Dr. Diane Hamilton Radio Show interview with Wendy Mayhew and John Hittler.
Transcript of Dr. Diane Hamilton Radio Interview
I am here with Wendy Mayhew who has been an entrepreneur for close to 40 years. Her company Business Launch Solutions has helped hundreds of first-time entrepreneurs establish successful ventures. She is the author of WISER: The Definitive Guide To Starting A Business After The Age Of 50. She’s also the Coauthor of Building Your Dream: A Canadian Guide To Starting Your Own Business. She created the Canadian Wise 50 over 50 Awards to recognize and celebrate 50 Canadian entrepreneurs who started a business after the age of 50. It’s nice to have you here, Wendy.
Thank you for having me, Diane.
You’re welcome. This is an interesting thing. There are many 30 under 30 Awards and talk about the under 30s, and I’ve had a lot of the Forbes 30 under 30 on my show. They are some of the smartest, most interesting people out there but I like that we’re getting more focus on some of the Boomers out there and older Gen Xers who continue to start and create some amazing things. This ties into Rich Karlgaard’s book, Late Bloomers. A lot of us do things at different stages of our lives. Showcasing that is awesome. What gave you this idea and gave me focusing on people over 50? Give me a little background on your career.
As you mentioned, I’ve been an entrepreneur for 40 years. A few years ago, I was asked to write an article about financing for older entrepreneurs. I’m like, “Why are they any different than the rest of us?” At that time, I was over that age. I started researching it and I went, “This is interesting.” It’s an underserved market. I want to get involved with it. I started doing all kinds of research, started reaching out to people, talking to people and that opened my eyes to what was going on. I knew something needed to be done.
There is a lot that can be helpful for all age groups. It is an interesting market and I have a lot of people who ask me what I did to start this business. My most recent business began a few years ago, so I fall into your category. I had never considered having a radio show and podcasts and some of the stuff that I’ve done now. I had two weeks to figure it out which wasn’t an easy task either. A lot of people do a lot of things so low right at the beginning. You’re creating everything from scratch. Some people in that generation have challenges with technology. Fortunately, I’ve always been drawn to social media and technology. I understood it well so it was easier for me. Is that one of the bigger areas that people stress around at that age?
Technology is a big thing especially since most people that are starting businesses have left their full-time career. Depending on the size of the organization but they usually had someone that could solve any problems or coming to work on their computer or fix it for them, so they didn’t have to know any of this. You’ve walked away and, “I don’t have an IT department. What am I going to do?” That is one of the biggest challenges. The second one is financing.
Are they mostly bootstrapping?
Most of them are because they’re upsetting. I know that whenever I started doing my 50 over 50 Awards, I was looking to see if I could get sponsorship or somebody that was going to partner with me. No. The reason being was because they had no belief in what older entrepreneurs could do, establish, and run businesses. It continues to be that way but it is getting a little bit better. The year before whenever I did the awards, I was able to get a small amount of financing to help with them. Overall, people are bootstrapping. They’re even bootstrapping do you call mortgaging your house later in life, bootstrapping that they have such a belief in what they’re doing. They are trying to go to any means to make this business work.
I think of a perfect sponsor right off the bat would be a reverse mortgage specialist, AARP. If you think about it, one of the ways that a lot of people get money to do things in their later years. The reverse mortgage industry is huge for that. I used to sell mortgages and I focus on some of those kinds of things. It’s hard to get financing. Everybody thinks they’re going to go to Kickstarter or someplace and somebody’s going to throw money at them and they’re going to get everything financed or they think to bootstrap it. It won’t be that bad but it’s a lot of money to start a company.
It’s not as much as it used to be and it depends on what type of business you’re starting. I finance everything myself. That’s what I’ve been doing. Fortunately, I’m able to do that but at some point, it has to stop because you have to make money. It’s not that thinking money. It is a big problem and the other one being the technology. In Canada, I’m trying to strive and make a change with some of those things. I’m in the early stages of talks of putting a program together and working with someone that can answer those technology questions and even do TeamViewer whenever you have a problem with your computer that they can fix it because it is a big problem.
