How business leadership is changing for the next generation

By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. Many are moving into leadership positions at their family businesses. While they have gained a lot of wisdom from the success of previous generations, advancements in the digital landscape have given this group a clear advantage.

Millennials are more fueled by innovation than older generations. They are constantly looking for ways to incorporate technology to improve work/life balance, streamline operations, and stay connected with their Millennial customers.

A Different 9-5

With technology at our fingertips, a 9-5 workday is a thing of the past. Mobile devices allow owners to be more present in the day to day operations of their business without being physically in the store. They can stay connected when they’re home or even out getting groceries – an option that wasn’t available to their parents.

Ann Marie Chilcutt from New Home Building Stores is transitioning into an ownership role at her family’s business and sees the differences between her and her dad’s work styles. “My dad thinks about how we can get bigger and better, like I do, but how he applies himself to the business is very different. He is at the store at 6:30am every day, but when he leaves, he’s unplugged. He doesn’t even own a cell phone.”

“I want to be a very present business owner that’s highly involved in the day-to-day operations and sales,” said Ann Marie. “But I’m also in a position where I need to be what my mom was for me at home and what my dad was for me at his job. With the technology options I have now, I look over reports early in the morning. I’m looking at price changes, refunds, payments, as well as net sales and gross profit. I can do all of this before I get to the store and become distracted by 25 other things.”

AnnMarie uses BlueTarp’s SmartView™ online portal to look at all her customers’ credit activity. She can see their purchasing behavior for cross-selling opportunities, view the status of credit approvals, see customer payments, and download reports into spreadsheets for further analysis.  And her salespeople are freed up to focus on selling product and can see which customers are under-utilizing their lines.

Streamlining Operations

Millennials who are taking ownership of their family businesses are also finding new ways to streamline operations. In the credit function, they’re seeing the burden and cost of having multiple employees preparing and mailing invoices, making collection calls, working with credit bureaus to approve applications and answering constant requests from customers.

Next gen owners are looking for ways to offload these time-intensive tasks with the help of credit services companies like BlueTarp. BlueTarp manages billing, collections, customer service, and cash applications, so business owners can reduce the amount of time spent on AR and reallocate their staff to efforts that help grow the business.

“We need to keep up with what Amazon and the big box stores are able to offer in terms of online bill pay and other conveniences with purchase and payment”, said Ann Marie. “We’re finding innovate new ways to handle operations that are faster and more streamlined than ever before.”

Your Customers are Using Technology Too

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Millennial customers are also operating differently. Their preferences have shifted from face-to-face interaction to text, email, and online. Ironically, suppliers will need to embrace the reduced face-to-face time in order to create “stickiness” in their relationships.

A good example of this was described by a BMC sales rep in a ProSales article. He had been doing business with the customer for over a year and they’d never met. This seems unconventional, but the customer prefers this method of communication, and it was the reason he chose to do business with BMC.

If customers have 24-hour self-service access to their account information, they can easily download statements, view past purchases, request more credit, or even make payments. Every action a customer can take to self-serve means the supplier isn’t paying someone to answer the call, research what they need, mail a statement, etc. Finally – any question that can be answered within the customer portal means they’re not using the supplier’s sales reps for help. You can keep your sales reps selling, not doing customer service.

As customers, millennials expect the convenience and speed that automation will provide, such as instant credit approvals, adjustments to their credit line and real-time updates on product availability. Palmer-Donavin, a leader in building material distribution, is currently testing a program that will allow customers to use voice activation to access a portal where they can check inventory. “It’s in the beginning stages, but it could really make a difference in how customers interact with our company,” says Ron Calhoun, CEO of Palmer Donavin.

As Millennials bring a fresh perspective to the table, the older generation is letting them take the lead. “My dad is pretty fired up about the growth. And it’s cool that he’s supporting me,” said Ann Marie.

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