I have a business mentor who's been critically important to me as I work through life. About 15 years ahead of me, he's not only an example, but an advisor as I move along through stages of business. At lunch recently we talked about how difficult it is for people who build businesses to turn them over to their kids. The statistics on second and third generation family business ownership are bleak.

Maybe that's why the Canadian Association of Family-owned Enterprises (Cafe) is so important to today's economy. The association is thriving with second and third generation members of businesses that have been in the 'family' for a long time.

The Georgian Bay chapter of this national group enjoys enthusiastic participation of 40 family members (oftens representing up to 10 people) who are busy running businesses, AND making sure they educate themselves in the process. A season's workshops include things like Using the Recession to Enrich Your Life; Family Business Day; Succession and the Family Business; Greatest Business Technology [now, that's a generation-gap causer!].

Cafe's final seminar for this series is perhaps its most important. Generation Y. De-mystifying this generation! The group has attracted the immense talent of Max Valiquette, himself a young entrepreneur who is clearly the most dynamic speaker and most sophisticated user of power point that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

Owner of Youthography, Max poses many questions to those of us employing, teaching, parenting and working with the 20-somethings! Teachers moan that it's hard to get through to the maze of texting, twittering, blogging young people in their classrooms who are wired to their ipods and not particularly tuned in to the human voice.

Parents wonder about the work ethic, the goals-driven dynamic of their offspring who take the week-long ski trip to the Rockies as their end-of-exams entitlement.

Employers are vexed over the lack of customer service, of human connectedness that 'their generation'' was able to exemplify.

All in all, it makes for a much bigger generation gap than that caused by the peace movement of the 60's and the flower children poised on the threshold of their working lives. [Please note: the flower children are now completely puzzled about how to turn their thriving businesses over to their electronics-driven offspring.]

So, how do you talk to Generation Y? How do you 'turn them on' to what matters to you? How do you connect with them?

Max Valiquette has made himself the authority on all of this by becoming North America's guru on engaging, employing, retaining, understanding Generation Y. One visit to his website, www.youthography.com and you'll see he's got the statistics and the skill to bridge the gap between the talkers and the texters.

Here's the most exciting part! Cafe has opened the doors on Max Valiquette's presentation next Thursday morning. (April 15, 8 to 10:30 am) The organization is inviting people who work with, teach, parent, enjoy, or not enjoy this generation of young people who are waiting in the wings.

Except this generation doesn't wait. They twitter internationally, they see email as passé, they use social network marketing to achieve human response like never before. Witness their impact on helping Haiti! It didn't happen through newspaper columns like this one... it mobilized a generation through techniques that used less than 104 characters around the world.

Max Valiquette will inspire you. He'll inform you. He'll scare you. And then he'll challenge you to rub your eyes, sharpen your wits and connect with the Generation Y-ers who are not sitting on your doorstep. He'll give us immediately useful insights into drawing them to us; more important, he'll show us how to move towards them.

This is an event not to be missed. April 15. 8 to 10:30 am. Country Club. Interested? Elizabeth Cragg. 329-2522. georgianbay@cafecanada.ca. $30.

I can't wait!

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