#MCON2012: Scott Gerber The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Millennials | Beth's Blog

#MCON2012: Scott Gerber The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Millennials


I’m attending the MCON12 a virtual conference to explore ideas, strategies, and to hear directly from experts on how to organize millennial engagement programs.  It is all being done online through video streaming and chats.  The networking sessions are also virtual, being held as chats.

I listened to the morning keynote, “The Entrepreneurial Spirit Millennials” delivered by Scott Gerber who is the Founder and Co Founder of Gen Y Capital Partners and the Young Entrepreneur Council.  He talked about how Millennials are changing the work place.  (See this infographic)

He started some with a personal story of being a Millennial, along with some context of the economic environment and upbringing of Millennials.    That they were told they were the “best generation” and that parents wanted them to be better.  But with economic realities, those promises were broken.

Ten years ago, he made a decision to start his own business while in college.   He made every mistake in the book, but was able to scale a business from 0 to thousands of dollars a month.  He had no education in the school of hard knocks and made it up as he went along.   By his senior year in college, he bankrupted his company.

He was brought up to believe that he could take over the world.    This belief made him take risks and “be stupid” that lead him to failures.

When Millennials graduate, it hits them.  They need a job.  They get underpaid.  Millennials education teaches them to be the king of the castle, not the grunts to get the coffee.  That’s why it is hard to connect to them.

He believes that the new economy will change the way young people will be developed today.    We have to understand what made this generation think in this way and also understand their strengths.   If not, they will have no interest working for established organizations.  They’ll tell traditional nonprofits, we don’t need you.

How to Tap into Millennials

  • Stop saying that Millennials are lazy and spoiled.   Leverage that ego.   You are not being creative.  You have to inspire Millennials not talk at them.   Don’t put them down and make them feel like they are the lowly employee on the totem poll.   Talk with Millennials, Work with Millennials.  Collaborative with Millennials.
  • Millennials are not a market.    In one blink of an eye, we can unite behind a single cause and take you out or make you a hero.    It only takes one of us to create revolution.
  • Millennials are 24-7 generation.  The Internet has caused this.   Babyboomers think Millennials are lazy.  We don’t work hard, we work smarter.    We are 24-7 generation.  We can get you new business at 2 am on Saturday by being on Facebook.    We are a generation that doesn’t know what it is like not to have the Internet or a Microwave.   The traditional workplace norm of a 9-5 schedule doesn’t work for us.
  • Speak to Millennials.  In the corporate world, there is a hierarchy that makes decisions.   It’s top down.  The upper generation of a company handle the younger generation.   “Guess what,  we are not good at listening to older folks.  We tune out.”     Babyboomers need to figure out what Millennials are inspired by your organization or mission and take the ball and run with it.  They can be your internal Ambassadors.    If you can find a Millennial brand ambassador, they will find and inspires thousands.
  • Some advice for using social media to reach Millennial.  Don’t just put up a Facebook Page or tweet at us.  We’re not stupid.  You need a brand ambassador and authenticity.  You need to build community.  You need real world dialogue.   Get other people to spread the world.     The concept is simple, but hard to implement.  “Most Millennials don’t read your crap, but if you get those ambassadors you will get their attention.”
  • Social media and personal branding are a part of the Millennial culture.   We are a generation of people who feels it is important to tell their friends what they are doing at this second.   If you can tap into the brand of your brand ambassadors you can be successful.     Don’t just throw schwag at young people, but include them the strategy discussion and let them know how important they are to your strategy.   Sit down with your brand ambassadors over coffee and tell them why it matters and how to inspire them.  Tap into their personal brands and find ways to inspire them to promote your brand.
  • Millennials want to do something that matters.    Upon graduation, their dreams were burst because they didn’t get the corner office but the mail room.   Babyboomers need to mentor these young people and treat them like equals, not grunts.  Ask the Millennials,  “What is your opinion?”   Many times those ideas won’t fit, but some will and that could lead to dramatic success.
  • Millennial leadership is based on impulse and impatient action.    We don’t want to wait ten years or wade through the bureaucratic stuff.    Find ways for Millennial to navigate.    Let Millennials run with the ball and get it done.   Don’t make Millennials desk jockeys.     Understand that Millennials will not conform to your rules.    Make Millennials leaders and the power to implement their ideas.  Leadership comes from trusting people.    Should that Millennial fail, teach them a learning lesson.
  • Millennials don’t want to use your stupid campaigns, your Twitter hashtag, or another platform.   Mediums that didn’t start in our lifetime don’t have meaning for us.    That’s what changes business.  Message before platform.    Your message carries a generation.  Your authority carries a generation.  Your ability to inspire will take your nonprofit through the next 100 years.  You must keep up with technology!
  • Let go!!!   Millennials have no loyalty to anyone but themselves.    Let Millennials harness your brand, let your brand harness Millennial power.  Let the crowd own your brand and you will be successful.