The technology thing is tough and if I have to pay for anything, that’s the things I’m paying for is website development or creating things that are code related that I can’t do. A lot of things, people can do with their website if they want to do WordPress or different things. That takes some training. When you were talking about expenses and bootstrapping, the problem is you get many expenses. I don’t know how it is in Canada and what you have for situations but here, the IRS after three years of writing stuff off is there’s going, “This is a hobby and I didn’t do too much after a while.” What is it like in Canada? Is it just Canadian that you focus on for the 50 over 50, or are you focusing outside of Canada?
For the 50 over 50 Awards, they’re just for Canada. Fifty Canadian entrepreneurs being recognized for what they’re doing. They all have to have started a business after the age of 50. As it is, it’s Canada-wide, possibly, potentially, but I don’t know at this point I had thought of perhaps franchising it and getting it into other countries. I’m not there and my focus is all on my book. The answer to the second part of that question is up to five years.
It’s tough because if you’re making progress, you can go longer if you can argue certain things but you’ve got to start making money. In the first few years, it’s hard to make money if any substantial amount of money sometimes. I love that you created WISER: The Definitive Guide To Starting A Business After The Age Of 50 because you touch on all these things that people are dealing with. A lot of it is hard to transition from being an employee to an entrepreneur. A lot of people struggle with that because you have to do something that you’ve never done before and we’re pushing ourselves. A lot of people go into consulting, coaching, advising and mentoring. I like that you covered that. Is that the number one thing you’re seeing women do?
What do you mean jumping into those positions?
Starting companies that are consulting-based, coaching-based, advising and mentoring-based type of company.
What are you seeing?
The big thing that I heard over and over was the reason older people weren’t getting financing or even support was because we’re not innovative. If you were to look on the 50 over 50 Award website, I’ve got people that are in technology. I’ve got people that are doing apps. I’ve got digital health. There was one person and I loved his idea but unfortunately, he couldn’t get any financing so he had to close his business. It was de-icing, wind turbines with using laser treatment. I’m going, “Why isn’t somebody picking up on this?” I don’t think it was because of his age but why aren’t people picking up on these things? A lot of the winners are saying that they aren’t not getting a recognition that they think they should have. There is one company that they’re winning awards all over the place because they’re a SaaS company. She and her husband were both in the chemical industry. When they left, they realized how much of a burden it was for people to get the information that they needed whether what you needed to do if there were any incidents to do with chemicals.
They’ve made an app of it and shorten everything. I’m going to see them next week because they’re winning another award here in Ottawa. It’s exciting whenever you see what these people are doing. Some of them are coaches but they seem to be doing a lot of other different things as well. A few of them are into the senior’s care. There are a couple of them that are doing senior care and they’re helping people make the transition from being at home to going into care and they’re consulting on it. A lot of them are buying franchises and they’re different franchises. They’re not coaching and things that. They’re not consulting necessarily. That was one big thing that whenever I first started talking about this, I was told that we would never amount to anything that all we would be our consultants. We never ever amount to anything and add anything back to the economy.
That’s a sad view of what consulting and mentoring is for me because there is this saying, “All you’ll ever be is an incredible teacher.” Some of these things are amazing jobs that we need. I see a big focus on mentorship programs in the world because we have such great content. These people have such worldly experience, they have years and years of all this that they can give back that the value of being a coach or a mentor would be great. A lot of them require consulting and coaching to get onto the next level. There’s a two-way street with that one. That’s interesting to me. As we’re talking about the different things that they have to do to get noticed, we talked a little bit about the taxes and some of the financial stuff but there are also legal ramifications. I remember my first contract with a big company. I didn’t realize the amount of insurance that they needed for cybersecurity and the different things I hadn’t even thought about. Are you running into people who are shocked by that thing?
