Put away the instruction manual on how to manage millennials. These workers and their successors are in the trades, purchasing businesses and smart enough to ask for help. They are at the beginning stages of being your peers and while some will accomplish business success quickly, others will struggle for many years until they reach a breakthrough, perhaps not unlike yourself.
As a restorer in the 80s, 90s and 00s, you helped the younger generations gain data quicker than they could have on their own. Many restorers who have been in business for 30 plus years will testify that the days of cheap dehumidifiers, enough fans to pop breakers and seven-day dry times with no monitoring are gone. The industry simply did not have enough data at the onset to say when something would be “dry.” Now most restorers, even when not necessary, provide daily moisture readings and adjustments to equipment that justify their dry times. Point after point and job after job, the data is being collected and all of us know more. The result is that restorers spend hours debating how to tell which category a job is, how much equipment is needed, what type of equipment, the volume of air allowed to change in an hour and what size dehumidifier to properly dry a chamber. Before this onslaught of data, the job was still complete, albeit with a little more liability.
Millennials and young restorers are working to gain an understanding of the information and how to apply the data from prior generations. Many of them care and understand that it is not until the data is applied in a meaningful way that it will become valuable information. To this point, many of the trainers in the restoration industry have contributed greatly to the application, advancement and skill needed to dry a building well. This transfer of information deserves a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. A hearty thanks for the tools and skills developed in the industry is well deserved.
But with where the industry is today, there is still more work to be done, and millennials need more help from you.
It’s not fair and it never will be. You’ve been repeatedly pushing a heavy rock up a hill like Sisyphus, navigating roadblocks and constant retorts from insurance companies, fighting drying day myths and continuing to build strong relationships during the struggle. While millennials will not be your equals right now, they need you to be their peer. They can gather facts, statistics and information — just enough to make them strong, but not enough to be right. According to the philosopher Bertrand Russell, this application of knowledge is powerful. “We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power.”
There is already a shift from owners who are retiring, selling their business outright, closing up shop or are deep into a generational succession plan. According to Guidant Financial, most small businesses are no longer in the hands of baby boomers, as “The last few years have seen a shift from the plurality of small business owners who are Baby Boomers (41%) to those who are Gen X (46%). Right now, Millennials make up 13% of small business owners, while only 1% are Gen Z, or ‘zoomers.’”
Below are five ideas to help, whether you are transitioning a business or continuing a legacy.
1. Understand your value.
Develop a value statement for what you know best in the industry and decide how to deliver it to others. Determine this value, even if it seems minor compared to others. The choices, mistakes, successes and improvements you have made over the years is more useful than you realize. It is likely that a young restorer would benefit from your wisdom.
2. Include everyone.
Some future business owners haven’t yet realized that they will one day run an organization, and they may be working for you now. So while the wisdom you share may not apply to their current situation, it may pertain to them in the future. As you are considering who to include in providing information to help the industry transition, cast a wide net. Be mindful that these conversations should still be intimate, in a dialogue that is meaningful and conversational.
3. Ask questions.
Ask questions and encourage others to think through ideas that will benefit the industry. Know that in pursuing challenging questions, you may not yet have the answer to how a situation will be handled or where the solution will land. One thing you can be certain of is that we will all be wrong about the future. However, you can challenge the next generation to think critically about their surroundings and what may come.
4. Recognize that the future is not yours.
These discussions and the solutions that will come out of them do not impact you. Let those you are speaking with provide their own thoughts about what the future will bring. Continue, as you likely have already done, to encourage those around you to provide their best thinking about a topic. Millennials and young restorers will likely use your wisdom and their information to come up with a clever solution to a future problem.
5. Continue to be curious.
Even though you are thinking about the transition of the industry, there is still a significant amount of information that requires someone to turn it into knowledge. Stay curious and identify problems that have near-term solutions and interest you. The value of experience and the wisdom you provide will be welcome until you decide you no longer want to participate.
If you do not hear it from a millennial, know that a thank you is due to all restorers who have gone before them and paved the way. Even if you don’t believe millennials are ready for the business of restoration, realize that they are already opening businesses and that many restorers are retiring. Consider millennials your peers and help the industry transition well into the future by helping them to succeed in business.