adult education program) and gave my pitch which lead to conducting a 2-hour workshop several times a year.  This proved to be an ideal way to get my name out and start building my credibility.  

After six years of offering my services in the evenings and on weekends, the year was now 2000 and a new wrinkle presented itself.  My employer’s corporate office based in Oakland, CA, decided to divest of the Northeast and that meant the writing was on the wall for me and several thousand of my colleagues.  My job or what had come to be my “safety net,” was quickly coming to an end and that coupled with turning 45, struck me as terrifying.  My first instinct was to dust off my resume and get myself right out there pounding the pavement in search of my next “safety net.”  Of course there was the outlandish option of ramping up my business, full-time! What ensued consisted of many heart-to-heart talks with my spouse, enormous self-doubt, cost-of-living calculations, etc.  Throughout this time I repeatedly asked myself: Am I ready to take the leap and become a real entrepreneur; do I truly have what it takes?  As the days quickly slipped by and my job soon ceased to exist, I took the plunge; I told myself if I’m not ready now, when will I be?  

That was July of 2000 and as I write this it is the first quarter of 2011…and I’ve never looked back!  During my tenure as an employee I’ve worked for some tough employers but none quite as demanding as working for myself.  Today, I’m filled with immense pride as I realize that this is a labor of love and each day holds unexpected surprises.  As a business owner I’ve made my share of mistakes and don’t imagine that will change any time soon but each one has made me savvier.  Fortunately, I’ve also experienced several successes that have propelled the business and helped to create and fortify my reputation. 

Running your own business doesn’t come with an owner’s manual but keep in mind you don’t have to know all the answers up front.  My advice is as follows:

1. Determine if there is a proven market demand for whatever service or product you’re providing; you may have a brilliant idea but if you can’t sell it, it will always remain an idea.  Unfortunately, ideas don’t pay the bills; that’s a reality any business owner must face.

2. Sell yourself; it’s key to your success, irrespective of how phenomenal your product or service may be.  Your target audience can probably purchase your product/service from a competitor, but there’s only one of you; learn how to sell yourself!

3. Networking is the single most cost-effective way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the business world and there are multiple routes to accomplish this.   Networking is one of the best means to stay connected and ensure that you remain top of mind for your clients and prospects.

4. Prepare to persevere despite the rejections and lulls. Hard work pays big dividends; give it all you’ve got and you’ll never regret it.

5. Seek outside expertise that allows you the freedom to grow your business; devote time to working on your business as well as in your business. 

My question for you is: What extraordinary idea is calling to you, just waiting to be developed into your own inimitable creation?  The answer lies within you. 

Learn more about Dale’s business on our site at http://www.myboomer2boomer.com/communication.html or go to Dale’s site at http://www.profitablespeech.com.  When you want to speak like a “pro,” there’s only one place to go… Profitable Speech, LLC, A Sound Investment.

Boomers Mean Business

February 17, 2011

Some 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day for nearly the next two decades.  Wow!  What an opportunity for business.  All of those aging Boomers will need lots of products and services.  Some Boomers will become entrepreneurs.  We will share some of their stories through The Re-Invention Connection.  Watch for their stories here or at www.myboomer2boomer.com

The majority of Baby Boomers are not yet retirement age and will likely continue to seek employment.  Yet all too many have already been effectively retired due to attitudes about their value to businesses as employees.  We have cited the statistics, we have debunked the negative perceptions and inaccurate stereotypes.  Yet the struggle continues and the situation is not much improved.  

Baby Boomers are not alone in the struggle to secure employment as the economy stubbornly fails to add enough new jobs.  Businesses continue to stall as too few buyers purchase their products and services.  Adding more jobs will require growing demand but can that occur while the largest generation continues to suffer very long-term unemployment, while ageism continues to grow in the workplace? 

Marketer’s have always loved Baby Boomers because of their purchasing power. Businesses continue to create and market products and services of interest to us because statistics show our households each spend an average of $10,000 more per year than any other age group. 

Yet, surprisingly, today’s businesses somehow think Boomer buying habits are sustainable even as they are seen as less desirable employees. Long-term, pervasive Boomer joblessness continues to negatively impact the discretionary spending habits of the largest, most consistent group of über spenders in the marketplace. It’s scary that businesses cannot see the connection.

