Research shows that these are
all qualities that are strongly
associated with the personality of
entrepreneurship. However, most
important of all, psychologists say, is
the desire for autonomy and the desire
to make money.
Autonomy is the urge that many
entrepreneurs have to be the boss,
to run the show and to step away
from the corporate hierarchy. In fact,
psychologists suggest that it is this
characteristic that ultimately drives
entrepreneurs to accept the risks of
entrepreneurship: a heavy workload
and an uncertain financial future.
The desire for profit is clearer and
has long been the decisive factor that
tips the balance for many to go into
business for themselves.
Yet, many recent studies, including
research undertaken by HSBC
Private Bank among 4,000 successful
entrepreneurs, have found that
attitudes are changing. In particular,
the next generation of entrepreneurs in
their 20s and 30s are much less driven
by the desire to be the boss and to
make money than those in their 50s.
Instead, this digital generation of
Millennial entrepreneurs is emerging
with a much stronger emphasis
on seeking influence rather than
autonomy, and social impact rather
than personal wealth.
This raises the interesting question
of whether the future businesses of
Millennial entrepreneurs will have the
same economic impact as those of
entrepreneurs in their 40s and 50s?
What is clear is that getting the right
blend of entrepreneurial qualities
is important for success and the
Millennial generation are experimenting
with that formula.
Millennial entrepreneurs – new
generation, new priorities
Millennial entrepreneurs in America
are at the front of this curve. Here,
the emphasis on autonomy is sharply
in decline in the new generation
of entrepreneurs. While, 49 per cent of
American entrepreneurs in their 20s
say they went into business to be
their own boss, this is substantially
lower than the 64 per cent of American
entrepreneurs in their 50s.
Instead, the Millennial generation of entrepreneurs in America is more focused on
building their influence For example, 47 per cent said they were motivated to go into business
by the desire to better themselves, 29 per cent wanted to have a positive impact in their
communities and 32 per cent wanted to build a name for themselves. This compares to 43 per cent,
17 per cent and 19 per cent of American entrepreneurs in their 50s respectively.
At the same time, Millennial entrepreneurs are spending considerably less time on
business activities like developing new business, delivering products and services, and
In fact, American Millennial entrepreneurs are spending on average 42 minutes less
each day on delivering solutions to clients when compared to those over 50.
While they might be spending less time on delivering solutions to clients, theirs is
increasingly a culture of “working smart, not hard”. They spend more of their time
focused on the strategy of their companies and managing the teams around them
when compared with the Baby Boomer generation.
For them leadership is as much about inspiring and educating others as it is
about leading from the front and being accountable for business decisions. As a
consequence their leadership style is more di use and they are less hands-on in the
day to day running of the business.
A similar pattern can be seen in Europe, where in the UK, France, Germany and
Switzerland, entrepreneurs in their 20s are half as likely as those in their 50s to say the
main reason they went into business was to be their own boss. They are also more
focused on having a positive impact on their communities; although in the European
context this is often expressed in terms of creating employment rather than having a
broader social impact in their communities.
Like their American counterparts, Millennial entrepreneurs in Europe also report
spending less time and effort on business administration tasks when compared to
those in their 50s, and more time on strategy and sta management than those in their
30s and 40s.
The psychology of success
What is clear is that in America and Europe in particular there is a changing balance
of priorities between the generations. Those from the Baby Boomer generation
emphasise self-determination and personal profit.
Millennial entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are placing more emphasis on the social capital
required for successful entrepreneurship, such as relationship building and reciprocity.
When considering the balance between these qualities, psychologists agree that the traits of self-determination are essential to kick-start entrepreneurs into
business ownership. It is the autonomy that comes from being the boss that spurs
many entrepreneurs to accept the risks of potentially lower earnings and greater
uncertainty. In other words, for entrepreneurs the benefits of self-determination
trump the fear of failure.
Social qualities, like trust, reciprocity, relationship-building and optimism are also
important. These factors combine to enable successful entrepreneurs to do deals,
to build and sustain networks and keep going against the odds. What is less clear is
whether these qualities in isolation can generate economic success. In this context it is
interesting to compare and contrast Millennial entrepreneurs around the world.
