A large portion of entrepreneurs are millennials (Millennials are all those people born between 1981–1996). Many millennials become entrepreneurs after being in the workforce for only a few years, usually in the need of a change. Others are entrepreneurs along with their 9–5 jobs (the infamous side-hustle), before eventually quitting the workforce to start their own business.
If millennials have been perceived as dissatisfied with their jobs then it’s worth considering the context for this. For many, their final years of university happened at the same time as the global economic crisis was playing out. For those born later, their education occurred in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The side-effect of this timing was that millennials emerged into the workforce at a time when companies were downsizing or at least freezing recruitment. Leaving university with debt to pay; jobs were scarce and unemployment was on the rise. Added to the job shortage was the additional challenge of finding a business that matched growing expectations.
Millennials have grown up in a rapidly changing and sometimes turbulent world and are driven to make an impact and bring about change. They believe that businesses are in operation to do more than just make money and should do more to help society, take action around climate change and also do more to improve wage equality. This is why a lot of millennial entrepreneurial ventures are focused on social impact and are often combined with social programs attached to them. Millennials are motivated by a sense of purpose and this is often reflected in the way they operate their businesses. They put great value on work-life balance, ensuring that they make time for their families and for other important people or experiences in their lives. They have seen and learnt from the burnout older generation and refuse to make the same mistakes. Millennials are also more likely to favour a relaxed company culture like casual dressing, half days and movie nights, believing the need to take care of the wellbeing of colleagues and employees is key to the success of a business.
The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 reveals that despite the individual challenges and personal sources of anxiety that millennials are facing during the current Covid-19 pandemic, they have remained focused on larger societal issues (both before and after the onset of the pandemic). If anything, the pandemic has reinforced their desire to help drive positive change in their communities and around the world.
Millennials grew up in technologically advanced age. This has led to them be incredibly innovative, learning to think outside the box and to understand the technology required to make things happen. They can also see beyond the limitations of current technology to perceive the future potential for their business.
Taking all these into consideration, here are 5 business lessons millennials should learn on their journey into entrepreneurship or to making their existing businesses stronger.
1. Use technology
Fortunately, millennials grew up with technology and are often early adopters. Many started using computers at a young age and were also taught in school. They have a good idea of social media and how to utilize it for business. This is an advantage millennials have over older generations and something they know how to leverage. This knowledge can be used to make your business tech-savvy as well.
It doesn’t matter what product you are selling, there’ll always be technological involvement via online sale channels. From a tech start-up to selling art, knowledge of technology is always needed.
2. Prioritise marketing
Prioritise marketing, especially digital marketing. As millennials are a technology-driven generation, a lot of time is spent online. It is important to build a marketing strategy that takes this into account. This means adapting and utilizing social media and new digital trends. The focus should be on attention-grabbing digital marketing that converts to direct sales. This is especially relevant if the target customer is younger. Traditional advertising spaces such as newspapers, radio and television can still be used, but only on a case by case basis.
3. Be flexible
Entrepreneurship requires resilience and flexibility to keep up with the times. In this day and age and with the effect of Covid-19, more people are starting to realise that you don’t need to be chained to your desk. Many prefer working remotely or freelance and this has created a more flexible working culture. This also reflects hours and conditions. A startup owned by a millennial could be run from an entirely virtual office, with all employees working from home. Alternatively, you may want to consider asking your staff to come into a physical office on a part-time ‘needs only’ basis. This would depend entirely on the nature of the business. Generally, technological advancements make it easier for staff to work remotely. You can still hold discussions, meetings and even keep tabs on assignments and work without seeing one another in person.
4. Empower others
Entrepreneurship isn’t only about reaping rewards for yourself, and it’s not about being an entirely self-made business leader. Instead, it’s about finding opportunities to solve big problems — and solving the biggest problems requires strategic teamwork, partnerships and affiliations. Millennials believe that leadership is defined by how you empower others, rather than what you take for yourself. It’s no coincidence that flat leadership structures are amongst the leading trends that millennial workers have helped to promote in today’s start-ups.
5. Stay Optimistic
In entrepreneurship, optimism (within reason) is required to keep pushing ahead. Optimism allows you to take risks and this in turn breeds innovation. It allows you to take a leap of faith. Although we already know a huge percentage of businesses fail, thankfully, millennials are known to have the guts and gusto to go for it anyway. Even if you fail, you’ll never know if you don’t try. This risk-taking attitude is an admirable trait, especially because starting a business takes a great amount of courage and resilience, to begin with.