The Hidden, Business-Savvy Skill Set of Millennials


Imagine you are growing your business and the hiring pool presents itself as a fresh crop of millennials. What comes to mind as you think about working closely – and entrusting your business – with Generation Y?

Are you filled with dread as you imagine twenty-somethings scheduling work around yoga class and Snapchat sessions?  Perhaps you already find yourself surrounded by millennials where you are doing business.

Or perhaps you’ve heard horror stories, and wonder what the future holds for you.  Either way it’s easy to conjure up the stereotypes we share about these young people, roughly the generation born between 1982 and 2002, give or take a few years. They’re entitled, they lack focus, they’re self-centered, they can’t commit. But while one could argue stereotypes sometimes spring from a small kernel of truth, I believe millennials get a bad rap.

According to a recent Pew Research Center  survey, millennials are the first generation in the modern era to graduate college with higher levels of debt and higher rates of unemployment than the previous two generations. That’s hardly an enviable position to be in, entitled or not.  Behind the popular images attributed to them, millennials have an inherent set of skills which are largely unseen and under appreciated. Here are three traits I believe make millennials well suited to thrive in business and entrepreneurship:

1 ) They have a natural sense of adaptability in changing circumstances

One criticism frequently leveled at millennials is their constant job-hopping. They have no qualms about switching jobs frequently – as much as four times a year if it suits them – whereas earlier generations felt more of responsibility to see a job through to the end of one year, at least. Yet the same thing that drives millennials to switch jobs – to keep trying things out until they get it right – is the same trait that makes them adaptable to changing circumstances,  and adaptability is one of the most important qualities a successful entrepreneur can have.

As you well know if you’ve been in business more than a few years, the landscape is constantly changing for businesses of all sizes and types. Those who learn to adapt to changes, especially challenging ones, without compromising their values will do well.
Adaptability is what allowed my great grandfather to find opportunities for work rebuilding San Francisco after the great earthquake of 1906.

It is also what allowed  my mother to immigrate to America from Pakistan, providing our family with a life full of hope, opportunity, and the ability to achieve great things. And it is what has helped me grow our brand  ver the past 15 years, from just one store to a network of 1200 franchises in 49 states and abroad.

2) They have an affinity for new technology, and easily integrate it into their lives 

This is something I am excited about. Since we also own a software business, Netsolace, I’ve always focused on bringing new technology into my own businesses, and I value and appreciate how seamlessly millennials integrate new apps, devices, digital tools, and open-source problem solving into their daily lives. The millennial generation grew up with technology cemented into their environments in ways that previous generations did not. The internet and widespread wireless access were norms; having a cell phone and other tech gadgets that can fit in your pocket were a no brainer from the time they were small children. New technology will continue to evolve and dominate the way we conduct business and the way our customers shop and access services. Millennials’ ease with new technology is a strong asset for any business looking to embrace technology and not be left  behind.

3) They are incredibly resourceful, and can think well on their feet 

I see a cleverness in millennials that is refreshing. Because the economy has been  so tough for them, they are forced to be very resourceful. Whether it’s about finding good deals on clothing or an apartment, or making their own jewelry or furniture out of raw materials, millennials are steeped in a do-ityourself culture that makes them incredibly clever.

When you run a small business, it’s imperative to have people with a resourceful, get-it-done  attitude on hand, and many millennials have this trait as a mark of their generation. I recently watched a franchisee interact with a young intern. They faced a dilemma over how to transfer a large digital file from one computer to another, so the manager could  view the file her intern had been working on,  but at her own desk. The file was too large for email, and the intern didn’t have access to their file sharing program. While the manager puzzled over how to transfer the file, the intern reached into his pocket and pulled out a digital memory stick – and  lugged it into his computer to copy the file. Within seconds, he walked it over to the manager’s desk, plugged it into a USB port, and she had the file open in front of her.  This kind of resourcefulness, combined with a deftness with technology that only five years ago would have boggled the minds of earlier generations, is an example of a millennial characteristic that often goes unseen.

The bottom line? 

Millennials are expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, and it behooves us as business owners and leaders in our communities to recognize and appreciate the skills that will help develop this next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders.

Tariq Farid is the Founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements, which has over 1200 franchise locations in 49 states and 14 countries. He also is the founder of several other successful businesses including software company NetSolace, which simplifies IT systems for franchise companies and other businesses in order to increase productivity.

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