We hear a lot of buzz about young twentysomething entrepreneurs who have skyrocketed to financial success and fame. But does that mean that youth always brings the best results for entrepreneurs? Or are older business owners more likely to succeed, since they’ve got more work and life experience?
The Gen Ypreneur
Armed with a college degree — or not — young, exuberant entrepreneurs bring a certain joie de vivre to the startup community. They’re fresh-faced and ready to take on the world.
But despite the frenzy that Mark Zuckerberg put in the hearts of aspiring 24-35 year-olds when he launched Facebook, some say this generation is actually a bit less risk-averse than it was just five years ago. The recession played a large part in that statistic.
I’m not necessarily buying into broad stereotypes, mind you. No matter what generation, you will always have some Type A go-getters and some who are laid back. And some who fall in between.You will always have some business owners who will be more successful than others – for a variety of reasons. Trying to peg people into a box doesn’t serve anyone well.
But being young does suggest some advantages when it comes to succeeding in business. With fewer financial and personal responsibilities (assuming an entrepreneur has not yet started building a family, which often deters one from deciding to go down such a risky path), there are fewer barriers to entry to start a business. And since Gen Y has shunned the concept of working for the same company for 25 years, they’re less afraid of the unknown that entrepreneurship brings. They’re also not yet stuck in thinking ruts that sometimes comes with decades of experience in a particular field.
But a clean slate doesn’t always equal success. Younger people also have less experience in the work world. And young entrepreneurs may lack the life experience that teaches us insight into how people want to be treated, especially customers and employees. And Gen Y may have more trouble considering the big picture. It may be tempting to take the year’s profit and install a cappuccino machine and foosball table in the office, rather than reinvesting it back into the company for growth.
The Middle Spread
Entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s (between Gen Y and Boomers) have been thought to be in their prime for business success. They’ve got that supposedly-perfect balance between youth and experience. However, on the downside, they typically are in the middle of all those major life experiences (marriage, children, mortgage). So that can cause their focus to be less on the business, and more on what’s happening in their lives.
If Gen Y launched startups that are more likely to go off with a bang, the Middle Spread may be less about making a big splash, and more about earning the money that a family demands. Their businesses may be more prone to longevity, too, because of the focus on making the business support the family.
Boomers may be in no hurry (typically) to make millions and cash out, like their youthful counterparts. And they’re less shaken by economic crises like we’ve seen in recent years, simply because they’ve experienced their fair share, and know that this too, shall pass.
Because they’ve sent their kids off to college and paid off that mortgage, Boomers can be as financially carefree — if not more so — than Gen Y. And as a result of a lifetime of work experience, they tend to be more confident business owners, resulting in higher business survival rates.
But some Boomers may face technological challenges. They’ve seen it all: from typewriters to the dawn of the computer age, to mobile phones. More than 40% of Boomers place more value in personal, face-to-face business relationships over ones that take place via social media online. That could affect the ability of some Boomers to adapt in the digital era and roll easily with the times.
What’s the Best Startup Age?
There’s no single age that makes for a more successful entrepreneur, though there are advantages for every generation. It’s more about the passion and drive you put toward running your business that matters in the long run.