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Why Baby Boomers and Millennials Should Co-Found

Taylor Brown on March 10, 2014 Source: e360 Blog

Taylor BrownBaby boomers1 are micromanagers, work hard, do not understand technology, are stubborn and want to destroy the planet. Millennials2 are lazy, entitled, tech savvy, want to save the world and don't know how to communicate in person.

  1. A person who was born between 1946 and 1964
  2. The generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, comprising primarily the children of the baby boomers.


Although the generalizations of baby boomers and millennials vary, they do share one similar characteristic, they both share particular entrepreneurial characteristics. Millennials crave freedom and earning potential. Baby boomers have a desire to build something.

BoomersMillennialsBoth of these generations are finding jobs are hard to come by, and are putting their hopes in entrepreneurship as an alternative. Millennials are the most educated generation in history and the least employed. When the economic crisis hit, millennials struggled to find jobs, resulting in an average student debt of $29,400 (CNN Money). With nothing to do and nowhere to turn, many went on to further their education and some took a different route and decided to start their own businesses. The Kauffman Foundation conducted a survey in 2011 that found that 27 percent of millennials are self-employed, 72 percent want to quit their jobs, and 35 percent have started a business on the side. Baby boomers are reacting similarly by shunning their retirement for several reasons: they do not feel comfortable with their retirement sum, they want to start something of their own or they need additional income.

Why then don't baby boomers and millennials co-found together instead of focusing on their differences? After all, baby boomers have shaped millennials by raising them as parents or grandparents, hiring them as employees and educating them as professors/teachers. Millennials, in turn, have affected baby boomers as well by introducing them to new trends in technology that allow for global communication (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and green lifestyles that focus on less waste and greater reuse of the world’s products and services. Why then are both generations always griping about one another? Rather than cutting one another down, they should be building something up—with each other. Here are five stereotypes make baby boomers and millennials perfect co-founders.

  1. Management Style: Baby boomers are known for micromanaging. Millennials are known for feeling entitled and will probably have a hands-off management style. The best management style is not having one specific pattern. Rather, it is knowing what management style to use in a certain situation. You need to be able to adapt to the situation at hand within a company. This means not always telling people what to do, and not always going with the laissez-faire approach.
  2. Technology Capabilities: I always find it amusing that the baby boomers get such a hard time for not understanding new technology. When if it weren’t for their generation, some of the most successful technology companies would not exist today such as Apple (Steve Jobs born 1955), Microsoft (Bill Gates born 1955) and Amazon (Jeff Bezos born 1964). Millennials grew up in the world that baby boomers helped create. If these two generations worked together, imagine what could be created. Baby boomers and millennials working together would have strong product development with a conscious effort in developing to their customers’ needs. Mixing the realists and the dreamers can help create sound companies with a pension towards innovation and customer-driven adjustments.
  3. Work Ethic: Baby boomers are known for these traits: hard working, walked 5 miles to school—uphill both ways—and have little or no work-life balance. Millennials are known for feeling entitled, expecting gratification and not wanting to put their time in but knowing how to work hard- not necessarily during office hours. If millennials and baby boomers co-founded together, baby boomers could give millennials a reality check on workplace expectations and behaviors, and the millennials could teach baby boomers the importance of stepping away from the office in order to clear mind drives and rejuvenate workers.
  4. Environmental Regard: Baby boomers have a reputation for causing harm to the planet all in the name of providing for their families. Millennials want to clean up that mess. Which poses the question. How can we afford to make the planet greener? Boomers and millennials can work together to create sound business plans that have an eye on the eco-friendly/sustainable model of the new world.
  5. Communication Preferences: Baby boomers are great at communicating in person; millennials are great at communicating via device. The two can learn from one another and create a better communication balance (personal and efficient). We have all been in a meeting that can take up a significant chunk of our day. Those can be effective, but they can also be draining and to be frank, a waste of time. Both baby boomers and millennials can rely on their strengths and decide what is worthy of time and face-to-face meetups and what can be handled in an email-fashion.

For some individuals this sounds like their biggest nightmare. However, why would you want to co-found with someone who thinks the same way that you do? In a one of Noam Wasserman’s video segments on Kauffman Founder’s School, Should I Co-found? With Whom?, Wasserman uses his own dataset, finding that 84 percent of startups decide to co-found with two or more individuals. Co-founders who often make the best partners are able to compliment one another’s weaknesses as well as fill in the missing human capital skills and expertise. While baby boomers and millennials certainly do differ, their stereotypes compliment each other spot on. This won’t work for everyone, but, if human capital, arguably the most important asset of the business, is leveraged, it could optimize the strategic vision of any company.

Please post your comments. I would love to hear thoughts, comments, disagreements and stories. Thanks!


Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco


Tags:  Baby boomers, millennials, co-founders, stereotypes, generations, partners, work ethic, management, communication preferences, environmental regard, technology, capabilities, work-life balance, management style, Noam Wasserman, Founders School, Should I Co-Found, Young Invincibles Policy Brief, In Search of a Second Act: The Challenges and Advantages of Senior Entrepreneurship

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