Organize every day to achieve your larger goals; don’t get sidelined by shiny objects.”
Lori K. Bitter provides strategic consulting, research and development for companies seeking to engage with mature consumers at The Business of Aging. Recently named one of Next Avenue’s Influencers in Aging for 2017, Lori’s book, The Grandparent Economy is a National Mature Media Award winner. She serves as publisher of GRAND – the digital magazine for grandparents, and as Managing Producer of the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit and The Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit. She serves on the Advisory Board for Xverity, a digital healthcare company focused patient relationship management.
Lori is the former president of Continuum Crew and Crew Media, owner of Eons.com. She was president of J. Walter Thompson’s Boomer division, JWT BOOM, the nation’s leading mature market advertising and marketing company and led that firm’s annual Boomer marketing event for five years. Prior to that she led client service for Age Wave’s agency, Age Wave Impact. Lori has more than 35 years of advertising, public relations and strategic planning experience.
Lori & her research team lead large studies for companies and associations focused on aging consumers and their product and service needs. From complex quantitative studies and segmentations to creative qualitative methods, the team has delivered projects on-time and on-budget for clients as diverse as Del Monte, AARP, and Comcast Corporate. Lori is a trained and skilled facilitator, who recognizes the key insights that drive a firm’s growth. She delivers insight-driven strategy to C-suite initiatives.
She is the contributor to five books on aging consumers, and is a leader in research on topics relevant to the senior and boomer population. A frequent guest and expert in the media, Lori was recently featured on American Marketing Association’s blog, AARP Magazine, in the Los Angeles Times, on CNBC, Forbes magazine and was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 to Watch List. She holds a MS in Advertising, and is a former Associate Professor of Advertising and Public Relations. She serves on the Leadership Council of the College of Media for the University of Illinois, and on the advisory board of several start-up companies.
A sought‐after speaker, Lori has presented research, trends and analysis about mature consumers and the longevity marketplace to more than 200 conferences and events in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.
She has served as a judge and panelist for numerous award and business competitions, including the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and the North American Effie awards. Lori enjoys mentoring and coaching encore entrepreneurs.
Where did the idea for The Business of Aging come from?
The Business of Aging is a hybrid consulting firm and marketing firm that was born out of my work at J Walter Thompson. I ran their division focused on Baby Boomer and Senior consumers. There are over 100 million people over the age of 50 who are largely ignored by traditional product and service companies who prefer to focus on younger consumers. They do so at their own peril, as this segment controls 70% of all disposable income in the country. I help businesses find the right strategy to reach these lucrative older consumers.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I work from a home-based office, which sounds wonderful but can be very distracting if you aren’t focused. I manage my calendar closely – keeping phone calls and meetings in the morning and “thought” work in the afternoon. My work requires a great deal of heavy reading (research) and writing. So I need long stretches of quiet time. But I also like collaborating, so I work to manage my day and energy level.
I also end up talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and start-up companies who are entering the aging and longevity space. Being in Northern California, close to Silicon Valley, there are many people who need information to go to market. I have to be very careful with my time. I could fill my calendar with these really exciting, but not very financially productive conversations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I give them voice. I used to joke that if I said something out loud three times, it would happen! But the truth is when you talk about your ideas and have people listen and help you to think them through, they become more real and seem more doable. I also let ideas “stew” for awhile. Once I’ve talked it through I let it sit before I put it on paper and execute.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Intergenerational living. For the first time since post WWII, living intergenerationally is on the rise. It started during the recession and now families are finding that is a smart way to live. Families are natural support systems and both older adults and small children benefit. I think we are going to see communities of non-familial intergenerational living as well – there are great experiments in other parts of the world where older adults provide room and board to college students or students live in senior communities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I truly believe your day is your week is your month is your year. When you set goals and create plans you have to execute on them. That takes time and focus. One of the guys I follow and listen to is Chris Brogan. He introduced me to a simple method of organizing my day in 20 minute segments. It’s not perfect but I get so much more done each day and I’ve learned to control the “shiny objects” in my inbox and on social media.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be in such a hurry to be an adult.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Alcohol rarely fixes anything. It doesn’t make you smarter or prettier.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Question my service offering against the market. I have to stay relevant and ahead of the where my clients are going.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Don’t take bad business. We are always tempted to take clients for the money, but if they’re the wrong client or don’t fit your culture, they can upend your business. Any time I’ve passed on a client that just seemed wrong, a better opportunity has presented itself. If I’d jumped at the easy money, I would have missed the opportunity.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I lead my company to take over a large boomer social site that had had huge VC investment but had been mismanaged. I thought we could fix some of the issues and create a great research community. The problems were much deeper than we knew and it taxed the resources of the company – both people and money. We shut it down. It wasn’t a popular decision with the old investors who hoped we’d turn it around, or the members of the community, but it was necessary.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Older adults have too much stuff. Closets, garages and storage units full of stuff – from their parents, from kids who’ve left the nest, and stuff they’ve just saved hoping someone is going to want it. The problem is, their kids don’t want their stuff. People have no idea how to get rid of it. It keeps them from downsizing or rightsizing their homes; often with older seniors, it keeps them from moving to safer living environments. I think there is a business opportunity in helping people unload stuff. And with 78 million baby boomers aging, the market is huge. It’s low tech and low investment.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Christmas sweaters for my dogs. I have a French bulldog and an English bulldog puppy. They are my stress busters.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Evernote. It’s on all of my devices and organizes all of the information I need to access over and over. I file sites and stories there from my browser so I can find them later. I use it for notes for stories and blogs. It’s my Swiss army knife.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The 100 Year Life” by Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott. It’s about how to live and work in an era of increased longevity. Living longer is creating tensions that we’re not even aware of in day-to-day life. My new research project is all about this shift in our life stages.
What is your favorite quote?
“I was wise enough never to grow up, while fooling people into believing I had.”
― Margaret Mead
• The aging of the world has created enormous business opportunity for all kinds of companies, ranging from consulting firms to start-ups to established firms.
• Organize every day to achieve your larger goals; don’t get sidelined by shiny objects.
• Know when to turn business down in order to grow your opportunities.
Read “Live to 100” to learn how every generation is affected by increased longevity.
Lori Bitter on Twitter:
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.