The latest Bank of America semi-annual small business report reports that millennials (aged 18-33) show extreme confidence about their business prospects and the economy:
- 77% of millennials plan to grow their businesses in the next five years (while baby boomers are less likely to).
- 72% of millennials are confident about revenue growth.
- 61% believe the national economy will improve in the next 12 months (compared to 30% of boomers and 58% of gen-xers).
It’s easy to dismiss this optimism among millennials as a product of age. Older, perhaps wiser, entrepreneurs have endured a few knocks on the way and are less inclined to take risks or feel the same unbridled optimism. External factors also play a part; many millennials started their businesses after the worst of the 2008 recession was over.
But there are some things that older generations can learn from millennials and apply back to their small businesses. Here are just five:
Don’t Ignore Technology
“Technology makes 77% of millennials feel in control”, claims an earlier Bank of America Fall 2014 Small Business Owner Report. Given that this generation grew up with digital tools, their comfort level and confidence in technology as an enabler is unsurprising. In addition, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study found that millennials are more likely to be early adopters of new technology than older business owners. Boomers are embracing technology too, but findings suggest that they are using it to achieve a greater work/life balance than for business success.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, technology can transform your business cutting costs, driving efficiencies, increasing revenues, and improving collaboration. Whether it’s reducing the costs of traditional software licenses and maintenance with cloud-based solutions, or taking advantage of on-the-go accounting and cash flow management tools.
Look Beyond Banks for Financing
While traditional bank loan applications are on the rise among gen-xers, millennials show the least action and intent to apply for a loan finds the 2015 Bank of America study.
Given that large banks are only approving 20% of small business loans, it’s no surprise that millennials are being more creative and looking elsewhere for their financing. SBA loan programs, for example, offer lower interest rates and guarantees (which alleviate the peril to lenders of taking on higher risk borrowers). Credit unions also a great alternative with loan growth at credit unions outpacing banks thanks to lower rates and fees.
Invest in Employees
As mentioned above, 77% of millennials plan to grow their business in the next five years. With growth comes the need for staff. Yet finding talent and maintaining morale are cited as two of the top challenges that small business employers struggle with. Millennials are known for being creative in their hiring and retention practices, whether through lower-cost benefits or a “lifestyle”-oriented workplace. Voluntary benefits are one way to do this as are morale-boosting programs.
Invest in Your Community
Another great way to be seen as an attractive employer is to build your brand through community involvement. Millennials currently report that they feel much more supported by their community (67%) than boomers (52%). Look for ways to build your profile locally – sponsor community events, host your own events and workshops, join your local business organizations (Chamber, SBDC, etc.).
With Optimism Comes a Plan
Above all, millennials are channeling their optimism into future plans – over two-thirds anticipate business and revenue growth in the near future. Sure, some of it involves taking a few risks (whatever your age), but a strong business plan can help alleviate those risks and even get you the financial backing your business needs to grow. Think of your plan as a living, breathing document. Map out your goals, what it will take to achieve them, make adjustments along the way, test new approaches, and measure results.
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