Beware of the young entrepreneurs

Gen Y ingenuity

By Kate Southam

In the world of employment, the growing skills shortage is like a low, black cloud building on the horizon.

While the GFC slowed the demand for labour it didn’t change the fact our workforce is aging. It is only a matter of years before there are more people leaving the workforce in Australia than joining it.

As workplace age management expert Alison Monroe quipped recently, “the only thing that changed during the GFC is that boomers got two years closer to retirement.”

Monroe is a director of consulting firm Sageco and says labour supply has again become a hot topic around board room tables. Not surprising really as Sageco warns up to four million baby boomers will retire by 2020.

“Our research shows that while some boomers are planning to put off retirement it will only be by a few years,” she says.

Monash University’s Professor Philip Taylor has warned that employers will drive up wage inflation if they revert to their behaviour during the last skills shortage – a mad chase for younger workers. He says age diversity at work should be the answer.

Too late. I can see employers reinvigorating strategies to attract “young workers”.

However, this time around employers have a new competitor when it comes to recruiting the best and the brightest Gen Y. Gen Y.

Gen Y reshaped the workplace over the last decade and I for one thing they reshaped it for the better in terms of demanding a better deal for workers.

Now young talent are taking things to the next level – they want to work for themselves.

On a recent trip to my bank the 20-something client service consultant advising me on setting up my own little business revealed a growing trend.

Tuna (a wonderful Turkish name) had joined one of Australia’s largest banks as a grad but was currently studying to be a physiotherapist. To help pay for his tuition he had set up a massage therapy business.

I was impressed that he had the security of a full time job while running a business on the side. He shrugged: “It’s no big deal. All my friends have businesses on the side.”

Indeed, research shows that far from curling up with despair during the GFC smart Gen Ys rolled with the punches and found other stuff to do such as travelling or setting up their own business.

We have a great story on the CareerOne site about a 24-year-old management consultant at Deloitte who went on holiday to the US and found a men’s skin care range he really liked. He came back to Sydney and set up a business to become the sole distributor of the product to David Jones. My editor’s in box is full of story pitches about young entrepreneurs.

On Saturday, hundreds of budding business owners will gather in Sydney for the inaugural Young Entrepreneurs UnConvention. Tickets cost the equivalent of the attendees’ age so if you are 21 then its $21 for the day-long event.  

NSW Industry & Investment and ANZ Bank are among the sponsors and speakers include entrepreneur celebrities such as Siimon Reynolds and Domenic Carosa. Budding young biz types can even pitch their business to the expert panel.

Uncovention host and Gen Y entrepreneur Jack Delosa says starting a business while still employed or as a whole new career is certainly a growing trend amongst young people in Australia.

Tickets have almost sold out. The gender split is 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female.

“The Internet has levelled out the playing field,” Delosa explains. “A 15-year-old kid can start a business in his or her lounge room with the same access to resources as an organisation the size of the NAB.”

He says the fact marketing, promotion and distribution channels can be accessed from a computer, an iPad or a phone “has lowered the price of entry to business ownership”.

Delosa had his first business at 19.  He has since started two profitable consultancies – training company, MBE Education, with Reuben Buchanan and The Entourage, “a network that connects Australia’s best entrepreneurs, with Australia’s next entrepreneurs”. He is now venturing into the growing world of social entrepreneurship – that is where you do good but make money.

“Gen Y grew up watching their parents work too hard, separate and have very little money to retire on and identified that that is not a path they want to take,” Delosa says.

He explains that young people are also influenced by the celebrity status of entrepreneurs from oldies like Richard Branson to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg  (born in 1984) who in March was named the world’s youngest billionaire.

Delosa says Gen Y also believe in altruism but think you can contribute a whole lot more as a successful person than a poor one.

I only Delosa over the phone for the first time this week after seeing a flyer for the Unconvention. I thought he was about 30. He is 23.

He reminds me of Gen Y Aussie superstar Peter Sheahan who got going at 20 and turned 30 (at last) in February this year.

Sheahan dropped by my office the week before his birthday to talk about his fifth book, Making it Happen, – a guide to getting your ideas over the line. He became a self made millionaire eons ago and now travels the world as a professional speaker and business consultant.

Lord, you could be intimidated by these people or choose to be inspired. Then again, if you are an HR Director or graduate recruiter, you could just be very worried.  

Article from , September 16, 2010.

Related articles you might be interested in reading