For one millennial entrepreneur, running a business isn’t narrowly focused on generating revenue. It’s about the freedom to create his own lifestyle.
“Millennials are much more in tune with creating a business that suits their life than they are just about creating a business that generates revenue,” Brandon Dempsey said.
He would know. Dempsey is co-founder of Go Brand Go!, a marketing firm based in St. Louis. Launched in 2010 after he sold a previous company, Dempsey wrote Shut up and Go! because it was “the book I wish I would’ve had when I graduated.”
The traditional path, where a worker joins a company for years before starting their own business, doesn’t apply. “The world that millennials are entering into now is one that has unlimited access and support,” Dempsey said.
That doesn’t mean all millennials see a future in business, nor that generation-wide effects have been felt throughout the economy. Entrepreneurship is a cyclical phenomenon tied to age. The average successful entrepreneur is around 40 years old, after they’ve built a professional network, learned from failure, and have more applicable skills.
Universities, sensing an opportunity, have changed to adapt. Entrepreneurial studies programs have become popular, with lists informing students of the best schools around. “Higher education is getting much more dialed in to students, helping to curate their own experience,” Dempsey said.
Rushing into a college, though, isn’t always the best path for a millennial entrepreneur. “If you don’t know what you want to do … you kind of just wait to figure it out,” Dempsey said. “Travel the world, see what else is out there, get a new perspective, then go to a university.”
If millennials don’t rush into college and have an idea of where they want their career to lead, rather than “finding themselves” in college, that could improve graduation rates and lower student debt. Rather than listlessly studying for a few years, students would be more goal-oriented.
With sluggish economic growth, that might become a necessity, as will change.
“Boomers feel like they’re handing over the country in a worse state than it was handed them,” Dempsey said. “Let’s accept this, let’s make the changes. Are we going to stick our heads in the sand like the past generation?”
Change doesn’t come easily in the workforce, though.
When Dempsey tells baby boomers that he takes 10 weeks’ vacation every year, offers unlimited vacation to his workers, and doesn’t have a set time for workers to arrive at the office, they’re incredulous. They wonder how he motivates them.
“You don’t control people. The more you try to control them, the more they’ll focus on fighting the controls,” he said.
“You’ve got a generation now that is really focused on who they want to be and what type of life they want to create,” he said, and offering them flexibility jives with an alternative understanding of work-life balance.
Baby boomers might call that entitled, but for millennials, it’s the reality they’re making. If anything, that sense of entitlement gives employers better results.
That evolution of a job bends to economic reality, of course, but the office will look different in a couple decades when millennials have displaced their parents, and they finish rejecting the beliefs of the previous generation.
“Older generations are asking me to defend millennials, and I don’t quite understand that,” Dempsey said. “I get tired of defending my generation.”
As the shibboleths and condescension of the older generations give way to successful millennials, he won’t have to anymore.