Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today, we have Rick Terrien. Rick, welcome.
Hi Thomas, thanks for the invitation.
It is my pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do?
Sure. I’m in my sixties, I have been self-employed since I’ve been 15, I’ve started multiple businesses across different industries for profit and non-profit and I’ve gotten profoundly interested as I’ve grown older, in the utilisation of older workers, how they can be employed, how they can be deployed, how they can be utilised. Oh, then skill sets can be kept in play. And so I went ahead and wrote a book about starting up businesses in the second half of life, it’s called Ageless Startup Business at any age and the research that got me through that book and helped get it up and running and underway has driven the second part of that equation, rather than just writing about it, I want to help fix the problem.
So, a group of us have formed a non-profit called the Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs to be a platform for people working towards entrepreneurship and practicing entrepreneurship in the second half of life. Thank you for the introduction is part of the inspiration for that. Cause if you like, due to the fact that it’s a social norm for people to be pushed out if you will of their employment. And also the fact that once you’re your own boss, you know, no one’s pushing you out. Is that any sort of similarities in the thinking there, right? Well, that’s actually the foundation story of what really got me onto this final platform that I’m expending all this time and energy on. I was about what, 567 years ago, I was consulting for one of the largest trade organisations in the US and it was about 115 years old.
I was looking at this with amazement. There’s the principal companies were there, the new venture companies, were there the support organisations, the bankers, the insurance, all of them. And it was just wonderful to see the web of support that the network built for itself. Each piece wasn’t that strong, but together they were, it was, it was brilliant and it was motivating and they were getting things done and they were changing the world at the same time. I looked out in the hallway at these conventions And there are small groups of 4, 5, 6 people, men and women saying goodbye to each other. They hit some number on somebody’s spreadsheet and it was their retirement age. They either had to go or get fired and what a ridiculous dumb waste of talent this is. These are the same folks that built that network. I was just admiring over my other shoulder. They knew the pitfalls. They knew the histories. They knew the deal making and to just send them off willy-nilly because they’d hit an age seems profoundly stupid to me.
And so that’s what entrepreneurs do they fix broken stuff. And so that’s the whack I’m taking at this. And that is why it was founded. There’s too much arbitrariness in this and when and who works and for how long and at what, uh, there’s enough change going on in the world that I think we can change that as well. Mm hmm. And one of the things that I’ve spoken about previously is that when you reach the sort of retirement age, you’ve got essentially the most knowledge that you will have ever had in your whole career. And yet that knowledge is going with you when you retire. It just doesn’t make any sense if you think about it. And I’ve just got the numbers for the US. I don’t have them globally, although there’s about three billion people in the Cohort of 45-70 around the world. But in the United States, there’s about 100 million of those people in that age demographic before the pandemic. And it’s gone up since there were 25%, million people said they wanted to start their own enterprise in the United States, Uh, in that age group.
And if you consider that they all had what, 30 years of work experience, 25-55, times 25 million people. It’s 750 million years of human experience walking out the door like that, that what these are people that are motivated. They’re not the ones who don’t want to do it. They’re just the subset that said they’d like to do it. And if you multiply that across the talent and the expertise around the world of people in this age group, uh, it’s it is time to unleash that power, put it to work. So if you, if some of those people were watching right now and they were considering starting their own business up and they had some doubts, shall we say? Um, and some propaganda for lack of a better term of people should be stopping work at a particular age. What would you say to them? Well, I heard it on a recent podcast interview of yours where somebody said it’s much scarier not to have your own business at this age.
If you’re going into the second half of life and just hoping that the world is going to be rosy and everything is going to come up flowers and you’ll be fine. I think you’re taking a pretty big risk. There’s less risk in becoming more resilient and finding a way to make some further contributions. It can be based on your profession that you had, or it can be based on a community you love or market you love and want to contribute to. My advice is it’s not hard. It’s just new. There’s three things involved in this. You want to start small. You want to start smart and you really want to start right now because small businesses like anything takes longer than you expect. So my advice would be along those three lines and start small. Start smart and start right now. Good advice. Have you got any stories about people who perhaps you’ve consulted and they’ve taken the plunge into entrepreneurship? Well, it’s fun, Thomas, because it’s all over the board.
