This April, Millennials finally surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S. Over 75 million 18 to 35-year-olds comprise the country's population, just barely outnumbering the 74.9 million 51 to 70-year-old set. Although Millennials have only held this top spot for a few weeks, their influence on the business world has been felt for years.

As consumers with distinct behaviors and preferences, this young generation has contributed to transforming the way we hail cabs, shop for groceries and communicate with each other. As more Millennials pursue the role of small business owner, they're bound to redefine what it means to buy and run a company as well.

According to BizBuySell's 2016 Demographic Report, five percent of today's prospective small business buyers are between 18 and 29-years-old - a small portion, albeit one that's poised to swell as more Boomers exit their companies for retirement. Even with a minor presence in the market, Millennials bring an entirely new perspective to the small business arena. Here are three things to know about this future group of owners:

  • They are more diverse than their elders: The majority of today's small business buyers identify as Caucasian, but Millennials are slowly infusing more ethnic diversity into the community. Fifty-one percent of 18 to 29-year-old buyers are Caucasian, compared to 61 percent in their forties and 81 percent in their fifties and sixties. Millennial buyers are four times as likely to identify as African American than those in their fifties and sixties (12% versus 3%), and significantly more likely to identify as Asian or Pacific Islander (23% versus 7% in their fifties and sixties). Over the next few years, a continued influx of millennial buyers could make an even larger impact on the demographic make-up of this group.
  • They are more driven by professional autonomy, and better income: Although most Millennials haven't been in the workforce for very long, they are the most likely buyer group to be motivated by the prospect of being their own boss. Seventy-four percent of 18 to 29-year-old buyers cite this as their main driver for purchasing a business, compared to 41 percent of those in their sixties. Younger buyers also tend to be more money-minded than their elders - possibly because their household incomes are lower. Two-thirds of millennial buyers report annual household incomes below $75,000, notably higher than the 37 percent average across all business buyers. Consequently, 64 percent of Millennials view small business ownership as an opportunity to earn better income, a motivation held by only 49 percent of buyers in their fifties and 38 percent in their sixties.
  • They are just launching their entrepreneurial careers: From our research into sellers, we've seen that once you get into the small business game, it tends to stick with serial entrepreneurship being quite common. In fact, we found that46 percent of all buyers have owned a business before, but with Millennials being the exception to this rule. Eighty percent of those between 18 and 29 are first-time buyers, not seasoned industry veterans. This generation happens to be launching their entrepreneurial streak as trends like minimum wage hikes, expanded overtime pay and the sharing economy transform what it means to run a small business. It will be interesting to see how Millennials' fresh perspective informs the small business transaction process, and impacts negotiations with older sellers.

Millennials' unique traits as consumers and employees have transformed businesses for the last few years. As this new generation breaks into the small business world, sellers and their brokers should brace themselves for a similar evolution.  

Published on: Jun 3, 2016