People know what is needed to be done but a lot of it does not. They don’t understand that. In my book, it does talk about all of the different areas. You can’t cover everything but there is a lot of things that the legal part does cover and certainly, it is what you have to have on your website. Everything needs to be done. There’s a couple of things that aren’t in the book that I wish has have been in the book, one of them is insurance. I did do one a few years ago with this gentleman but I asked him if he wanted to come back and be a part of the book and I never heard from him. Insurance is an important part of being in business. You have to be covered and you have to have everything gone through the lawyer. You have to make sure you have got the right policies, you have the right information, everything is covered that needs to be covered. You can’t depend on say an insurance company. I always say you can’t do it alone. You need to bring in as many people and never stop asking questions.
A lot of people rely on the umbrella policy, but you need to know how much your umbrella policy should be and what specific companies are going to require. You can get some of this information from your insurance agent but I recommend having a lawyer as well. We’re back to costs. There are many costs and you were talking about the difficulty in getting sponsors and different things. I noticed that a lot of people who do podcasts and shows like these all found the challenge of what it is to get sponsorship for certain areas. You try to get some help in some things and a lot of people are trying to market themselves and learn ways to pay for that marketing. You know that I talked about we have affiliate programs, we have different things that we do. Do you find that most people come in with limited knowledge about social marketing and networking or how are they at that stage?
Many people when they’re starting out and they’ve never been in the business world before and have not done any of the social marketing or even know where to go. There are a lot of them. I remember meeting a woman one day and she had developed this product and she was in a wheelchair and it was a bag that she had made to make it easy to put groceries in for anyone that was in a wheelchair. She talked to me, she says, “How am I ever going to market this?” Regardless of whom you are or what age you are, when you come up with the idea and you do to prototype, you have to have an idea of where you’re going to sell it. Who’s going to buy it? Who’s your customer? How are you going to reach them? It’s a lot too and I had mentioned to them and I’m sure you’ve heard of Shopify. I had said, “A great place would be Shopify.” She had no idea who Shopify was.
For those who don’t know, can you share what Shopify does?
Shopify is an online selling platform here in Ottawa. They’re global and the one thing I do regret is not investing in them whenever they were a start-up because their shares are worth it. They’ve got a huge market for anyone. From what I understand, anybody that’s on it does well.
What exactly does Shopify do for them? A lot of people haven’t tried them. We know it’s an eCommerce company. What exactly do they help people do?
They help market it and they look after the payment system. It’s easy. I don’t use it myself. I was thinking of using it but I didn’t have exactly what I wanted for my book. There are authors on there. There are people that are selling products, services, whatever. They look after it and they market it for you. I’m not exactly sure their whole market but it is a huge platform. Anyone could easily go to Shopify.com and find out more about it.
There are many different things that can help you like plug-ins alone if you have a WordPress site. I’ve used a lot of different ways of connecting with people from taking money from book sales, from using Square or PayPal or any of those kinds of things to incorporate on your site. All this stuff takes training and knowledge. It can be overwhelming for a lot of people. I know you touch on a lot of the different social marketing aspects like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and all that. Which one of those do you find that people struggle the most with or is it across the board?
People still struggle with finding the right one. I like LinkedIn. I find that I’ve made a lot of good connections there and especially it’s my market for helping spread the word about what I do. Many people use Facebook. Mine is LinkedIn and Facebook. Sometimes I’ll get on Twitter and I’m bad because I have to get on here and I’m in the process of talking to people to start doing my social media for me because I don’t have the time. There was a survey done or some information from Facebook that most of the 50+ market use Facebook. It’s something they’re comfortable with whereas not necessarily with LinkedIn. Whenever I get somebody hired to do my social media stuff, I want to be on Instagram, and I want to be on Pinterest. There are other platforms besides these. That’s why a lot of that is covered in my book that people can go there and there are many avenues. It’s trying to figure out how to do them and set them all up.