We’ve got data scientists and artificial intelligence people and I’m going to tell you about a seamstress. A friend of mine, she had a difficult, tough corporate job. It was in the construction industry and there were contracts and government reporting and insurance and just all kinds of stuff. Heavy duty cubicle work. It was intense. Her name was Joan, and she started thinking about, is this what she really wants to do as she ages? And Jones back story was that she was one of 12 kids and right in the middle and made her own clothes as a kid kept that love of fabric and of reconstructing things out of fabric so that they would fit for the next sibling or for you from your previous sibling. At any rate, she got in touch with some friends who had older family heirlooms that were fabric based grandma’s dress grandma’s wedding dress.
So grandfather’s beloved tie collection and these things are just mouldering in people’s closets. Nobody wanted to get rid of them. You know, it’s grandma’s stuff, but on the other hand, they never came out of the closet. So jones started a little enterprise very small to reconstruct these fabrics into new family heirlooms. She would take grandma’s dress, wedding dress, maybe make it into Christmas ornaments for all the grandchildren, grandpa’s ties into what ring bearer’s pillow for a wedding, just all kinds of things like that. And while you and I may just discuss this is kind of interesting, Joan finally reached, got to where she could retire and she threw open her shingle for her new business called heirlooms again and she has a two year waiting list of customers who would like to hire her for her services. And when she does deliver a product, these people are weeping, she’s maintaining family history, she’s giving them something to put back in play.
It’s not all that expensive, but it changes lives through entrepreneurship. Um, so sure we’ve got these artificial intelligence folks and data scientists and all of that, but it’s up and down the skill set chart here. Not that any is better or worse, but that it takes a village to do this. And that’s why I think forming this Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs is a non-profit. The whole idea is to stir the pot and put those data scientists with the seamstresses with the landscapers with the fire safety suppression specialists and build new teams around those folks so they can go out and meet new challenges where there may be local champions if they’re in Boston or Bogota or Lagos Nigeria. Thank you for the story. Have you got any thoughts in regards to risk? Because somewhat I’m sure you may have experienced this as well in your, in your long career. In some instances, entrepreneurs do whatever it takes, they might, you know, refinance the house or whatever it is to make sure that their business succeeds.
And a financial advisor principle is that as you get older, you should be risking less of your capital. So do any thoughts sort of come up for you there in relation to risk and going into business. Right? So I do think that it’s this starting small. The first of my three-legged stool is you do want to start very small and starting a new enterprise now, I don’t know what the startup costs are in England at the moment, But in most states, in the US, you can set up an LLC for a couple of $100. There’re some exceptions to that. But um, the financial risk of organising something like that is as small as it’s ever been and the ability to reach out and talk to people all over the world, communicate value to them. I mean, look at what we’re doing now. I’m talking to you over in England, I’m in Pittsburgh and you know, we’re carrying on this conversation among friends that will be listening to this all over the same as the case for marketing and products and services and I do think that the risk part of that, that I want to close on Thomas is that these people in the second half of life are generally not going to be going out and risking the house, you know, it happens with younger people getting big jams, but these are films that are done raising their kids in most cases.
The idea is to get, is try not to do the work yourself. You can be part of teams, those teams are like pick up basketball games, where a project emerges in London or Chicago and a team from this network can go out and support them with chief technical officers, chief financial officers, whatever it is now, as a part of a team are risking significantly less than if you sign your own name onto a contract to solve all of a problem, you can do it with a leadership team that you can put together on your own. And as the problems and the project gets resolved in London or Chicago or wherever it is, those people can drift back in and reform into new teams. That’s the way to minimise risk is, do it in groups, don’t bet the farm. And do it small, do it in a team. I thought that you were going to say for a second there that by that age you would have learned not to do that anymore. It’s a funny joke.
