What Makes Millennial Entrepreneurs Tick




Yaj Malik,
EVP and Managing Director
Sage Asia
What Makes Millennial Entrepreneurs Tick
By Yaj Malik, EVP and Managing Director, Sage Asia

Today, we are increasingly dependent on a new generation of entrepreneurs to drive innovation and growth. I am referring to the millennial entrepreneurs.

Globally, millennial entrepreneurs are starting more businesses, managing more people, and targeting higher profits compared to previous generations. Similarly in Singapore, a recent survey have found millennials to be more likely to plan or start a business or be self-employed in the next ten years[1].

Millennial entrepreneurs are shaking things up. They are rejecting established business approaches and work styles. They are not afraid to experiment and innovate. They are accustomed to using technology to drive efficiency or productivity. They are not afraid to work hard but at the same time want flexibility.

But before I make more generalisations of this group of individuals, I should emphasize that millennial entrepreneurs come with great diversity. At Sage, we recently conducted a study into 7,400 millennial entrepreneurs around the world, and what we found out was revealing to say the least. Here is a quick snapshot.

Diverse group of individuals

From the Sage Walk with Me study, we found that millennial entrepreneurs can be grouped into five very different groups based on their behavioural traits and the way they go about approaching their business:

·      The Principled Planners -- extremely methodical in their approach to work, they enjoy carefully planning for success. With an ambitious streak, they never take anything at face value and always ask a lot of questions.

·      The Driven Techies – love their work and can’t bear the thought of sitting around twiddling their thumbs, they trust in the power and efficiency of innovative technology to keep them one step ahead of the competition. They have a strong belief in its ability to accurately target their existing and future customers.

·      The Instinctive Explorers – cavalier, they love the unknown, as well as exploring uncharted territory. They trust their gut instincts and stick to their guns. A modern image is extremely important to them, as is leaving a legacy behind to be remembered by. 

·      The Real ‘Worlders’ - resourceful, but likely to say they rely on technology in order to succeed. When it comes to their approach to work and making decisions, they tend to alternate between going on gut instinct and taking a more methodical approach. 

·      The Thrill-Seekers - easily bored and always on the lookout for the next challenge, they couldn’t care less about appearances. They work best around others and believe that making a social impact is overrated.

Ambitious business leaders
It used to be that business owners would start a business, build it up, groom their children to run it and pass it on when they are ready to retire. Well, the thinking is quite different with millennial entrepreneurs. Of the global millennial entrepreneur respondents, 62 percent believe they will be a serial entrepreneurs -- starting more than one than business. Among these, 52 percent said this is because they have lots of ideas they want to share with the world. It is not that different in Singapore as 58 percent of the millennial entrepreneurs here believe they will start more than one business during their lifetime.

Ethics and values important

Another interesting finding is that millennial entrepreneurs tend to hold true to ethics and values strongly. A vast majority said they would sacrifice profits over their own ethics and values. For instance, close to 73 percent of respondents in Singapore said they have sacrificed profits in order to stay true to their personal values in business.

These group of business leaders also see doing social good as important. In South Africa (80%) and Brazil (81%), a majority of the respondents emphasised that they value doing social good in their approach to business. Some respondents in Australia (20%), France (19%) Switzerland (24%) also said that employee happiness is what gets them out of bed in the morning.

Valuing Work-life balance

Furthermore, millennial entrepreneurs value work-life balance. Specifically, 66 percent of the global respondents said life comes before work. Similarly, 67 percent of respondents in Singapore prioritise life over work. It is possible that that many millennials here have grown up around adults who toiled at their businesses or work during the early years of the country’s independence, and they are now choosing to ensure that they devote time to themselves and their families.

Respondents in Australia (70%), Belgium (70%), Brazil (71%) and Switzerland (70%) also said reducing the amount of hours they spend working and retiring early is a key focus for them. Interestingly, close to three-quarters (73.4%) in Singapore said that retirement and reducing their hours is a key focus, higher than any other country that responded.

Understanding the Millennial Entrepreneur

The Sage study revealed important and interesting insights into the characteristics that influence their behaviour in areas such as attitudes towards work-life balance, technology adoption, social values and barriers they face. They fall into distinct camps with specific concerns, fears, hopes, and preference in business approaches and work styles.

We conducted this study because it is important that businesses around the world understand the behaviour patterns and business needs of millennial entrepreneurs. As the next generation of business builders, millennial entrepreneurs will continue to build their businesses to be the SMEs of tomorrow and eventually become the business leaders of the future.

Extending to the larger society, this entrepreneurial spirit creates opportunities for others — and in realizing their goals, millennial entrepreneurs also create prosperity that spreads to the rest of society, a vision Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently shared in his National Day Rally speech[2].

Understanding what makes millennial entrepreneurs tick stands us all in good stead for the future. No matter if you want to do business with them, buy from them, hire them or create policy that helps them to grow. 

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