What If Businesses Acted Like a Teenager

Anyone who has raised a teenager knows they can sometimes be challenging. If you have not raised one, try to remember how you thought and acted at that age.

What if the business world acted like a teenager? What would happen? The funny thing is that many of us adults act like this from time to time, so you might find this convicting. I know I did.

10 Ways Businesses Act Like a Teenager

1. Impulsive Decision-Making

Some business owners tend to make decisions by their gut without much strategic or financial analysis. I don't recommend getting stuck in "analysis paralysis," but there should be some basis for decision making. Mindtools.com recommends the following approach:

  • Create a constructive environment.
  • Investigate the situation in detail.
  • Generate good alternatives.
  • Explore your options.
  • Select the best solution.
  • Evaluate Your Plan.
  • Communicate your decision, and take action.

2. Difficulty Delaying Gratification

Most teenagers don't save money for long. My experience is that money gets spent on fast food and entertainment. There is rarely enough for something big.

Businesses should have a budget, approval system, and a process for reviewing actual expenses to the budget. I recommend a weekly cash flow to understand how cash will look 8-12 weeks out. In the forecast models we do, we implement a monthly Balance Sheet and Cash Flow that goes out over a year. This type of forecasting helps you see the bigger picture so you can spend more strategically.

3. Making Excuses Instead of Taking Responsibility

Teenagers rarely take responsibility for anything. Somehow, very little is ever their fault. I know that we can all fall into this trap. No matter the challenge a business is facing, we can all take responsibility to improve the situation. There are many unforeseen events outside of our control, but if we are honest with ourselves, we control more than we think. Certainly, we are in control of our reaction, focus, and ability to learn from mistakes.

4. Procrastination

I know all of us have waited until the last minute to do something. Many of us believe we do our best work at the last minute under pressure. The fact remains that adequate planning is always more effective and leads to less stress and increased creativity. If you need a sense of pressure, try developing internal mini-deadlines to help achieve a larger goal.

5. Arguing About Everything

Some teenagers seem to argue about everything. It doesn't matter if they are wrong; they like to argue. Businesses tend to have silos between departments and levels of experience that can cause a spirit of disagreement. Large businesses call this bureaucracy, but even a small business can have dysfunctional politics that slow down the organization's growth.

6. Don't like Change

Kids and teenagers tend to like everything to remain the same. Most adults are very averse to change, and I admit to falling into this category sometimes. One thing is certain is that change will happen, so we have to embrace it.

"Change is a law of life. And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future." John F. Kennedy.

7. Emotionally Inconsistent

We all know that pre-teens and teenagers can be emotionally unstable, and it is challenging to understand how they will react to different situations.

Leaders of a business must be consistent in their communication and reaction. How they treat other employees should be the same, no matter their mood or stress level. This consistency is hard, of course, but necessary.

8. Lack of Empathy

I genuinely believe the empathy portion of teenagers has not been fully developed. It can be very challenging for them to think of anyone else besides themselves. Let's face it; we are all selfish to certain degrees. But we have to be careful and learn to be empathetic to other viewpoints in the organization. We can't please everyone, but just the act of listening and considering different views will go a long way towards getting people to work together.

9. Manipulation

Manipulation starts at an early age. My kids try to pit my wife and me against each other through sometimes somewhat effective and well-thought-out manipulation. 

I know this is prevalent in businesses. The problem is that it breaks down communication and causes infighting, and lowers morale. The productivity of the employees will decrease, and people will feel like there is an unfair system. Manipulation will lead to lower employee retention, which is not suitable for growth.

10. Short-term mindset

It is tough for teenagers to think far down the road. They have a short-term view of life. Businesses cannot operate this way. Yes, they need to be flexible, but they should have a strategic vision and plan. They should communicate the goals and plan to help them meet those goals.

"Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years." – Bill Gates.

After writing this, it is amazing how much we as adults can act like teenagers. We must continue to work on many of the qualities above and strive to have a more strategic, empathetic, and long-term view of life and our business. Don't be a business that acts like a teenager, but instead move into adulthood and experience the growth that comes with it.

 

Shane Bender

My experience as an Auditor, Controller, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis, and VP of Finance in small, medium, and large businesses over the last 15+ years has given me a unique level of knowledge between accounting and finance. My focus is helping small-to-medium-sized organizations grow by providing them with key information, creating scalable processes, and implementing solutions that will help them grow to the next level.​