Yet I find a vastly different image emerges when it comes to these populations as business owners. I’ve dealt with both generations in their respective roles as owners looking to sell their businesses. Here are some observations:
Differing Views of What Their Business is Worth
Baby boomers, who are nearing their retirement age and have worked much of their lives building up their business, expect the value of their company to be much higher than it really is.
Millenials, on the other hand, tend to undervalue their businesses, perhaps because they aren’t as focused on what they’ll need for retirement. That’s too much of a conceptual goal, and they figure they’ll make more with the next venture.
Different Focus on the Past vs. the Future
Not surprisingly, the Baby Boomers tend to think mainly about the past. They want to sell a business based on what they’ve accomplished (even if technology has rendered many of these accomplishments difficult to repeat). They want to be compensated for what they’ve built to date.
Millennials, on the other hand, are always looking toward the future. To the next big thing. They are focused on what their business could potentially accomplish, and they tend to be more forward thinking.
Different Views on What the Next 10 Years Will Bring
This is hardly surprising. As Baby Boomers march toward retirement, they’re very focused on finances. How will they support themselves once they move to a fixed income?
To a millenial, retirement isn’t even on their radar. In fact, a long-term career in one industry isn’t even a concern. They are moving in 10-year increments, always thinking about the next engagement. This is the generation that wasn’t raised on job security and pensions.
Differences in Approach to the Family Business
Baby boomers likely have a business that is three generations old, and they’re looking at their own sons and daughters to inherit the company when they sell.
Millenials, on the other hand, don’t have any kids to think about. They’re looking to offload to a third party, and as a result, a lot of the family business drama tends to go by the wayside.
Differences in Expectations
Baby boomers want things done NOW. They want their business to appraise at the highest price, and they don’t want to even think about spending another three years to grow it to reach that mark.
Millennials are more respectful of the time it takes to engineer a successful business transition. And why shouldn’t they? With their whole life ahead of them, they can afford to take things at a slower pace.
The contrasts are fascinating, and I think more a result of each generation’s respective ages and station in life. Obviously, the Millennials can learn a lot from their older counterparts in terms of business experience and acumen.
However, when it comes to the temperament required to sell a business, it’s smart for some old dogs to learn a few new tricks -- even if it comes from a bunch of young pups.
Rock LaManna is the author of L&NW's popular column, The Bottom Line. Rock helps printing owners and CEOs use their company financials to prioritize and choose the proper strategic path. He is President and CEO of the LaManna Alliance, and provides guidance on how to grow a printing business, merge with a synergistic partner, make a strategic acquisition, or create a succession plan. Rock can be reached by email at Rock@RockLaManna.com.