Generation X may have been dismissed as the “slacker generation” by the boomers who came before them, but today, Gen X-ers have grown up, grown responsible, and grown into a significant force in the small business world.
Gen X-ers own the most small businesses at 46%, far more than millennials, and their relative share is increasing, but they still tend to get overlooked as an entrepreneurial generation. Banks and financial institutions seem to be more focused on retaining boomers and attracting the rising millennials than on catering to the “middle child” generation.
Not that Gen X-ers are surprised. As the smallest generation, Gen X has long been overshadowed by boomers on one side and millennials on the other. Yet they are increasingly overstretched and overwhelmed.
Gen X SME owners need support just as much as the cohorts above and below them, and possibly more so, but just like with everything Gen X does, it has to be on their terms.
Gen X-er entrepreneurs are highly independent
Gen X-ers often celebrate being overlooked as a sign of their independence; after all, this is the “latchkey generation” that knows how to look after itself. The fact that they’re used to being the ones in charge might explain why so many Gen X-ers are small business owners, self-employed, or freelancing: they like to be in control.
It’s an entrepreneurial generation that’s far more likely than millennials or boomers to see freelancing as a long-term career than a temporary way to make money, but that fierce independence masks deep anxiety about the future.
Gen X-ers feel they can’t trust anyone to save them – not the government, not their parents, not their employers and certainly not their banks.
But they do need support too
As boomers approach retirement and millennials follow their passions, Gen X is the “sandwich generation” that’s trying to keep it all together. The Pew Center reports that 47% of Gen X-ers are caring for aging parents and young children simultaneously. The slackers are taking responsibility for those above and below them, but it turns out they can’t do it all alone.
Gen X-ers were stressed out before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic only made things worse, and their businesses are suffering. Unlike boomers, few Gen X SME owners have a financial cushion to help their business through the hard times – but they have no choice but to persevere.
They might not want to admit it, but Gen X entrepreneurs need help. They need guidance to keep their personal and business finances running smoothly, funding to keep the lights on, and tools to drive growth.
Seamless is a non-negotiable
When Gen X-ers look for tools, they look for ones that are seamlessly cross-channel.
Although millennials are usually thought of as the digital natives, Gen X is barely a step behind them. They were, after all, the first generation to grow up with personal computers and gaming consoles like Atari, in their homes. And who can forget dial-up internet (and its spine chilling connection tone) along with the iconic IRC chatrooms. All these firsts were prompted way back when Gen X-ers were in their teens and young adulthood, planting the seeds of mainstream digital culture as we know it today.
While 86.5% of Gen X use a mobile banking app for a wide range of tasks, which is a lower share than millennials, it’s still a huge majority. And yet, this generation hasn’t let go of offline, non-digital ways entirely. They like digital transactions but also face to face in-person meetings. They swoop between desktops and smartphones with barely a pause.
As a result, they want digital, cross-channel tools that allow frictionless, seamless, business management on every device.
Remember, beyond working, Gen X are busy, busy, busy with childcare, parent-care, and whatever personal lives they can fit in, so they need business management tools and advice that they can take with them wherever they go.
Business tools should be self-service
The most independent cohort of business owners wants to manage everything by themselves. We’re talking not just about digital banking portals, so they aren’t reliant on a personal banker or account manager, but also educational channels and business management tools.
They want on-demand, self-serve tutorials and information so they can make their own decisions about their business; integrated financial experiences that the business owner can control; and smoother, cross-channel digital business management tools.
Gen X appreciates self-serve workflows for business tasks like opening and managing business accounts, sharing financial reports, and tracking income and expenditures.
Gen X small business owners can’t continue to hide in the corner
Research has found that 91% of Gen X-ers trust their financial services providers, but their needs are at risk of going unmet.
Despite their fierce independence and desire for self-serve products, Gen X SME owners still need help, like every generation does, to offer more contactless payment options, pivot to offer digital alternatives to their physical products and services, and use digital tools for bookkeeping and business development.
Although these tools all exist, they are often tailored to millennials, who are seen as needing help to actualize their service business ideas. It’s time to make sure that Gen X’s needs are met too.