Every generation likes to believe it’s different in nearly every way, including when it comes to how they do business. But arguably no generation has actively chosen to tear up the rule book quite like the so-called Millennial Generation. Hence, it would not be wrong if I say “Being a millennial is a mindset and not an age group” .
Not only are these tech-savvy 20 and 30-somethings changing where they work, they are also refusing to stick to the rules when it comes to growing their businesses and generating and making money. What’s more, they’re also creating completely new jobs for themselves and a new type of business.
Notably, thanks to the Millennial Generation’s love of technology, and above all, social media, no generation has ever been so easy to study. Thanks to this, defining how millennials are doing things differently is just as straightforward as it is fascinating. So, how are these young entrepreneurs breaking with the past? Here are just a few key developments:
Having grown up with computers and, largely, mobile phones surrounding them, millennials are so-called ‘Digital Natives’ and have been among the most enthusiastic embracers of all the latest technology. Such enthusiasm for computers and communications has had an obvious impact on how they do business. According to the UK Business Digital Index by Lloyds Bank, 80 per cent of millennials feel that ongoing advances in technology are making it even easier to set up a small business. Most notably, growing numbers are at least starting out with a laptop on their kitchen table or in a co-working space, saving substantial sums of money on a physical base and thereby giving themselves one big advantage over their more traditional rivals.
Arguably, this is not unique to the millennial generation. Indeed, older professionals have also been embracing home-working in their droves as they look to cut back on their commuting time and improve their work-life balance. But what does set these younger entrepreneurs apart from their older counterparts is their geographical flexibility.
Indeed, right across the Western world, millennial entrepreneurs are being credited with bringing new, innovative businesses to previously-overlooked towns and cities. For instance, in the United States, the Thumbtack Small Business Survey identified Birmingham, Alabama, and Boise, Idaho as the most attractive cities for millennial entrepreneurs, while in the UK, young, forward-thinking entrepreneurs are quitting London and other big cities, confident that their vision and enthusiasm, combined with cheap rents, will allow them to succeed in pastures new.
Looking beyond traditional financing models
Entrepreneurs used to have to rely on a friendly bank manager to obtain the finance they needed to get their small business off the ground. Not any more, as the financial habits of millennials demonstrate.
In the US, for example, research by the Bank of America found that 14 per cent of millennial business owners have used alternative funding models while growing their enterprises, with this proportion only set to increase over the coming years. That is, rather than going to their local high street bank, these tech-savvy businessmen and women are borrowing from their peers through special funding platforms, while many have also bartered goods or services online rather, saving them serious sums of money in the start-up stage.
Again, such a willingness to move away from traditional models gives millennials some major advantages over their older competitors. For instance, by going online and embracing crowd-funding, tech-savvy entrepreneurs can often get funding far quicker than rivals waiting on a bank manager to make a decision. What’s more, many models of alternative finance don’t require the same assets before lending money, once more giving those willing to break the rules a much-needed head start.
Not working ‘til they drop
The traditional image of an entrepreneur is a highly-motivated man or woman working all the hours of the day, including weekends, to get their projects off the ground and then make it grow as big as possible.
Perhaps looking at their older peers and seeing how such an approach can take its toll, millennials, however, are less likely to work hard but instead work smart. For instance, almost four in five of those polled for the Millennial Majority Workforce report in the UK said that they chose to go it alone to enjoy a break from the traditional working structure rather than to simply earn more money.
Moreover, while most are happy to work from home or on the move, a significant proportion also value being able to ‘turn off’, valuing their work-life balance and mental wellbeing just as much as they do their firm’s bottom line. And, importantly, the same study also found evidence that millennial entrepreneurs tend to treat their employees better than traditional businesses, too, being more open to their staff taking time off for personal reasons and being happy for them to work remotely as and when possible.
Optimism above all else
All of the above is only really possible because millennial entrepreneurs have one thing that many of their older rivals are lacking, namely pure optimism.
American Express recently reported that around three in four young entrepreneurs tend to be upbeat about their economic prospects, a far greater proportion than other small business owners. What’s more, research has also found that millennials are actively enjoying going it alone, seeing it as an opportunity just as much as a challenge.
Such a positive attitude means millennials are more willing to take risks, whether it’s moving to new towns or cities and setting their fledgling businesses up there, or trusting in new models of financing rather than doing the ‘sensible thing’ and sticking with their local bank. Additionally, by being more optimistic about their financial prospects than the average business owner, millennials are statistically more likely to take on new staff, spelling good news for economies as a whole and not merely a single generation!