Emerging Franchisors
Bridging the Generation Gap

Youth can be an advantage and ultimately open doors to leadership positions.

By Ashley Morris
When starting any new job, the first thing that comes to mind is “How do I get ahead?” The younger generation comes out of college ready to take on the workforce and hungry for more. Sometimes being young can place you at an automatic disadvantage, but it is important to understand what it takes to truly shine in the office and earn the respect of your more experienced colleagues. 
While working to move up the ladder, there are key factors that aspiring young entrepreneurs should always keep in mind when seeking leadership roles:
  • Know and understand which qualities make for successful leaders;
  • Work toward gaining respect from your colleagues;
  • Embrace the advantages that come with young age; and 
  • Use your age as a positive attribute. 
Utilizing these main ideas can aid young aspiring professionals to become budding franchisees and franchisors, ultimately bringing new ideas and diversity to the franchise system overall.

What Does It Take to be Successful?

To be a successful young entrepreneur, the two most important qualities to keep in mind are being personable and competitive.
Personable: Although being extroverted is not required to be a successful young leader, it certainly puts you at an advantage. The most successful leaders know how to work well with their employees, which often includes a multitude of contrasting personality types. People prefer different styles when it comes to working, learning, taking criticism, and facilitating multiple channels of communication. It is important to know how to interact with your employee who prefers group work and face-to-face communication, as well as your employee who prefers to work individually and through email interactions. Once you are able to master working with these varying personality types, you will be able to more effectively facilitate communication with all different generations.
Competitive: Entering the workplace at a young age and climbing the corporate ladder is no easy feat. Getting ahead and showing your more mature coworkers you have what it takes requires a fierce competitive spirit. Thinking back to your youth, whether it be on the soccer field or the stage, how did you succeed? For most, this was an intense dedication to the activity and a desire to be the best. The same applies to the workplace. If you want to be successful at a young age and be perceived as a leader, you need to have a desire to get ahead and a willingness to do whatever it takes to be the best. Let that competitive fire fuel your work ethic and your colleagues will recognize that your age does not define your abilities. 
Most Valuable Asset? Respect: To lead a group when you are the youngest person in a room, you must have the respect of those you work with. Without it, no one will take you seriously or value and consider the ideas you bring to the table. Garnering respect is the most effective way to overcome the generation obstacle. 
One of the best ways to earn that coveted respect is to be knowledgeable. Whether you are leading a meeting or simply having a conversation with a colleague, you must strive to be a subject expert. The best way to do this is to be prepared. Try to leave as little to chance as possible. Take the time to read up on relevant topics and prepare well ahead of time for meetings and presentations. Doing so can often lead to deep, intelligent conversations and a newfound respect from your skeptics. 
Another vital aspect for garnering respect is your passion. Whatever your task may be, do so wholeheartedly. There is a major difference between bringing an idea to the table in a light and timid manor, versus presenting an idea with excitement and passion. When your colleagues can see the passion behind your ideas, they will believe in them too and want to follow you, no matter how young you are. Nothing is better than seeing someone at Capriotti’s bring a new, exciting marketing campaign or operations idea to the table and hearing their passion in their presentation. Having a deep passion for your work inspires those surrounding you and can allow your ideas to come to fruition.

The Advantages to Being a Young Entrepreneur

Despite all of the negativity surrounding the younger generations, there are certain advantages to being young that can prime you for leadership. One of these advantages is that young people tend to have a more open mind. Those in the younger generations have a tendency to be tolerant, and be open to new ideas. This tolerance allows you to consider ideas you may not otherwise, and think outside of the box to explore new and creative solutions. 
Another advantage to being a younger employee at your company is time. If you are younger than your coworkers, it simply means you have more time to create and execute ideas. Having this time also allows more room for you to take risks. If an idea does not pan out the way you expected, you still have plenty of time in your career to move on to bigger, better, and ultimately more successful ideas. 
Playing up these advantages that pertain to the younger generations is an easy way to change the perspective you, and your colleagues, have of your age and abilities.

Use Your Lack of Experience as a Benefit

When you start young, you automatically will have less experience than those you are working with; there is no way around it. However, this isn’t always a disadvantage. After all, if you come in as the most experienced player, how will you continue learning? 
Embrace the fact that there is so much you can learn from those more experienced than yourself. Even though you are no longer in school, you should never stop learning. It is necessary for your career development, and something that we encourage to all Capriotti’s employees and franchisees. Surrounding yourself with people who are experts in their respective fields allows you to keep learning and apply that knowledge to your own career, priming you for growth and leadership. The key to mastering this skill is to listen more than you talk. Actively listening to and understanding those you surround yourself with allows you to fully grasp the knowledge you are receiving. Your more experienced colleagues will also appreciate and respect your willingness to learn from them. 
Ultimately, what matters more than any generation label is the values of people themselves. When you look past people’s ages to see what they truly stand for, you can find commonalities and make connections with people no matter how much older they are than you. Likewise, when an older colleague finds common ground with you, whether it be personally or professionally, he is more likely to understand your point of view and look past any generation labels. This mutual understanding and respect is vital for cohesive working relationships and can aid in bridging the generation gap that may lie between yourself and your colleagues. 
Having this confidence, passion and knowledge will ultimately lead to respect from those around you and allow you to effectively lead a group, even when you are the youngest person in the room. 
Ashley Morris bought a Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop in 2007 and became CEO at the age of 27. Capriotti’s now has more than 100 locations open across the United States. To learn more visit http://ownacapriottis.com.