Wednesday, 30 November 2016

At 60, am I too old?

Standing in the hospital line I heard a lady at the cashier retort “Why am I getting a 10% discount?” When she was told that the computer had automatically given her a senior citizen discount because she had just turned 60, I could see her visibly crest fallen and commented to her partner “At 60, have I become too old?”

The magical age of 60 is considered a major milestone. While on the one hand it is “only another number”, on the other hand it is an age beyond which one is normally expected to retire and change one’s lifestyle and either stop working or reach a stage where one is about to superannuate.

Given all the excellent healthcare, most of us who have a reasonably healthy lifestyle can expect to live up to 85 years of age. Therefore, the new paradigm would be that 60 years should now now considered middle age. Men and women who have reached this magical number of 60 have started to counter stereotypes that surround "old age."

Several questions need to be answered and many of the answers will lie embedded in the last three decades of your life. You need to sit down with your partner and do some serious thinking about your life ahead. Think about the following six questions and write down your answers / thoughts.

ü  If you are employed and living in a rented home, decide on where you want to live. This should be your first decision if you have not already made this call.

ü  Decide on what you wish to do next with remaining one third of your life, Remember that your “retired” life will be almost equal to your working life

ü  Decide on the lifestyle that you want to have post your retirement and agree with your spouse on the amount of money you need on a monthly basis to lead the lifestyle you want to lead

ü  Decide with your spouse on whether you want to spend your money on yourself or hoard it to be left behind for your children. This is important as it will help you to take a call on the lifestyle that you can afford but may or may not want to lead.

ü  Plan your taxes, your estate and your will and unless you foresee serious issues or have made a contentious will, share the details of your will with the beneficiaries.

ü  Decide on your exit from this world – do you want to donate your eyes and your organs after you depart? How do you wish to be cremated or how do you want your last rites to be handled?

Once you have handled these questions, it is time to start planning on what to do with your life.

See your later years as a "time to begin a new chapter"

You have spent 25 years studying and 30 - 35 years working. Now is the time for you to begin to build your new career and a new life. Your new career need not be anything like the one you have just ended. It should be a function of what you have always wanted to do and what you are or could be passionate about.

Remind yourself of all the difficult times you have survived the challenges of your just completed career. With all your confidence and support from your family, you can survive your new challenges too.

Stay active, involved and engaged in new learning and goals

List out all your goals and look at these goals every day till you are on track. You have the experience and are secure within yourself to assess where you stand vis-à-vis your goals.

At each step, ask yourself, "What did I do today to move closer to my goal?"

View the retirement years as a time to find new challenges

Determine the small steps to get you to your goal. When you break it down, it is achievable. Every day take a step to your goal. Your goal can be as simple as walking 10,000 steps that you can count every day on your smart phone or one of the many exercise devices to learning a new hobby such as music or a game. An interesting challenge for people who love to read is to write a summary of each book in 1000 words. Soon your book summaries may well become much in demand among your family and friends. 

I enjoy writing so I try and write one article for one of several publications or one chapter of a future book, every day.

Whatever you do, make a challenge out of it. Then say your goal out loud each time you look at it. Remind yourself, "I can do it."

Be socially, economically and civically engaged

We have the potential to become a potent social force in our communities for the betterment of our country by contributing to the social and economic means in the areas we live in. Become office bearers of your residents welfare associations, teach at various institutions, become mentors, support NGO’s. The moment you put your hand up, you will be surprised at how many people will reach out to seek your counsel.

As seniors, we are respected and if we choose to provide leadership in civic areas which the young feel as a “”waste of time,” this would be a win-win for our communities. We need to believe that we have the ability to influence events and be in control of their outcomes.

Increase your self-reliance

It is important to become self-reliant in all aspects of life to improve productivity for all older citizens. We are physically fit, a large network of friends and associates, little or no debt and have enough financial resources to indulge ourselves and do things where we had earlier held back spending.

Plug yourself into the digital age that is sweeping the World and stay connected. This is the first and foremost requirement of being self-reliant. If you don’t know what is happening in the World or you don’t know how to communicate in this new Digital World you are starting your senior years with a huge disadvantage.

Go for your annual medical checkups yourself. Build a support network with your friends and neighbours. They are your support system in the days ahead.

In summary, debunk all the myths that you are carrying about your impending retirement and think about what do you want to accomplish? What is your goal? Think about it. Visualize yourself doing what makes you happy.

The difference between goals and dreams is your action. So plan, take the steps, and turn your dream into a goal and your goal into an accomplishment.

Be the scientist. Be the subject. Analyze yourself.

Sit back and relax. Enjoy the next three decades. You are not old at all.

