A NOTE FROM THE “BOOMER IN CHIEF:”

anne new photoRecently, one of my collegiate girlfriends posted photos on on Facebook, sharing that her newly retired husband had just beautifully completed an advanced yard project, and noting that if any friends thought it looked like something their yard would appreciate, she’d send him over, noting that he “has a lot of extra time between yoga and long road bike rides. Works cheap for good food and a glass or two of fine red wine.”

One of her neighbors quickly responded, admiring the project, but noting that, “Sam (not his real name) is just 63. He’s too young to be retired.” My friend immediately replied that, “Sam took early retirement because he could.”

She went on to explain that Sam had “given his entire working lifetime to a major multi-national employer,” but had recently decided to take early retirement when it was offered, because he was worn down by what our parents used to call “the rat race.” Of course, she meant all the crazy corporate stuff so well satirized by Scott Adams in the cartoon series Dilbert.

My friend intimated that since Sam’s ‘golden parachute’ included good retirement benefits as well as health insurance, they saw no reason for him to remain corporately employed.

Many of us Boomers find ourselves in the same, or a somewhat similar situation: We either took early retirement, or we were downsized or “rightsized” out of a job. Whatever the specifics, the next step is usually the same: We soon realize that for our personal sanity, we need to find something else to do!

Golfing, ‘garage-saling,’ spending time with the ‘grands,’ or devoting time to a hobby is just not enough. We’re healthy, active, energetic people with fully functioning brains, and after a month or two of relaxing and “goofing off,” many of us wake up to the  realization that we need to find a new outlet for our energies.

Which is why many of us take this time to embark on a second – or maybe even third – career. Some of us do this on a volunteer basis. But there’s no reason why we can’t make money in the process. After all, our culture is geared toward giving more value to income generating pursuits. And hey, Warren Buffett is still working!

What I find fascinating, is that rather than working in a low-paying part-time position — we’ve all seen the retirees who now work as greeters at major retailer, or take on a low-skilled job like a job flipping burgers — many Boomers are today choosing entrepreneurship, at this juncture.  Quite often, we are finding ways to build a business of our own, based on a beloved hobby, a personal interest, or a particular skillset that offers us unique opportunities.

Given our understanding that we Boomers are too young to retire in the traditional sense, but are in the process of reinventing retirement, we are today launching a new NABBW division, which will be focused on what we’ve calling “Boomer Life Reboots.”

Boomer Life Reboots is still in development, and doesn’t yet have it’s own space on our NABBW site. But we’re very excited about what we’re building, and the stories we’ll be able to share, as we Baby Boomers go about redesigning this thing we used to call “retirement.”

Here to start us off, is Barry Silverstein, who shares the story of how he and his wife Sharon Wood decided to start a service business together. Thanks Barry!

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Coupled in Life and Work: Will Owning a Business with Your Spouse Hurt Your Personal Relationship?

By Barry Silverstein

Version 2A relatively new small business phenomenon is taking place in America: More Boomer couples are starting businesses together.

  • They may do it because they’ve lost or left their jobs.
  • Or maybe they want to pursue an encore career as a couple.

But co-owning a business raises a key question: Will it help or hurt your relationship with your spouse?

We put it to the test: My wife Sharon and I started a small service business in our mid-50s, ran it together for over six years, and then sold it. We used the business as a pre-retirement transition from full-time professional careers.

One of the biggest decisions we had to make is what type of service business we wanted to start and run. We believe strongly that a couple needs to have a common passion that becomes a common vision for a business.

In our case, we were both passionate about dogs, so we built our business around dogs – we started a mobile dog grooming salon.

Sharon was a certified dog groomer, and I knew how to run a service business because I had done so in the past. She had the specific skill set for the particular service; I had the ability to apply my broad business management and marketing experience to running the business.

I had run my own company earlier; in the new business, I had to learn to be second in command – not the easiest thing to do! Still, I realized that’s part of sharing responsibility in a business you own together.

One factor that dramatically increased our chance for success was that we had already worked together at two different companies. Because of these previous experiences, we got to know our working styles, our strengths and weaknesses, and how we could best complement each other’s capabilities.

We learned, for example, that I was more conceptual while Sharon was more pragmatic. But we were both committed to quality and service. This made for a great team, since our skill sets were different but our values were the same. Our personalities were also different yet complementary – I tended to be “hot” – a little more impulsive – while Sharon was “cool” – level-headed and steady. You might say the sum of the parts was greater than the whole.

Living and working together as a couple can be intense and, at times, overwhelming. As we learned even before we owned a business, working together blends a couple’s personal lives with their careers, and it’s very difficult to maintain separation between these two aspects of life.

It’s only natural to discuss business situations that you face even when you are out of the office. You need to remember, however, that setting boundaries is important to the health of yourselves and other members of your family. Just like sharing power, knowing when to turn off your business life and protect your personal life is an acquired skill that takes some practice.

Before we decided to work together, we asked ourselves several key questions. It is likely these questions will help you if you’re considering starting a business together:

  1. Are we starting a business we both share a passion about – a business built on common ground that both of us can embrace and enjoy?
  2. Are we in a financial position, or do we have access to financing, that allows us to start a business without putting our personal lives at risk?
  3. Is my partner someone I think I could work with in a business setting, day in and day out, sharing the pressures and challenges of running a business?
  4. Can we maintain a professional distance from each other and work as business partners without letting personal issues get in the way?
  5. Do we have complementary skills that will allow each of us to play specific and distinct roles, making the business stronger because of our combined skills, and are we able to blend these skills together without causing conflict?
  6. Are we willing to share the responsibility of owning a business together, understanding that our personal and business lives will overlap and it is often difficult to separate the two?
  7. Do we have the type of relationship in which we can “pass the power ball” back and forth so both partners feel equally empowered?

LMMH book cover-jpgIt’s true that owning a business as a couple can put a strain on your personal relationship, so it is not for everyone. But for us, the positives of sharing a business outweighed the negatives. To help make it easier for other couples who want to pursue owning a business together, we wrote a book about our experiences.

Barry Silverstein is co-author with his wife Sharon Wood of the new book, Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business.

The book will be published October 1, 2015. Prior to that you can place a pre-order here.

As "Boomer in Chief" of the National Association of Baby Boomer Women, Anne is passionate about educating, empowering and enriching the lives of women in their middle years. Actively involved with a number of Boomer-focused organizations and committees, she keeps a steady finger on the pulse of this spirited generation, with the goal of helping you to enjoy life, stay healthy and live lives that are rich in every sense of the word. Anne is often interviewed by the media and in addition to writing on behalf of the NABBW, she publishes www.BoomerWomensWorld.com and blogs at www.BoomerLifestyle.com