The more cynical among us might style millennials – those of us born in the mid-eighties and later – as commitment-phobes. It’s an easy stereotype to perpetuate: from phone plans to jobs Tinder dates, the idea of always being on the lookout for the next, newest, most stimulating thing – and the readiness to cast off the old – is especially reinforced by current attitudes that have left many millennials recovering from the comparatively weighty permanence of debt and educational linearity.
The youngest generation of small business owners, however, seems to be battling the stereotype and increasingly embracing the long-term view of commitment to business growth, including the kind of longevity it will take to pass enterprises down through their families in the future. According to new survey data by Wells Fargo, more than 80 percent of millennial SMB owners (compared to roughly 66 percent of their older peers) cite the hope of growing their business over many years and succeeding it to their children as a major goal.
The “build it, sell it and move on” model – common to technology companies of the startup boom – has apparently run its course according to Wells Fargo’s data. Younger businesses, however, are more inclined to want to shed their part-time or cottage-industry origins and approach larger scale over time when compared to older demographics.
The shift toward long-term thinking among younger SMB owners is even evident in the language they use to describe their work. While terms like “entrepreneur,” “freelancer” and “contractor” appeal to the millennial crowd, well over half of millennials polled described themselves as “business owners” when asked about their occupations.
Wells Fargo’s data also shows that many millennial business owners see credit and debt as an investment their future. 43 percent have taken on personal debt to grow their businesses, but only around one third have taken out business-specific loans or forms of financing.
Millennial business owners will be the vanguards of a new generation of small businesses, whose impulse for growth coincides with a desire to do social good in their communities. The continued support of financial education and accessible business funding for young owners will ensure that new enterprises can grow and flourish for generations to come.