"And now, the torch has been passed to a new generation ..."

I'm old enough (barely) to remember John F. Kennedy's inauguration. JFK was 43 when he spoke those words, and in the film of the speech, you can see some members of the old guard behind him, even Democrats, looking a bit skeptical of the entitled young whipper-snapper. Little did they imagine on that cold, January day, that JFK's "new generation"--the generation of their own children--would one day be hailed throughout the land as "the greatest."

It just goes to show the power of the media: it can brand entire generations, for better or for worse.

This year another torch was passed, as Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce. Despite all the media-driven stereotypes of dubious provenance about that age group--that they're unambitious, they're entitled, they expect a trophy just for walking through the door--I couldn't be happier to have them. In my experience, Millennials have been and continue to be an exceptional workforce and a great foundation on which to build a company.

This "everybody gets a trophy" approach has been maligned for years, but from my perspective it hasn't created a problem. Quite the contrary. The emphasis on building self-esteem from an early age has resulted in real benefits in our workplace at Big Ass Fans. Far from the stereotype of self-centered adults who think they can do no wrong, I've found that Millennials will try anything, because nobody ever drilled into them the message that they shouldn't. They have absolutely no fear. It's not that they're risktakers, it's that they complement the risktakers. They're adept at discovery and learn from their predecessors. And they make a great fit with entrepreneurs, because they can take ideas and run with them.

Another benefit is that they have gone through school working and playing in groups. This has taught them management skills, time-management and leadership. They understand the dynamics of groups and how some members will always need to pick up the slack. They also understand that at the end of the day, the project has to be completed. The drivers in the group figure out a way to get it done. It's an incredibly important skill to have in a company. At their core, the Millennials we've hired are skilled in collaboration, and that's precisely what you need to succeed in business.

Contrary to the "what's in it for me" stereotype that's been perpetuated, the "new generation" of Millennials we've hired, and will continue to hire, are more focused on what they can do for the company than what the company can do for them. In my book, they just might be the next "great" generation.

Published on: Oct 16, 2015