Could being over 45 be your secret weapon when it comes to creating a great business?
Hunter Leonard is a business owner, marketer and speaker who has developed a significant reputation for outstanding marketing and strategic growth through his first business – Blue Frog Marketing. He founded a second business in 2016 – Silver & Wise – which is changing the world one mature age Aussie at a time. I had the pleasure of interviewing Hunter about how people over forty-five can protect their income-earning potential and make a huge contribution.
In this interview we talk about:
- The massive elephant in the room when it comes to ageism in the workforce and why it’s such a problem
- What Hunter has been doing about resolving this issue
- The best thing that someone between 45 and 60 could be doing to protect themselves and better their situation?
- Why starting a business is such a good option for older Australians?
- The best (and simplest) tips for funding your business
- How to tell if your business idea is worth funding?
- The #1 thing that Hunter sees entrepreneurs doing badly and his best tip for fixing it?
About Hunter Leonard
Hunter has written six books; won six major awards for marketing excellence; surveyed more than 10,000 business owners; delivered over 600 presentations, and contributed to over $2 billion in sales growth for his clients since 2001. He is highly regarded for his innovative thinking and perspectives, and his ability to engage his audience and contribute positive energy to anything he is involved with.
His latest book – Generation Experience is a best seller and it details 8 steps to mature age business success. He is currently writing three more books on various topics.
He has developed partnerships with some of Australia’s largest corporations and is on track to create billions of dollars of economic benefit for the Australian economy through these partnerships.
When not running his business, Hunter is a keen musician, photographer and cook.
Over 45 might be your secret weapon – An interview with Hunter Leonard
Anthea: I want to introduce you to an amazing gentleman I met a couple of months ago now – Hunter Leonard. Hey Hunter, how are you?
Hunter: Very well Anthea.
Anthea: I’m very well too. So let me tell you a little bit about Hunter. He is a business owner, marketer, speaker. He has developed a significant reputation for outstanding marketing and strategic growth for businesses. He has a marketing company called Blue Frog Marketing. But what I’m really interested in talking to him about today is that he started another business a few years back, 2016 called Silver and Wise, which is all about changing the world, one mature age person at a time.
Anthea: Most of us don’t want to consider ourselves mature, right? I know, I definitely don’t. I’m turning 40 something tomorrow, actually 48, and I don’t consider myself mature age. But interestingly workplaces are considering anyone over, is it 40, 45? Is that the definition of mature-aged?
Hunter: Whether or not you think that or not. But, there’s a lot of statistics around saying that around about the age of 50 is the age at which corporates start turning off the tap, so to speak. They don’t want to employ people over that age. So it’s quite interesting. It’s quite young. When you consider the retirement age is supposed to be late sixties.
Anthea: Absolutely. And with so much experience. This is why I wanted to get you on today – it’s a major issue. And I know a lot of our Bright Spenders clients, a lot of people that follow the work that we do are in this position where they’re getting retrenched. They’ve had these amazing careers and are getting retrenched and not being able to find work again. And it’s a really, really serious problem because financially there’s a massive hit on their income. So I’d really love you to share a little bit about your experience in getting people up and running in their own business because there’s so much wealth of experience there. I just want to just touch on a couple of things. You’ve written six books. So you’ve quite a lot of experience that you’ve published.
Anthea: You’ve won quite a few awards for marketing excellence. You’ve surveyed more than 10,000 business owners and delivered over 600 presentations and done an awful lot in regard to thinking about how to engage an audience as a business and how to build a business. You’ve written a book called Generation Experience, which I did a Facebook live on a little while ago, which specifically deals with this issue of older people and all this wealth of knowledge and understanding and experience that they have and being able to package that into a new business idea. So that’s what I really want to know about today.
Anthea: You’ve got these eight steps to mature-aged business success. I’m going to introduce you as the Ageism Sucks Guy because I know you use that hashtag a lot.
Hunter: That’s okay. It is a real problem. It’s a massive problem.
Anthea: So why is it that people over the age of 40 are getting retrenched and turned away from jobs because they’re too old?
