Intergenerational Entrepreneurship: It’s the “New” Normal by Christa Ward, 4GenNow Senior Researcher

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We aren’t exactly “jumping the shark” when we suggest that generations can work together successfully. There is a wealth of research on cross generations in the workforce and generational partnering that tells us they’ve been doing it side-by-side for years. Why should it be considered the “new” normal now? Well, it’s all in the way you package it. As I mentioned in my last article, our workforce is full of baby boomers and Gen X-Z finding ways to work together successfully. Today’s business climate positions intergenerational entrepreneurs in a great place to achieve success. There are a few reasons why we should view intergenerational partnering as the “new” normal.

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It connects thinkers and doers

Generally speaking, baby boomers tend to have more work experience. Gen Xers tend to be results-oriented. Millennials are seen as more collaborative. Members of Gen Z are more resourceful. Each group brings valuable characteristics to the table. As generational entrepreneurs enter into a partnership, it is important to think of these traits as individual pieces of one pie not as a battle ground. These unique traits can promote a sense of community linking those who think about things and those who can get things done. Intergenerational partnering challenges entrepreneurs to capitalize on what unifies rather than divides. The integration of ideas fosters growth and understanding. Millennials, before you dismiss the contributions of baby boomers and Gen Xers, think about how their results-oriented traits and experience will help you to reach your business objectives. Baby boomers and Gen Xers, think of the ways in which having the mindset of a rookie or a member of Gen Y and Z might help you to be more innovative and see things with a fresh set of eyes.

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It leads to success

In the marketplace, organizations who capitalize on generational diversity succeed. Airbnb and McGivney Global Advisors are two great examples. Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk are millennials but when they needed to take their idea to the next level, Chesky reached out to “old school” 52-year-old baby boomer and hotel entrepreneur, Chip Conley. Conley admittedly didn’t have the tech savvy of a millennial, but he had industry experience and wisdom that added value to the company. Airbnb is now a company with more than 300 million guest arrivals across more than 81,000 cities and 191 countries.

On a different scale, McGivney Global Advisors is also an example of intergenerational partners working successfully. William McGivney and Jennifer Hinkle are three decades apart, but they formed a partnership that works. In her article, Hinkel suggests that it’s all about the approach generational partners take. One of the ways she suggests their partnership is successful is because she and William bring different business connections to the table. The connections they both make among their industry peers allow for greater audience reach. Hinkle says she sees their generational differences as features not bugs.

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It promotes diversity

It is also important to look at intergenerational entrepreneurship from a broader perspective. Having founders that represent different generations shows that the company/organization sees the bigger picture. Diversity of thought is invaluable to intergenerational partnering and successful work environments. People who think alike can only take a business so far. Peter Adams, executive director of Rockies Venture Club suggests that multigenerational businesses are more attractive to venture capitalists because the teams have more to offer. He notes that

multigenerational teams are more likely to consistently examine facts and encourage scrutiny of each member’s actions.

Having a generationally diverse team extends beyond the walls of the business. Entrepreneurs need to recognize that having an intergenerational partner is a good idea because they are dealing with a multigenerational marketplace. Their customers are diverse. This type of partnering is about more than just profit. It’s about looking past what divides to instead, unite entrepreneurs to create business and services that are more attractive to their target audiences.

Conclusion

Intergenerational partnering is a way to connect, succeed and make an impact but it’s also a necessity. Entrepreneurs are facing a few harsh realities about generations in the workplace. The fastest growing group in the workforce are what Generational Expert, Amy Lynch calls people in their fourth quarter careers aka people over 65. The average age of successful entrepreneurs especially in an industry such as tech is changing. Generations working together is not just a desire, it’s a must.

To hear more of Peter Adams’ thoughts on why angel investors prefer to invest in multigenerational teams and Amy Lynch’s generational tips, reserve your spot now at the second annual 4GenNow Power Partners Summit on October 12th at the University of Colorado, South Denver.