I belong to the tail-end of the baby-boomer generation. So, along with my compatriots, I am also closer to the end of my business career than the beginning. New business owners will take over our place in communities and commerce.
We boomers are in the process of transferring $78 trillion of wealth and a significant amount of that will pass to those born between 1997 and 2012 – Generation Z. That’s a lot of money, so the world needs to hope that they will use it for the betterment of our society and our world.
According to Microsoft research, almost two-thirds of Gen Z Americans have started, or intend to start, their own business. (We must remember though that business ownership was a necessity for many Gen Z entrepreneurs, as the pandemic laid waste to economies across the world).
So what will this cohort be like as business owners?
Gen Z has experienced a vastly different world to us. It is no surprise that they are acting very differently to us as business owners, and these 4 areas stand out.
Gen Z have had little experience of harsh economic conditions – until COVID 19. Just a couple of blips on the quarterly GDP radar have appeared since they became adults. Yes, the GFC was a significant setback, but we Australians managed to escape that period relatively unscathed. They are also pretty inexperienced when it comes to inflation and high interest rates.
On the whole, life in business has been pretty fair sailing during their lifetimes.
Then came COVID 19 – a big shock to us all. Not surprisingly then, most Gen Zers are worried about inflation and rising interest rates – phenomena they have never seen before.
They are also ambivalent about traditional banking. Gen Z businesses are happy using Fintech lenders and seeking venture capital, giving them much more flexibility in how they finance their businesses.
This is probably just as well, as the traditional, primary source of finance for small businesses is all but closed to them – mortgaging the family home. If you can’t afford to buy a home, you certainly can’t use it as collateral. (It will be interesting to see how traditional banks adjust to this paradox).
The 9 – 5 office routine is not for Gen Z. They have different ideas about work and life, have no problem with non-standard hours, and view work as a mobile occupation.
They love their time, and will happily pay for services and solutions that provide time and convenience. They don’t want to stand in line, wait at a shop, or generally waste time on things they don’t like or don’t want to do. Uber, Jimmy Brings, Deliveroo … all these brands have tapped into this.
Their love of convenience also means they are more willing to pay for professional advice. This is a good thing, and will hopefully reduce the abysmal failure statistics for small businesses.
Gen Z are truly Digital Natives. They don’t know a world without internet, smartphones, cloud computing … Two-thirds of them conduct at least half their business on a smartphone. They have no hesitation in adopting all that the internet age has given us. They are at the front of the queue for AI, blockchain and whatever else emerges out of the disruption caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.
Gen Z business owners don’t get their information from newspapers. That’s too slow for them. Reddit, YouTube and TikTok are their chosen sources. In an era of fake news, does that have implications for the stability of business? I don’t know.
One implication I am certain of though is that areas unable to provide good technological connectivity will not attract Gen Z business owners. Regional Australia – watch out.
We Boomers grew up surrounded by a ‘profit first’ mentality, but Gen Zers value their social contribution, both for themselves and for their businesses. Half of them list social contribution as one of their top three business priorities. There are many reasons for this, but it’s a refreshing change.
Then there is climate change. A Deloitte study shows that climate change is the single largest concern for our younger business owners. They are working on making a difference – thank goodness.
They are also concerned about wealth inequality – a change from many of the boomer and Gen X crowd who believe that accumulating as much wealth as possible, at the expense of anybody, was the objective of being in business.
Optimism or Pessimism?
Overwhelmingly, The Gen Z cohort are positive – positive about the future and positive about making a difference. As we, the last of the boomers move on, we should be positive about what the Gen Zers will do with the world they inherit from us.