Hunter: Basically it’s because we have an organizational corporate culture in Australia, which seems to value youth and energy more than it does experience. There’s a number of factors with it. I’ve spoken with the Human Rights Commission about this at length and they were very nice to be able to share a lot of their data when I first started the business. So they’ve been amazing in terms of being able to access the latest market data on what’s going on. So they’ve done a number of studies, one of which was called the Willing to Work-Study. And this study found that there were over 100,000 people in this 45 plus age group who are willing to work. But the stats show that they can’t get jobs. So if you then take that down to one individual, like somebody in your network they will have probably noted the fact that it’s much harder to then get back into work.
Hunter: In fact, the statistics say that they take up to two years to find another job and that’s a huge impact. If somebody coming out of a corporate position where they might’ve been earning six figures or more to then have a two-year gap in that income, it can be talking about two or $300,000 of earning power. So if they haven’t got anything backing them up, that can create a significant gap in their financial security. And that’s where we started the discussion. I’m happy you mentioned the Ageism Sucks one because I guess how we have a very longterm strategic plan. So we’ve set a plan, but in 30 years we’d like to see an end to ageism. The first part of our solving that problem is creating this business called Silver & Wise, which is aimed at helping mature age people start businesses.
Hunter: And the reason we started there was because I know that market very well. I’ve worked with small business owners for the last 20 years in our marketing business and because we also had these surveys of 10,000 business owners, I also knew a lot about what they were running into as business owners. So what were the challenges? They had challenges they had in running a business. So I thought, well, that’s a perfect place to start. Somebody’s already on the journey and running into those challenges, those challenges didn’t seem to change over time. So I thought, well, they’d be a good place to start to teach new business owners about the things they likely to run into. So if we can train them with some skills in those areas, then they’re going to be less likely to run into those, those challenges. In other words, less likely to fail, I suppose.
Hunter: So that’s, that’s how I am, is for all of these people that are willing to work and who can’t find a job, a percentage who are crazy enough and mad enough to think about starting a business need somewhere to go. Cause they, they’ve been in corporate all their lives, they’re not really aware of what it takes to run a business. And so that’s where we, where we come in as to say, well, you’ve got some experience, you’ve got some wisdom. Let’s combine that with a few skills and skills development in how to run their business. And then you can use that as a platform to build some financial security by doing your own thing rather than waiting for somebody else who considered the year to be ready for pasture. And banging your head against a brick wall, sending out all these resumes. Why not have a crack and do something yourself.
Anthea: And presumably a lot of people in corporate would have thought about going out on their own at some point. So it wouldn’t show in such a foreign concept for them. Why do you think starting a business is such a good idea for these older Australians? What do you think it is that they’ve got? What do you think the potential is there?
Hunter: Look, I think the potential is much higher now than it’s been because the opportunity to work in jobs is declining and it’s going to decline more. In fact, I think I shared the numbers when we had that meeting recently when I was presenting that in 20 to 30 years, we can expect this number to be more like 2 million people out there willing to work and not being able to find a job. So if the same, if the same I just attitude stays in corporate for the next 30 years. We’ll have 2 million people out there trying to find a job and that will have a massive impact on the overall economy as well as of course the devastating impact on the individual who can’t find work. So the fact is that trend for the foreseeable future is likely to continue.
Hunter: I’ve run my own business for 20 years. So there’s, there’s all of those elements of running our own business. It’s not for everyone, but there is the fact that you are taking control of your own destiny and, and ha if you’re successful at whatever you do, then you can create a world where you have control over your financial security. You’re not waiting for somebody else to give you a gig. You’re not waiting for somebody else to give you a job. You’re not waiting for something for the hammer to fall, so to speak. When they decide that, okay, all the 50-year-olds are all now going to be made redundant because for whatever various reasons and that there’s a whole lot of arbitrary reasons why people were made redundant and that age. Why are they considered to be expensive?
Hunter: Because they’d been in corporate for a while. So they’ve relatively high wage probably because people are only looking at wage. They’re not looking at the value of that individual broader than their actual salary or what they’re owed. The other ones are really done, like, and I’ll call people out on it, is that they say that people in their 50s are not computer literate. Well, most people in their 50s have had a laptop in there in their hand since they were 20. Sure. They might not be able to turn the computer around and they pop in the back and work out how it works and they might not be able to code the back of a website. But for me, as a, as a business owner, I see those things as irrelevant. You can fire, you can hire an expert to do those basic things.
