Understanding Millennials — America’s Largest Working Generation — Will Help Us Build a Stronger…


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They don’t judge work by pay, but rather by impact and quality of life.

By Amy Vetter, Global VP of Education and Enablement, Xero

Millennials are now the single largest generation participating in the American workforce. But arguably, they’re also the most misunderstood.

This demographic isn’t motivated in the same way their parents are. They grew up in the depths of the Great Recession. They’re highly educated, and they see a decent paying job as a privilege, not a right. That said, they’re not driven by a high pay-packet — many favor flexibility, or doing a job they love, over earning extra zeros.

This week my company Xero, a cloud accounting software platform, released a report detailing the biggest motivators and most common challenges millennial small business owners face today. More than 1,200 current and former owners of businesses in the U.S. were surveyed to gain a better understanding of the commonalities and differences between millennials and their older counterparts when it comes to starting and running a small business.

The results show that despite growing up in a recession, millennials aren’t afraid of a struggling economy — global or local — and benchmark success by the quality of work/life balance and ability to give back to the community.

“I never wanted to go the ‘traditional route,’” said Blake Oliver, a freelance accountant and Xero Ambassador. “I can’t imagine being stuck sitting at a desk every day from 8-to-5, just working for a paycheck. I want to be doing a job where I make a real difference — something I can be passionate about. That’s why I started my own business. It may not be as lucrative as working for a traditional firm, but it’s well worth it.”

Read the free report to learn more about these and other insights from millennial small business owners, the fastest growing segment of new business owners in the United States.

Recession aftershocks drive millennial entrepreneurship

As a generation that grew up in the recession, millennials are now trying to enter the workforce in the worst economy since the Great Depression. As a result, more millennials are ditching traditional career paths and opting to start their own businesses. Survey results find that unemployment is the biggest motivator for millennials that want to start their own businesses (22 percent). This is almost double that of respondents between the ages of 30 and 50 (12 percent) — further supporting the idea that millennials are a generation with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

Millennials want flexibility. Many millennials believe that working in a fixed office on a regular basis is unnecessary, they don’t have landline phones and rely heavily on their smartphones to communicate. Anyone looking to work with millennial business owners needs to meet this generation where they are, and that’s increasingly in the cloud and on mobile.

A healthy work/life balance — not the number of zeros in their bank accounts — is how 79 percent of millennials measure the success of the businesses. Millennials were raised on the internet and mobile devices, and with the rise of mobility, they want flexible work arrangements. Sixty-seven percent of millennial respondents say having a schedule that allows them to travel and pursue personal interests is the second most important benchmark of a successful business. Millennials also prioritize giving back to their communities, with 46 percent seeing it as a characteristic of success.

“Compared to older generations, millennial business owners quickly adopt new technologies and integrate them into their business operations,” said Jeff Phillips, CEO of accountingfly. “Millennials see the value in technology and are willing to try almost anything if it will make their lives easier.”

Moving forward with caution

Despite a growing economy, millennials remain cautiously optimistic about the future of their companies’ growth (49 percent). Interestingly, respondents over 50 were the most optimistic about their companies’ future growth (57 percent), but the most worried about a local suffering economy (47 percent). Millennials are the opposite. Forty-three percent of millennials said the rising costs of running a business is what keeps them up at night.

In short, millennial small business owners are aggressive about growing their operations in the cloud, they’re leaders in social media and mobile communication, they value flexibility over salary increases, and they care about making a difference in society.

You can read the full report here.

This piece is brought to you by Xero, the cloud accounting software solution for your small business. With Xero, you can log in anytime, anywhere to get a real-time view of your cash flow and manage your books. Start your free 30-day trial today.

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