The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

Twitter: @gargashutosh
Instagram: ashutoshgarg56
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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Writing a Business Plan for a Startup

Writing out a detailed business plan and getting it funded properly is the key to making any successful business. Plan your business for the future, not just for tomorrow. Most entrepreneurs tend to look only at the rosy and optimistic picture without recognizing the problems that they will be faced and without factoring in a number of unplanned costs that will have to be incurred.

Remember that a Business Plan for a company is much more than a set of numbers. It will be your guiding document, your process to understand and establish where you are heading and where you have reached and will also provide you the checks and balances in case, as an entrepreneur, you become too aggressive or too complacent.

The best business plans are those which an entrepreneur writes himself because this is when the true dreams of the entrepreneur are articulated. This is also when he / she realizes all that will go into building the business and achieving one’s dream.

Unless the entrepreneur is able to articulate his thoughts and put them down on paper and then translate these thoughts into a simple set of numbers, a startup company could be playing “Russian Roulette” not knowing which chamber the bullet is sitting in!

If an entrepreneur does not write out his own business plan but relies on someone else to put it together, as indeed I have seen some people do, the plan will have inaccuracies and will have been developed with a different perspective.

Assumptions and Numbers in your first business plan will go wrong once the actual operations of the company start because there could be many variables that are learnt on the job. However the first business plan will help in defining the parameters and help the entrepreneur to understand the areas where his understanding was incorrect or where his assumptions have changed.

The Environment your business will operate in

Start with a detailed scan of the environment. Unless you know the environment you will be operating in you could be shooting in the dark even though you may believe that you have the best idea in the World.

This will include understanding the size of the opportunity, the competitive landscape, the Government regulations and the key players in the business. You don’t want to be in a position where you have started your entrepreneurial journey and then suddenly realise that there are regulations that restrict you from doing some of the things that you have planned for.

The Business Plan Assumptions

While writing out your first business plan, it would be most important to write out the assumptions that you are making for the plan.

Some examples of the assumptions you would make could range from taking 250 working days in a year (factoring in a 5 day work week) for your revenues to assuming an inflation in prices linked to the inflation index and your own price increases to an increase in cost of human resources to your marketing costs.

A lucid articulation of the assumptions will help you and all your colleagues to understand your business plan at a later date and also understand and appreciate when the financial numbers are not falling in place as you had hoped.

The Financials of your Business Plan

Your business plan must have detailed sections on marketing, competition, people, technology, environment which will lead to a set of financials. You know what your business well and therefore it should be fairly simple to articulate your thoughts in each of these areas.

Most people assume that their business plan is a set of numbers. What they do not understand is that the numbers, or financials, is a result or an extract of the business plan. Once you have written out your assumptions, then translating these numbers using a spreadsheet is an easy task and can be done either by you or by any financial analyst.

Cash Flows of your Business

The result of the financials from your business plan is your cash flow. This will help you to understand how much money you will make and how much you may lose. As an entrepreneur, you would have invested your own hard earned money. It is therefore important for you to know where your money is being spent and how long it is likely to last before you will need to raise more money from other sources.

Funding is possibly the most difficult part of building a new company. Money is the backbone of building any business or enterprise. Without sufficient funding in place, it is not advisable to embark upon any entrepreneurial journey. How much is “sufficient” is a pure judgment call of the entrepreneur and depends on the business plan that you expect to achieve.

Plan for losses in your Business Plan

Every new business will lose new money. This has to be taken as a “given”. Making a planned loss is never a problem. Making an unplanned loss and then having to try and justify it is a huge problem.

It is important for every entrepreneur to understand that making money is not going to easy. Don’t believe for a second that revenues will instantly start coming in and customers will start flocking to your stores. The reality is far different, and you’ll fare much better if you understand this reality and plan for it beforehand rather than get surprised later.

It is better to plan for losses and state this in your business plan. When monthly reviews are held with the board of directors, it is always better to explain how you have over achieved your numbers rather than take high targets initially and start with explaining negative variances each month.

No one likes to lose money and yet it is a well-recognized fact that most new businesses will lose money. Some businesses will lose money for longer periods than others because of the nature of the business and retail businesses have very long gestation periods. There is nothing to be ashamed of if your business is losing money as long as you can see the light at the end of tunnel.

All businesses will burn money and it is necessary to have sufficient funds in the bank to meet the burn.

Finally, don’t worry if you make errors and are confronted with unplanned costs which will throw our entire cash planning out of gear. A well written out business plan will guide you back on course as you take stock on a regular basis with your management team.

The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

Twitter: @gargashutosh
Instagram: ashutoshgarg56
Blog: |