by Emily Enger
Running a business is all about managing risk. Agriculture and horticulture are both steeped in chance. Thus, your farm-based business comes with twice the amount of worry as many other vocations.
Because of that, growers often lean conservatively when it comes to trying new things. We’re as skeptical of a new product as we are the weatherman’s promise of rain. But is it possible we’re being too careful?
This is an especially important question when considering young employees. Young people are marked by dreams and ideas. They are very excited about the future and have a million thoughts on how to make things better. Sometimes this enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air; other times it’s an annoying reminder at how little experience they have.
How much leeway should you give young employees? Try doing it in proportion to how many young customers you have, or how much you want to grow your young base by. Why? People are generally more comfortable with their own age demographic, so young people tend to buy from other young people.
Millennials certainly come with extra risk, but they also come with a reward: a finger firmly on the pulse of current trends. You might think the simple display your employee came up with is rather unimaginative, but a 20-something customer might call it minimalistic and “cool.” This doesn’t mean you’ll see immediate results; rarely does anyone’s first few ideas prove to be gold, regardless of age. But trusting some new ideas can put you at a more advanced starting point.
There’s also a second reason to giving your millennial employee a chance: it means you’re investing in the next generation, which is a step toward long-term sustainability in your company. Lack of trust is a bias young people deal with every day. They know they’re not as experienced as other people; they also know they’ll never be experienced if no one ever applies their ideas.
The first time my boss told a critic that I was very in-tune to my job and knew what I was doing, I felt like I aged another decade on the professional scale! I put more effort into that project than any other. I also accepted my boss’ criticisms on the things she did say ‘no’ to, because I knew she was fair and I could learn from her. Not all investments are in capital; investing in your people turns them into loyal employees.
There will always be risk in business. But without taking chances, there will be no growth or progress. Trusting a young employee may be risky, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a minimal risk – one that produces worthwhile results.
Emily Enger is a millennial farm kid turned farm journalist. She also works in marketing, serving as Communications Director for a nonprofit that covers nine rural counties in northern Minnesota. These opinions are her own and should not take the place of legal or professional advice. To comment or pitch future topics, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For reprint permission, email editor Joan Kark-Wren at email@example.com.
Clues to help solve your business’ generation gaps
by Emily Enger