What happens when millennials run businesses

Updated on 8 July 2016

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What happens when millennials run businesses

Millennials are having an impact on the workplace and that the world is having to adapt to an entirely different kind of workforce.

To find out just how big of an impact Sage asked 7,400 entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 34, in 16 countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, the US and Poland, among others. The results of the survey were released this week in the Walk With Me report which examines the key characteristics, attitudes and behaviours of millennial entrepreneurs around the world.

The millennial generation is defined as those born roughly between 1983 and 2000 and are characterised as being tech savvy, mission-orientated with an emphasis on collaboration and cooperation, and perhaps most importantly, a strong need for work-life balance.

“Millennials have a huge role to play in the startup economy and are shaping the modern workplace at great pace. Both businesses and policymakers must provide the right environment, in order for them as individuals, and the global economy, to flourish,” says Kriti Sharma Global Director, Mobile Product Management at Sage.

“Our in-depth research also uncovers the barriers — some already well known, others much less so—that entrepreneurs of this generation face daily around the world, and explores how these can be minimized, be that with help from bigger business or through simplified regulation,” she adds.

Here 5 highlights from the survey and what each means for how millennial entrepreneurs work.

1. There are different types of millennial entrepreneurs
What the survey says: The research uncovered five dominant personas among millennial entrepreneurs defined by their attitudes to: technology, doing business
and social impact of business.

The five personas are: Principled Planners, who are extremely methodical in their approach to work and enjoy carefully planning for success in a structured way; Driven Techies, those who trust in the power and efficiency of innovative technology to keep them one step ahead of the competition; Instinctive Explorers who love exploring uncharted territory; the Real Worlders, a resourceful group who are likely to say they rely on technology—preferably free technology—in order to succeed; and the Thrill Seekers, who enjoy diving into the unknown and care less about appearances).

The takeaway: ​Understanding more about each of these personas can go a long way in helping to dispel the myth that all millennials are the same, the report says. This, according to the report, also highlights the need for different types of millennials to receive the support that is most appropriate to them.

2. These are their values
What the survey says: 
The work/life balance or integration is an important consideration for young entrepreneurs. A whopping 66% say they prioritize life above work, and 62% of those surveyed say they have sacrificed profit to stay true to their personal values and ethics.

Meanwhile, 69% say that doing social good is an important part of what they do – this is especially important to entrepreneurs in South Africa (80%) and Brazil (81%) compared to other countries.

For respondents in Brazil (71%), Australia (70%), Belgium (70%), Singapore (73%) and Switzerland (70%), reducing the amount of hours they spend working and retiring early is a key focus for them.

The takeaway: This message was echoed by South African entrepreneur and founder of Reel Gardening and a millennial herself, Claire Reid (30), who in an interview said: “We [Reel Gardening] are driven by purpose and we look to make profit from purpose driven sustainable impact. We understand the need to value People, Planet and Profit all as equals in our business model. In leading a social enterprise, I attract passionate social leaders to work for me and they are driven by our mission. I therefore need to make sure that my team is able to consistently see the impact their work is having.”

Her company manufactures innovative biodegradable seed strips which makes gardening accessible to everyone.

3. How millennials want to work
What the survey says: 
The research reveals that millennial entrepreneurs greatly value flexibility and want to have freedom over when, where, and how they work, as well as with whom. A third of those surveyed say they want their business to grow, but only as long as they continue to work for themselves and can be autonomous.

Teamwork is the name of the game. A third of respondents also said they strive to recruit staff who share their personal values, and another third want employees to share their ambition and drive. While those in Poland and Belgium say this is typical of them, those in Nigeria prefer instead to recruit people who challenge their thinking and bring a fresh perspective.

Two-thirds of the entrepreneurs surveyed say they enjoy bouncing ideas off team members; this is particularly high in Switzerland (78%) where entrepreneurs say they work best around others.

Sixty-one percent  also say they socialise with coworkers at least once a week, no matter what, and almost a quarter say that when it comes to the smooth running of their business, company culture is the most important element of their business.

Entrepreneurs in the USA (73%), Spain (71%), and Brazil (74%) especially, say they socialize with their team at least once a week, while those in Nigeria (39%) tend to do this less often—perhaps once a month.

The takeaway:  Stacey Ferreira, an American entrepreneur and co-founder of MySocialCloud.com in the article, 5 reasons millennials are the entrepreneur generation, shared similiar sentiments, saying that compared to the older Generation X, millennials no longer equate success only with money, and are instead “collaborating more to reach their goals rather than aim to outcompete everyone.”

Collaboration, she says, is key to launching a successful business, especially if everyone is to benefit.

4. What ​motivates millennials
What the survey says:
 Entrepreneurs of this generation start their own business for three key reasons; a desire to be master of their own lives, to turn their ideas into a reality and to make money.

However, entrepreneurs of this generation don’t just want to be successful, they want their work to be fulfilling too. They see working for themselves as a way to stay true to their values; over a third say they started their own business so they could be master of their own identity.

In Nigeria, 36% say they started their own business to become masters of their own destiny and 29% to turn an idea into reality. Among South African respondents, 29% started their own business to become masters of their own destiny, followed by to make money (21%) and to turn an idea into reality (21%).

The takeaway: ​​David Gluckman, co-founder and director at Lumkani, maker of an affordable, networked fire detector in the article, ‘We the youth’ – 7 young entreps share their views on opportunities and challenges in SA had the following to say about the youth being masters of their own destiny.

​”Where young people can have the biggest impact is in ensuring that they are not creating just the one job for themselves but can create other jobs. Young people need to start thinking about what the rest of the world needs from South Africa. What local talent or creation or local asset do we have that the rest of the world needs?

5. The challenges they face
What the survey says:
 Forty-three percent of Millennial entrepreneurs say they find bureaucracy demotivating, with those in Brazil and Poland finding this particularly difficult.

Meanwhile, 36% of those surveyed, most notably in Singapore (46%), South Africa (43%), Spain (44%), and Australia (43%), say receiving late payment and worrying about cash flow is disheartening.

Almost a third, many in Singapore (35%) and Nigeria (36%), also say they struggle to get funding, and over a quarter, more than any other persona, say they suffer from increasing competition in the workplace, as more and more people get the startup bug.

The takeaway: The report outlines that small businesses need support from government and other stakeholders to reach their full potential, which will also significantly benefit the wider economy.

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