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Home for the Holidays (and the Foreseeable Future): Seven Reasons Why Today’s Boomerang Kids Can’t Hack It in Business

Adult children, especially college grads, are moving back to the nest; but it’s more than a lack of jobs—it’s a fundamental unpreparedness for the Entrepreneurial Age

FORESTVILLE, Calif., Dec. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – The holidays are here and the whole family is together. Maybe a bit too together. “Little Johnny” is twenty-eight and back in his old room—jobless—and his expensive diploma is as useful as Monopoly money. While most of us are glad to help our kids—especially this time of year—we can’t help wondering, How did this happen?

The economy bears some of the blame. But also, the world has changed, and many young people haven’t developed the skills to compete.

“The marketplace we’re preparing our kids to enter doesn’t exist anymore,” states Michael Houlihan, co-author with Bonnie Harvey of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built a Bestselling Wine (coming in February 2013 from Evolve Publishing, “The world is flatter, more fast-paced, more competitive. Young people need more than book smarts to navigate it.”

Many young people will have to start their own businesses—or be able to demonstrate to an employer that they can think and work like a cash-strapped entrepreneur.

Houlihan knows what it takes to bootstrap a business. He and Harvey founded Barefoot Cellars, the company that transformed the image of American wine from staid and unimaginative to fun and hip. The Barefoot Spirit tells their rags-to-riches story while revealing what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Resourcefulness, ingenuity, and resilience matter far more than formal education. This may come as a shock to young people who believe textbooks have all the answers!

Houlihan explains why so few young people are prepared to survive in the Age of the Entrepreneur:

They’re not street smart. “By the time they hit the workforce, many young Americans are still helpless because they have been overparented,” Houlihan states. “That’s a problem, because entrepreneurship demands resourcefulness, imagination, self-reliance, patience, hustle, and tenacity.”

They think money can solve their problems. When you’re bootstrapping a business, you have to figure out how to do things without a budget.

“Money squelches creativity,” Houlihan shares. “Bonnie always says she feels sorry for entrepreneurs with money, because it often keeps them from developing the most innovative and efficient processes.”

They’re self-centered. To bootstrap a business, you have to share the wealth and give employees skin in the game or they won’t stick with you.

“The best way to achieve growth is to include others—employees, the community, suppliers, contractors, and so forth,” Houlihan says. “The more people who have a stake in the results, the more brains and hands you’ll have working to achieve your goals.”

They lack discipline and want instant gratification. Young people want their careers to be lucrative and obstacle-free. But they’ll need to start small, work hard, and accept that the payoff comes later.

“Barefoot’s first ‘office’ was the laundry room of a rented farmhouse,” says Houlihan. “And it took almost two decades of tireless work before we really felt established.”

They’ve been taught to conform to existing frameworks. Our educational system prepares kids to get a job, go to work, get regular promotions, and retire. But entrepreneurs can’t have this kind of tunnel vision.

“The ability to think outside of established parameters separates great entrepreneurs from merely good ones,” Houlihan confirms.

They don’t value the wisdom of experience. Instead of learning from their elders, young people use Google. But by not connecting as much, kids are severely limiting their potentials.

“I doubt Barefoot would ever have gotten off the ground if Bonnie and I hadn’t picked as many brains as possible,” Houlihan admits. “We avoided a lot of mistakes, and we got a fuller picture of the industry than many longtime professionals.”

They believe texting, emailing, and “friending” are relationship builders. Start-ups require trust, and trust can’t be built from pixels on a screen.

“There will never be a substitute for a face-to-face connection,” Houlihan promises. “People don’t just buy your product; they buy you.”

“Parents, teachers, and mentors need to cultivate the qualities that will help kids reach their potentials, and nip in the bud those that will end up being barriers to success,” Houlihan concludes. “The way we work is changing, and our young people need to adapt to the new reality.”

About the Authors:
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are authors of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built a Bestselling Wine.

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For an interview with Michael Houlihan, please contact Dottie DeHart, DeHart & Company Public Relations, at (828) 325-4966 or Email.