Entrepreneurs are by nature an optimistic bunch. When you’re putting yourself out there in the marketplace every day you have to focus on the positive to keep moving forward. If you don’t really believe in yourself and your success, it will be a tough sell to get others to come along, whether they are customers or partners.
But is optimism something that builds over time with experience, or just an ingrained trait that’s part of the entrepreneurial mindset. Do entrepreneurs get more optimistic with experience, knowing that there’s a lot of ways to get to the top of the hill? Or just jaded by years of experience and knowing that dreams and reality rarely match up perfectly?
The 5th annual DNA of an Entrepreneur study by Hiscox insurance suggests that younger entrepreneurs are more optimistic…and more stressed than their older counterparts. Hiscox surveyed 3,000 small business in the US, UK and Europe and the inter-generational differences provide some insights on where the business world is heading.
Young, innovative and growing
Innovation and growth were directly correlated for the young entrepreneurs surveyed (under 30 years old). This group had the highest rate of growth in their businesses over the last year (77%), were the most optimistic for 2014 (65%) and had the greatest levels of innovation. 41% of young entrepreneurs reported creating a new product in the past year, over twice the number (20% or lower) for all other age groups. You would expect innovation, optimism and new thinking from the youngest entrepreneurs and it’s great to see this rewarded with a corresponding growth in their businesses.
But, we also need to take the larger context into account. Older entrepreneurs are probably more likely to have businesses and products that are already working for them, so might have less of a need to introduce new ones. And if you’re young and just starting your business, any product you introduce will by definition be new. Still, the differences between the generations are notable and some of those old dogs might benefit from learning a few new tricks.
Do you know how it feels to be stressed out?
Younger entrepreneurs not only led the way in innovation and business growth, they were also the most stressed. Nearly two in three (59%) said they had trouble sleeping due to worries about the economy and their business, twice the sleeplessness of any other age group in the survey. Does this mean older entrepreneurs just roll with the punches and don’t let worries about their business get to them? Or maybe the older group is just too busy working to worry – almost a quarter of those 60 years or older reported taking no vacation time in the past year.
If stressing your way to success helps grow the business, I think most entrepreneurs will take that trade off any day.
And woman. Entrepreneurs under 30 used social more, and in more ways, than their older peers. Not a surprise here, but something to pay attention to since these were the businesses with the most growth over the last year. These entrepreneurs were twice as likely (65%) to use social media for customer communications as those over 60. They also led the way in using social for prospecting (53%) and even internal communications (35%).
What’s the so what?
OK, so we have a lot of stats, but what do they all mean? For me it goes back to some of the fundamentals of entrepreneurship – never stop learning, never stop trying new things and always look for new ways to fulfil your mission by introducing new products and services. This is what set the youngest entrepreneurs apart from the rest of our survey and made them the most optimistic for next year. Combine those characteristics with their higher rates of growth and you just might have the start of a recipe for success.
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