IT Through The Eyes Of Multi-Generation Small And Medium-Sized Business Owners:Ipsos Reid Survey for Microsoft

Young Entrepreneurs Say They Can’t Live Without Technology To Gain Better Work/Life Balance, Not So For Older Entrepreneurs

September 17, 2007 Toronto, ON – There’s a lot to be said for both age and experience in the workplace. And when it comes to Canada’s small and medium-sized business owners, it’s a case in point reveals a new survey released by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Microsoft.

In fact, two thirds (63%) of small and medium-sized businesses in Canada have what would be described as “multiple age generations of employees” within their business. So talking to
the young entrepreneurs (18 to 34 years of age) compared to middle aged (35 to 54 years of age)
and older entrepreneurs (55+ aged entrepreneurs) reveal different priorities, concerns and outlooks — and a few well-placed similarities — for this key sector in the months and years ahead.

For example, there’s a definite difference between the younger and older generation entrepreneurs in terms of what they can’t live without in order to run their business. Those who are older (53% 35-54, and 59% 55+) believe that “a security solution that ensures my data is safe and not at risk” is at the top of their list followed by “desktop applications like the 2007
Office System that help create business collateral, invoices, and marketing materials” (50% 35-54, 47% 55 +). This compares with younger entrepreneurs who put these items right down at the bottom of their list (only 41% identifying “a security solution that ensures their data is safe and not at risk”, and 44% who identify “desktop applications like the 2007 Office System that help create business collateral, invoices, and marketing materials”).

What emerges is a different priority list based on how the younger entrepreneurs think — most likely because they are early on in the business cycle, they have different perspectives because of their involvement with technology and they have different goals in terms of how they want to grow their business.

For these young entrepreneurs (54%) their priorities are communication and collaboration tools to help “give me better work/life balance” — compared with the oldest group of
entrepreneurs (55+) where only 44% believe this is a priority in concert or middle aged compatriots at 43%. This is followed by “a website that helps raise awareness of “my business offerings both locally and globally” (53%) compared with 45% of those aged 35-54 and 42% aged 55+, 50% who indicate that mobile devices that “help my employees stay connected” is something that they can’t live without to run their business compared with 49% of entrepreneurs and reached 35-54 and those aged 55+ that 43%, and server software that “lets employees share and backup files, access information remotely, and connect to the Internet” at 45% compared with their oldest counterparts at 39% and middle aged entrepreneurs at 38%.

Each age group converges in believing that “technology is key to helping boomers pass on business to Gen X employees (52% 18-34, 49% 55 or older, 45% 35-54); “the next generation of small and medium businesses use technology to increase profits and grow customer base (69% 18-34, 68% 35-54, 72% 55 or older); “small and medium businesses are using technology to increase global competitiveness” (70% 18-34, 66% 35-54, 65% 55 or older). And, “technology helps small and medium businesses keep track of vital customer information so that the human touch is never lost” (67%, 55 or older, 65% 18-34, 62% 35-54).

And What About Technology In Their Respective Workplaces?

Youngest and oldest agree that “the younger generation of employees bring fresh insight on how technology can improve business productivity” (71% 18-34, 67% 55 or older) and not so much for middle-aged entrepreneurs but certainly a majority (58%).

And the younger you are as an entrepreneur the more likely you are to believe that your “younger employees are generally more enthusiastic about technology” (67%) compared with middle aged (53%) and older (52%) entrepreneurs.

And Where Did They Agree?

Almost the same on the view that “technology is a good way to attract the younger generations into the business” with those aged 18-34 (55%) not far off from the middle aged and 55 or older owners (48%). Further, there is very little agreement in each of the entrepreneur categories with the view that in their organization, “the younger generation is usually more concerned about security breaches”. The youngest owners (23%) fall in line with middle aged (17%) and 55 or older (19%) entrepreneurs.

As well, almost equally, these entrepreneurs believe that in their company, “younger employees generally use mobility solutions more” — 51% of those aged 18-34, compared with 46% of those 55 or older and 45% of those aged 35-54.

How Do The Multi-Generations Of Entrepreneurs Keep Track Of The Business Records Within Their Organization?

There is quite a different emphasis when examining the age groups of small and medium sized owner operators.

Older entrepreneurs (57% 55 or older, 35-54 52%) are more likely to resort to a backup tool to ensure my business records are safely stored compared with only 40% of those aged 18-34. Similarly, older entrepreneurs are more likely to have “the contacts/address book in my e-mail application” (49% 35-54, and 47% 55 or older) compared with the younger counterparts at only 34% using this technique to keep track of the business records within their organization. This compares with the younger generation who are more likely to keep track of their business records within their organization using “a spreadsheet to enter customer data” (49%) compared with 41% of those days to 55 or older and only 37% of those aged 35-54. Further, four in 10 (38%) of young entrepreneurs are more likely to use a “customer relationship management software” compared with only 30% of those aged 35-54 and those 55 or older (24%).

If there are two areas of relative agreement, it would be in using Rolodex, filing cabinet and paper filing system: 44% of those aged 35-54, comparing similarly to 42% of those 55 or older and 37% of those 18-34. Finally, 24% of older entrepreneurs use software that is Internet-based, compared with middle aged entrepreneurs at 23% and the youngest group at 18%. Finally, a majority of all entrepreneurs (52%) believe that “small and medium business owners retire, technology will help sustain and grow the business for the next generation”. But, perhaps without surprise, there appears to be more faith in this prospect among younger entrepreneurs (61%, 18-34) compared with those in the older age groups (54%, 55 or older, 48%, 35-54).

These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Microsoft from August 10-August 27, 2007. For the survey, a randomly selected sample of 1,230 small and medium size businesses were interviewed online. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within � 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of business owners with 2-250 employees been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were weighted to ensure that the sample’s regional and employee size composition reflects that of the actual Canadian small and medium size businesses according to Census data.

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada’s market intelligence leader, the country’s leading provider of public opinion research, and research partner for loyalty and forecasting and modelling insights. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 600 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in the country, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and online panels. Ipsos Reid’s marketing research and public affairs practices offer the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada, all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, Ipsos Reid offers syndicated information or custom solutions across key sectors of the Canadian economy, including consumer packaged goods, financial services, automotive, retail, and technology & telecommunications. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group. To learn more, please visit