Robb-Hilson3.pngAs the youngest Baby Boomers turn 50, Gen-Xers mature into middle age and Millennials charge into the working world, the small business community is feeling a shift in the way business is done. Among these generations, there are notable differences in attitude, management style and skillsets. But how do these variances affect the way entrepreneurs run their business and influence the economy?


Here at Bank of America, we focused on these generational differences in the fall iteration of our bi-annual Small Business Owner Report, which examines the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners (SBOs) across the country. The overall findings of the report will be explored in January’s Bank of America Small Business Social Series Google+ Hangout. Here are some of the key findings we’ll delve into:


Millennials are the most optimistic about their business’s revenue and the economy

It likely comes as no surprise that the youngest generation, Millennial SBOs, have the greatest optimism about the economy. More than three-quarters predict their revenue will increase over the next 12 months and 82 percent believe their local economy will improve. Boomers expressed the least optimism, with 52 percent feeling positive about their companies’ revenue growth and 41 percent feeling optimistic about the local economy. Greater optimism from the younger generation may be the result of less exposure to cycles of economic downturn and fluctuations.


All generations see themselves as “tech savvy,” but the importance of tech varies

When grading themselves on tech-savviness, the Millennial generation leads the pack with 85 percent of young SBOs giving themselves an “A” or “B.” Gen-Xers followed closely behind at 74 percent, and Boomers trailed with 58 percent giving themselves high marks. When we asked how long SBOs could run their business without a smartphone or tablet, we found a big variance in response. Fifty-nine percent of Boomers said they could run their business indefinitely without a smartphone or tablet. Only 22 percent of Millennials could conceive of this, as well as 39 percent of Gen-Xers. In addition, nearly half of Millennials and Gen-Xers said it would be impossible to run their business without a smartphone or tablet for more than a day.


Millennial SBOs self-identify as creative and confident versus their dedicated and hard-working generational counterparts

While Millennial SBOs describe themselves as creative and confident, Gen Xers and Boomers see themselves as hardworking and dedicated. The differences in generational self-perception may not only affect the way small businesses are run, it could also influence the types of businesses opened in the future. 

Generations share some things in common

While SBOs may describe themselves differently, all tend to value a company culture that is focused on the customer. Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Millennials consistently emphasized the importance of a client-centric approach to business.


Despite the many ways SBOs approach their businesses, each plays an important role in the well-being of the small business community and the economy. As we’ve seen in our survey, new technology is helping small business owners run their companies more efficiently, maintain more control over their business and offer more complex products to customers. This creates more opportunities for small business owners to be successful, regardless of their generation.

For an in-depth look at generational differences between small business owners and the key findings of the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, please watch the video of our Small Business Social Series Hangout as the panel discusses the generational differences among U.S. small business owners and what this means for the small business landscape.

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