Mary Furlong is one of the best trend spotters I’ve ever met. Currently, she owns a consulting firm helping Fortune 500 brands identify opportunities in the longevity marketplace.
She’s actually a former boss of mine. In fact, she’s the last boss I ever really had because she sowed the seeds of entrepreneurship deep inside me.
I met Mary almost 17 years ago when she was the founder of ThirdAge, an online community for baby boomers. CBS was one of its investors and media partners. I was part of the team that managed its relationship with CBS.
I have always admired Mary for her ability to spot trends everyone else seemed to be overlooking, combined with her ability to bring the right group of people together to turn trends into opportunities. It’s a very special gift.
As far back as the mid-1980s, Mary saw the intersection between the rising trends of technology and an aging population. She founded SeniorNet in 1986, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people age 50 and older about technology and ThirdAge in 1996. Between the two companies, she raised $130 million!
Some lessons in this episode include:
- The art of selling. Mary believes fundraising is the pinnacle of all sales.
- Current longevity business opportunities. She shares business ideas that respond to the needs of an aging population.
- Reverse mentors. Mary explains what they are and why they are so critical as you advance in your career.
By the way, if you are interested in learning even more about longevity business opportunities, check out Mary’s book Turning Silver into Gold: How to Profit in the New Boomer Marketplace.
Life Skills That Matter In This Episode
- Building community.
- Tell your story.
- Managing your energy.
How Mary Works and Thinks
- Wake up time: 7am
- Definition of success: Looking at revenue and making a difference in people’s lives.
- Ideal work environment: She enjoys her home office because that’s where she feels most focused. She also has a “pop-up office” when she needs to work outside her home. She also enjoys getting away to Sonoma because he enjoys making “learning journeys”.
- Regains focus by: She reads her spreadsheets for her business or gets completely away from her business.
- Wants to learn: Exploring the feasibility of starting a new line of clothing for older women.
- 90-day goal: Working on a pitch for a conference focused on encore entrepreneurs.
“When I see people downsized in their 50s, I want to give them a book about why they need to start their own business right now.”
“Every dissonance of aging is a market opportunity.”
“There are lots of riches in the niches.”
“So often you are so in the business you are not thinking about the business.”
If you are thinking about changing your career or are 50+ and have been downsized, Mary recommends taking the following action steps:
1) Take the time to figure out what you really enjoy doing. Assess types of work that interest you, new subject areas, new career paths and even specific work tasks you enjoyed in your most recent work.
2) Take an inventory of your most marketable skills. What skills can you generate income from right now? What problems can you help an organization or another person solve?
3) Skill up. Consider expanding your existing skill set to make yourself more valuable to the 21st-century economy.
4) Reframe your thinking about the lifestyle you really want to lead. What really makes you happy and how much money do you really need to be happy?
5) Be open to on-demand and temporary work. You might be accustomed to long-term employment, but as you consider the next step in your career, generate some income to offset the loss of your sole source of income from your job.