If I Knew Then…

“If I Knew Then…” is an ongoing series by Crain’s St. Louis, where executives, entrepreneurs, and business leaders are asked about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Abstrakt President and CEO, Scott Scully, was recently featured in this series. You can review the original interview here, the information is also highlighted below.

The Mistake:

Underestimating the potential of millennials.

There are a lot of different perceptions about millennials. They’ve gotten bad press about not wanting to work and wanting trophies. I was kind of on that bandwagon when we started Abstrakt. I think my mistake was maybe doing what each older generation does to the one coming up, which is kind of bashing the differences instead of plugging in and figuring out what those differences if addressed, can really make for some intense productivity and a happy workforce.

I think, early on, we had some employee turnover because we were not providing the things millennials were looking for. And, at some point, we realized that things were changing and we needed to embrace them. So, we listened to the younger folks in our organization and really drilled into what they thought would be helpful in attracting millennials and keeping them there.

“I’ve had this huge shift in how I feel about millennials.”

The Lesson:

I’ve had this huge shift in how I feel about millennials because, in my opinion, it’s the first generation that is 100 percent clear about what its members are looking for. And, honestly, the things they are looking for are just what good managers and a thoughtful company should provide anyway.

Lots of people say the work ethic isn’t there, that consistent praise might be exhausting, that everybody needs to win something right away, or that they need a promotion tomorrow. But, really, they just want to know that you’re involved in the community, that you’re going to communicate a very clear path as to where they can go in their careers, that you’ll be flexible in how they go about their work and that it’s completely clear where the company is going. They want to have access to management and to be able to participate and learn. They are looking for fun and balance. When we changed things in our organizational culture and adjusted the way that we were communicating, we realized this unbelievable productivity from our younger folks.

That does not mean we’re not hiring all ages because we are. But we have a really big stream of younger folks coming in. They’re coming in because of the growth that’s happening, the environment and the way we’re set up. We’re providing things they’re looking for, and they are telling their friends.

Now, all ages at Abstrakt are appreciating the things that millennials were asking for. So, it just hasn’t impacted our younger workforce, it’s really caused a shift in the whole organization. We’re just a better company. We’re performing at a higher level. Our customers are getting better results. Our sales are up. Our customer retention is up, and we’re growing like crazy.

I just wish, not only when I opened the doors at Abstrakt, but in my past, that I would have considered the differences of younger generations and plugged in. If I had altered things within those business cultures to cater to those differences, I think I could have had stronger results all the way back in my history of marketing companies.

To tie into that, people are everything. I think when you’re younger in business you may be centered more around the product and service. Really, you just need to add the best people to the team at the onset. A talented, bright, hard-working individual will figure out how to get things done. In my body of work, I wish I would have gone from the people out because a good group of people can do just about anything.