Hunter: But what these mature people bring is a real understanding of how life works. They’ve been, they’ve seen a lot of things done. They’ve seen things how work, they’ve seen things fail. They’ve probably been in the industry for a number of years enough to know what the successful actions are in that particular industry or in that particular skill area. So so I feel that there is a major opportunity for people to start businesses and run them. And I’m not talking about the next unicorn business. , unicorn being defined as $1 billion business because a lot of the incubators out there are all focused on finding the next massive big software company or the next Google or the next ad software. I’m talking about average everyday Australian starting average everyday businesses. I don’t mean their average businesses, do you know what I mean? They’re just a small to medium enterprise that maybe be a couple of people that generate six figures in profit or margin for the person who owns it so that they’re financially secure through their fifties and sixties and possibly even into their seventies
Anthea: With a service or a concept that’s really needed out there. That’s not necessarily breakthrough technology or anything like that. It’s just literally similar to what I do, I suppose, as my service is hugely needed out there. There’s this huge need for people to get their finances in order. And I’m bringing on contractors all the time who can work with clients on that. So, there’s got to be just hundreds of ideas for service-based businesses or online businesses, online education courses that, that people can do that, are really needed services out there.
Hunter: And we’ve got an aging population too, so if you’ve got mature age people who understand what it’s like to be mature and can service. Other than that you are people with some kind of expertise because you got to remember that a lot of these people are coming out of corporates. They might have 20 or 30 years experience in finance or HR or marketing or sales or business development or logistics or whatever. I saw a great example the other day, 75 year old or something that had been re-employed in a warehouse. And he had saved this company heaps of money and time because he just understood how warehouses work. He had been in logistics for years, but no one had given him a job, and he was in his seventies. So he’s almost at the extreme end of what we’re talking about.
Hunter: We were talking before you started recording about coming back from the Northern rivers doing a set of presentations to business owners up there. And we do this survey all the time. Whenever I do a presentation, I ask them what’s their biggest challenge? 50% of the people in those rooms. And it was 150 business owners, 50% said that they had a challenge with getting new customers. In other words, their marketing, so there’s five jobs straight away because the average marketing that’s all 19 needs half a dozen clients to make a reasonable amount of revenue. They just put an outsourced marketing department for six small businesses and then they’ve got themselves a job and they can potentially live in the Northern rivers, which would be nice, but there is a need for hundreds of marketing consultants who understand small business, hundreds of business consultants hunt. There is so many, so much opportunity out there for people who’ve got some experience and wisdom about business, whether it’s a services business or a mature age focused business or whatever. I just say there’s more opportunity there than there is in trying to bang your head against a brick wall, giving people resumes and them not wanting to employ you because you’ve got a bit of grey hair or something, which is just nuts.
Anthea: Yeah, really, really nuts and and something I just want to touch on – something that you said in that presentation that you gave was that, okay, there’s one cost to the people who are losing their jobs and getting retrenched and being out of the workforce, but there’s another massive cost to the taxpayers who are having to fund the pensions for all those people who are so-called, out of the workforce and, and depending on social security or pension or early retirement or whatever. Can you just touch on that for a minute? What that cost is likely to be, for our kids, our grandkids, if all of these people are out of the workforce.
Hunter: The economy is built on the individual production of individuals and individuals work by paying an amount of tax to the government. And the government uses that to run the country to provide a social or civil society as what used to be called the idea of social security for people who can’t work or who need some help. So when the pension and superannuation and all these things were invented, people were basically retiring at 65 and dying at 70. So you had a five or maybe 10-year retirement, that retirement now could be 20 years, it could be 30. The whole reason that governments are increasing the retirement age to 67 with plans to push it even higher is because they can’t afford us to live that long.
