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Am I Too Old for My Job?

A successful entrepreneur worries his age may undermine his business

Bill Heacock, Too old for job worries

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Entrepreneur Bill Heacock runs a business on how to design and teach webinars. He worries he may appear too old for the job.

En español | Bill Heacock has spent nearly half his life working as a seminar trainer. For the past 13 years, he has run his own company — Heacock, Perez and Associates — along with his wife. Heacock is basically a supertrainer; he teaches trainers how to be better. His three- to five-day program covers how to design and teach webinars and how to build self-directed e-learning programs.

Heacock, 61, prides himself on being a leader in the latest training technologies, but he is worried his age is costing him credibility with the tech-savvy millennials taking his workshops. Do younger students take him seriously when they see his gray hair and mustache? "There is this obvious age difference," he says. "You can sense there's a gulf. And I worry they're thinking, 'What can this old gaffer know?' "

The travel has also become a real chore. Based in Gainesville, Fla., Heacock spends a lot of time on the road. It may sound romantic, but he's getting tired of all the restaurant meals, hotel rooms and cramped airline seats. "Sometimes all you want to do is eat a pizza in your room," he says. Heacock loves his job and is not ready to call it quits, especially with another son now in college. He doesn't think he's lost any business so far because of his age, but he's worried about the future.

The friend says ...

College buddy John Newton says he gets why Heacock is worried. The older you are, the less comfortable people think you are with technology. But Newton questions whether Heacock's age is the real career problem or just a fear. "Bill is robust. He runs 20 to 25 miles a week. He eats wisely. He probably weighs less than in college. He's a good-looking guy with all his hair," says Newton. "My advice is to dye his hair."

The expert says ...

New York–based career coach Roy Cohen says Heacock is delivering what companies clearly still want. He may be judging himself too harshly. "He has a very vital, dynamic business model," says Cohen. He should consider bringing on a new employee. He should reshape his marketing so it's less about Heacock and more about the results his company delivers. And he might consider shaving that mustache — but no dye job.

The takeaway

Heacock says he'll change his marketing to emphasize product and make his website less about himself. Plus, he's lost the mustache. Most important, he may hire a new trainer. "It would be difficult," he admits. "But I could probably bring someone up to a level I'd be comfortable with."

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