Although the Gen-Z and Millennial demographic have a lot in common compared to other population groups, their differences are not as subtle as they’re made out to be. For clarification, a millennial is a person born between 1981 to 1997, and Gen-Zs were born from 1997 to around 2010. What creates the greatest distinction between these two groups is the popularity of the internet at the time of their birth. In the early 90s when millennials were growing up, the internet was just taking off, so its use wasn’t that widespread. Computers, especially in developing countries, were reserved for work and school activities, so children encountered them a little later in life. The Gen-Z population however, was born when the internet was in full swing, with research showing that some children in this age group received their first smartphone as early as 5 years old.
This difference inadvertently affects how these two groups live their lives and trickles down to their approach to careers and business. And from the look of things, it seems like millennials are quickly losing their grip on the “entrepreneurship crown” and Gen-Z are taking up space. The Gen-Z population is bolder in their decisions, get their start earlier on in life, have larger, more diverse networks and are taking non-conventional paths to fulfilling their goals. According to this poll carried out on students from grade 5 to 12 (around 10-16 years), 45% said they wanted to be business owners in the future and 12% said they had already started an enterprise. Another more recent study that surveyed teens, young adults and parents showed that over 54% of the Gen-Z respondents wanted to start their own company compared to 31% of millennials who had the same inspiration, showing the difference in business drive between these two groups.
In this blog, we set out to explore what sets apart Gen-Z entrepreneurs from their millennial counterparts and draw some key lessons that can be useful to business owners in adapting to the changing business climate.
Gen-Z: What are they doing differently?
Going off the data from the quoted surveys it is apparent that the Gen-Z population are more open to being their own bosses (77% of respondents wanted to be self-employed) instead of being employees.
Here’s what they are doing differently from their predecessors;
- Growing a large network all over the world
Decentralization has become the order of the day for modern businesses, especially with the pandemic triggering remote work. Gen-Z business owners have adapted swiftly to this model, and with the power of the internet, are able to recruit talent from all over the world. This adaptability not only ensures that they secure employees with impressive portfolios, it also means that they can easily expand or localize their operations to newer markets faster. And with their large network, they’re able to gain and transfer industry knowledge faster and more efficiently. In this way, they’re more adept at problem identification and solving.
- Getting their start earlier on
The path to business success is often marked with missteps, setbacks and oftentimes failure. However, this hasn’t deterred Gen-Z entrepreneurs from stepping into the world of business. In fact, they are getting into business very early on. Some of the most successful social media influencers, who have grown their personal brands into multi-million dollar businesses, have been in the market for years. They’ve grown up with their minds trained on their entrepreneurial potential, and have had time to make mistakes, learn, pivot and come out the other side more successful.
Their early start has also been triggered by the increased number of role models in the world today. Unlike millennials who grew up when the majority of the rich and successful were old men, Gen-Z have grown up when there’s been an influx of young billionaires from diverse backgrounds. This presence of role models has enabled them to view entrepreneurship as valid a career path as any other.
- Prioritizing learning but they’re not hung up on conventions
According to this survey, 89% of Gen-Z have considered an educational path that is different from the traditional four-year degree after high school. With information becoming more accessible, more of them are opting out of college and leaning on online certifications from platforms such as Udemy, MasterClass, Linkedin and Google. These sources have made it such that you don’t have to go through formal training to gain the skills you need to thrive in your chosen industry.
Whatever gaps are present in Gen Zers knowledge arsenal can easily be filled by a quick Google search or a YouTube tutorial. With this unlimited access to information, these youngsters are not waiting until they have it “all figured out” before they take a dive into the entrepreneurial pool. They’re using the skills that they have to get started and learning on the fly. And since they’re tech-savvy, they also know how to use the tools available to them in a way that generates profits. Just think of all the young people creating shorts on TikTok or streaming their gaming sessions on Twitch and making a killing!
- Motivated to make a difference, not just money
Gen-Zs are starting businesses to make money but also to address social issues, protect the environment and promote wellness. And they take achieving these goals just as serious as they do their profit margins. Amid the social and political issues that exist in the world today, these young trail blazers are setting a precedent of ethical practice, fairness and conscientious operation in an era where money is everything. This article from inc.com espouses the idea that enterprises that address issues are the most profitable and far outlive those that just aim to make money.
Millennials: Stuck in the past?
Before Gen-Z came into their own, millennials were running the show and were doing a better job than those that came before them. Think about the likes of Mike Zuckerberg, Brian Chesky (Airbnb), David Karp (Tumblr), etc. They made a great impact on the tech and business space that has forever changed the way we live. However, the millennial approach to business has come under scrutiny now that the younger entrepreneurs are coming up faster and are building more resilient products.
This is what millennials can learn from Gen-Z entrepreneurs;
- Being open-minded and adaptable to change
- Taking bigger but calculated risks
- Up-skilling and reducing exclusive reliance on skills learnt from school
- Increasing their network and leveraging the power of social media
The Gen-Z population is aggressively taking over the entrepreneurial space. Entrepreneurs from other demographics can greatly benefit from borrowing a leaf from these youngsters to channel the same success to their businesses.