Hunter: So imagine what it’d be like if everybody is now not working at 50. That’s 17 years of productive work life, 17 years of paying taxes, blah, blah blah. And on the converse side, 17 years of requiring some kind of social security or work for the dole or whatever term you use. So if on the one side we’ve got the number of taxpayers declining and on the other side, we’ve got the number of people needing social security, increasing. That balance has to break sometime. And my belief is most Western governments are panicking right now because they’re seeing it drop off the cliff and, you don’t have to do too many calculations to realize that if we had half the number of taxpayers and twice the number of social security people, our Texas would double.
Hunter: So then you’re looking at 70 or 80% tax and that scares the hell out of me. I’m a productive guy and I want to have some benefit from the fruits of my labour. I don’t necessarily want to give 80% to the government, not that I’m not happy to pay some tax. I’m happy to do that. That’s our job, I think, as a productive business owners to pay some tax. But I certainly don’t want to pay 75% or 80%. The other stat, I’ll share it very quickly – when I said this to the human rights commissioner, I said, look, this is very early on. I didn’t really understand how much impact, and I said, so if we were able to train say a couple of thousand mature age people to run businesses, and they were all turning over an average size of a business, which was about $200,000 in Australia, roughly. He said, well, immediately you get 2000 businesses at $200,000, that’s 400 million. And she said you haven’t even factored in the cost of handling people’s mental health or their social security or any of the negative costs, or the things that are going to come in if you don’t do that. So her thought was that for every couple of thousand business owners we train, and we can, as long as they’re successful, then it could be a $1 billion impact on the economy. And for me, I just went well okay, that’s something worth doing.
Anthea: That is definitely worth getting behind. Hunter, I’m thinking about people listening into this interview today and, maybe they’re in that age bracket somewhere over 45 under 55 maybe or under 65, and maybe they’re still working in corporate. They’ve had that thought about starting a business. But they’ve got a lot of fear about it because they’ve heard that people who start small businesses, that many small businesses fail within that first couple of years. And also that starting a business takes money. What would your best tips for funding a start-up business? And how do you tell if your idea is worthy of funding?
Hunter: Sure. The first thing is that I’d say is that the idea’s worth nothing.
Hunter: A lot of people think the idea is worth everything, but an idea without a good plan has no value. So if anyone of your listeners comes up with an idea for a business, the first thing I’d say is go through a process of checking the validity of it. So, is there demand for that idea from the audience that you want to target? So for want of a better example, if you wanted to mow lawns, then you’d at least need somebody to probably own the home and have a lawn. And then you want to probably go and talk to them about what they require or somebody mowing lawns so that you understand their needs and wants. And then you’d want to understand whether you are able to deliver on those needs and wants. In any business, there’s a starting point.
Hunter: There’s lots of businesses that don’t require a lot of money to start. With a lawn mowing business, you need a lawnmower and maybe a few brochures and then go and talk to some people that have lawns. So you could do it on the side. If you’re working now and you were thinking about starting a business or building one, then there’s this concept of the side hustle, which is why you work in your job and while you’ve got some security, start something on the side and build it up to a point where you can then transition into running your own business. And one thing that is quite popular I suppose now is there are corporates that are more than happy for people to transition into the next phase rather than that sharp drop off of a redundancy.
Hunter: So often if you can have that conversation. If you’re thinking about moving on, why not talk to your boss or your manager and say look, in the next three to four years, I’d like to start dropping down to four days a week or three days a week. And then I’m going to start my own thing. And then you can sort of do this transition, which makes it a nice soft landing if you like. You’re not suddenly on no income. And then having to make sure that this business is going to be absolutely booming by the time you start.
Hunter: You could pick any type of business you like, but basically the key thing is you have to understand if there’s a market. You can’t just think I’ve got a great idea and I’m going to sell this widget to a million people and we’re going to be a millionaire and I’ll go and sit on the beach drinking Pina Coladas because business is more complex than that. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s about understanding your, your target audience, the customer you want to target. Let’s say it’s mature-aged people. Where are they? How do they make decisions about the product and service? How does your product or service that you’re thinking about competing with other products and services that are already being offered? How, how much of a market do you think you could get in a specific region?
