Advice for Working with Generation X Clients

Advice for Working with Generation X Clients

In this article, we’ll take a look some suggestions for what business brokers should and shouldn’t do while working with Generation X clients. These observations and strategies are from our recent webinar “Generational Strategies for Engagements” with Chuck Underwood. Underwood is considered a leading expert in the diversity of communication styles between generations. He the author of a major book on the subject as well as host of the long-running “America’s Generations with Chuck Underwood” on PBS.

What is Generation X?

Generation X (or Gen X) had a wildly different formative experience than the Baby Boomers. Generation X is generally defined as being born from 1965 to 1980. This generation spent its formative years from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. In stark contrast the relatively more pleasant and optimistic childhoods of the Baby Boomers, Gen X had a rougher ride.

In order to better understand your Gen X clients, it is important to understand and reflect upon where many of them are coming from and the collective experiences and trends that shaped their identities and perspectives.

Defining Factors for Generation X

There are a variety of important factors that shaped their formative years. First, a whopping 40% of Gen Xers were kids of divorce or where brought up by single parents. Secondly, many Gen Xers had career moms who were under considerable pressure because, being the first generations of women to be fully in the workplace, they understood that they had the weight of history on their shoulders. Often, they were raised by single mothers.

Due to guilt over divorces and time invested into work, parental messaging was laxer than with the Baby Boomers. What was right and what was wrong was not always clear. Therefore, Gen Xers tended to experience a less rigid upbringing.

America became more mobile during the time period during which Generation Xers grew up. As a result, many children were uprooted and separated from their friends, family and hometown roots. Growing up, these individuals witnessed a variety of scandals ranging from political and religious figures to sports figures. Gen Xers witnessed the systematic dismantling of the American middle class and with it a general lowering of quality of life, opportunities and confidence in corporations. In the end, Gen X was quite literally left home alone and lived as “latch key kids.” It is no wonder that this neglected generation has some issues.

Individuals growing up during this time learned early on that they had to be ready to fend for themselves. Since Gen Xers have been meant with consistent and systematic disappointment and even widescale institutional betrayal, this generation, on average, is more distrustful of organizations.

Working with Generation X

As Chuck Underwood points out, Gen Xers are self-reliant and independent and one of their core values is survival of the fittest. In his view, Gen Xers are self-focused, individualistic and want everyone to skip the nonsense and get to the point. They have no real interest in getting to know you or playing a round of golf.

Instead, they want to meet with you, get the job done in an efficient and streamlined way and move on. They like to surround themselves with people that are reliable and that they can trust.

Emphasize the Visuals

Your communications with Gen Xers should be brief and visual. They were the first MTV generation, so they’re very visually oriented.

When you’re dealing with Gen X clients, try to keep in mind what they have experienced. The simple fact is that many Gen Xers are packing around a little trauma from the many points mentioned in this article. Business brokers and M&A Advisors who want to win over Gen Xers would be wise to demonstrate that they are consistent and responsible.