We believe that Boomers can help change this by actively seeking out and supporting companies that actively recruit and hire Boomers. What if millions of Baby Boomers supported such Boomer Friendly business’s with their purchasing power?  Those businesses would not only survive, they would thrive and grow to create more jobs which would help every generation.  

We will continue to search for and highlight Boomer Friendly businesses at www.myboomer2boomer.com so you can support them with your purchasing power. Money is the lifeblood of any business. They need it and Boomers have it. But if no one will hire Boomers, it won’t be long before Boomers have nothing left to spend.

If you are an employer, hire some Boomers.  Gain the benefit of their experience, their work ethic, their skills, their knowledge.  Gain the benefits of growing the purchasing power of the largest generation of consumers.

If you are a Boomer, become a smarter consumer by seeking out and supporting Boomer Friendly Businesses.  Ask if they actively recruit and hire Boomers.  You might not like the answer – yet. But if you don’t ask, they won’t understand that Boomers are watching, that Boomers are still the best market they have, and that Boomers mean business – in more ways than one.

Becky Davis Joins The Re-Invention Connection

February 15, 2011

Hello Boomers,

Last week we announced our Re-Invention Connection initiative.  Here is our first Baby Boomer entrepreneur’s story.  Becky Davis Design is listed on www.myboomer2boomer.com under our Products and Services tab, in the Web Design/Marketing Service category.  

We hope that Becky’s story will inspire you to seek your passion too, and to uncover the knowledge and skills that you possess that may be the seeds of your own future business.  

How I Started My Business

By Becky Davis

Starting my business all started with a very simple question – “So, what do I really want to do now?” After 20+ years of taking care of kids and working for someone else, this question was thrilling, exciting and totally terrifying. I was at a crossroads; my youngest was going to go to college soon, my last unfulfilling contract job had come to an end and the fear and horror of going on one more job interview made me sick to my stomach. I had sold a house at the height of the market a couple of years earlier and was a happy renter, so with enough savings tucked away to get me by for a while I was able to really ask the question. I was 48 and starting from scratch.

Unfortunately, I had no ideas on what to do and for several months sunk into the black hole of nowhere to go and nothing to do. While out riding my bike one afternoon, I passed my local city college and stopped on a whim to see if there might be some interesting classes. To my great interest I found a “web design certificate” program in the continuing education section. I was a theater design major back in the day, built a site in Notepad in 1996 and have been working in IT for over 10 years. Web design seemed like the perfect fit for me; combining my creative and tech sides.

I jumped into the classes and really enjoyed it. I had worked with most of the software before, but this was a great way to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. So much to learn! Even after 3 years, I still feel that way; which is probably why I still love doing this. Every new project brings a new challenge to my design sense and coding capabilities.

My first few clients were family and friends; a good place to make mistakes and expand my newly minted skills. The decision to take it to prime time and make it a full-time business was a complete leap of faith. My desire to control my own career was strong enough to take the leap and my belief in myself was strong enough to know that I would create a soft landing. The passion I had for the work and the desire to educate my clients was the air that filled the parachute.

I did two smart things at the beginning that really kick started my business. The first was going to SCORE to get counseling. I have to admit that the counseling itself was not that great due to the older counselors not really understanding web design as a business. But what it did do was get me on their mailing list for workshops. I got an invitation to one called “Taking Your Business Online”. My first thought was “I don’t really need this, but I want to meet the people in the room who do.”

I did not find a client that day, but I did talk SCORE into doing my own seminar; “Small Business Web Design: Everything Business Owners Need to Know”. I now teach this seminar 4 or more times a year at SCORE and for the city of Chicago Department of Business Affairs. While I almost never walk away with clients from these seminars right away, people from them often come to me months later and the credibility it gives to my business is invaluable.

The second was going to a local meetup for webmasters. (Go to meetup.com to find groups in your area.) I work out of my house, so going to a meeting where I could meet fellow professionals in person and come home with a page full of notes and ideas was just what I needed. I went initially to learn and meet people. I still do that and am now an assistant organizer for two web related meetups in my area and I often attend others. The surprise came when I started getting business out of these meetings. I am now often tapped to help with other projects and I if I run across things I can’t do, I have a dozen people who I can call to help me. It’s really quite wonderful and a great way to get a lot of tips and to keep up with all the changes in my industry.

My business has grown like a new flower bed. The first year slept, the second year crept and the third year has leaped. I’m at the end of my third year and each year has grown by 50%. I was tapping into savings all the time at the beginning and now I’m paying my bills and even have enough extra for some fun. Next year’s goal is to make enough to fund my retirement as well.