I wanted to ask you about where you started when you were, you said you were self-employed. And also there’s gonna be some learnings there in regards to everything that you’ve learned over your entrepreneurial endeavours, shall we say. And is there anything that you could share in terms of what you’ve learned? Sure. And it is a 50 year plus span of self-employment. And the first one I started, I started with a bowl of change on my college dresser drawer, dresser. And I put that business together and started a small little company, some of my college mates as customers. And that business ended up going 40 years. I ran until it was 25 years old. I sold it, it was still going at 40. I put my kids through school. It was never anything that got me on the cover of any magazines, but we supported our church, we supported the libraries, we paid our taxes.
We bought a house, raised our kids. It was really wonderful as I sell these things and I sell them when I see that there’s probably not a future in them. And this was one of those moments. I generally sell them for sabbaticals someday. I’m going to sell something where I get rich, but I don’t know it hasn’t happened yet. I’m so I’m not exactly holding my breath. But I have sold them for sabbaticals and I take a year or a year and a half and I start working on another problem that’s been bugging me in the background and that’s why I end up jumping from industry to industry and market to market things that weren’t even close to one another. After that graphics business that I just described, I started one, I actually had some friends working in the motorcycle factory at Harley Davidson in Milwaukee and they had a significant problem that everybody in the world could see. It was all this black smoke coming out of their smokestacks and it’s an old line from Buckminster Fuller, but pollution is, and I’m going to paraphrase pollution is resources in the wrong places.
I knew that there was what was going out there. Smokestack was costing them money not only in terms of that material, but problems that that’s such a carbon going out. The smokestack representative inside the plant. So I let they let me in, I made a number of mistakes on their nickel and figured out the problem. And I think every motorcycle Harley Davidson built since 1998 has gone through our equipment and you can look at those smokestacks now. Well that plant closed, but there are other plants and all you see coming out the smokestacks of those heat shimmers, you can’t even see any carbon, you can look right through the clouds. It’s because you solved, we solved the problem internally. And that business, well, it’s still running, it’s almost 25 years old. I sold that one when it was 10 years old. We had customers in Beijing and Johannesburg all over Europe, all over Asia. We owned a big part of the car and heavy industry business in the US and that business got a lot of awards.
It got new product of the year for the whole United States. Fast Company magazine named us a fast 50, which is now the 50 world’s 50 most innovative companies. I think we’re the smallest company ever to win that. We want it with four people. Um, Global Company with four people was manufacturing business to ah So there’s a lot can be done with small networks of people. You can change the world with it. And in that case we did got nine patents. Us and foreign for that one. Um, and that business is just coming up on its 25th birthday and still going strong. Do you wish you kept us taking it? No, I don’t think so. I’m really drawn, and it’s probably a character flaw, Thomas. I’m really drawn to blank sheets of paper. Uh, when things get mature. I kind of lose interest. I’m terrible at going to meetings. And here in Pittsburgh, I was recruited to help with a startup around the food industry, which I come at it from the manufacturing part of that.
Um, and it was just so exciting when we started this three or four years ago, we were just throwing punches and landing them and things are changing and we got a lot done. And, but I said it’s fourth year now, going into its fourth year and it’s getting a little long in the tooth for me. So, you know, I think the Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs is pretty good timing to show up here. We’ve got a good board of directors we put in place. And I am, yeah, to answer your question, it’s always a good idea to keep a little stake in some of this stuff, uh, financially, but I think psychically it’s probably better for me to just make the cut move onto the next one. So you would perhaps recommend a small percentage and silent partner, silent ownership type deal. It would depend on the, on the nature of who the rest of the partners are. That’s always the first question I asked. Because you wouldn’t want to be partners with some people. Is that what you mean? Well, that’s right. I mean, you know, your company’s the first word in it is ethical.
