In the world of modern business, you often see companies emerging with founders whose combined ages are younger than your classic car. On the other hand, there has been an explosion of new businesses started by older entrepreneurs on their second or third career. But, what about the more narrow slice on the pie chart that is made up of cross-generational partners? Here is the story of one such adventure in idea-generation and execution.
The year was 1982, disco is officially dead and Mike St. John is joining the workforce after graduating with a degree in Real Estate & Construction Management from the University of Denver. Mike trades in his go-go boots for wingtips and goes out to conquer the world as a typewriter-tape salesman.
Flash forward to 2015. St. John is now the Vice President of marketing and business development for Cheyenne Capital. He has a meeting at the University of Denver where he met a student who mentioned she was trying to convince her parents to allow her to participate in an internship. As they parted ways, Mike thought to himself, “Why would any parent say no to an internship for their college kid?”
As fate had it, the student Mike had spoken to, was none other than his future business partner, Bella Brache. Bella was asking her parents for money to do another unpaid internship—this would be her third internship while attending the University of Denver. In order to participate, Brache’s parents had to pay thousands of dollars to the school in order for her to receive full credit (instead of payment). But she knew internships were important—they give students real-world experience, as she told her parents, and would help her break into the professional world.
Flash forward again to 2016. Mike St. John’s daughter is now a student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Now, it’s his turn to feel the wrath of unpaid internships. She asks Mike if he could participate in one such opportunity for class credit, which he agrees to. However, there’s a catch—he has to pay the school for each credit she earns at the internship, amounting to around $3,000. That three grand is before he has to supplement her income and housing expenses. “So, I gotta pay for you to do an unpaid internship?” He asks his daughter. “Yes daddy,” she replies with puppy-dog eyes.
The year is now 2017, Bella Brache has just graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in Strategic Communications. Just as Mike had done 35 years earlier, Bella was ready to conquer the world as a marketing manager and traded her overpriced apartment near DU for a house with five roomates in the trendy RiNo neighborhood.
Somehow, Mike and Bella’s paths crossed again and they got to talking. Little did they know, Bella was about to be in business with someone from her parent’s generation and Mike would be working with someone his daughter’s age to fix a problem they both knew all too well.
Mike and Bella’s shared experiences instantly bonded the two—they swapped their tales of woe and with the help of their partners, began to see the issue from all sides sparking a passion for what became Wiz Kid Social. Their company matches college students with small companies who need part-time social media help, which helps students learn about various types of businesses while actually making money.
The moral of the story is that age diversity in a company, or life in general, provides a well-rounded worldview and helps to spark unique ideas. Cross-generational conversation often shows us that our thoughts, feelings and experiences are not all that different even with an age gap of twenty, thirty, or even 100 years. Young people are idealistic and have a firm grasp on the technology of the day, but the aging professional has battle-tested experience (and the scars to prove it) that lend insight and wisdom. The combination of viewpoints makes for a great head start when it comes to embarking on a new venture in today’s competitive world.
The slim slice of the pie that represents age-diverse business relationships is going to widen as the world begins to see the fruit from unique offerings and blossoming bottom lines.What can you learn from someone who is 35 years your junior or senior? Do you have a cross-generational success story you would like to share? We would love to hear your comments!