Hunter: And that requires understanding the population and how many people are in that age group in your area, for example. So there’s a lot of research and understanding that idea, a lot of businesses then could be self-funded because you pick up one client and service them and then pick up two clients and then four clients and then eight clients and do it that way. Rather than thinking as a lot of gurus on Google and Facebook these days tell us that they’re all talking about, and you can have a global business, you can have millions of dollars, you can have hundreds of leads and all this sort of, excuse my expression, bullshit that gets thrown at people. The reality is that most people will start a small business that will probably operate on a local basis servicing local people. So it’s a matter of understanding where you live now.
Hunter: Is there a market for the idea you’ve got and is that what you want to do? Because 97% of all businesses will never employ anyone. So the chances are that 97% of your listeners who are going to start a business will never employ anyone because that’s just the statistic. It’s been that statistic for the last 30 years in Australia. I’m not saying that people can’t come up with the next trillion-dollar idea, but the chances are very low and it’s incredibly risky and requires probably a lot of funding. But the average everyday business, it doesn’t. It’s just a matter of understanding if there’s a market and then seeing if you can sell the idea to someone at a price that allows you to make a profit. Cost you $100 to do it and you can sell it for $150 and you can do that every day, all day. You’ve probably got yourself a good idea for a business.
Anthea: So start low key, low cost. And maybe transition, if you’re not already retrenched. I hadn’t even thought about that idea of starting that conversation with your employer before you get there. I don’t know how early you have to start that conversation, whether if you’re 45, you should be starting that conversation now with your employer. I think probably a lot of people would be a bit in denial but maybe if you’re noticing a lot of people around you starting to getting younger and younger, it might be a good time to start having that conversation.
Hunter: I think so because then you just take control of it and I think you’re far better to have the conversation than you are to not because otherwise what they used to call the old pink slip just arrives on your desk one day, you’re cleaning your desk out and you’re gone. Maybe with a bit of a redundancy payment, but that depends on how long you’ve been there. So I would much prefer to be taking control of it. And if somebody is in their forties and they’re seeing a lot of the late forties and 50-year-olds being made redundant, there’s a chance that the business will do it again. Again, I’d be taking control. I certainly wouldn’t be going out into the world thinking I can get another job because at the moment it looks like the stats say that that’s not going to happen.
Hunter: Even super sophisticated, incredibly talented people with 30 years experience are not getting jobs all based on age. Which is my point, that ageism sucks. It does suck because you should be able to look beyond the person’s age to what they can give you for the business. And so there is some individual responsibility to be trained and be skilled and be able to transition. But certainly, if you’re in that position now there’s no reason why you can’t start a business. There’s no reason why it requires a lot of money. I wouldn’t even be thinking about websites or business cards or brochures or fancy logos, or any of that. The most important thing is to have conversations with the customer. You want to see whether they like what you can do and whether the price that you’re thinking you’ll make some money at is doable.
Hunter: Because if you’re thinking you’ll get $1,000 for your service and everyone else is thinking $300 and it’s costing you $500 to deliver it. Well, chances are there is no business at that price if you know what I mean. So it’s just about getting a bit of reality on it. I heard a great example the other day with somebody who came up with a course they were wanting to do, it was in the Northern Rivers and they wanted to charge $39 I think for this service. But when they went through and worked out the cost, it was going to cost them $42 to deliver it. So they really had to be at $50 or $60. But they just plucked this number out of the air where they hadn’t really worked out all the costs that it was going to go into delivering this service. So I always say that marketing starts with a maths problem, that’s working out can you make money out of it? Do people want it? And if you don’t want it, and you can’t make money out of it, then it’s a bad business idea.
Anthea: Absolutely. I work with a lot of small business owners and I had a conversation recently with a new client. He’s in a trades business and was charging according to what he thought HE would pay for his product rather than looking at his numbers and also what the market could bear. So there’s two things going on there and really undercharging because of that and suffering. So there’s certainly a lot of mistakes people can make without the experience, so it’s really beneficial to get some good business guidance. And that leads me to another question that I had for you, Hunter, which was, for people who are in businesses already, what would you say is the number one thing you see people are doing wrong? That entrepreneurs are doing badly, and what would be your best tip to fix that?