We only get one life right. Got to do it. You get to make your choices. And I try to make mine along those lines and, and work that I can do that can make a difference in the world. And I think I’ve got to, I’m doing it right now in the startup. I’m here in Pittsburgh to help launch and I’m even more importantly doing it with our Center for Angels and entrepreneurs. Have you got any inspirations or mentors that you, you take any learnings from? So the one who is most, who is active now, I’m a big believer in the business writer Seth Gordon? I really, really love his approach to enterprise. If I could make a living, just quoting South Golden might be rich, but keep one over my desk, that is an inspiration and this is great, this is the best way to make a hit, is to build something for the smallest viable audience and make it so good that people tell their peers that’s from Seth Godin and that’s, I think, that’s the nature of almost all new commerce in the 22nd century.
Sure, there’s a lot of big investment grade stuff going on and we’re flying to mars and the moon and all this, but Down at ground level, there’s a really inspiring movement among people to help themselves. We’ve been doing this for 10,000 years as a human society, taking care of each other in small but important ways. No reason model of capitalism and entrepreneurship can’t fit into that and start solving this new set of problems we find in our hands today, I think my interpretation of his philosophy is like excellence, so do as much excellence as you can and let worry less about quantity and worry be concerned with quality. Do you share that notion and how have you implemented it into your business’s excellence is the model here and you want to build it into your life and Excellence doesn’t mean money, it means advert once to the small things and it means inadvertence to the people around you and it sounds counterintuitive but being a better human and being more human is a better way to be an entrepreneur and a more successful way to be an entrepreneur.
That’s the kind of excellence, its interpersonal excellence that you act as though that person is your in that person’s shoes and you’re going to solve some problems for him? You’re going to help them, you’re gonna make the world a little better and you’re gonna move on and you’re gonna help them do the same thing for somebody else. I think that’s the nature of entrepreneurship and that’s the kind of excellence I try to carry forward is inter person excellence. Just coming back to what you said regarding being the problem solver at the beginning and then business is getting a bit long in the tooth after you’ve been there for a while. have you, have you found any coping mechanisms for that or do you think it’s just sort of personal preference that you have? I think you just get battle hardened. I think you just learn that the sun is going to keep coming up tomorrow and you need to do the best you can today and keep putting one ft in front of the other. progress happens for people who are trying to make the world a better place.
I get it, I don’t want to be a Pollyanna about this, but as a group in aggregate for all of us to move to make the world a better place, it happens in very small increments and sometimes you can’t even see them, but they’re there and if you keep your mind on it and keep your head on it, the world keeps getting better, what your goals for your new venture goals from my new venture to attract people in the second half of life who are either considering entrepreneurship, which is the, the further outgroup, but the core group that I really want to bring in, our people who I have just set up or just starting out or who have a very small business that maybe in the second half of life, I consider that 40, and up. I want those people to be stronger a year from now.
I want them to have more peers a year from now and I want to have better business models a year from now and I want them to have more revenue a year from now. I think they can only do that by getting out of their own damn way. I’m one of them, right? I’m the entrepreneur were going, if that lone ranger stuff worked when I was a kid, but it doesn’t work any like that anymore. We need these in networks and so putting together a network to empower those individual entrepreneurs, the small one offs, bring them together. Um, that’s what I want to see. That’s my goal is I want to see stronger companies and stronger organisations and stronger entrepreneurs a year from now there in the woods in most cases by themselves and then that there’s a lot of darkness out there, it’s easy to lose motivation. It’s easy to make an assumption with no input from others, your peers, uh, with infrastructure around that they can lean on and that can support them.
