Why family values are driving the new generation of Australian small businesses

SmartCompany, Monday, October 31 2016:

More than a third of Australian small medium are run by people under the age of 35 and for a large group of these entrepreneurs, business has always been in their blood.

According to this year’s The Economy of Shopping Small: Custom Counts report by American Express, released today, 83% of Australian SMEs are content with how their business is progressing and that young business owners are a driving force of the sector: 35% of small businesses are owned and operated by those aged under 35.

The report, which surveyed more than 500 business owners, highlights the power of multi-generational businesses, with 17% of the small business owners surveyed saying their parents had been shopkeepers. Half of the business owners surveyed said their businesses had a positive impact on their family life, while multi-generational business owners had tended to start running businesses younger. This group are also better equipped to deal with stresses like competition and staff retention, according to American Express.

There’s a cycle in action, too: 64% of those surveyed whose parents had owned a business said they would encourage their own children to start their own small businesses in future.

Countless business owners have spoken to SmartCompany over the years about the importance of seeing family members in action in the business world, and the effect this has had on their own projects.

“My dad runs a successful online business, and I’ve always been passionate about business too,” says director of architecture company Superdraft, Mark Deacon, 25, whose business sense emerged at a very young age.

“I started doing other’s assignments, and I started getting quite a bit of money,” Deacon told SmartCompany this morning. While no teachers found out about the deal – and his classmates started getting better grades than he did for the purchased work – it was one of the first opportunities to develop his business skills.

While it might not have been obvious at the time, other business owners say that watching their parents at work when they were kids has had a lasting impact.

“My father is an electronic engineer so at an age I remember my brother and I sitting in the living room building transistor radio’s during school holidays and on weekends,” says serial entrepreneur and managing director of Retail Savvy Group, Anna Carosa.

Carosa runs Retail Savvy Group with husband Stewart Koziora, and has previously told SmartCompany that their young daughter has also spent a decent amount of time in the office watching her parents work.

“When you’re young, you don’t think anything of it, but as I grew older I realised that it became part of nature to me. A large part of the person I am today is due to the early days with my parents and brother helping them with their business.”

Last week’s BRW Young Rich List rankings also highlighted the power of partnership for young entrepreneurs, with the likes of Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht of Canva, and Kayla Itsines and Tobi Pearce of The Bikini Body Company all working in partnerships as they have grown their businesses.

For other young business owners, coming up with business ideas with mates, including over brunch, has proven fruitful.

TaxiBox co-founder Ben Cohn, spoke with SmartCompany last week about working with friends on promotional activities for his business. The storage company delivers “TaxiSox” to customers with their storage units, and clients can generate discounts by sharing pictures of them on social media.

“We decided to do that over an avocado smash brekkie,” Cohn says, referring to a chat with a mate who runs a socks business.

Young business owners are also more likely to believe that customers are driven by commitment to social issues. The Custom Counts report found that 85% of shop owners under 30 believe environmental issues have an impact on how their customers spend money.

Deacon believes that there’s a real shift with young business owners towards using business as a vehicle to support another social cause. He’s a co-founder of Charity Build, an organisation that directs profits from completing building projects to charitable causes.

“I think there’s a huge move towards business with purpose,” says Deacon, who believes that small businesses are increasingly looking to support a cause while also generating growth.

“My passion has shifted more towards philanthropy.”