Hunter: Okay, cool. Maybe I’d phrase it: the challenges they have. The two big challenges, businesses have with money and marketing. And usually, it’s the marketing that led to the money problem in the first place. So the lack of good marketing. So I’ll give you a couple of stats from a recent survey we did. So this is from a smaller survey we did of 149 businesses with a local business association. 80% of those businesses, where their only marketing was being online with social media and a website. But when we asked them what their confidence was in their marketing, the average was four out of ten, so they’re doing the marketing, but they’re not confident that it’s working. And what we found is that most businesses start with the communication. So they’re starting with a social media post or a website or a brochure or an advertisement or a phone call.
Hunter: They don’t start by asking the question of the customer, what do you need and want? So surveys, research. In fact, 80% of businesses haven’t surveyed their customers in the last 12 months. So they’re operating off an assumption of what they think the customer wants, not what the customer wants. And time and time again, over the last 20 years, I’ve found that as soon as you start surveying customers, the answer to all of your marketing problems comes to light because you find out what they’re looking for. And life really is about helping others find what they’re looking for. And if you’re a business owner, you can say, okay, that person needs X and I can deliver X really well. You’ve got a business, but if you go out there saying, I’ve got X, I’ve got X, I’ve got X, and everyone’s looking for Y you’ve got no business. Unfortunately, most businesses are just shouting at their markets. Their ears are shut and they’re shouting, and it doesn’t take too many scrolls down a Facebook page to see that these days.
Anthea: And there’s already so much noise anyway that you really have to hit a nerve, otherwise you’re just part of the noise, aren’t you? So, Hunter, there’s just so much in what you’ve been talking about today and I know that people listening in are going to want some direction, maybe like a checklist to get going. Like you talked about surveying your potential audience and asking the right questions. You talked about just really understanding what it is that the market wants. And I know that you have this great book in which you talk about some of those things. I annoyingly didn’t bring mine so I could hold it up. Have you got it there?
Hunter: That’s a good question. I don’t know whether I’ve got a copy with me.
Hunter: I just got back from this business trip and I reckon I sold about 80 copies of the book during the week. So anyway, the book on how to run a business or as a mature-aged person is called Generation Experience. It’s available on Amazon. And then my other book is a marketing book called get your marketing cooking. So if they’ve got a specific marketing challenge they’re trying to handle, that’s probably the better one. And that’s also on Amazon as well. And it’s got a crazy photo of me dressed in the chef’s uniform because I like cooking. So I thought I’d use the analogy of cooking as a recipe with marketing to explain the subject. So they get some free recipes in the book as well. There’s a particularly good one for beer bread and also lamb with saganaki cheese if they like barbeque lamb.
Anthea: So where can people find you, Hunter, if they’re looking for more? I know that you have this program where you train mature age business people to help other business people set up businesses, right?
Hunter: That’s right. . . So we’ve got this licensed network if you like. They’re all mature age people. And then I train them in the eight steps and then they go out and work in their own business. So it was part of my process of helping people start businesses was to help some people start businesses that would help me help people start businesses. So that’s really cool. There’s a couple of advisors now and we’re just about to add a few more to the team in the next six months or so, but they can look me up. I write on a business website called smallville.com, which is like a repository of all this amazing talent of people that write about stuff. So I write about all of these topics on there and also write on LinkedIn.
Hunter: There’s not too many Hunter Leonards around so they should be able to find me there. Otherwise, they can go to Silver & Wise or Blue Frog marketing.com.au If they want to get some more tips. Again, I write articles on there and in my books. I tend to like to just give away all of those secrets. I don’t hide things back. I don’t say read the book and then the other half you have to pay me lots of money for, I just say read the book and you should be right. If they need help, great. We’re happy to help. But the books contain a fair bit of the secret sauce.
Anthea: Well most people can find that out there on the internet anyway, but it’s nice having one package where they can read it and get a lot and then, if they want some extra help to get it going, they can contact you. Totally. Awesome. Thank you so much, Hunter. I just love this topic. And I know that so many people in our community, Bright Spenders community will really benefit from this talk today.
Hunter: Well then my job’s done. Cause that’s what I like to do is share the tips and pass it on. And I appreciate you doing the video the other day and talking about the book because it’s really lovely when somebody else sees the passion and the purpose and shares it. So thank you.