I think they come out much better a year from now and the year after that and the year after that the entire time growing the list of people who are supporting one another, kind of a self-fulfilling promise. What should I have asked you about today? True. And maybe who the ideal customer is for the Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs. That was an assumption on my part, wasn’t it? So who’s the ideal customer, Rick? I think the ideal customer starts to be thinking about doing something like this when they’re 40 I’d like to bring them in, when they’re 45 they should be planning it, I think when they’re 50, they should be doing it. Um, I think it’s any kind of person that wants to continue to make a contribution to either a community they live in or a market. They really love. Those are the people that drift off in retirement and often lose their way. I think many of us want to continue and want to keep making that contribution. So finding that person in the right age group, matching them up with something that they love, helping them find that and then in helping them meet up with peers who can help them execute on it.
I think that that’s a kind of a mindset that not everybody has that maybe don’t want to work in groups, maybe don’t want to keep making a competition. Uh, maybe they just want to go garden. Uh, and you know, there’s a whole cohort that’s going to fit that too. So it’s the smaller groups that changed the world. Anyway. The old Margaret mead quote about just a few citizens changing the world. I think finding the right people and welcome them in and then helping support them in their passions and their work life is the goal of this Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs. What does it look like in a, in a practical sense? The how you interact with your customers. Would you call them customers for a non-profit and their members? But in a sense, they’re customers and it is just getting off the ground. So some of this is theoretical. We’re just taking the cloak. Oh, we just last week took the cloak off the website.
We’re just starting public meetings in a couple of weeks. So anybody that does have an interest can find us on the website and request to join one of these meetings. The idea is to largely let – we used to say the inmates run the asylum – is for us to get out of the way, put the infrastructure in place for people to meet one another and then start introducing them and let people know what their strengths, what their passions are. At the same time, we’re mixing the group together to help these people form new teams around their skill sets and plugging their skill sets into bigger projects. I think having all of them put their backs to one another and market this group to the world as a highly professional, highly capable, highly experienced labour pool, then you don’t have to hire on infinitum forever. You can bring them out on a project and they can bring a team with them if needed.
Those are the ideal people involved, the ones that want are able to learn from one another, meet one another, but also to help form teams and work with outside projects. I did think my presumption was that it would be like a support system, but you they’d actually be doing business with each other as well, is that right? Yeah, very much so. I think that there’s a million trillion incubators and accelerators and places to go and get yourself trained up. I would really rather not compete with those. What is missing from all of those is somebody who’s making a marketplace where you can actually get in and do business with each other and exchange invoices and cash checks. That’s the thing that public institutions really can’t offer. You probably shouldn’t. But it is a perfect thing for the private sector to offer to people. And if we can do that on a non-profit basis where we’re not, you know, taken from the transactions and getting commissions on this and that.
I think that there’s a, a tremendous need for this meeting and greeting and market building together. Yeah. Like I do like the idea of a marketplace where as you say, there’s not a, not a cut continually being taken. Do you see yourself going into business with some of the people from the network? Well, it’s, it’s funny you should ask, I’ve got these two or three former businesses that I have kept alive. Not ones that I’ve exited, but ones that I’ve just parked on the side that still have good projects in them. I’m still very interested in them that oiled separation business. I, I’ve got one really great patent left in me on that. And uh, so I’m going to put a little job board into the pile. So when people are looking through for projects and look at this guy, he’s got this kind of a project and the Lord knows I need help with it. So sure I would love to be an example of my own cooking here.
And would you, based on the – we say a minimum age – would you cap it somewhere? Because I mean it sounds like something that would be beneficial for everyone, but obviously it’s supposed to help a certain demographic. So do you have like a minimum that you would have to be? So the minimum age we asked people, they can come in at 40 and at least like there’s no way I can actually enforce this. So I’m making assumptions around people. I tell people they should really be thinking about this at 40. There are some people who have come in with products and services for this age group that are between 40 and 45 that’s just fine when I was a kid and we had a whole bunch of grownups and a bunch of kids, all the kids would sit at the kid’s table and there were little, tiny chairs and our knees were up under our chins. I would think that this 40 to 45 groups probably there after 45. It’s no holds fired. Come on in, let’s go. I’m coming back to those people who you mentioned that maybe like to do their gardening after a certain amount of gardening.
