I recently came across a Future Of Small Business Report from Intuit (Mountain View, Calif.-based maker of QuickBooks and TurboTax) that stated Generation Y (aka the digital generation) will emerge as the most entrepreneurial generation ever. The reasons: They are the first generation to grow up with digital technologies rather than having to adapt to them; their lives are extremely networked, both technologically and socially; and they are great multi-taskers—they can listen to their iPods, surf the Net and textmessage all at the same time.
The report also pointed out a fairly well-known fact: Employees no longer see employment the same as folks did after World War II—working at the same company for your entire career while enjoying steady pay increases and benefits in exchange for commitment and loyalty. That notion has long since faded away thanks to global competition and downsizing.
While this cultural change makes it tough for large corporations (Who wants to work for a company that isn’t loyal to its workers?), smaller companies can use this shift to an advantage. Indeed, the report found that people are “increasingly looking to small business and entrepreneurship for employment.”
While the report did not specify reasons for the move to small businesses, my guess is that smaller businesses offer employees a chance to really make a difference in the company.
And smaller businesses are more akin to a family structure—working together for a common goal and helping each other along the way. For those who are just entering the world of business ownership, the same notions may apply. And with that shift comes the emergence of entrepreneurial education. According to the Intuit report, many trade schools are adding entrepreneurship courses to help students round out their technical training with business training.
Talking with HVACR Business columnist and editorial advisory board member Ron Smith, he noted that the hvacr industry has seen major changes in the past 30 years that echo Inuit’s findings. According to Ron, many new technicians know more than tenured technicians because of their aptitude in technology.
Additionally, installers and service technicians are better trained because companies are taking training seriously and have structured training programs.
“The encouraging change is that many companies are reporting significantly higher profits than they were 30 years ago because they have learned how to run their companies better,” says Ron. “They’ve learned that they are not only competing on price but they also must deliver more value — changing with what the customer wants and expects.”
And if they resist change? They will not be successful in the future.
“There is a high failure rate in this industry because contractors are not willing to change. When I entered the industry, everybody that owned a business was at one time a craftsman. They got frustrated with their boss and started their own company—that’s how the industry was born. Now we have second and third generations that have MBAs that take the family business to the next level. They are more properly educated and prepared [with regard to business management].”
Understanding the trend before him, Ron took the opportunity to also continuously improve in order to compete. He attacked potential complacency with education. Indeed, he credits his triumph over managing change to a program he took at Harvard Business School. He wrote a column for the August 2006 issue of HVACR Business, “How To Manage Change in Your Company,” highlighting the managing- change formula he learned at Harvard:
M x P x D = COC (Model x Process x Dissatisfaction = Cost of Change)
The CliffsNotes version of this formula — the leader’s “vision” is translated to the company’s “model.” Next, the leader must determine how the change will be implemented (the process). And lastly, the D (dissatisfaction) — because there is a normal resistance to change among co-workers.
Essentially, it comes down to embracing change and moving forward or resisting change and risking failure. Either way, the next generation will always be at your heels waiting to take over the reins. It’s your choice to be remembered as a visionary leader or a stagnant manager.
Traci Purdum is a former editor of HVACR Business.
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