17 Responses

  1. Scott Gerber says:

    thanks so much for doing this… I hope it was useful to everyone…

  2. Beth says:

    Scott: Thanks for an inspiring keynote! And thanks for the answer to the question about how to facilitate learning after failure. There are two cultural issues that Millennials face as you well know.

    In work places where older generations are in charge, they don’t want to give up control and they view failure as shame and play blame game, not asking, “What can we learn from this?”

    So, how to get the culture to change? Or should Millennials just be uber selective of where they get a job and do a litmus test of the culture before taking a job?

    Thanks again for a great keynote

  3. Johnny Kraps says:

    Nice! I’m always amazed that some call my generation lazy. During this recession many of us are tasked with doing the work of 3-4 people. My friends that work at companies ranging from Red Frog Events to codeforamerica.org who say one of the best things about their job is getting to wear jeans to work. They also work late into the evening, and love it. While happy workers don’t necessarily equal more productive workers, I think there is value in making the working environment comfortable.

    Thanks for the great read!

  4. James says:

    Some good points, but there is no better to talk down to me than to call me a millennial!

  5. While some of this post is helpful from a marketing perspective, it’s not exactly news. In the context of office culture, I hate this kind of dialog. Not all so called millennials are alike and the same goes for members of other generations. I remember this same kind of conversation being focused on Gen X with almost exactly the same language used. I suppose that I am labeled Gen. X and I am a nonprofit leader who encourages our team to explore new ways of doing things and I am always happy to put younger staff front and center so they can successfully experiment with new approaches to their work.

    I say to you Beth and other “millennials,” stop assuming that older leaders don’t want to hear what you have to say. Speak up and take time to listen to people who have a lot of experience. Take some responsibility for ensuring good dialogue among your co-workers regardless of their age. After all, communication is a two way street.

  6. Gerald says:

    I was distracted and pretty disappointed by Mr. Gerber’s crass nature with his choice of language at times and divisive tone when addressing other generations. As a Millennial myself, I don’t think Mr. Gerber represents many of my colleagues.

  7. JoAnn says:

    Yikes! This looked like it would be an interesting article, but it ended up being very much a stereotype, and less about understanding. No generation is this black & white. And many “millennials” work extremely hard. Many of them have great skills at building consensus, which DOES mean that they listen and work well with other generations. Just like any of us – if the work is good, we love it & if the brand is good, we promote it.

  8. Chapin says:

    I did not get the chance to watch this keynote live, but I enjoy these key points. In general, I am tired of hearing about “engaging Millennials” as if we are all the same. Of course, we are all very different, as we have different values, communication styles, personalities, and of course backgrounds. But I actually think these points combat common stereotypes about Millennials. No, just because we’re connected on social media does not mean that we’re going to Like the Facebook page you put up. It needs to have content that we care about. I think many studies on Millennial behavior skip that kind of insight. Which is why I appreciate this piece.

  9. Scott Gerber says:

    Love the dialogue going on here.. allow me to respond to everyone individually:

    1. Beth: I think young people, like everyone else, should understand the culture and environment of a job or business before they take the plunge. Not everyone is a fit for every environment, just like every culture is not a one size fits all. In my experience, changing the culture starts at the top, and if the folks at the top aren’t interested, then the culture will most likely remain as is.

