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Age: It’s More Than a Number

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You might think this will be a blog about senior citizens. Actually, I’m going to talk about the other end of the spectrum. There is plenty of evidence to make a case for age discrimination against the youth of America as well as their elders.

We’ve all heard stories of child prodigies attending MIT, Harvard, or some other high brow school, while still in their teens or even younger. Due to the 24/7 news media younger folks are getting an undeserved bad rap. People seem to be conditioned that young entrepreneurs are not worthy of consideration either in better jobs or starting their own business. Age, maturity and responsibility are not always accurate indications of success.

Tough Row To Hoe

When I hear these stories about irresponsible youth I think about my good friend Jeff Riggs who owns Clark’s Fork restaurant at Oak and North 19th. Jeff graduated from MSU, in his early 20’s, with a marketing degree, and set out to become a small business owner.

Jeff thought the restaurant business would be a good choice in Bozeman, plus he was working with Wheat Montana that was thinking about creating some franchises. A match made in heaven. A restaurant with a known brand name behind it would have a good chance of success. Not quite.

Persistence Pays

Jeff put his business plan together and headed out to one of the local banks for a small business loan. , The first bank flatly turned him down. So did the next bank, and the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. After each rejection, Jeff redefined his plan until finally the 12th bank said yes.

Did the other 11 banks reject Jeff due to his age, and lack of experience in the restaurant business? No way to know, but a logical case could be made that the chances of Jeff being successful would carry some risk to the lender.

Fast forward a few years and Jeff now owns three successful restaurants and the bank is feeling pretty good about their investment. That 12th bank lender saw something in Jeff that the others missed. I’m guessing they put more weight on his business plan than on his age and experience. The numbers Jeff put together penciled out and the bank saw a good opportunity.

Some Final Thoughts

The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” comes to mind when I think about the youth of America and their desire to live the American dream. There are young people in America who do have a solid work ethic. They are responsible and dedicated to their dream.

No question the media keeps us well informed of the street gangs, the video game addicted, and the poor work ethic some young people exhibit. But, I think it’s time we start taking the book cover judging seriously and stop assuming that every young person mirrors what the media reports.

Let’s give our youth the benefit of the doubt and assume that age, education and experience are not always accurate indicators of someone’s future performance. Today’s youth just might have more going for them than you think. Let’s start giving youth a chance to help grow our nation and our economy. Let’s open the cover and read the book. We have everything to gain.

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