Notably, entrepreneurs in their 20s from the Asia Pacific region show a greater
balance between the six traits of entrepreneurship. On the one hand, they are aligned
with the global Millennial trend that being the boss is not their primary motivation for
going into business.
However, they have a stronger profit motivation than their counterparts in America and
Europe. Forty five per cent of entrepreneurs in their 20s across Mainland China, Hong
Kong, Singapore and Australia say they went into business to increase their personal
wealth. This compares to just 29 per cent in Europe and 40 per cent in America.
This drive to make money influences their approach to the working day. Indeed,
entrepreneurs in their 20s in the Asia Pacific countries on average work one hour and
24 minutes more than entrepreneurs in their 50s across the region.
They are spending similar amounts of time on developing new business and delivering
solutions, but they are also committing much more time to tasks like leading company
strategy and team management. In fact, on average they commit almost half an hour
more each day to corporate strategy than entrepreneurs in their 50s and they are
strongly focused on inspiring and educating others.
“The journey of an entrepreneur is filled with so many beautiful
moments and obstacles. Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure will
teach you the most amazing things, that’s when you know you
went wrong, but also when you know what you need to do to
make it right.”
Masoom Minawala, founder of StyleFiesta
Perhaps most interesting of all, while
the businesses run by Millennial
entrepreneurs in the Asia Pacific
region are not as large as those run
by their counterparts in America or
Europe – the average turnover is $9
million – their growth aspirations are
higher, with a 14 per cent annual growth
rate target, versus 10 per cent and 12 per cent in
America and Europe respectively.
These future leaders in the Asia Pacific
region may not want to be the boss to
the same extent as older entrepreneurs,
but they want to achieve financial
rewards. More than that, they are
emerging with a strong blend of the
wider traits associated with successful
entrepreneurship and are putting in
long hours to achieve their goals.
The hive mentality
By contrast, in America, Europe
and Asia, Millennial entrepreneurs
are digging deep to hone their
socially-oriented entrepreneurial style.
When asked which skills gaps
are most likely to hold them back,
Millennial entrepreneurs highlight
networking, public speaking,
creative thinking, people
management and strategic
acumen as the areas for personal
development. These are all activities
linked to the ability build relationships,
share ideas and do deals.
In other words, their strategy for
success is to refine their social capital.
Moreover, their hive mentality makes
them more open to other individuals
and other ideas who can help nurture
On one level this is unsurprising for this
most globally networked and digitally
social of generations. On another level,
it is generating a whole new model for
Where the older generation
looked inward to find the resilience
to withstand the rigours of
entrepreneurship, the Millennial
generation is looking outwards.
“ My business adventures have been a rollercoaster, there have
been huge soaring highs and crushing lows. You have to treat
those as battle scars; they’re valuable learnings that can help
you going forward. When you get knocked down, you have
to pick yourself up, dust yourself o and keep going.”
Michael Acton Smith, founder of MindCandy
Perhaps most interestingly, this can
be seen in their strategies for coping
with failure. Where the Baby Boomer
generation was self-reliant in the face of
failure, the Millennial generation is more
comfortable building their confidence in
Many business schools now include
learning from failure courses as part
of the entrepreneurship curriculum
and self-help networks have formed
in the physical and digital worlds
allowing business owners to share their
experiences and learn from mistakes.
These emerging trends and attitudes
among Millennial entrepreneurs globally
point to the dawning of a new age of
entrepreneurship, where social networks
are as important and potentially more
important than self-reliance.
It is hard to judge right now what
the economic impact will be of
this changing culture over time.
Entrepreneurs who go into business
at an early age often come from
business owning families, which can
provide a head start both in business
It is therefore not surprising to find that
successful Millennial entrepreneurs are already running businesses that are on
par with those in their 40s and 50s. The
average turnover of businesses run by
successful entrepreneurs in their 20s in
America, for example, is USD14.5 million,
compared to USD9 million of turnover
for businesses run by American
entrepreneurs in their 50s.
However, harnessing future economic
growth will mean not just recognising,
but also working to develop this new
It is only by understanding the
dynamics of entrepreneurship through
the generations that business leaders
can be supported most effectively
to achieve their goals – personally,
professionally, financially and, of