I was the first of my group of friends to become a parent. When asked how it was going as I had one, then two and finally three young boys I would dolefully reply “they say it’s the first 18 years that are the worst…..” but of course, at the time university tuition fees hadn’t been introduced.
Last year the eldest finally graduated – I say finally as there was an obligatory “gap yah” spent in China, and he managed to find a four-year course to study – no doubt so as to maximise the parental contribution to his social development and education. Although it had taken nearly a quarter of a century I was proudly launching an intelligent, well-qualified, sociable and confident young man into the workforce, and as far as my wife and I were concerned there were no visible signs – other than the tattoos – that he had been too badly damaged by our primitive attempts at parenting. He would be off our hands, earning his own money, living in his own accommodation. One down, two to go and all that. Our long-term pre-Brexit dream of downsizing from the family home in London and buying a little weekend retreat in France coming ever closer.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I fast forward a few months and we are now celebrating in the loosest possible sense of the word his first 100 days as my employee. To mark the occasion I have reviewed the impact having my own homemade Millennial in the business has made:
· We have a website. www.firstpurchaseresearch.com took the Millennial just a few weeks to build. I was allowed to provide some of the text.
· We have a distinctive brand asset. If you visit the website and you like cats you will hopefully be enchanted by Leia, the cute and curious face of First Purchase Research. If you don’t like cats then maybe a new Byron Sharp-inspired concept for targeting shoppers for growth isn’t for you.
· We have some promotional videos that help explain our concept. The Millennial went shopping with a few volunteers and made these with his iPhone and a tripod. My appearances as “stalker in the background” have caused much merriment amongst friends.
· We have a social media strategy. The Millennial is still helping me get my head around this and unfortunately I can’t explain it to you at this time.
· We have introduced more flexible ways of working. I have become an enlightened employer! Clocking in and clocking out was so last century. My employee works when and where he wants, and he can be equally productive at his girlfriend’s flat, apparently.
· We have a very flat management structure. I say employee, he says partner.
· We have an internal feedback system. My partner and I like to bounce ideas off each other. We have developed a very efficient codified feedback system with three basic levels: “that’s shit Dad” means it needs a little more thought; “I don’t get it” means it’s probably shit but you haven’t explained it very well, and “it’s alright” means if that’s the best you can do then you might as well go with it.
· We have regular company social events. My partner seems to think he is invited if I go to play golf.
· We are conducting an urgent review of the company’s recruitment process.
My partner’s self-assessment of his performance in the first 100 days has concluded that any success is mainly down to him. My partner recognises that I did use my 30 years experience to help him develop the shopper concept upon which the business is based, but he is clear that it is his can-do attitude and ambition, coupled with his ability to learn quickly and seize responsibility that is driving us forward. We will be conducting my own performance review shortly.
Number two son graduates next year. I will be driving him to job interviews up and down the country.
Barry Lemmon is the Founder of First Purchase Research, and father of Tom, Ben and Dan.
First Purchase Research is a shopper insights company changing the way brands think about targeting shoppers for growth.