Millennials: The day of the millennial entrepreneur has already arrived

During a recent networking event here in Greenville, I happened to stand close to a group of young people, members of the millennial generation and overheard some of the conversation. Most of them were young entrepreneurs, worked in a family business or had some managerial function. The conversation revolved around different issues from employee performance to market challenges. So I joined in, raised a few questions along the way and listened. And I did learn a few things from our millennials, which was good.

Millennial entrepeneurs are here with great ideas, passion and spirit!
Millennials (entrepreneurs) are here with great ideas, passion, and spirit!

The fact is that here in the Upstate, and likely everywhere else around the country, we have hundreds of family-owned businesses, some small, some midsize. They are generally either led by the first- or second-generation founders, with millennials starting to enter the key leadership rank. And then there are all these new startups created during the last 10 years, predominantly by the millennial generation.

Millennials tend to have a different view of business

When I say “different,” I mean just that: different. I suggest that we all need to take a sabbatical from being immediately judgmental when something is different and ask good questions, reflect, evaluate and attempt to understand.

Many professionals of my generation (aka baby boomers) are fretting about “what is the world coming to” with respect to millennials, which in many ways sounds like what I heard from my parents. I must admit, I’m quite excited because it is my conviction that the millennial generation will soon take charge of molding the future of society. I happen to believe that it will be a very cool future. While some may be saying, “These kids have a lot to learn,” I’m finding out that these innovators actually have a lot to teach, too. And believe me, an old dog can learn new tricks — when there is a will.

The millennial generation, born as early as 1980 and up to 2004 (depending on which defining source one chooses), exhibits a more positive outlook when it comes to the economy and growing their business. While having less experience than most of their older business peers, they introduce fresh concepts, ideas, and skills into the mix. A recent Spark Business Barometer survey indicates that nearly two-thirds (more than 60 percent) of businesses owned by millennials report increased sales over the past six months versus some 40 percent of small-business owners overall. They also state that they will “most likely” grow their workforce soon.

Millennials enter into the business environment, like other generations before them, with a unique perspective and experience. What can business owners from previous generations learn from millennials? How can other businesses benefit from the input of millennials in today’s ever-changing and challenging economic environment? More importantly, we have to ask ourselves: How can we support millennial leaders to merge our hard-earned knowledge and experience with the new and creative thought capital they have already acquired?

There are certainly very effective ways to do that after the formal educational path. Aside from traditional internal and external mentor relationships, the market offers peer groups and CEO boards of different flavors as very useful tools to help leaders enhance their skills in leading their businesses. In addition, another form of leadership development has evolved over the last 25 years and really grown exponentially: executive coaching. While 15 years ago this form of personal development was predominantly utilized to “fix problems” as a measure of last resort, in today’s business and professional environment, it has become the most effective and efficient way of developing talent quickly, yet sustainably.

I shall elaborate further on leadership coaching and provide some insight into the concept and its value in my next column. Meanwhile, good luck, appreciate the other view and lead well.

This article has recently been published in the Upstate Business Journal.

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