Jobless at 58 sounds like an entrepreneur to me

Yesterday the New York Times ran a headline that read, “At 58, a Life Story in Need of a Rewrite.” The article was about Michael Blattman, who’s been out of work since January of 2008. Blattman is a 58-year-old MBA with a strong resume in financial services who once earned $225,000 a year.

After a year and a half of an unfruitful job search, it seems obvious that this guy should start his own gig. It’s unlikely that the financial sector will be in a hiring frenzy anytime soon. Blattman has applied for 600 jobs, according to the Times, and has scored exactly three interviews, only one of which was in person. It doesn’t look good for him being gainfully employed at a hefty salary anytime soon.

startercards.0626When I hear about people like Blatmann, first I want to shake them and then I want to find their address and send them a deck of our Start Your Own Company cards. He clearly has experience and expertise to share, having worked with the Federal Reserve and the Sallie Mae student loan program, as well as teaching business classes at the University of Maryland.

Why is he not starting his own company, or at least hanging out his shingle as a consultant? The cost of going into business for yourself needn’t be much of a hurdle, in an age when you can incorporate online with LegalZoom for $139 and launch a website with a free template. Perhaps there’s a growing need for guidance in applying for student loans, or maybe he could consult with schools on some aspect of providing financial assistance. Or it could be that his real passion is wine or carpentry or backpacking or piano and this is his chance to start a company doing what he loves.

He’s clearly got time on his hands that might be put to better use. He mentioned to the Times reporter that he had “zero” planned for the coming week, and he admits to driving two towns over for groceries, just to kill an hour or so. Blattman is divorced, but has given up on computer dating sites for now, because women apparently don’t show much interest in 58-year-old guys who are unemployed. It seems his life could use some positive momentum.

Blattman comes across as intelligent, likable, capable. He has years of contacts and a strong reputation in his industry. Why not use the thick skin he’s no doubt developed over his 18-month job search to sell the services of his own company, rather than trying to get hired by someone else?

He may have excellent reasons for continuing to job hunt rather than creating his own income. But I wonder if he just doesn’t realize that starting a company doesn’t have to be that hard. When I run into someone stuck in that spot, I want to get up on my soapbox and shout about how Starter Cards take you through the process, one manageable step at a time.

This is the era of unintentional entrepreneurs. People who never considered themselves the entrepreneurial type are creating their own work when they can’t find suitable jobs. But unintentional or not, every entrepreneur has to summon the guts to take that first leap.

Like anything else, launching a business can be broken down into a series of smaller tasks. If you know a Blattman out there,  send him or her to the Starter Cards website  for that Start Your Own Company deck. And if you’re Michael Blattman, give me your address and I’ll mail you a deck as my gift.

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11 responses to “Jobless at 58 sounds like an entrepreneur to me

  1. Pingback: Jobless at 58 sounds like an entrepreneur to me | dating-service

  2. Very, very hard to be jobless at 58. I’m only 51 and had some very hard times to get back into the circuit again.

  3. Becoming self-employed requires a change in mindset, among other things. It’s not a trivial move. Though “how to” information is abundant, much of it might as well be written in Greek for all the sense it makes to professionals who are accustomed to collecting a paycheck. What’s needed, in many cases, is information that has been translated so that it matches the value system and world view of the self employed professional.

    • I agree, Molly. Great point. That’s why our Start Your Own Company deck begins with a section of Vision cards, to help would-be entrepreneurs gain clarity on the values on which they want to base their business, and how they see the business playing a larger role in the world.

    • I hear you, Laura. Not everybody is built to be an entrepreneur, and you’ve got great points about using advisors and other sounding boards to aim before you shoot. Also, a clear vision is crucial. But it’s not at all impossible to start a company and shortly thereafter be able to pay yourself a salary in Mr. Blattman’s range. At least, that’s been my experience.

      I also tend to err on the side of pushing people to take the leap. I’ve had so many people in my career come to me for advice on starting their own company — and really what they needed to do most was quit stalling and start the company already. That’s one of the key traits of a successful entrepreneur — the ability to make a leap without knowing exactly where you will land.

  4. I have known many unemployed professionals in my career, and very recently met so many more who have been laid off. Not all have what it takes to become an entrepreneur or business owner. Many start a business, only to see it fail because they were not sufficiently prepared for the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to manage your own company. It takes years to build a successful business with the type of income level Mr. Blattman was used to, and I agree with Molly that it takes a certain mindset. The”how-tos” are everywhere, and a deck of cards, or the SBA website are both good places to start to gather information. But no first-time small business owner will have built a good enough foundation without some professional guidance one-on-one from someone who knows them and their vision, and can take their vision and guide them toward a viable product or service.

    It sounds as if Mr. Blattman in the story above might be a good candidate for starting his own company – and maybe not. But before beginning on that road, Mr. Blattman should consider consulting with a team that has his best interest at heart – a good small business attorney (no, not LegalZoom – what do they really know about your business anyway???, and how it relates to the rest of your personal life and goals – not to mention that you can technicaly incorporate your business yourself most of the time on any Secretary of State’s website), retirement planner or financial advisor, insurance provider, accountant, and banker. This team of advisors are well worth every dime spent (and many consult for free), not only to discover if someone is a good candidate for self-employment and management of a company, but to determine if this is not such a good idea as well. And even if not, the person will still learn a thing or two about business in general that s/he can take along and use as an employee next time around. Or even stew about until s/he is really ready to take the plunge.

  5. I was equally put off by the article and wrote my own rebuttal. I did not use Blattman’s name… but then googled it to see if others had been taken to offense with the way the article portrayed his situation.

    http://thomsinger.blogspot.com/2009/09/four-common-job-hunting-mistakes.html

    • Great post, Thom. I especially like your Point Number 4, about spending some of his free time helping others. Not only would that improve his self esteem, there’s also something powerful about giving that starts things moving. In my experience, that’s often when the person doing the giving starts to see positive movement in their own life too.

  6. My initial reaction was the same when I read this feature on Blatmann-all that experience! All that talent! All that energy! Looking for love -er a job in all the wrong places…! I wanted to scream out that he should start his own business…then I thought of some of the people working with me in direct sales (MAX INT’L) who came in with bright visions and a keen excitement but completely lacked initiative or the ability to think outside the box in terms of promoting themselves or their business-go figure? Does this get squelched early on in childhood? Is it the school system? Is it our parents? Can it be taught? Interesting topics and in my blogs and programs geared to midlife entrepreneurs a popular discussion! Great stuff Elizabeth…

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