Last week, my 56-year-old friend told me that she thinks she’s too old to start her dream business.
“If I start a business now, what would people say? That I’m competing with young people?” she asked me.
My friend's conjecture does not surprise me. Some of us focus on achieving our dreams and goals only in our youth. While it is great to be successful in our youth, we tend to forget that greater things can happen even after we turn 50 and our age should not limit our ambitions.
The UAE is a perfect example of this. The country has already achieved tremendous success before its fiftieth birthday on December 2 this year. The UAE leads the region as the strongest and most valuable nation brand in the Middle East and North Africa and ranked 18th globally at Dh 2.4 trillion ($653.4 billion) according to a 2020 report by Brand Finance, the world's leading independent brand valuation consultancy.
The UAE is also a popular destination among expats. Abu Dhabi, its capital, was named the best city for expats in the Middle East by InterNations. The country also ranks first in the region and ninth in the world in the global competitiveness report in 2020, as well as amongst the top 10 in government efficiency and economic performance.
As it enters its fiftieth year, the UAE is hardly slowing down. President Sheikh Khalifa declared 2021 as the “Year of the 50th”, as it marks the country’s Golden Jubilee. The year officially starts on April 6 and will last until March 31, 2022. Sheikh Khalifa said: “Year of the 50th’ is an opportunity to contemplate the achievements made over 50 years at a time we are gearing up for the next journey.”
What the UAE has achieved in 50 years would perhaps take other nations centuries. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai said: "A year to celebrate 50 years, which witnessed the fastest construction journey in the history of countries, the best development journey in the region and the most noble journey in human building. It is also a year of preparation for the next 50 years, full of goodness, deep in impact and exemplary in building hope for the region and the world."
The UAE’s Centennial Plan 2071 aims to make the Emirates the best country in the world. From space, innovation, to education, its plans for the next 50 are greater, proving that its fiftieth year could be the start of something greater.
Similarly, age can also be favourable when starting a business. Research proves that middle-aged entrepreneurs are more successful than younger ones.
According to Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship – a 2019 paper by Pierre Azouley and Daniel Kim of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Javier Miranda of the Census Bureau's Centre for Administrative Records Research – a 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to achieve upper-tail growth than a 30-year-old one.
John Pemberton, Coca Cola’s founder, and Colonel Harland David Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chickens, were both older than 50 when they founded their successful businesses.
The UAE and these successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common: success has nothing to do with age. Success is a product of your perseverance, flexibility and readiness to embrace change.
Take a cue from the UAE and as you reach 50, forge plans that will help you reach new heights.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.