I won’t lie to you – being a 24-year-old business owner is weird. Nearly all my employees and clients are older than me, and doing business with anyone who graduated college within the last two years is rare.
Don’t get me wrong. There are several young business owners, but many millennial entrepreneurs work in the virtual environment. When people encounter someone my age running a brick and mortar store, it surprises them. I can always tell if someone is uncomfortable with my age within the first few seconds of meeting. Eyebrows raise, mouths fall open to a rounded O, and something along the lines of, “Oh, you’re the owner?” slips off the tongue.
Whether you’re an aspiring business owner, a young manager, or an employee, let’s get something straight. You will work for people younger and older than you in your lifetime. To excel, you have to treat both with equal respect. Although this sounds like an obvious lesson, regard for colleagues despite age is not practiced. It’s comfortable to address those older than us with a posture of humility and uncomfortable to give those younger than us authority. Through my experiences as an employer and employee, I have acquired a few universal tips that make the business world run smoothly.
Title will always trump experience. While we aspire to work for someone who values teamwork and input, sadly, not all employers favor this ideology. When it’s time to voice your opinion on an issue, the person in the highest position has the final say–regardless of experience. That’s a tough but necessary pill to swallow to make the business structure work.
You never know the full story. I get incredible ideas and advice on a regular basis. Sometimes I have to make a decision that my team may not understand or agree with because I see the full picture, finances included. When your employer is young, it’s easy to take a decision you disagree with and chalk it up to a bad decision. Honestly, our egos can lead us to that assumption regardless of age. But for most situations, the person with the highest position has the farthest to fall.
Learn to voice your opinion without being domineering. I often receive advice from people in business settings that makes me feel like a kid in the classroom. It’s pushy. It’s disrespectful. Although I love getting business advice, especially from people older than me, no one enjoys belittlement. If you work under the leadership of someone less experienced than you, remember that this is her learning experience. Give her a chance to grow.