When I was 18, I had no idea how to run a business. So when I decided to start one, I was going in blind. I had no one to lead me or a business degree to fall back on -- I rolled up my sleeves and figured things out on the fly.

Though I wasn't a millennial, I was in a similar headspace that many young, aspiring entrepreneurs are today: I had big dreams, a desire to achieve something more, and limited experience leading a team. Taking those issues on while I got 1-800-GOT-JUNK? up and running was a major learning curve, but I knew my success all boiled down to learning how to be a strong leader.

When we launched Shack Shine in 2014, we found a batch of franchise partners who embodied the same mindset I had when I first started 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. They also happen to be millennials.

We asked three of our twentysomething franchise partners how they learned to be leaders -- here's what they had to say.

1. They Ask For Help

When we bring on new franchise partners, we train them up, hand them the reins, and send them off to run their businesses. Although we provide regular check-ins and on-site reviews, for the most part, we give them autonomy. However, we've noticed our millennial partners prioritize access to learning opportunities more than older generations.

Mark Webb, 29, spent his first two years with the company under the mentorship of managing director Dave Notte. Dave gave Mark the tools to run the business -- but Mark is most grateful for their ongoing contact, even after taking over the franchise.

Even though millennials want to be empowered at work, they also crave mentorship and support. Our franchise partners value continued training because the more confident they feel in their own abilities, the more effectively they can lead their teams.

2. They Get Their Hands Dirty

While millennials want continued training, they don't want to learn in a boardroom. They want tactical, real-world experience. And they know their employees do, too.

Taylor Dunn, 27, says the best way to help his employees grow is to give them the opportunity to lead themselves. He teaches his lead technicians how to lead others so that his truck teams can be more autonomous. By developing leaders within his franchise, Taylor has more time to focus on other aspects of the business.

For Mark, it's about suiting up and leading by example. On the worst days of the year, he's in the field beside his guys -- and it motivates them all to work that much harder. He's a hands-on leader who shows his team that they're all in it together.

3. They're Team Players

Millennials are a collaborative bunch who find strength and purpose in working together towards a common goal. In fact, 92% say they believe teamwork leads to solutions.

Because they thrive in a team environment, they tend to lead with a team mentality. This means acting more as coach than boss, and ensuring employees feel like a part of a shared goal.

Many of our millennial franchise partners grew up playing sports. Being part of a team prepped them for the challenge of leading a team for their businesses. For Mark, it's about cooperation. For 25-year-old Myles Reville, it's about accountability -- he enjoys being responsible for making the tough calls for his business, a strength he learned from coaching sailing.

Our franchise partners have struck the balance between fostering teamwork and taking the lead. They've learned early on that everyone succeeds when they work together under the guidance of a strong coach.

4. They're Empathetic

Managing Director Dave Notte says there's one clear standout that sets millennial franchise partners apart: they leverage empathy as a leadership tool more than other generations. Strong cultures are developing in their franchises as a result.

Since he first joined Shack Shine on the ground floor, Mark has worked every possible role in the business. This helped him transition into a leadership position, because he can empathize with every person on his team. In turn, his team's priority is to understand every customer's situation so they can provide value with every interaction. By being an empathetic leader, Mark set the precedent in his business for his standard of customer service.

Our millennial partners prove that it's less about the cohort you're born into than it is about your values and work ethic. It takes time and experience to become a leader -- but if you have the desire to lead and the drive to do it right, your business will be successful. Our most committed leaders have built the strongest franchises with the most positive cultures. That's why leadership development is at the heart of our business.

I was never "taught" to be a leader. When I started out, I went in headfirst and did what had to be done. I called people I admired, asked mentors for advice, and learned as much as I could from experts in the field.

We're working with a new generation with different wants and needs, but there's one thing that's remained a constant at O2E Brands: our franchise partners are passionate, dedicated, and eager. They aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of their businesses. What they (initially) lacked in experience they've made up for in passion, and they've learned for themselves what it means to be a leader.

Published on: Mar 27, 2017
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