Discover Critical Talent

In the past few months, we have witnessed strong signs that the United States economy is recovering, given significant increases in consumer confidence, employment and gross domestic product growth. While many still struggle, the American entrepreneur bears the torch in this turnaround with a relentless drive to achieve and ideas that lead to the development of unique products and services.

American entrepreneurs built factories around the world to access critical talent and improve their businesses’ productivity. If success meant traveling to the southern provinces of China or the challenging markets of Eastern Europe, it happened. While it may be easier to see evidence of successful entrepreneurial spirit in large corporations, no business starts large, and I see accomplishments in small and medium-sized businesses every day. I meet strong, positive, first-generation entrepreneurs full of hope, vision and persistence as they wade through the historical challenges around lack of capital, markets and critical managerial and professional talent.

From my decades of experience as an entrepreneur and corporate consultant, if the entrepreneur is surrounded with talented managers and professionals, the visionary and winning plans will be prepared, capital will follow and markets will open — the dream will be realized. Thus it is imperative that the business owner finds and retains critical talent.

While talent comes in many specialized skill sets, there are certain necessary fundamental qualities that differ with age. Outstanding talent demonstrates ability in communication, problem solving and adaptation. In America, like in other countries, too often the entrepreneur only reaches out to those in his or her age group. While there is comfort in working with someone of the same age, there is merit and positive assets can be gained from embracing younger and older generations.

Entrepreneurs should plan a multigenerational outreach strategy to reap the benefits inherent with each age group. However, it can be difficult to look through the many networks and beyond the short-term benefits of hiring within a similar demographic. Initially there might be challenges in communication, approaches and style considering how the use of technology has created new means of communicating that have not reached all generations. But if all parties remain committed, the return could be dramatic.

An entrepreneur may find talent through solid networks such as government agencies, college career development offices and various nonprofits focusing on training and development. A great example of one such organization is AARP.

AARP now has more than 40 million members, and due to demographic shifts within the next 15 years, people over age 50 will represent more than 35 percent of our population. Through no fault of the majority, many in this group are unemployed or underemployed, which poses a major challenge for the capable and professional talent among the 50-plus demographic, our country and the entrepreneurial engine. Within AARP there are large and sophisticated databases that help entrepreneurs find experienced representatives from all industries and sectors.

Studies have documented that these workers offer unique skills and bring an unparalleled commitment to the job. For a small business owner, one highly trained accountant or engineer could make the difference between survival and profitability. Further, thousands of the 50-plus aged workers are caught at the age where they do not qualify for Medicare and health coverage. This is often more important to them than higher wages. Given trust and health benefits, these talented professionals could be loyal team members.

This is an employer’s market. Independent contractors are a sprouting percentage of the labor force. These individuals do not want to work in corporate America. They desire the flexibility of working at home for multiple clients under contract. At no other time has there been this abundance of talent at such competitive prices. If entrepreneurs utilize the appropriate networks for their needs and embrace inter-generational employment, they will find the critical managerial and professional talent necessary to succeed and make a dramatic difference in the bottom line. Take advantage of the opportunities present, thrive and succeed.

James H. Lowry is a senior adviser for Boston Consulting Group and inaugural member of the Minority Business Hall of Fame. He can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.