Millennials – or Generation Y as they are also known – are becoming the driving force in many businesses across the country.

McCrindle Research predicts that Gen Y will make up 42 per cent of the labour market by 2020 and bring unique trends and behaviours to the workplace that are already shaping the way organisations are run.

“Every day brings some form of a challenge, but you’ve just got to be willing to evolve and change and give customers what they need.”

Gen Y is typically described as tech-savvy, equality driven and eager to climb the career ladder. However, a growing body of research has shown that millennials are also risk averse, particularly as many entered the workplace after the global financial crisis and its resulting economic uncertainty.

But how can they be both risk averse and entrepreneurial? Aren’t these two concepts contradictory?

A recent National Australia Bank (NAB) report explored the issue by examining how millennial SME business owners view themselves and their approach to growth. strong, engaging intro

A snapshot of millennial SME owners

Millennials – those aged between 18 and 35 or thereabouts – currently comprise 20 per cent of SME owners in Australia, according to NAB. They are confident in their own abilities, with 70 per cent claiming they are strong entrepreneurs, while just 60 per cent of business owners in other demographics said the same.

Innovation is top of the agenda among millennials; 83 per cent said it was key to their business, compared with 69 per cent of other respondents.

Forty-four per cent expect to grow their organisation by exploiting their digital expertise – notably higher than the 28 per cent of Generation X and baby boomer respondents who are exploring electronic options.

Despite these growth ambitions, 85 per cent of US millennials in a Legg Mason survey claimed they were conservative investors. More than half (52 per cent) of these claimed they were very conservative.

Millennials: risk averse or business savvy?

Ultimately, the evidence suggests that while millennials believe they are risk averse, their behaviour and approach to innovation would indicate otherwise.

Perhaps they are more aware of the challenges they face? After all, 63 per cent of millennials in the NAB survey said it was difficult to stand out in their sector due to fierce competition – only 49 per cent of other business owners agreed.

Generation Y seems to have the drive, ambition and entrepreneurial spirit to make considerable contributions to Australia’s SME sector. This is underpinned by a healthy understanding of the risks of conducting business in the today’s competitive commercial landscape.

“Every day brings some form of a challenge, but you’ve just got to be willing to evolve and change and give customers what they need,” millennial business owner Adam Haralampou told NAB.

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