Do a quick search for the phrase “Millennials are” and you’ll get all sorts of critical results: lazy, entitled, killing long-standing industries, delusional, worthless. There are pages and pages of articles perpetuating the myth that Millennials are essentially the Peter Pan generation.
But the thing is, Millennials aren’t nearly as naïve—or young—as we’re presented: The older echelon of the generation is approaching 40, many of us have families and established careers of our own, and we are deeply committed to our values. Indefinitely couch-surfing at mom and dad’s place is the last image that the side-hustle generation deserves.
The disconnect between Millennials and previous generations largely comes from how radically the rise of the digital age has changed the playing field, and how we had the advantage of learning with it rather than learning how to adapt to it. We had computers in our classrooms almost from the start, we grew up alongside the internet, and online research is second nature to us, thanks to it being an invaluable tool for school papers and projects.
And now that many of us are seizing the reins, Millennials are embracing the chance to change the world, either by seeking employment that aligns with their goals or harnessing their break-the-mold entrepreneurial spirit to be the change they want to see. In fact, a recent survey by Bentley University reported that 67 percent of the Millennials polled stated a goal of owning their own business, versus climbing the corporate ladder.
“We only have one shot at leaving a legacy on this planet. Entrepreneurship gives us the highest probability of effecting change.”
Matt Wilson co-founder of Under30Experiences
Millennial founders and owners do what they do because of a deep belief in making a difference. Providing a product or service that improves lives and helps others is the best way to execute a social mission. Or, as Matt Wilson, the co-founder of travel company Under30Experiences says, “We only have one shot at leaving a legacy on this planet. Entrepreneurship gives us the highest probability of effecting change.”
The word “entrepreneur” encompasses not only company founders but also the next generation of leadership rising within existing companies. Entrepreneurship means taking on something new, which can also suggest taking something existing and bringing it into the future—a turnover trend that’s plainly and increasingly visible in this industry, and comes with the kind of challenges that prove Millennials aren’t averse to rolling up their sleeves to prove their worth.
“Life as the ‘bosses’ daughter,’ no matter what position is written on my business card, is not an easy ride,” says Briana Candeub of Park Avenue Limousine in Feasterville-Trevose, Pa. “My day doesn’t end at 5 p.m.; I don’t put up an ‘out of office’ message even on vacation; I am constantly working and discussing the business, even beyond the office. All of our in-house employees have been with us at least 15 years, so their experience speaks for itself: As a future leader of our company, I am putting in my time to continue to grow Park Avenue with them and for them.”
Younger operators relish opportunities like expanding into new territory and additional businesses, recapitalizing, changing out the fleet, adding motorcoaches, and updating technology, to name just a few examples.
TJ Doyle of Gold Shield Transportation in Lexington, Ky., has already taken over his parents’ company, a process that all parties approached delicately but proactively.
“My day doesn’t end at 5 p.m.; I don’t put up an ‘out of office’ message even on vacation; I am constantly working and discussing the business...”
Briana Candeub of Park Avenue Limousine
“I worked with my mother and father to facilitate the transition, learning the ins and outs of the company over the years and not rushing into it too quickly,” he explains. “I have worked alongside our chauffeurs for years, so it was no surprise to them when I transitioned into the role of COO. I always try to keep an open mind, take each day I wake up as a blessing, and understand that I have 100+ families, affiliates, and clients counting on me.”
That community-first mindset is actually a hallmark of the so-called “Me Me Me Generation.” A survey targeting Millennial bosses from Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, and The Muse, cited Millennial leaders as being more concerned today about the human capital challenges left by their elders—and they’re making sure that diversity hiring, a harmonious work-life balance, empathy, adaptability, and emotional intelligence are becoming just as important as college degrees and certifications. Understanding personal strengths and weaknesses helps Millennial leaders gain insight into their team, positioning the company for stability and longevity.
