business woman (10)

I started my first business at the age of 21. More recently, I launched another one at 41, and they've both been completely different experiences, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.

When you’re young, your biggest asset is your fearlessness. You don’t have any major responsibilities like a family, kids, or mortgages to pay. Having nothing to lose is a massive advantage as an entrepreneur, because chances are you will lose - at least a few times - before you win. When you’re older, failing can have very serious consequences not only financially, but also on you personally. Your pride tends to take a bigger hit because you feel like you should be achieving great things and you’re in the stage of life when you’re expected to be at a certain level of success. However, at 21 you’re still young enough to take a few blows to your self-confidence and bounce back. In fact, a few knocks would probably serve most 21 year-olds well!

That said, arrogance (to an extent!) can also be a good thing as it’s important to believe in yourself. As life does have a knack to pull you down at some point, isn’t it better to start out as positive as possible? That’s also why perseverance is essential, just as much as knowing when to walk away… and pursue something else is as well.

My point is, as a 21-year-old, you have boundless energy and enthusiasm for life; you’re filled with aspiration and dreams for the future. People with dreams and passion are the ones that make things happen after all. Starting a company is a lot like having a baby (trust me, I’ve got four kids), it’s a hell of a lot of work and much more so than running an established business. Running a fast-growing new business is even more exhausting and time-consuming. I got up this morning at 5am and worked until 8pm. I think about my business every minute of every day. I’m the first to admit – it’s an obsession and even though I know from experience that it will get easier, I would never do it again. I’m not sure my heart could take it!

I’ve discovered though, that the biggest advantage of starting a company later in life is your established network of contacts. And I don't just mean solely within the business world, but your friends and family too. When you’re young, your friends are working out their own career paths with no real contacts or influences. Put simply, they’ve met only a small limited amount of people. But as you grow older, you discover that your friends have become this huge, constantly evolving database of exciting and valuable connections.

My friends have opened more doors for me than anything or anyone else. I’ve built long lasting business partnerships and relationships through someone I went to school with twenty years ago. It really is astonishing. Another advantage is that the older you get, the more honest you usually become about what you’re good at. You’ve made mistakes, you know where you struggle and more importantly, what you like and dislike doing.

Thanks to that insight, you can bring other people in to fill in the gap where you fall short so that your company is as strong as it can possibly be. For example, my skill set leans more towards leadership, motivating and sales, so at my company AVirtual, I’ve recently brought in a team to help me who have different skills in areas that I might be lacking in... It’s a really effective team and means that I can spend more time doing what I love and what I do best.

It is often a lot more beneficial for a business to have two or even three differing perspectives, all feeding into the same pot with the same aim in mind. However, I would advise bringing people in to help as early as possible. I’ve always founded businesses by myself so taking on an advisor at this late stage in my entrepreneurial career could be a challenge, but I can already imagine the benefits to the company and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s really about.

So which age is better? Neither. If you've got a great idea that you're enthused and passionate about, you can set up a company at any age, as long as you’re ready and prepared for a few sleepless nights and stumbles along the way. But, with hard work and a bit of luck, it will be worth the struggle.

By Richard Walton, founder of AVirtual