Many of us are familiar with the Changing of the Guard, the elaborate ceremony in which soldiers outside Buckingham Palace swap places with those on the next shift. It’s a proudly British display of choreographed steps from Her Majesty's Armed Forces but is also common practice around the world at significant government buildings or state residences, and provides me with a convenient metaphor for a certain idiosyncrasy of the modern business world.
As sure as night follows day, the old must always be followed by the new. For the property industry, perhaps business as a whole, this shift is happening right now. There is a changing of the guard, a passing of the torch, from one generation to another.
As Millennials transition into senior business positions, we are experiencing a shift in the way businesses is done. They are becoming increasingly impatient with the inefficient and outdated methods of best practice, and so now that they are being given increased control over the wheel, they are making critical decisions based on the three things that Millennials believe in more than any generation have before them; technology, speed, and collaboration.
“There’s gotta be a better way…”
Even though I am a Millennial myself, it still surprises me how many meetings I take with companies who have Millennials in the driving seat. The younger generation are being given the freedom to make decisions.
From each of these meetings, I hear the same things; they’re sick of the status-quo, bored of repetitive manual processes, fed-up with double handling information, and tired of the relentless back-and-forth process of acquiring information within their business.
For better or for worse, my generation’s need for instant gratification is echoed in our professional environment.
All of us Millennials have grown up with a device in our hands and technology at our fingertips, and cloud technology in particular has empowered an ecosystem of real-time information, anywhere and on any device. That’s why, when it comes to business, the one thing that aggravates Millennials more than anything is speed. More specifically, the lack of it.
The Baby Boomers have built their businesses on personal relationships and paper-based back-ends. The reality is that the younger generations now expect everything to be better, faster, and more simple.In the commercial property industry, we deal with portfolios valued in the hundreds of millions of pounds. It’s truly bizarre to me how many professionals are still using spreadsheets, paper records, and desktop-based, archaic systems, where they can’t even trust the output.
The new generation of business leaders are instigating rapid change in an attempt to replace outdated practices with best in class technology. We are the first generation in decades to grow up with truly accessible, world changing technology being the norm; we have access to the tools and are now fully conditioned to understand and use them.
The fear and suspicion of technology that is common in the old guard does not exist for Millennials, so as we gain experience and climb the ladder, digital change arrives at an ever increasing rate.
Even though there are differing attitudes towards technology between many of the established professionals and their younger colleagues, there is one vital reason for adopting digital solutions that can tempt even the most tech-phobic old-schooler out there; business valuation.
When Baby Boomers reach that point in their career and lives when they wish to sell their businesses, poor record keeping and outdated practices lead to a diluted business valuation; the business is worthless to prospective buyers.
If nothing else, technological adoption is essential to any final exit strategy, if any company is to sell for its true worth it must be operating at maximum efficiency and be in good shape for taking into the future.
Even though Millennials get a lot of stick, often called flighty, sometimes flakey, maybe too self-righteous, one thing that we have definitely done better than anyone before is realise that business and innovation need collaboration in order to succeed.
That means that any Baby Boomers out there who are yet to adopt technology for their businesses no longer have to invest millions of pounds and thousands of hours, they just need to open their doors to someone else, someone whose technology and ideas solve the issues that need to be solved.
Collaboration is no longer seen as an admittance of failure, which traditionally is how some older businesses regard it. Instead it’s seen as astute, smart and utterly vital. For those looking to bring technology on board, there is always someone willing to partner up and help them do it.
The world of business is now split between Baby Boomers and Millennials, except for those poor Gen X kids who often get overlooked and are basically caught between the two sides of the debate.
For the property industry, the Changing of the Guard, just as it does outside Buckingham Palace, will take some time. It is evolution not revolution, but it is happening as we speak. The speed of innovation is set to rocket and those who fail to react in the right manner are destined to suffer as a consequence. But for any business to maintain success and solid growth, the change has to happen, the new, fresh soldiers must take the place of those with tired legs, otherwise complacency is just around the corner.