Professional Development

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A Millennial Triangulation

Three young entrepreneurs describe the millennial workforce

By John P. Palen
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Too often, a ‘millennial’ conjures the mental picture of job-hopping, “selfies,” lurking around coffee shops, catching an Uber and pulling off giant headphones long enough to stare at us like we’re dinosaurs.

It’s okay. Every generation gets its share of misunderstanding. But some traits can’t be ignored if you want to do business beyond 2020. I interviewed three millennial leaders/owners on the following list of their generation’s perceived traits and preferences:

Decide by committee
Collaborate in real time
Can you text?
Are you socially/globally aware?
Is your tech up-to-date?
Will this be fun as
well as productive?
Belief in ongoing
mentoring and training
Short attention spans
Broad interests
Let’s do it NOW

Are these traits true within your organization? Why or why not?

Ryan Dieveney, 33, Dir. of Business Development, Supportive Living Solutions, St. Paul:
I would say these traits are overwhelmingly present within our organization. They allow us to be competitive as an employer and as a leading-edge service provider. At the end of January 2016, 41% of our employees were engaged in ongoing personal development and leadership training.

Randy Gallatin, 39, CFO, Supply Chain Services LLC, Oakdale:
The traits mentioned are true at SCS, specifically ‘decide by committee’, ‘collaborate in real time’ and ‘belief in ongoing mentoring and training.’ Each year we have a two-day, off-site strategy session with key leaders. On a daily basis decisions are rarely made without consulting a peer. Ongoing mentoring and training is essential to SCS through peer groups (three attendants), continuing education (three attendants) or bringing third-party professionals in-house for sales training. 

Tena Pettis, 35, Founder + Creative Director, tena.cious, St. Paul:
Millennials are often misrepresented. They learn at an insane rate, they want more and they generally get what they want.



What concerns you most right now as a leader?

Tena: That most companies are growing managers and not leaders. Millennials won’t hang in that environment. They don’t need crazy break rooms, open bars and unlimited food; they want affirmation and quality time. 

Do you believe in the 5-year plan, 2-year plan or the 1-year plan? Why?

Ryan: I have to say I do. What I love about 5-year or 10-year plans is that it keeps you dreaming big. This is where you get to do your pie-in-the-sky radical planning and set your direction. However, things change quickly and we need to be operating on a 1-year plan to navigate the unforeseen obstacles of the 5-year plan and stay nimble.

Tena: At tena.cious we focus on our next goal; that gets us to our bigger vision. Usually our plans go out 90 days max. 

When you consider tomorrow’s workforce, what are their potential strengths and weaknesses?

Ryan: Their desire to have an impact. It seems like those just entering the workforce want to make a difference more than ever. They are very socially aware and [it] influences the decisions they make. Greatest weakness? Taking too long to uncover what they love to do and are naturally talented at.

Randy: Their drive for change and improvement. The “we’ve always done it this way” [model] doesn’t hold with this generation and it pushes leaders to improve. The weakness I see is their lack of personal accountability and focus.

If you could erase one myth about millennials, what would it be?

Randy: It would be their lack of drive. Given the right tools and leadership, they can be extremely driven.

What is your purpose for being in business today?

Ryan: Our purpose is to improve the quality of life in our communities. 

Randy: Our purpose at SCS is Helping Customers Operate Better.

Tena: My why has shifted after moving out of the technician role and into CEO. I care so much more about leading my staff to do great things and live the life they dream of than anything else.  


John P. Palen is CEO of Allied Executives and works with CEOs, business owners and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching and educational workshops.