I’m going in a little step further into my book if you don’t mind. My book is a guide. I interviewed 29 subject matter experts from around the world. I was originally going to make it into a video book and then I decided no. What I did with those interviews was I recorded it and those are an add-on to the book. If you buy the book, you get the resources, at this time, free, that go into everything in much more detail. They will help you set-up your account and understand everything. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make it as easy as simple as possible so that you can understand what each one does and find out whether it is the one that is best for you to be using and maybe all of them. You have to try them all and figure out what is best for you.
They could buy the book but how do they get those resources? You say they can watch the videos, right?
I took the video part out, they’re audio files. When you buy the book, it tells you in there where you go and there’s a code of where you can get to them. They are free with the book and this site is only for people that have purchased the book.
That’s a great way to market the book to have the little extra audio-video things. I don’t see a lot of people do that and doing that is innovative. You touched on many things in this book that are the heart of what people ask me all the time. A lot of it is networking. You go into that too because, for me, LinkedIn is a great networking platform because that’s where my customers are. I’m not going to go on TikTok because they’re all young kids. They don’t care about this show for example. YouTube is getting the video audience, you’re getting all the different ways of building relationships, but you also get into the networking for introverts which is an interesting way to go since the book is such a great focus on the value of introverts. What kinds of things do you touch on there?
It’s stepping out of your comfort zone, which there is a chapter on that. Karen Wickre says in it, “The networking is only coffee.” It’s not the end of everything. Don’t be afraid to go and talk to someone. It’s just talking, that’s all it is. You don’t have to worry about everything that has to be said. It’s great. When you’re doing something, it’s new but do it as if you’re still at work and you’re starting a project. You’ve got a project, you know everything that you have to do in that project. Take those steps and make starting a business into a project so that it’s much easier and it makes it much easier to step out of your comfort zone to do marketing. I refer back to the book quite often about you did this at work. It’s about work, but it’s making new connections and how are you going to nurture those connections. When you worked, you walked into an office and you didn’t know anyone. How did you get to know them? You’re shy and they may come up to you. If you go to networking events, more often than not, if you’re standing there by yourself, somebody is going to come up and talk to you and ease you into it.
Older people who have had to push themselves out of their comfort zone at a certain point. It is challenging but when you’re starting to get into a sales atmosphere. I was in sales for decades and we all extroverts at that point. They’re starting to find that introverts do some pretty good things in sales because they ask a lot of questions. That ties into my work with curiosity and I find that all fascinating. A lot of it can be thought of being interested in the other person and asking questions. You touch on much of this in your book. We can’t get to everything, but you do talk about succession planning, buying franchises, inter-generational businesses, and there’s much more that people could find out in this book. If people are interested to find out more, how can they reach you? How can they get the book? Can you share some information there?
Discovering Your Genius: Make starting a business into a project so that it’s easier, and it makes it much easier to step out of your comfort zone to do marketing.
It’s available. I’m selling it on my website. It is www.Wise-SeniorsInBusiness.com. It’s also available on Amazon and will be available through bookstores and whatnot. I’m setting that up now. Another thing that I’m doing with this book which is quite different, is that I am selling bulk orders of it. If there are organizations, small businesses, or governments that have a number of people retiring, give them a book and let them make that decision because many people think, “I can’t wait to retire.” They find out that retirement isn’t what they thought it was going to be. They want to start doing something else. That’s why I’m recommending this to the bank. Even banks that I have an older person starting a business.
Everybody will benefit if they’re successful. Those are great ideas. This was fascinating, Wendy. I enjoyed having you on the show. Thank you for sharing your information. Many people can gain much from this.
Thank you. One final thing, a lot of people that have read the book also thinks that young entrepreneurs will benefit from it as well.
I’m sure they will because it gives you the foresight to know later, plus everything in there is applicable to business in general. I appreciate that Wendy