    2. Johnny, rock on! While there are certainly lazy Gen Yers, just like there are lazy Xers and Boomers, the stereotype is absurd and based on old and antiquated social norms that no longer apply in most cases.

    3. James, good point. However they titled the conference Millenials before I jumped on board. Nonetheless, I certainly think it’s an annoying buzz word.

    4. Starlyn, I’m pretty sure you didn’t watch the keynote (and these are just notes from that speaking engagement) because I wholeheartedly agree that not everyone is the same and stereotyping an entire generation is nuts (I said as much at various points in my keynote). However, at the same time, I do disagree with your stance that there haven’t been tectonic shifts in thinking and technology between Gen Y and X (both good and bad), which makes Gen Y a very different group as a whole to integrate into today’s traditional work construct. I do agree that not all leaders are bad (clearly) and agree that leaders and employees must maintain an open dialogue. However, I will still say (based on experience and extensive research on the subject)… older employers as a whole have not taken well to leading younger people because many refuse to change — and instead — prefer to try to get younger people to fall in line with existing cultures (this is a failed proposition in my mind).

    5. Gerald: I certainly appreciate your honesty, and I hope you can appreciate that I would rather be disliked and passionately authentic than just another person spouting the same old junk. I have watched too many people in the older generations discount our generation. While I certainly think there is a place (and incredible value) in cross-generational collaboration, I also believe our generation has been given a loaded bag, not all of which is our fault, and those in various areas of power need to understand that position–even if it comes out a bit aggressively from time to time.

    6. JoAnn: I think you didn’t see the full keynote either. As I mentioned in an earlier response, I agree that all generations are multi-dimensional and there is no one size fits all. That being said, there are certain truths through research and experience that I feel cover a very large percentage of the generation, and that was where I chose to focus my keynote in order to provide the most value. Certainly in a longer discussion I could break down multiple groups within the generation, but there is only so much available time. I also think you might have misread the recap here because you seem to take the position that I am against millenials, when I am in fact a true advocate. I agree with most of the points you brought up, so I am not sure where the disconnect was.

    Chapin: Thanks! I hope you get to watch the video.

    Best everyone!

  10. Beth says:

    Dear Sharilyn: Thank you so much for calling me an Millennial – but I’m actually old enough to be Baby Boomer (second cohort), a card carrying member of AARP, and probably could be Scott’s grandmother! I have youthful genes! I agree with you wholeheartedly – that good communications is a two-way street and it is important to have a dialog and for Millennials to open up that conversation. I’ve blogged about this point quite a bit and wrote about it in my book, The Networked Nonprofit. But, I keep hearing from some Millennials when they try to open the conversation that their bosses won’t listen to them or take them seriously!

  11. Beth says:

    Scott: Thanks so much for engaging in the dialogue here – love it! Last year I live blogged this event and my takeaway was that many Millennials have fire in their bellies and if I was running a nonprofit, that’s the type of person I’d want to hire.

    While I agree with you that there are distinct generational differences (and there is an excellent book about this in the nonprofit workplace about working across generations), we can’t make generalizations.

  12. […] Read more… 519 more words MCON2012 was a virtual conference full of great information. Nathan Hand wrote this great post on Scott Gerber's take on Millennials and the work place. Glad to share his thought with you – please leave your comments and tell us what you think! You can also read Beth Kanters blog on Scott Gerber's keynote at MCON2012 here. […]

  13. […] then I came across this post by Beth Kanter recapping Scott Gerber’s keynote from the Millennial Impact Conference […]

  14. Chapin says:

    Thanks again for sharing these points. They resonated with me and so I wrote a blog post responding. You can check it out at: http://nonprofitchapin.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/not-your-average-millennial-report/


  15. […] Kanter recapped Scott Gerber’s keynote as well – the comments are as interesting as the post […]

  16. […] How to talk with Millennials – Beth Kanter quoting Scott Gerber… […]

  17. […] I’m attending the MCON12 a virtual conference to explore ideas, strategies, and to hear directly from experts on how to organize millennial engagement programs.  It is all being done online through video streaming and chats.  The networking sessions are also virtual, being held as chats (read more). […]