If you were to believe everything you read, Gen Y, or ‘Millennials’ as they are now affectionately known as, are a generation of self-absorbed digital natives with their eyes glued to the latest in smartphone technology. Recent research however, paints a different picture. In 2015, Deloitte’s ‘Mind the Gaps’ survey found that Millennials are passionate about improving their community and environment and expect businesses to share the same vision.
Aaron Smith, CEO and founder of the KX Group, founded KX Pilates when he was 26 years old and over the last six years has successfully built his business to include close to 30 studios across three states. Growing up with a father who was in business, Smith knew that he would eventually start his own business, the only thing he didn’t know was what that business would be.
“My father was in business for 45 years and drilled into me from a very early age that to get ahead in life you needed to live below your means and to own your own business,” Smith said.
With Millennials said to be the largest generation in history, it has been estimated that by 2025, they will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce (brookings.edu). Millennials are also touted to be the driving force behind a change to the way companies do business.
Kristy Sellars had just turned 23 when she opened her first PhysiPole Studio. Having started pole dancing classes a few years earlier to broaden her dance ability, Sellars saw the explosion of interest in pole fitness and decided to teach classes in her home town of Warrnambool.
“The biggest hurdle I faced was bringing ‘pole dancing’ to a country town, and educating people on what it was all about,” Sellars said.
A change in expectations from employers and employees has seen a decline in company loyalty and a rise in young people going into business for themselves. The average time a Millennial is expected to stay in a job is less than three years compared to Baby Boomers or Gen X which in the 2012 Future Workplace ‘Multiple Generations @ Work’ survey was said to be an average of 4.4 years.
There can be many reasons for this high turnover; boredom; lack of recognition or advancement opportunities; lack of work/life balance. It can also stem from wanting more out of life than a traditional job provides.
If you want to succeed though, you need to be disciplined from the outset and willing to make sacrifices. Smith paid himself $200 a week and lived with his parents to get his business off the ground.
“I constantly had to look back at my ‘why’ and keep pushing through.
“I saw the light at the end of the tunnel with each day being better than the last until I started to love the journey,” Smith said
More Millennials are opening their own small businesses and making it work. From pop-up stores, joint ventures, online businesses and soft launches, this new breed of tech savvy business people are able to start a low risk business without the long term commitment of a long term lease, and with minimal funds.
Sellars hired a room in a karate dojo on the weekend to teach classes in when she started her business.
“I started very small, as my student base grew, so did my business.
“It was just me teaching the classes so I didn’t have employees, there was no retail store, there was no reception,” Sellars said.
So, what makes Millennials successful? Their businesses are more often than not founded on passion. They believe in what they do and they genuinely want to make a difference. They have a conscience, are not purely profit driven and they create their own work/life balance.
Smith recalls being 19 and seeing the late Jim Rohn speak at a conference in Las Vegas.
“His words still ring true in my head daily, “Care more about your customers than you do about the money you will make off them, and you will be successful,” Smith said
Smith says he is extremely content with his life, he is busy but tries to maintain an equilibrium.
“Balance is an interesting word and no I would not say my life is balanced, but I am incredibly grateful and am aware of what makes me happy and I seek that out on a daily basis,” Smith said.
Sellars enjoys the fact that she gets to do what she loves every single day but is quick to point out that although she loves every part of her business, it is not all roses and rainbows. Seeing the transformation of her clients is one thing that keeps her motivated.
“Not only that, the atmosphere and community that is created within each class, each studio and PhysiPole Studios as a whole makes the students feel a part of something bigger than just their own fitness goals,” Sellars said.
Millennials are breaking the rules of traditional franchise set-up with inexpensive fit outs, less staff and an environment that has character and is not sterile. Sellars start up in a karate dojo is proof of that with PhysiPole Studios now open in 12 locations across Australia.
Millennials are brilliant at finding their passion and turning it into a job opportunity. Sellars completed her Diploma in Performing Arts at the age of 18 and taught dance as a sole trader across Victoria. She then went on to purchase a dance wear and costume hire shop which opened her eyes to what running a small business was all about. With so many of the generation not being able to find employment in their industry of choice, Millennials are creating opportunities for themselves.
What do these businesses and young business people need to ensure that their business venture is a success? A willingness to give it a go is first on the list. Millennials, as with all other entrepreneur’s, need to put in the hard yards and learn to take calculated risks. In order to succeed, you need to be prepared to try, and fail, more than once.
Being able to ask questions is another key to success. Smith says that there are some challenges when starting your own business, especially if it is something that you have never done before. With his father as his biggest mentor in his early years, Smith joined ‘The Entourage’ where he was surrounded by mentors who had walked the path before him and could pass on their experience and knowledge, it is the best way to learn from other people’s mistakes and successes.
Sellars also seeks out her peer’s for advice, whether it be a CEO of a major Australian franchise or attendees at the Australian Pole Studio Owner’s Conference. Sometimes, her four-year-old daughter dishes out some great advice once telling Sellars, “If you want to be the greatest, you have to try harder.”
Millennials are multi skilled, highly educated, equipped to succeed and have no problem asking for help. With their ‘can do’ attitude, the world is their oyster. They have an advantage being digital natives. Not only can Millennials navigate their way around new technology at the speed of light, they are masters of social media. They can easily build their business and networks through social media with the smallest of budgets.
Social media is one of the fastest ways to build a community and a brand, it is the easiest way to be seen and share a common message across multiple channels. It is no longer optional for businesses to use, it’s a must.
For Millennials looking at starting their own business, Sellars urges them research their area, demographic, competition and themselves.
“Recognise your strengths and weaknesses and build a great team around you,” Sellars said.
Smith says that starting your own business can be the most challenging yet rewarding thing you will ever do in your life. In the early days you need to know your ‘why’ and keep pushing towards that, even when the going gets tough.
“Success is a choice,” Smith said.