By Robert Craven, MD at The Directors’ Centre

There seems to be a new trend becoming more obvious to me.

I have been acting as adviser and consultant to fast-growing independent businesses since the mid 1980s. To date, the ages of the entrepreneurs running the businesses have been pretty evenly distributed with the youngest being around 25 and the oldest at around 75. The average age is usually around 40/50. But now there is a new trend emerging.

Looking at the last ten or so clients, I can see that their average age is fractionally under 30. So, what’s going on?

1. It would appear that there are a growing number of start-ups and owner-managed businesses being run by younger entrepreneurs. Running a business is more popular as a career choice.

2. The young entrepreneur is keener than their older counterpart to find ‘the answers’ and they recognise the value of learning from experts. They have looked for help and the get-rich-quick/quick-fix offerings only go some way to satisfy that need.

3. Many appear to be looking to work with advisers who have:
a) Been-there-and-done it
b) Have some grey hair — have seen a few recessions in their time
c) Have experience of rolling their sleeves up and actually growing and running sustainable/respectable businesses
d) Have a squeaky-clean reputation.

This is not some kind of a MLC (mid-life crisis) observation but a statement of fact. Younger businesses are working with us. More than ever before.

So, is it really about the age of the entrepreneur? What I am witnessing is all the Es!!! Energy, enthusiasm, excitement, entertainment, effervescence. Yet these characteristics can come with any “young-minded” age group. Specifically, the people I am talking about are young in years. They have the wonderful combination of energy plus enthusiasm plus the ‘arrogance of youth’ and yet they have little to lose. A startling combination that takes the business places that the more conservative would fear to tread. Great stuff!

This movement, I would argue, has not been wooed by the nonsense that is The Apprentice or Dragons’ Den where making good (= entertaining) TV is more important than creating good businesses. Where it is fun to have a laugh at the expense of a naïve or gullible wannabe. The new generation of entrepreneurs are far more canny than that. The irony is that the younger generation are playing a game far cuter than the one being played the TV execs. The TV execs just don’t realise it!

We seem to be witnessing an entire generation of entrepreneurs who have been lucky enough to have been trading in a constantly growing economic environment. Game over, my friends. I do not think we’ll see time like the Noughties again. Well not exactly like those boom times.

Or maybe the adviser/consultant role is just a shiny toy for the younger and more naive businesses, whereas their more mature counterparts have seen it all before and so don’t bother... However, working with the younger businesses creates terrific results. The businesses are already in growth mode so an injection of insightful critical thinking added to their innate enthusiasm, excitement and passion for their ideas can literally turbo-charge their growth in sales and profits.

Maybe I am taking a bunch of random events and trying to see a pattern where, actually, there is none. What I do know is that I am having more conversations with these younger businesses than ever before.