Diary of a start-up: Business success lies in the hands of millennials

With millennials among his core customer base, Headbox's Andrew Needham shares his thoughts on why start-ups can't afford to ignore Generation Y

Andrew Needham is founder and CEO of creative meeting and venue space booking platform HeadBox and is our regular Diary of a Start-up blogger. Recently, the start-up entrepreneur discussed the growing influence of the sharing economy. In this latest blog, our diarist explains why businesses must cater to the demands of millennials… 

At HeadBox, we aim to simplify the process for planning private parties and corporate events; we have built our business on the premise that you must provide the service that your consumers are asking for.

But who are our consumers? For the large part they are millennials, and so is our workforce. The future is in their hands and understanding who they are is vital.

Who are millennials?

Millennials – otherwise known as Generation Y – are those typically born in the years 1980 to 2000 whose behaviour businesses need to be taking note of.

It is estimated that by 2025, this generation will make up 75% of the workforce. And most importantly, for start-ups emerging now, millennials are already playing a big part. They are the biggest influencers, decision-makers and trend-setters for businesses of the future.

I have seen millennials described in the press as self-centred, overly-ambitious, and as having a sense of entitlement. But I believe this view is narrow-minded and short-sighted.

Millennials also have an innate understanding of the individual, and they have determination and drive. Businesses simply need to learn to harness the skills of this generation and exploit their potential. Young, agile companies have all the tools and flexibility to be able to do this much more effectively than larger businesses.

Millennials grew up with technology. They are at one with the internet and social media. Millennials are writers and creators, generating and repurposing content and marketing it effectively across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a myriad of other social media networks. All of this is intuitive to them.

Millennials access nearly all of their information on mobile devices and can search and find answers to their questions instantaneously. It is all about the here and now. They love the immediacy of video and visual content.

A recently published study by SacunasHow the Millennial Buyer is Changing B2B Sales & Marketing, explains many of the characteristics of this generation in more depth.

Millennials in the workforce

As a workforce these behaviours mean that millennials don’t necessarily believe in being confined to a nine-to-five job in an office. They can access anything online, whenever and wherever, and so a traditional day in the office, at a desk, begins to seem outdated.

But this certainly shouldn’t be a hurdle to start-ups, where work is often done remotely, outside of office hours and in a non-traditional workspace. If anything, for businesses in their infancy, this new way of looking at the working day and working environment is an advantage.

The relationship between Generation X (those born in the 1960’s and 1970’s) and Generation Y in the workplace is, I believe, one of the greater challenges that more established businesses have struggled to overcome.

Generation X have spent many years climbing the ladder. They then come face to face with younger staff – Generation Y- who have a strong sense of self, of their value and how they want their career to progress. These millennials are often frustrated with the way that management works and with not being able to get their ideas across.

Again this is where start-ups have the advantage – in more agile companies the flexible working environment and hierarchy can be perfect for allowing relationships between these generations to flourish. They each have a lot to learn from each other – not least patience and real-world experience from Generation X, and bold ideas and how to connect from Generation Y.

Millennials as consumers

A successful start-up offers a product that simplifies or streamlines, and speaks directly to millennials’ needs.

Millennials are a curious generation and an impatient one. In the online environment, if what you are offering isn’t good enough, the millennials can, and will, swiftly move on. Their world is a more immediate and dynamic one and as such millennials are driving businesses to match their demands.

They are aligning human needs and the capabilities of technology and asking businesses to provide the products.

Listen and learn!

Millennials are the driving force behind many start-ups. At HeadBox we are listening to this Generation Y. We have developed a single website, a ready-curated collection of venues, and instant online booking – these three elements are fulfilling the requirements of the millennial generation for immediacy and hassle-free services.

We connect underused and exciting spaces, with people looking for space. It is a simple concept and we are executing it in the most simple way we can.

If we want to create businesses of the future we must listen to the millennial demands for accessibility, right here, right now.

To follow HeadBox’s start-up journey (and for content from previous diary bloggers), check out our Diary of a Start-up channel.

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