Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation

Targeting Gen X

Tulgan is hardly alone. Alex Carter, 24, creator of Xstartup.com, a division of Idea Cafe, a Web site for Gen X entrepreneurs, predicts a profitable future for anyone who can tap this market. "Gen X is making its own rules," notes Carter, "and companies need a third party to help them understand why Gen Xers don't jibe with the standard."

Just ask Bradley Richardson, now 33, who started JobSmarts in Dallas five years ago. His firm has garnered a strong reputation for retention and recruitment of Gen Xers. Like Tulgan, Richardson jumpstarted his company with his book, Jobsmarts for Twenty-somethings (Random House, $15). "As the economy improved," he explains, "my focus shifted from how Gen X could find work to how companies could find good Gen X employees."

Richardson first set up shop in a back bedroom of his home. Since the only inventory needed in the consulting business is knowledge, little capital is required. "I set aside a few thousand dollars to bridge the distance between my day job and getting my first client," he explains, adding that it was a matter of a few months before the company was completely financed through sales. He now estimates his income in "the lower six figures."

For , 32, it wasn't a book but a master's thesis that launched her Palo Alto, California, business, Neely Consulting & Associates, three years ago. Graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the dark days of the late '80s when even jobs flipping burgers were hard to come by, Neely bounced from temp job to temp job until she finally landed a full-time job-only to be laid off within six months. "My generation realized there wasn't any such thing as loyalty in the workplace anymore," she notes. "We became a generation of workers with an entrepreneurial spirit. We're willing to work hard but aren't willing to sign up for lifetime employment at any one company."

Armed with statistical and anecdotal evidence, an established consultant referred her to her first gig at Hewlett-Packard. That experience opened the doors at other companies, and a career was born. Neely began working from a "storeroom/spare bedroom" at home. She already had a fax machine, a phone and a computer, so her initial investment consisted of a few good suits. "In graduate school, I lived in sweatpants," she explains.

The suit strategy worked. Today, Neely works for a myriad of high-tech firms, including Intel and Bay Networks, where she advises managers on how to do cross-generational marketing and how to bridge the gap between Gen Xers and other employees. Last year, Nealy earned enough to move into an office in downtown Palo Alto. And like any Gen Xer worth her salt, Neely has made lifestyle a priority. She's now willing to give up some money in exchange for time. "If I take all the work I could take this year," she says, "I anticipate I'd make between $80,000 and $100,000."

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation.

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