I do think, I think it’s a common thing for people in retirement too, wonder what they could do next or perhaps that they’re not contributing in the way that they could. Would you recommend thinking about starting your own business even if you haven’t done it before for those types of people? I would Thomas, but I would suggest that you know, it’s not going to the library and getting a book of how to start a new business. There’s so many opportunities from good organisations that are seeking to expand. I’m just thinking of a couple of friends of mine, ones in Detroit here runs an organisation called brilliant Detroit just was a purpose prize winner from AARP and another friend named Susan on the other side of Pennsylvania, they’re both radically different things, but really strong positive contributions to the communities. Cindy and Detroit is doing this around making safe place for kids and after school education.
Another woman on the other side of Pennsylvania, my friend Susan, is making access to mobility devices for people with disabilities of all kinds. And she’s the one who lines up all the hardware and the funding that’s always so difficult. Well both of those women would love to expand their businesses into Seattle and Chicago and New York and London and who knows where, Lisbon? The trick for somebody in this age group, in my opinion, a low hanging fruit is not to try to dream up something, what could I be good at and how can I go talk people out of their money? Let’s go find out from existing organisations that are looking how to expand and find something that you match up with, maybe you’re a disability rights advocate. Um, and you know, and you’re done with your two years of gardening and you want to make a contribution, you could go and find somebody like Susan and say, all right, I’d like to do that in Melbourne or Sydney, how can we interact and how can you help guide this and how can I help you grow the good work you’ve started, that’s the kind of entrepreneurship, it doesn’t have to be, you know, traditional, you know, sleeping under your desk and trying to find investors and, and all of that, this is a new world with a lot of new ways to communicate a lot of new opportunities for helping people.
I think what you’re doing is fantastic. 100% support it. And I also, I’ve always said about the about that when you get to a particular age and you’re expected to not work anymore. I think that’s a complete waste. So I think if you can, should we say give people more of a purpose and encourage them to get back into, even if it is small, as you say, providing that value? I think that’s a great thing. Have you got anything that you would like to close with rick? No, I think I’d like to repeat that. Just a couple of those pieces that are very important to me and one is that this entrepreneurship stuff has been billed as this complicated rules given on high from somebody has climbed the mountain and seen the vision. it’s not that, it’s, it’s not hard, it’s just knew anybody can do it. People do new stuff all the time and no matter how old you are, um, sometimes it can be a little more frustrating than others depending on the project, but it isn’t hard, it’s just new.
And then the three things you want to think of is you want to start small, you want to get an entity wrapped around yourself and get out in the game, you want to start smart, which is to find your tribe, find a peer group, find your network, and the last one of course is to start right now. And the old adage there is when is the best time to plant a tree? And the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is today. it’s just going to take longer than you think. So there’s no harm in going small and going smart, but there is harm in delaying. And so that’s my advice is to get started and get underway. The contributions you’re gonna make will find you great way to close rick. Where’s the best place for people to find you? So a couple of them Thomas. The Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs is that agelessentrepreneurs.org and there’s some newsletters, sign ups or membership applications there. There’s a book site which is just for the book, which is ageless-startup.com.
And there are communication tools on there for reaching out and I’m happy to introduce people to this idea in any way they have time for. Is it your first book that you’re in? It is my first book, although I really, really enjoyed it. I think I’d like to try it again. Well, the last statement I want to say is congratulations on being an author then. Thank you so much. It was pretty exciting. It was published on the same week that they declared the pandemic. How’s that? For timing? Well, depending on whether people can have the time to read books, I guess it could be good or bad. How, how did the sales go there? The sales went fine, but I had to kill off a really good book signing tour and a speaking tour and all of that. The silver lining Thomas is that we did organise this non-profit Center for Ageless Entrepreneurs to be a bigger, more robust structure than just me out flogging a book. I think there is a significant silver lining that was better for the purposes of the book than just selling more books.
Well done for all the hard work you’re doing and Rick, thanks for being a great guest.
Thank you Thomas. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.