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Age Affects the Way Canadian Entrepreneurs View Business Technology

By Julie King |

If you think desktop computers and printers are critical technologies chances are good that you are a baby boomer or veteran business owners. If you are a "Gen Y" entrpreneur, you are most likely planning to invest in mobile technologies to give your company a competitive advantage.

Small business owners currently fall into four generational groups:

- Veterans (62+)
- Boomers (42 to 61)
- Gen X (30 to 42)
- Gen Y (under age 30)

When it comes to the use of technology at work, a new study conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of HP Canada has found revealed some interesting generational difference in the way small business owners view technology.

Technology at work

Surprisingly, younger entrepreneurs are more likely to strongly agree that technology takes the human element out of work. They are also most likely to strongly disagree that technology decreases workload.

This could be because technology is viewed as interfering with face to face feedback from their bosses, who send an email instead of sitting down with them, says Dr. Linda Duxbury, a professor at the Sprott School of Business, Carleton University.

However, the overall numbers are still low. The number of Gen Y entrepreneurs who strongly agree that technology interferes with face to face communications and who strongly disagree that technology reduces the amount of work is 18 per cent in both categories.

Online research and resources

When it comes to buying, Gen X entrepreneurs do their homework. Forty one per cent of Gen X business owners strongly agree that they conduct research and read reviews before making a purchase.

Gen X entrepreneurs are also more likely to seek out online tools, with 39 per cent strongly agreeing that they use the Internet to find online marketing tools, compared to 25 per cent for Veteran entrepreneurs.

Features in demand

Known for their strong work ethic, Boomers and Gen X entrepreneurs place a great value on speed when making a technology purchase. Gen Y entrepreneurs are more concerned about energy efficiency and mobility than other generational groups.

And while all entrepreneurs value brand, its importance decreases with age. Sixty four per cent of veterans strongly agree that brand was very important in their purchasing decisions, compared to 60 per cent for Boomers, 57 per cent for Gen X and 55 per cent for Gen Y.

Security concerns

Gen Y seems to have accepted the security risks that come with technology and are the least likely to place importance on security features when making a technology purchase.

Concerns about security increase with age, with Veterans being the most likely to strongly agree that security features are important when making a purchase.

Spending priorities

It seems that the technology you were raised with plays a strong role in the technology you value in business. The survey found that printers and desktop computers are seen as critical technologies by older entrepreneurs.

Jean-Paul Desmarais, senior marketing manager of business printing at HP Canada, points out that these findings do not necessarily mean that printers do not have an important business value to younger entrepreneurs.

Rather, younger entrepreneurs are accustomed to being able to purchase a quality printer at a low price. Older entrepreneurs, who remember paying thousands of dollars for an office printer, may still think of a printer as a significant business investment.

For Gen Y, mobile technology is an important. Thirty two per cent of Gen Y entrepreneurs say that mobility features are important when making a technology purchase decision, compared to 18 per cent for Gen X, 10 per cent for Boomers and 8 per cent for Veterans.

Read the manual?

There were strong differences between how the generations learn to use new technology.

Not surprisingly, younger Gen X and Gen Y entrepreneurs who grew up with technology are more likely to play with technology to figure out how it works. Veterans are much more likely to read the manual.

Both Veterans and Boomers are likely to ask for help, while Gen Y are the least likely to look to others to help them learn to use new technology.

Value of technology

Ultimately, entrepreneurs in all categories value technology and were quite confident in their use of technology in business, with over 90 per cent of entrepreneurs across all generational categories saying they are comfortable using technology in their work.

No one questions the value of technology in the workplace; the generational differences simply highlight some interesting things about the way technology is purchased and used.

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