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A New Look at Millennials


Joan M. Ridley, CEPA, CBI, CFP®

Mention Millennials at any gathering of business owners or their advisors and you will hear a ripple of moans across the room.  True, every age cohort, be it the Ike Generation (b. 1922-1945), the Baby Boomers (b.1946-1964), or Gen X (b. 1965-1979), has its distinct characteristics. You might recall how the Ike Generation found Baby Boomers a challenge to deal with, much less understand them.  They called us the “Me Too” generation or, as I prefer to call us, the “Can Do” generation. We worked hard and we made things happen.  Just look at the advancement in technology and social causes that began with the Boomers.   We wanted to create a better world and we were willing to work hard to make it happen. We chased lucrative careers so we could have all the material advantages of the upwardly mobile, which included supporting our non-profit causes.  We had grand ideas and big dreams for our weary world.   We knew, or thought, that we had to put in the hours and work hard to make a lot of money to change the world we live in.    

A new concept of time

So are the Millennials (b.1980-1999) any different?  I don’t think so.  They, too, have a vision for the world they want for themselves and for their children. They just have a different vision about what their ideal world looks like and how they will make it happen.  They seem to have a different concept about time, and they do seem to have a knack for manipulating it. They can multi-task better than previous generations.  They seem to take in more information from multiple sources simultaneously and at a faster rate than the rest of us.   But they probably don’t multi-task as well as they think they do.  We all wish they would not text while driving or while walking down the street, for safety’s sake.   

Millennials as business owners

Millennials seem to have ambivalent feelings about business ownership. While many express interest in taking over dad’s business, they also want someone older, wiser, and more experienced to remain on to mentor them or to actually run the business while the Millennial works fewer hours, usually without sacrificing income.

As employees, some already approach the business as though they own it. They favor making their own hours.  When the business owner takes a vacation, they think they should close the shop and take a vacation too—with full pay of course.  When they complete a task, they take a long recreational break, returning to work after everyone else has left.  Sometimes they work a short day, take a long break, and then pick up their work when they return home, sometimes working late into the night.

And then there’s their grooming and dress. They seem to dictate the company dress code. Have we forgotten how we Boomers dressed?   Some of us were well-groomed and conservatively dressed, but many embraced the unkempt, hippy look.  We sported long scruffy hair and beards.  But we were determined to make a statement.   I’m not so sure they want to make a statement with their appearance.  Maybe they just don’t give it much thought.

Did we create this situation?

While many employers and advisors are pulling their hair out trying to run a business that is peopled with Millennial employees, let’s keep in mind that we created the world that they grew up in.  Some of these young people have been coddled and enabled by us.  Many of us have related to our kids as though we were their friends, their equals, rather than creating healthy boundaries where we were the authority figures and they were the kids.   So is it any wonder that they are challenged to understand what a boss does and what an employee does? We also provided opportunities for them to experience more of the world than we did, either through travel or on-line and through various forms of education and entertainment.

Back to the drawing board

So before we start writing them off as impossible to deal with, let’s try to see their world through their eyes.  And let’s help them to understand our viewpoint!  We might need to re-parent them.

Millennials have a lot to offer, especially in the world of technology.  They are experts in gathering a lot of information in a short period of time.  Eventually, they will be humbled, just as we were, and they will earn the wisdom that allows them to connect the dots and the meaning of the vast amount of information that they gather. But, for now, let’s find a way to connect with them.  I know for some of us it’s like being in a foreign country with no ability to speak the local language. I think we will find that they are picking up the ball where we Baby Boomers left off.  They are living the kind of life that we had envisioned for ourselves.  The difference is some of them seem willing to sacrifice material wealth to make it all happen now.

If you need help harnessing the talent and energy of Millennials, I offer this suggestion. Reach out to Laura Kelly at KEYOT, a consulting firm that helps employers and Millennial employees connect. 

Call us today at 214-692-9192 to learn how we can help you plan for what comes next.

Copyright 2017 Joan M. Ridley

 Joan M. Ridley is President of Business Wealth Solutions.  Joan is a business coach who helps business owners create company sustainability in preparation for management or ownership transition. She is a Certified Business Intermediary, Certified Exit Planning Advisor, and a Certified Financial Planner™. In 2013, she received the first Excellence in Exit Planning Award conferred by the Exit Planning Institute for her pioneering contribution to this new discipline. She is the Founder of the North Texas Chapter of the Exit Planning Institute.

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