I also believe that Becky Davis Design has been so successful because of my commitment to customer service and transparency. Unfortunately in many tech industries there is a big knowledge gap between the client and the vendor. This fosters a client attitude of “I don’t want to know, just create it or fix it” and a vendor attitude of “I’m not going to tell you anything because you won’t understand.” What I teach in my seminar and preach with my clients is that web design is a collaborative process. My design and coding skills can build your website but not without your input and content. Sometimes my clients complain about the amount of homework I’ve given them but I’m building something that is about their business and expertise. Shouldn’t it be their passion/experience/product that shines through on their site and not mine?

If there is anything that building this business has taught me it’s this:

  • Passion and commitment to my clients is what will get me the work
  • There is always enough work; so it’s OK to share, learn and mentor
  • Never underestimate the power of networking

—————

Becky Davis, owner of Becky Davis Design is a web designer and developer specializing in WordPress theme development, training, consulting and site maintenance for small businesses.

A Re-Invention Connection

February 9, 2011

Good morning Boomers,

I caught an interview with the First Lady on the Today show this morning as she was talking about the need to constantly re-tool, re-educate, re-invent.  She commented that the jobs we used to do aren’t coming back.  

Springsteen said the same thing years ago.  The employment landscape has long been changing.  Ask those whose jobs were impacted by that “giant sucking sound” when Nafta changed their world.  The only thing that’s new are the many sales, service and administration jobs that have now disappeared too.  

We can wail and gnash about how horrible big business is – how they have ruined the country by going elsewhere to produce the low-cost products that we all want to buy – or we can get to our local community college, start a business, morph into something new, or recycle the old.

All very serious stuff and perhaps daunting.  While we know that we need to change to become what employers want and need today, the question for many is “What do they want?”  Even if we all discover the answer and get retrained, there still will not be enough jobs for everyone who wants one.   

We need innovation, new inventions, and new ideas. We need entrepreneurs.  Although some may find the research surprising, the group that continues to start the most new businesses, that continues to be at the forefront of innovation and invention is Baby Boomers.

So for all of you Boomers who remain unemployed, who haven’t found an employer who wants what you have to offer, perhaps the question you should be asking is “What will someone buy from me?”  

Think about what you can do that would be valuable to someone who is older, to someone who is busier, to someone who lives too far away from loved ones to help them, or to someone who wants to stay informed, stay involved, stay connected.  

Perhaps for some Boomers, the answer will lie within.  The largest “problem” as we continually hear it is the vast ocean of aging Baby Boomers.  Let’s face it.  As we grow older we are going to need help doing all kinds of things.

We will demand innovation because we always have.  We will want what is new and what is better because… well… because we are Baby Boomers.  Why would we change now?    

From transportation to housing options, from home maintenance to housekeeping, from health care to pet care, we will want and need it all.  The list is almost endless.  So are the opportunities.

We will expect these services and options to be cost-effective and widely available.  Think of the number of entrepreneurs we will require to service all 76 million of us as we grow old, then older.  We have just begun to turn 65.  We will continue to turn 65 for the next 18 years.  The opportunities for entrepreneurs are enormous.

Think about services that you can provide and that will appeal to the growing group of older Americans who will want or will need help with a wide variety of tasks.   Think about innovative products and services that will help us stay fit, active, independent and engaged as we age. Discover how you can recycle yourself to appeal to your massive, ageing generation.  

We are creating a “Re-Invention Connection” for Boomer entrepreneurs to share their stories with other Baby Boomers.  To participate, use the contact form found on our website ( www.myboomer2boomer.com). 

We will highlight some stories of innovative Baby Boomer Entrepreneurs and profile some businesses on our website which is designed to showcase Boomer Entrepreneurs and to help Baby Boomers find Boomer Friendly employers, products, and services.   

In the meantime, here is a video of one gray-haired Baby Boomer successfully recycling. Enjoy!  http://dalesdesigns.net/rock-on.htm

Older Workers DO NOT:

February 4, 2011

Hello Boomers,

As we all know, this recession has been very hard on older workers.  Unemployed older workers (Baby Boomers) continue to find few who will rehire them – largely due to negative and false stereotypes.  

