Small businesses may be missing this key to growth

What can I learn from financial advisors?

Their business model is quite simple, and their concerns cross-industry barriers. First, advisors market to bring customers into their office through whatever means necessary — door to door, social media. Then, demonstrate competency through clear communication to show their service is better than the rest. That’s where independent businesses thrive. Large advising companies struggle to build trust because the shadow brand of a national conglomerate, and all their misdealings, loom behind them.

It was my first time at a conference for financial professionals, but I expected to:

First, to confront high school trauma — it seems like every high school bully grew up to be a sharp jawed, pinstripe suit-wearing financial advisor.

Second, firm handshakes and endless networking. Financial advisors live and breathe small talk. Each one has a story they’ve probably told hundreds of times — usually sport-related and refined to get the most laughs. They are master manipulators because their business rests on instilling confidence and peace of mind into every client encounter.

Sure enough, both were present in spades and had me crawling into bed a withered INFP every night.

But, one observation shattered my expectations.

What element struck me the most at the Small Business Advisor Conference?


More than 3,200 Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) and Executives attended the conference; millennial attendees were at least 30% of the population.

The presentations on the calendar proved that advisors are working to harness the power of a younger generation to lead the Financial Industry. And, you, need to dear be too.

Advisors are not just content with their existing customers — the baby-boomer and retiree demographic — because that money is in the bank.

Growth, in all sectors, will be measured by how well firms build relationships and brand recognition among Millennials (born after 1980) and Generation Z (born after 2000). They will receive, perhaps, the most massive intergenerational wealth transfer in history.

Some Millennials will turn 40 in the first half of this decade. If you are neglecting how your business will attract young talent and young clients in 20 years, then you are behind or dead in the water.

Hire young talent to attract young customers

Building a growing business focused on the future is more than just finding young clients. Generation Z and Millennials will also, soon, inherit leadership and management positions. It is inevitable. But, there is a pivotal link between attracting customers and young talent — you need both to make money.

Millennials show they prefer in-person purchasing but digital communications. Yet, RIAs are learning that they also don’t want their money managed by their grandparents. So, they’re placing young associate advisors int client-facing positions to make their business attractive to millennial peers.

Millennials, especially, are being told that they must switch jobs every three years. So, firms need to use their young talent to their full potential and invest in their education while reminding them of their value to the firm. If you don’t, then your young talent will leave to find an employer who does. Period. It’s that simple, according to Scott Zimmer, the Generational Expert at Bridgeworks.

Gen Z and Millennials did not inherit their grandparent’s work ethic — they changed it

Zimmer finds that looking past stereotypes reveals Millennials and Gen Z to be hard, more productive workers but require a different set of inputs to yield results.

Every generation seems to be stereotyped by their work ethic, but the work-live relationship is evolving. Millennials and Gen Z prefer full merging their professional and personal social circles.

Boomers found success through long hours and sacrifice. They put in the time and patiently reaped the reward (or Wall Street stole their savings). Regardless, Zimmer sees a problem with hanging on to this mentality because younger generations do not abide by this trade-off.

The blood-sweat-tears work ethic still dominates management and can be a death sentence for static-mindset, hierarchical businesses. Millennials value the integration of work and life. They watched their parents fight their entire youth and miss soccer games to build a career that should have allowed them to live out their older years in peace. Instead, they saw foreclosures in their neighborhoods and retirements lost.

A growing business attracts workplace talent, and customers focused on the future

Collaboration is where life and work meet

Younger generations need fewer formal environments to thrive with feedback occurring in real-time. It is no longer par for the course to expect young talent to wait around for a 6-month review because it leads to undue anxiety and restless-job-syndrome.

Here’s one more critical error: assuming Millennials and Gen Z are entitled and will mature into the routine, status-quo operations.

First, Millennials are not responsible for the media and content that shaped them during their formative years. Moreover, they are making pragmatic choices. 88% of 2017 college grads reported that they chose their major because of its employment potential (Zimmer). But, they intend to use their major for different purposes.

The priorities of Millennials are different depending on their connection to the 2007 financial crisis. It was more formative for late Millennials because many graduated from high school or college during that period. Older Millennials value autonomy and younger Millennials prioritize financial stability. While 82% preferred employers with social awareness, they ultimately want to feel valued in their workplace, achieve milestones, and be understood through open and honest communication.

It strikes me as I write this. Is that too much to ask? With 40 hours per week to spend working, isn’t balance what we all want? The live-to-work mentality is over and, I say, let the workplace burdens of that era follow those who stand by them — into their grave. If your firm isn’t prepared to provide an accommodating work environment for young talent, then it may be buried alongside them.


This article was originally published for Stardust Startup Factory a non-profit that provides seed money to entrepreneurs.




Reformed economist tackling mental health and spiritual subjects. Links to my writing:

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Colin Ward

Colin Ward

Reformed economist tackling mental health and spiritual subjects. Links to my writing:

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