Baby-boomers are an ‘Idealist’ generation, much as their great-grandparents, the Missionary Generation, were at the beginning of the last era. They rebelled against Victorian values at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They fought for protections for women and children working in harsh factory conditions and for women’s suffrage. Boomers, for their part, fought for the end of the military draft and for civil rights.
Idealist generations are followed by ‘Reactives’. Generation X mirrors the Silent Generation. They are, by nature, rebellious and cynical.
Business owners wear many hats. When they are just getting started, they are not only management but also labor. Their responsibilities are not just marketing, finance and customer service. They also include emptying the trash and cleaning the toilets. And, of course, they do everything in between. There is a huge spectrum between strategy and toilets that has to be covered.
If you are fortunate enough to be hired by a small business owner, with your freshly inked degree in hand, it is likely that your job will involve activities closer to the toilet end of the spectrum than the strategy end.
I’ve lived at both ends during my career and at just about every stop along the way. I am now at the stage of observer and coach (a nice place to be). Yet, I am also still a student.
My first job right out of the Navy was supervising a dozen young women in the back office at Citibank. Although I was still 20-something, I thought of them as kids – the oldest of them was about 22.
In the Navy, I was something of a supervisor too. Except the folks I supervised weren’t young women. They were young tough-guys. It was not uncommon for one of them to be cleaning his fingernails with a knife blade about 6” long while I was reprimanding them.
To say I didn’t know how to talk with the young women in my charge at Citi would not be a stretch. In fact, to say that they viewed me negatively would not be a stretch either.
I’m a fan of a CNBC reality show called ‘The Profit’. In each episode, wealthy entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis reviews, invests in, and turns around a small business.
Lemonis succeeds because he has incredible retail instincts – he knows what people will buy, how to merchandise it, and how to operate a business efficiently – and because he has terrific leadership skills.
From time to time, we travel to Europe on vacation. We enjoy their way of life and their respect for their history. They have managed to create a modern economy while maintaining their local and national customs. In some sense, it harkens back to an earlier time – at least for me.
Unlike most European cultures, we Americans don’t have centuries of tradition. Perhaps that’s why our celebrations – such as the 4th of July – tend to be loud, boisterous and overwrought.
I know it’s foolish to walk into one of Rochester’s most popular restaurants without a reservation on a Saturday night. But, we did it anyway; and, in addition to enjoying a great meal, it turned out to be a great lesson in how to cure the customer service ills that infect many companies.
I’ve been on a rant about lousy service lately. First, there was my experience with American Airlines (F-Bombs over Charlotte), followed by my open letter to the CEO of Delta. I got lots of responses to these posts, many of which brought to mind that it isn’t just major airlines that are afflicted with this disease.