If you ask any 30 something hiring manager about the pros and cons of hiring an older worker, you will likely hear that they are dependable, loyal, have a great work ethic, etc. 

Those same 30 something hiring managers will also likely say they cost too much in health care and salary, produce less than a younger worker, are easily bored and disengaged from the work process, are unwilling to learn, etc.   

We have argued against these unfair and inaccurate stereotypes but our arguments have largely been ignored.  Hence the 99’ers – many of whom are Baby Boomers. Now Knowledge@Wharton provides a fairly comprehensive look at the negative perceptions and the corresponding realities.  Some of their key findings include:

Older workers DO NOT cost more in terms of health care.  They may take longer to recover from an injury but they take fewer sick days than younger workers.  Health care costs can actually be lower for older workers who have fewer dependents and become Medicare eligible at 65, further reducing employer costs. 

Older workers ARE NOT less productive than younger workers.  According to Peter Cappelli of the Wharton Center for Human Resources, older workers have superior interpersonal skills, deal better with customers, have less turnover and less absenteeism.  In his words, “The evidence is unbelievably huge.  Basically, older workers perform better on just about everything.”  So is better performance, more experience, and greater knowledge that older workers bring to fill your business needs worth a higher salary? 

Older workers DO NOT lose interest in their jobs.  According to the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, those who work past retirement age become more engaged and satisfied with their jobs.

Older workers DO NOT resist learning new things.   The Sloan Center found that older workers ranked a challenging job and learning new things as top sources of job satisfaction.  

So Wharton has once again shown that hiring an older worker is good for business.  But there is another widely circulated opinion that believes if Baby Boomers retire there will be more jobs for younger workers.  But many Baby Boomers cannot afford to retire.  Aside from the long reign of unemployment, there are other reasons beyond excessive spending that have caused many Baby Boomers to be severely short of retirement savings.     

Baby Boomers entered the work force during a time when retirement funding was derived from a “three-legged stool”.  The first leg was an employer sponsored defined benefit pension plan.  The second leg was our own savings and the third leg was Social Security. 

When defined benefit pension plans were largely abandoned by employers in favor of the much less costly 401K match, the first leg of the stool was severely threatened.  Most employers now provide only a small percentage of retirement income with workers providing the rest via pretax contributions.  For older Boomers like those turning 65 in 2011, this striking policy change occurred mid-career or later.   

Retirement and savings trajectories were greatly impacted as the second leg of the stool, personal savings, was strained by the need to also self-fund most of the first leg.  Since most employers didn’t increase wages as they abandoned defined benefit pensions, paychecks had to stretch to include more savings.  

While the ability to save pre-tax helped, the fact that our funds became largely unavailable for years caused us to prioritize as we raised families, funded college degrees, paid mortgages and helped aging parents and grown children.  We didn’t always save the maximum and my guess is that many younger workers are falling into this pattern too for similar reasons.

Personal savings portfolios and 401K plans are often largely tied to the fortunes of the stock market.  Two major meltdowns since 2000 have decimated Baby Boomer retirement savings and they have little time left to make up the losses. 

The third leg of the retirement stool is Social Security.  It is under attack and no one knows what it will look like 5, 10 or 15 years from now.  We all know that taxes will need to rise to adequately fund it for the present, let alone the future.  Asking it to do more sooner is not the solution and asking Baby Boomers to retire early won’t create more opportunities for younger workers.  In fact, it will do just the opposite.     

According to Wharton insurance and risk management professor Olivia S. Mitchell, countries with policies that encourage people to retire at a younger age actually damage younger workers because the retired rely upon pension dollars (Social Security) funded by taxes.  More retired citizens means higher taxes to pay increasing pension liabilities.  Higher taxes cause companies to keep wages low and cut back on hiring.    Workers facing low wages and high taxes spend less and save less, stifling economic growth.  It is as Ben Bernanke calls it, “An invirtuous cycle.”

So what is the solution?  Give older workers the opportunity to stay in the workforce as long as they can, as long as they want.  This will not take jobs from younger workers but will instead help drive our economy through increased savings, lower costs for pension liabilities not yet claimed, and rising demand for goods and services.  

If older workers DO NOT earn, older workers DO NOT buy.  Don’t create a huge generation of unproductive, non-purchasing consumers any earlier than their health and their abilities require.  Hire a Baby Boomer.  It’s good for your business and it’s good for our economy.

You can read more about the Knowledge@Wharton study at: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2644


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