Matt McHugh of the Boston-area Acre Bridge Transportation pays attention to strengthening the team around him: “I focus on my team’s needs as much as my clients’. Without a solid team around me, I am only a team of one; with a group that is on the ball and supporting each other, we are exponentially stronger.”
For young leaders, it’s about creating a vision for the future by looking at things from a different perspective. No slouches here, young operators cited technology, improvements to employment practices, increased marketing, and diversifying assets as goals they plan to tackle over the next few years.
“As cliché as it sounds, I’d like to implement updated technology,” says Chelsea Candeub of Park Avenue Limousine. “I feel that there is so much out there that I have learned through college, friends, and just ‘being a Millennial’ that I can contribute. The younger generation excels at showing our parents a new take on an old idea.”
“I am bringing the modern view in employment into a traditional business: These days, employees are your biggest asset—not you biggest liability or expense. We are trying to improve the employee experience, and I hope that I can be a leader of that,” adds Nick Boccio of Buffalo Limousine.
Being an ambitious leader is a key to success, and Millennials aren’t afraid to take risks. Anthony Asaro from Desert Rose Worldwide Transportation in Phoenix, Ariz., says, “I expect myself to do great things. To take the company and continue to grow it like my parents have. I expect bumpy roads along the way, and I expect to overcome any obstacles preventing me from reaching my goals as a young leader.”
It’s crucial for leaders to establish their own goals for the company and accept accountability. Operators can no longer take action just because something “feels right,” and education is one way to build stronger companies.
“Knowledge is power. Age doesn’t control how much knowledge one person can have. My hobby is doing research on business and the ever-changing landscape of our society. You learn as fast or as slow as you want to,” says Kevin Duff of Signature Transportation Group in Chicago.
“I worked with my mother and father to facilitate the transition, learning the ins and outs of the company over the years and not rushing into it too quickly.”
TJ Doyle of Gold Shield Transportation
Another key element for building strong companies of the future is embracing emerging technologies.
“Adopting new technologies as soon as possible will be part of my contribution to the company’s future,” McHugh says. “Coming soon is an AI chatbot, dynamic pricing, package sales, and one-click purchasing through Facebook, Amazon, and eBay.”
Despite their optimism, young leaders expect to encounter their share of challenges—specifically, delegating to and managing older subordinates. The best way to deal with that concern is to hire carefully, make sure all new and existing employees are on the same page, and to insist on respect for everyone on the team. Young leaders can build trust by learning from more experienced staff members and welcoming honest conversations.
“Something I learned a long time ago is that people don’t quit their jobs, they leave a boss who fails to lead,” Doyle says. “If you lead by example, create a vibrant company culture, and treat others how you wish to be treated, they will want to follow you. It will become contagious: It’s no longer ‘just a job’—it’s a way of life. And your clients will see the benefits of what happens when everyone feels important and treated equally.”
Regardless of age, it’s always important to acknowledge the foundations laid by and contributions from previous generations. There are industry standards that were put in place—and continue to work—for a reason.
“One thing that my predecessor taught me was to be honest and do what is right, always. Your reputation is everything,” says Jason Messinger of BBZ Limousine & Livery Service in New Jersey.
“Don’t overextend yourself. Stay in your lane, and when you’re ready for change, make it happen. My father has always taught me to make a move when it’s right for you and your company, not because everyone else is doing it,” Asaro adds. “I am bringing the modern view in employment into a traditional business: These days, employees are your biggest asset...”
Nick Boccio of Buffalo Limousine
Because if this industry excels at anything, it’s longtime leaders stepping up to share their wisdom with the next generation and adopting mentorship roles whenever possible so the ground transportation industry can succeed together.
“We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with people like our father [Alan Candeub], Kathy Kahne, Eric Devlin, and Tami Saccoccio,” says Chelsea Candeub. “While they all have taught us such different things, they all have the same message: Learn from one another and never stop moving forward. When Brie and I go to different cities in our NextGen peer group, we always make it a point to visit local operators to see how we can do something better or learn a new idea.” [CD0319]