I recently participated in an installment of the Bank of America Small Business Social Series focused on the generational differences among small business owners. CNBC’s Carol Roth, a long-time friend, moderated a discussion with myself and a panel of experts using the Google Hangout platform. I served as the millennial expert, USA Today columnist Steve Strauss was the small business expert (another friend from years ago) and Robb Hilson, Bank of America’s Small Business Executive, was on board to discuss the credit environment and small business lending.
The discussion covered a variety of topics including the importance of mentors. I talked about how Millennial entrepreneurs must add value to older generations if they want to be mentored by them. Only mutual relationships in business actually work out based on my experiences. One of the best ways to learn from older generations, and add value, is by asking an older entrepreneur to be a company advisor in exchange for equity. If the older entrepreneur believes in your product, they are much more inclined to pair up with you because they have a tangible benefit.
We also talked about two other important topics: credit and cash flow. When it comes to building a line of credit, we discussed how Millennial entrepreneurs should use a credit card, not just a debit card when paying for items. Before taking out a loan, they should use their own money first, then potentially their family or friends’ money before seeking outside loans. This way, they can focus on driving revenue growth in their businesses.
The panel raised an important point about how impactful technology has been to the entrepreneurial landscape. From my observations as a Millennial entrepreneur, technology has completely leveled the playing field for everyone, from teenagers to Baby Boomers. Millennials are adopting technology such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, while boomers are using LinkedIn. Both generations can teach each other how to best use technology for their own benefit.
Carol asked me about Bank of America’s recent research study, the Small Business Owner Report, which found that different generations describe themselves very differently thus looking for different things in their work. In my opinion, in order for older generations to support Millennials, they have to create an authentic and transparent work environment. In addition, it seems that Millennials want a more casual workplace where they can wear jeans and a shirt to work instead of a suit. They ultimately want to make a big impact on companies and the world, which is why companies have to share their values and mission.
Another finding from the Small Business Owner Report was that Millennial entrepreneurs are nearly five times more likely than Gen X’ers to receive funding through a peer-to-peer network. I find this to be true as many of my peers are using untraditional networks such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Angel List to raise funds. Older generations can tap Millennials in order to learn how to crowd fund their own businesses and Millennials can learn about traditional lending from them.
Overall, my biggest takeaway from this panel was that different generations can help each other to create better businesses.