Guest Blogger: Holly Whitman
My mom is insanely crafty. Always has been. Some of my best early memories involve coming home from school to see her sewing up Halloween costumes for me and my siblings.
In my college years, the crafts continued, but the projects changed. When I’d visit home, I’d see her doing things like making scrub caps for her doctor friends and fellow nurses, crocheting stuffed animals from scratch and quilting baby blankets for friends.
I wasn’t the only one who loved her crafts. Before long, her colleagues were making requests and paying her more than she’d charge for caps. One of her nurse friends even went so far as to sneak off to the pediatric ward with a couple of her stuffed animals. She came back with about 35 orders from thrilled parents.
Unfortunately, my mom isn’t one to charge for the cost of labor. She’s an extremely generous and practical person, and as she once told me, “I’d never pay $40 for a stuffed giraffe! Why should I charge people so much?”
The answer, of course, is simple: an entrepreneur needs to make a profit.
To Mom, though, profit was an afterthought. Her projects were always about sharing her joy and never about making money. When Dad and I pointed out that making a profit would fund more projects, though, she agreed to let me help her with the business.
And so began our partnership. I learned a lot working with Mom, but the big takeaway I think others could benefit from knowing is that baby boomers like her and millennials like me make a great business team.
- Boomers Are Strong Communicators, Problem-Solvers and Multitaskers
Not all boomers are crafty like my mom, and not all millennials are business-savvy like me. However, influential social and economic factors have caused deep-seated differences between the members of each generation. It’s these differences, I believe, that made our team stronger than it would have been if composed of two baby boomers or two millennials.
According to the Generational Differences Chart provided by the WMFC — an organization dedicated to understanding and strengthening bonds between family members — baby boomers are strong communicators, problem-solvers and multitaskers. Each of these qualities is vital to running a successful business.
In my own experience, I saw evidence of each of these skills in my mother. She was always proactive about hashing out ideas and concerns. She stayed calm and offered solutions when we’d hit a snag, and she juggled everything that needed to be done like a pro — she concurrently crafted, taught me to craft and learned the business tech skills I offered.
Millennials Are Practical, Innovative and Tech-Savvy
Millennials, of course, have different innate qualities. For example, because we’ve grown up in an economic recession, we’re overall very financially practical. When we hit a financial stumbling point early in our business days, I made the decision to sell my car. My parents thought I was crazy but the truth was, we needed the money and I could no longer justify extortionate monthly car payments when I could trade it in for a used Pontiac Aztek that I paid less than $3,000 for in cash. The money I saved from those payments were channeled into supply costs and traveling to different fairs around the state to sell our creations. It was a tough choice, but necessary.
In addition to being financially practical, the WMFC’s Generational Differences Chart reveals that millennials are innovative and tech-savvy — two qualities that are vital in today’s business world.
For our business, online selling and marketing were the factors that really made the business take off. Mom continued to sell her crafts at work, while I created and maintained accounts on Etsy and Pinterest and marketed our handmade products on social media sites.
- Millennials and Boomers Both Have a Great Work Ethic
According to the Generational Differences Chart, boomers and millennials share several key traits, including optimism, open-mindedness and a strong work ethic.
Each of these traits can only benefit a growing business, but the most important of all is the work ethic. Business partnerships can succeed with a certain amount of friction — in fact, friction leads to compromise and innovation — but one quality that’s non-negotiable is a shared work ethic.
Luckily for me, my partner was also my mother. Even without our overlapping generational qualities, chances are I would have shared the work ethic she raised me with. As it turned out, the work ethic we shared — whether generational or not — was the foundation of a successful, enjoyable and equal partnership.
The Big Takeaway
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but business partnerships are just about inevitable. Whether you’re thinking of starting up your own company or you just want to become a better worker in general, try out different team dynamics.
You don’t have to be a baby boomer, and you don’t have to be a millennial. No matter what generation you belong to, the takeaway from this story is the same: Each member of a business team should bring different qualities to the table.
So before you launch your business or even choose teammates for a work project, do a little research. Consider reaching out to one or more members from a generation different than your own. You might be pleasantly surprised at the result.
Holly Whitman is a journalist and freelance writer originally from London, England and now living in the United States. Visit and follow her blog Only Slightly Biased by clicking here.
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