I'm not a fan of the term “millennials.” Though I technically am one, I feel like there is far too much of a difference between those of us at the older end of the spectrum, and those of us in the younger part of our “coffee in the morning, wine in the evening” generation.
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I know, I'm dangerously close to using words like “whippersnapper” and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
But, as the owner of a digital services company, I had the chance to sit down with a local startup and have a discussion that gave me some interesting insight into how we “Millennials” can play a vital role in the growth of our economy. And as I helped this family business determine how to integrate technology into their activities, I realized just how important we are, and how Millennials are primed for success in today's business world, if we can step up to the plate.
I'm sure every age group has felt that things changed rapidly during the twenty-year span of their generation. However, Millennials can, without a doubt, claim that we've seen the most change in our lifetime. *cough* the internet *cough*
Millennials have seen more changes in our albeit short lives than probably any two generations, maybe three, combined. And, that's why I think we wield more power than we realize and greater insight than we recognize.
Now, all we Millennials have to do is look up from our phones, put down the game controllers, stop reminiscing about the good old days of Oregon Trail, and embrace the capabilities of the “you've got mail” generation.
Over the past few years, Millennials have gotten a bad rap. I've heard it – we're lazy, we don't want to work hard, we don't wait for anything, and the list goes on…
Some of my friends and family members have even complained about our work ethic. They claim we take our vacation days as soon as we earn them. They complain that we never stay at a job for very long, and we're always hopping from one company to another.
Part of me wants to tell this older generation that they reap what they sow, and that's what they get for filling us with Ritalin and having us try every sport possible before the age of ten. And, another part of me wants to ask them why we should buy into a system of employment everyone knows doesn't work, and waste away for forty years before we die from heart disease five minutes into retirement.
However, Millennials, hear me –
Just because something doesn't work, or function the way we want it to, doesn't mean we can ignore it or not leverage our considerable skills and talents to improve it.
But I digress.
Why Millennials Are Primed for Success in Today's Business World
So there I sat, in a Starbucks, across from a new but quickly growing business in Austin, Texas. To my left were the parents, the owners, the baby boomers. To my right, my fellow Millennial, but a much younger one (who doesn't know life before the internet or cell phones).
As we discussed how best to merge technology with their more “traditional” business, one with horses and saddles instead of computers, I began to notice just how different the two generations can be.
On my left were two people focused on building their business the old way, through customer service, treating clients like family, and working hard. On my right, wanting to build the business the new way, was someone who wanted to use technology to scale, automate everything, and push customers to use the company's systems.
And then there's me, in the middle, nodding and agreeing with and understanding both sides.
Old Way vs New Way
Those of us in our mid-thirties have an interesting view on the world. We've seen businesses like Amazon go from small startups to billion dollar companies while established brands like Circuit City go belly up. We survived the dot-com bubble boom and bust. We saw Wal-Mart become Walmart and push “the little guys” out of small towns all across the country. And, we logged in repeatedly as Facebook became our go-to source for news, information, entertainment, and more. We use our cell phones but remember when they used to hang on the wall.
The old way runs you out of business. Our world today changes more in one twenty-four hour period than it used to in a week, possibly more than in a month. Companies that adapt succeed, and ones that don't get run out of town by companies that do.
My clients who wanted to hold the hands of their customers will never build a million-dollar business. If you refuse to let go, scale, outsource and automate, you will always be limited by the amount of work you can do in a given time frame.
The new way, however, can kill your business before it gets off the ground. There is such a thing as too much automation, too many computers, and too little human interaction.
And Millennials can navigate those tricky waters.
The Millennial Way
We older Millennials remember the days before everything was done with a computer. We remember writing checks, wrapping our books with paper grocery bags, and having to wait for our Pentium computers to boot up (while we did something else).
Older Millennials also know what it's like to order from Amazon Prime Now and get their product 90 minutes later. We got our first cell phone when we got our first car, and our first iPhone when we got our first job. We use apps to shop for houses on our tablets and get frustrated when we have to go sit at a table to sign the paperwork in person. We know what it's like to browse in Barnes & Noble but purchase on our phones to read on our Kindles (sometimes before we leave the store).
The Millennial Way is an amalgamation of 30 years of technological developments all designed to make our lives easier. The Millennial Way is a combination of customer service, a personal touch, and the automation and scalability of technology. The Millennial Way is personalized efficiency.
Best of Both Worlds
As a business owner myself, and after nearly twenty years in sales, I recognize the need for both a personal touch and for the effective implementation of technology. I know business owners can't do everything by hand, but I also know we can't rely entirely on hardware and software to build your business. Business owners today have to operate in an environment where we can't treat everyone the same, but we have to treat them with consistency.
All around the world, companies are struggling to implement emerging technologies into their marketing, sales and business strategies. They're trying to take care of their long-time customers while attracting a younger generation.
And that's why Millennials are primed for success in today's business world. Millennials are the generation of “both,” and we're geared to think “win-win.” We believe we can have both the personalized experience from our childhood and the on-demand speed of today. We believe we can both make money and make a difference. We believe we can both work hard AND play hard. We believe we can have it all.
When Millennials can help companies, employers, clients, and friends live in a world of “both,” we'll win. If we position ourselves as the bridge that connects what was, what is, and what could be, we'll be the most critical employees and we'll have the most successful businesses the world has ever seen. With one foot in the offline world of the late 80s and early 90s, and one foot in the online world of stream-everything-wait-for-nothing, we're in a unique position to leverage both our youth and our experience.
Tradition vs. Innovation
I could hardly write a section with a “vs.” in the title after I just wrote about how Millennials are the generation of “both,” but I will. See, for us, tradition is important, but it's not everything. As Millennials, we know what it's like to have disposable furniture from IKEA, but we also know why history, culture and quality matter.
We Millennials know what it's like to get overlooked because we were younger than our competition. But, we also know that older doesn't always mean better.
Our traditions have gotten us where we are, but our ability to innovate and create are what will get us to where we want to go. We've learned how to cherish the past, but we also know that pruning is key to new growth. Millennials are old enough to know we're not invincible, and young enough to not be entirely jaded with the world or set in our ways.
Millennials are the Linchpin
Millennials have seen home automation science fiction become a reality. We've gone through the process of converting our tapes to CDs to mp3s. We know what it's like to custom order a pizza online and have it delivered in less time than it would take to make one ourselves.
But, even with all this change, we still remember what it's like to stay out after dark, invite friends over for Golden Eye parties, and what life was like before DVR.
Millennials are the linchpins that hold our economy together. Without us, our parents' generation wouldn't even know what today's youth were saying.
Millennials speak 401k and emoticon. We play video games and buy houses. We have children, bury our parents, and many of us have had to take care of both. We entered the workforce when no one was hiring and figured out how to make it work. We've been fired and laid off. We've gotten married and divorced. We want things for free but don't mind paying for things we value. We've gotten degrees and diplomas because we were told to, but then realized those things weren't enough.
Millennials are primed for success because we have a unique perspective, one to which no other generation can stake a claim. And when we can use that perspective and leverage it as one of our greatest assets, we will win. And, so will the people around us.