I am not often plagued with self-doubt but turning 57 has thrown me. It’s too far the wrong side of 50. I’ll be 60 in three years and that’s a really scary age. I work with colleagues two generations younger than me now. It’s made me wonder whether I still have what it takes to build BigChange. Am I older and wiser? Or running out of steam?
In fact, right now, I feel younger than I have in a long time. I’ve lost a lot of weight over the past year (many thanks to all those who sponsored me https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martin-port). I also feel lighter in spirit. I lost my dad two years ago. In my faith, you say prayers for your loved ones for 11 months after you bury them. Sadly, 11 months later, I buried my mother, so I have been saying those prayers for 22 months. When you experience tragedy, it takes time to grieve and get back on an even keel, but I feel I’m there now.
Older entrepreneurs aren’t as rare as you might think. A recent study by MIT found that the average age of a start-up founder is 42. The people who create high-growth companies are 45, on average. The idea that all founders are pimply 18-year-olds is a myth. In the UK, the average business owner is 51. Ray Kroc didn’t open his first McDonald’s until he was 52. Maybe I’m not so old after all. As long as I’m the right person to be leading this business, I’ll work till I drop.
If BigChange does outgrow me, I would happily see out my days doing charity work. I would be proud of my legacy, either way. But I feel like I’m still the best person for this job. Yes, I’m older. I’m also calmer, more rational. I’m better with people. When you’re young, you want everything to happen yesterday. I’ve learned to bide my time and be patient. You can’t build a global success overnight.
I used to enjoy material things. These days, I’m content with my lot. I don’t need to buy anything. My focus instead is on creating wealth with the business, and helping our customers to grow.
People ask me if I’d consider selling the business, now that I’m getting on a bit. I reply that I’m a buyer, not a seller. I’m pushing on. I may have reached my scary age but I still feel like I can conquer the world. I’m seven years into my journey with BigChange and I feel more ambitious than ever. I want to turn this into a billion-pound business.
I believe I have another 20 years in me. You’ll have to carry me out the door.