8 Brutal Truths About Millennials That Determine the Success of Every Business

Richie Norton
Founder, Global Consulting Circle


Every business owner has one of two choices:

Learn and embrace the global and millennial context (i.e., reality)

Resist the global and millennial context and inevitably become irrelevant

After having conducted more than 2,000 one-on-one interviews with millennials, this article describes the most important insights learned.

  1. Millennials don’t require brick-and-mortar offices.

The challenge is that cities have historically been built around this three-step model:

  1. Here is where people will live.
  2. Here is where people will work.
  3. Here is how people will commute to work and back.

Only, millennials don’t think that way.

Millennials are simple.

All they need is their computer or smartphone and the objective you want them to tackle. If you need to meet in person, hotels now offer meeting space by the hour or day.

  1. Millennials are “digital natives.” Consider the many ways you’re missing out on talent that can deliver results remotely.

Millennials were raised with the belief that because of technology:

  • they can live where they want.
  • they can work from anywhere.
  • they can come and go as needed.

It’s not that millennials are lazy or demanding or whiny. It’s that their perception of the present and future may actually be more accurate than yours.

Interestingly, research confirms that most people’s best work actually happens away from their office. In one study, only 16 percent of respondents reported getting creative insight while at work. Ideas generally came while the person was at home, in transit, or during recreational activity.

  1. Millennials will consciously choose to live as vagabonds rather than live in the jail of a corporate cubicle.

Most millennials grew up hearing their elders complain about work and their inability to retire. Most millennials would prefer not to do what their parents did because the very thought invokes high stress. Hence, millennials cringe at the wait-to-live “retirement mentality” and strive to live in the now and make money along the way.

  1. Millennials prioritize freedom, choice, and flexibility over stability because stability has been uncovered as illusive and nonexistent.

Generations older than millennials seek security externally. However, the “safe choice,” as it turned out for earlier generations, wasn’t safe at all. Conversely, millennials agree that security can only really be experienced internally. Security comes from knowing who you are, and being willing to fight for that thing.

  1. Millennials have every reason to believe they will succeed despite challenges.

Whether millennials will individually be successful or not is another story. They’ve watched their peers make millions creating companies with websites like Facebook and Snapchat and bring in major brand deals from their internet celebrity.

While these examples are outliers, it’s hard to ignore the golden opportunity when your teenage neighbor is making $10,000-$25,000 a month from views on their YouTube channel.

Be proud of the millennials — they are striving to live every motivational quote you ever had on your wall. They actually believe in this stuff, and are willing to stake everything on their dreams.

  1. Millennials leverage technology to be location independent and deliver work results . 

Regardless of whether location independence is possible in your industry or not, given a choice, where will millennials and post-millennials flock?

Let’s look at the reality of work in America from the perspective of someone entering the workforce today:

  • Small business makes up 99.7% of employers (fewer than 500 workers).
  • Median tenure with an employer is only 4.6 years.
  • Median wage is about $57,000.

With those facts as a backdrop, here’s a glimpse into the millennial mind from a millennial’s inner voice:

  • “Unless I want to climb the ladder and eventually get a top job with a Fortune 500 company, I’ll be working for a small company. Why don’t I just start my own small company?”
  • “I’m only going to be in a job for a few years and never have stability. So, I might as well live life on my own terms.”
  • “I’ll max out at about $60,000 a year working for someone else. I could make $5,000 a month as a freelancer if I get five clients who pay me $1,000 a month.”

Put the wants and needs of your employees and contractors first and the profits will follow. That’s the secret of leadership in the 21st century that most people — intentionally or unintentionally — remain ignorant of.

  1. Millennials thrive in a Results-Only Work Environment™ (ROWE).

Honestly, what do you care if the work gets done outside the office? If you focus on results and get results, there is no problem. In fact, many millennials would choose to be an independent contractor over an employee. This can be good for both the employer and the contractor.

Contract work is great for the employer because the work can potentially cost less, will still get done on time, and there aren’t the costs of paying the employee’s taxes and health care.

  1. Millennials and the Freedom Economy are the same thing. The Millennial Movement isn’t just being born. It’s already here and it’s growing up.

It’s time to embrace the Freedom Economy by hiring millennials and post-millennials and encouraging talent to work remotely in a ROWE.

In fact, a McKinsey Global Institute study reports:

“Our supply-side analysis shows that online talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion, or 2.0 percent, to global GDP by 2025, while increasing employment by 72 million full-time-equivalent positions.”

When you work with millennials in this capacity, you’ll be blown away by their hyper-engagement to the business — always “on” and pretty much working around the clock. It just so happens that they may be doing it from their cell phone at the top of a mountain.

Millennials will give you their best work if it’s on their terms. Encourage it!


Richie Norton is the author of The Power of Starting Something Stupid and Résumés Are Dead and What to Do About It. He is an international speaker and serial entrepreneur.