The chink of a glass filled with sparkling wine, a dimly lit funky Surry Hills bar – it’s the first birthday of another of my fellow generation’s start-ups.
Chello (A cheeky hello) is the infant business of two budding Gen-Y entrepreneurs; Tristan Velasco and the newly crowned 2015 Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year for NSW, Lindsay Rogers. When she accepted this prestigious award, Lindsay’s thank you speech was cleverly written and rolled out of her mouth with the confidence of a women who has done it all before. She spoke about the inception of the business; how it all started as a conversation between the pair over a bottle of wine.
And now they have a real office, with real staff, real assets and, most importantly, real clients.
“We’ve just given it a red hot go. I have the best business partner in the world; we bring to the table different skill sets and personalities and bring out the best in each other,” says Lindsay.
Arriving alone at the party, I was introduced to a roomful of other 30-somethings. The normal icebreaker, “What do you do?” invited the somewhat boastful explanations about how we spend our days. It was then that it dawned on me, the stereotypes about Gen Y in the media may be correct. Two out of four of us had started ‘our own thing,’ and the other two had partners running their own business.
There were some similarities; we had all worked in a bank at some point, all of us had been to university, we’d all been overseas, and many of us already own property. Oh, and we were all doing ‘okay,’ whatever that means.
“The first year of business is the start of a very long journey,” says Peter Ivany AM, Managing Director and CEO of Ivany Investment Group. “You start to figure out what you don't want, but it takes a lot longer to work out what you do want and how to get there,” continues Ivany. As an entrepreneur and a successful businessman, he would know. He is credited for growing Hoyts cinemas from a small chain in Australia, to a global business with over 2,000 theatres in 12 countries before the brand was sold to Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press group.
So why are we working out of our apartments and shared office buildings without the luxury of sick days and annual leave loading?
“There are no gold watches any more. Each blames the other, but there is no loyalty from either employer or employee,” says business owner Ryan Shelley of Pepper IT. I also think flexibility is important to Gen Y. We don’t mind working hard, but we want to work hard when it suits us – not when someone else says so.”
Work-life balance and flexibility seem to be the key drivers for the generation with a reputation for slacking off. However, laziness doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to Gen-Y’s proclivity to starting and running a business.
“Work life balance is a funny thing when you start your own business as the business does become a priority, especially in the early formative days,” says Lindsay Rogers from Chello. “Some of our team have been known to pull an all-nighter and we’ve had our fair share of arduous shoots and maniac travel itineraries.” Lindsay continues by saying, “Tristan and I try to set the ‘norm’ by encouraging activities outside of work; getting up and out, attending events and catching up with likeminded people and other businesses to keep us sharp.”
So how does working all night, for loss of stability and in most instances less financial rewards, reconcile with a generation known as being selfish?
“My general comment would be that every generation's views are a result of the circumstances that they grew up in,” says Ivany. “So, with Gen Y, if [!other!] people or they themselves believe that they are overconfident, narcissistic etc., by the time they are 40, they will have done a full circle, and will have learnt life's pitfalls a bit later in their journey than previous generations.”
Ivany offers one piece of advice – a mantra Gen Y already understands all too well. “The world stops for no one. Just put your hand up for everything, nothing is too hard or difficult, and let the learning begin.”