This article was co-written with Rajesh Sajnani, CEO, RVS Group.
Generational change is a media and marketing phenomenon- newspapers have separate sections geared to retired baby boomers, magazine covers show off new leaders from Generation X, and now, millennials. Entrepreneurs launching their businesses over the past few decades have been granted the advantage of watching the successes and failures of their predecessors. From the “veterans of change” born from 1925-45, to the baby boomers born from 1946-64, there is a lot to learn, but the social, economic and political landscapes across the globe have grown just as quickly as Generation X and millennial babies.
A generation has a shared memory of important events and similar assumptions about what matters, based on their formative experiences. Of course, there are natural subgroups, such as due to religion, class, and ethnicity, but there are also common markers. Baby boomers, for instance, tend to assume they have the power to make change. Even with a strong belief in hierarchy, they try to be more inclusive in the workplace, but this generation is rapidly exiting the workforce, if they haven’t exited already. Generation Xers and millennials have been and continue to be poised to step into their roles and launch their own entrepreneurial ventures.
The business tactics, characteristics and leadership styles of these two groups have been a hot topic of discussion. With the self-reliant Gen X working with their peers, results are always the most important aspect of their work, whereas millennials showcase another level of self-confidence. They believe they will make a difference through their practical know-how. In this globalized, connected and yet polarized world that characterizes the second decade of the new millennium, employees are looking to leaders who can make a difference now.
One thing that hasn’t changed in entrepreneurs across generations is passion. In today’s world of business, along with your passion, you must also want to learn and expand your skillset. Money should not be the driving force. Instead you should be passionate about creating something, doing the best work that you can and solving people’s problems with unique solutions. In a similar vein, it’s clear that there is no wrong or right time to start a business. The right time is when a business succeeds; the wrong time, when it fails. When launching a new venture, there is an inevitable air of uncertainty.
Today’s environment offers certain challenges so an entrepreneur always needs the ability to adapt. Liquidity has all but dried up, there is pressure on demand, consumers are looking for more value, and with that, lies opportunity. In every circumstance, there are opportunities to build amazing businesses. Where we have seen tremendous change, however, is the UAE’s startup landscape, which was practically non-existent in the eighties and nineties. There is a lot more opportunity now, with angel investment available, social media aiding your business plans, and multiple financing options easily available. The UAE is a young, incredibly dynamic and fast-growing nation.
Years ago, there was not a talent pool to hire from, or nearly as many support services to support building a company. Fast forward to today, there are hundreds of startups and so much talent. Within such a short space of time, this market has become an amazing place to start your company.
Technological integration is often seen as one of the largest distinguishing factors between generations of startups. Older generations tend not to be as tech savvy, but all businesspeople are capable of seeing the benefits in embracing what technology has to offer. Social media plays a huge role in today’s successful businesses (even if they are not social media businesses.) Some now argue that if your business isn’t on social media, it doesn’t exist. Of course, technology has been a core element of younger entrepreneurs’ careers. Some businesses, such as e-commerce companies, couldn’t exist without it.
For B2C businesses, engaging customers in conversation improves trust and ultimately can drive sales. Today, businesses are more seamless, with the use of various technologies that allow our teams to work remotely, driving cost efficiencies. It is also a big challenge now for non e-commerce businesses, as it limits your method of sales to footfall. Businesses that began a few decades ago only had to cater to their local market, whereas now, thanks to technology, the world is your market.
A few years ago, it was more simple and much more cost-effective to start your own business in the UAE with a lot less regulation, whereas today’s entrepreneurs will be reading through the rules of DEWA, Civil Defence, licensing regulations, and the list goes on. With the introduction of Facebook algorithms and click-through link monitoring, marketing has changed from an art to a science. Additionally, the shelf life of tech goods and services has decreased significantly due to regular innovation in our technology, with businesses becoming extinct if they fail to change with the times. Today’s customer is more aware and therefore more demanding, due to the ease and availability of information through the internet.
The hardest part of starting your business is actually starting. Many people have great ideas, but they tend to never follow those ideas through any further than a conversation. Difficulty is often found when turning that idea into something tangible. Ultimately, the ability to continuously learn and never give up is invaluable, regardless of your generation. What works in one business doesn’t work in another, so perseverance is paramount. A great business isn’t built overnight, but regardless of whether you started 30 years ago, or you’re starting tomorrow, know that you’ll be putting all of your energy and focus into this over a long period of time. And then, hopefully, you’ll get to reap the large rewards that entrepreneurship can offer.