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Older vs.Younger CEOs: It’s Not What You’d Expect

Older CEOs can be seen as more structured while younger CEOs might be characterized as more hands-off. But as we all know, stereotypes often don’t ring true. Valley professionals under 40 were interviewed and asked about their view of CEO age stereotypes. CEO and Managing Partner of the real estate company Gelb Group Rickey Gelb, 65, said older CEOs are “harder to train compared to younger CEOs.” Gelb says his style of management is a combination of the stereotypes of older and younger styles. “I do micromanage more,” Gelb said. “I like to be more detailed about checking into whether a job got completed or if someone heard back from a proposal.” His management style according to Gelb, is a fair one. “I let people do it their way. They hang themselves before we correct them. We give them free reign. I don’t micromanage.” CEO of Chatsworth-based aviation company Sensor Systems Si Robin, 82, said younger CEOs “don’t always do their homework.” He said he views himself as a traditional older CEO. “I personally am old-fashioned and like direct contact. I believe in eyeball-to-eyeball conducting business. But also by the same token I realize that the digital age is here. I would be a basic computer oriented manager. If you don’t take care of the small details and the big details you’re doomed to failure.” He described his management style connecting with the employees, trying to keep them enthusiastic and helping them out in their daily functions. CEO and Managing Director of Regal Aircraft David Stuppler, 23, said “[he sees] age as irrelevant.” The Van Nuys based company is also in the aviation industry. Stuppler and Robin may both be in aviation but they have vastly different perspectives about how they fit the mold. They agree about if someone doesn’t fit their perspective they would be doomed for failure. “I try not to micromanage and do that on my own and I feel that I’m missing the big picture. I trust employees to accomplish things and not spend time on fewer projects because it takes so much man power. You’re able to accomplish more. . . As a young guy I have to trust what I like and listen to when they have suggestions. I can’t see every angle and approach. If you’re not willing to expand your horizons you’re doomed to failure.” CEO of Burbank-based online company Submit Express Pierre Zarokian, 38, said younger CEOs “may not be as familiar with the laws but younger CEOs tend to be more technology savvy.” Zarokian started as a younger CEO at age 27, but he said with 11 years of experience his staff respects him. He said his personal CEO style is unaffected by his age. “It takes a certain type of personality to be an entrepreneur,” Zarokian said. “It doesn’t matter what your age might be . . My management style is very laid back. I let people be free. I have other managers and I don’t get involved.” Age as an advantage Is being a young or old manager an advantage or disadvantage? Robin said he believes his age is an advantage. “People can look at experience from many years ago rather than just guesstimating change,” Robin said. Zarokian views his young age an advantage as well. “It’s an advantage in the Internet age. People tend to be savvier.” Gelb and Stuppler agreed they don’t see their respective older and younger ages as any sort of advantage or disadvantage in their positions as respective CEOs of their companies. With all of these different perspective coming from different CEOs of different age groups and leadership styles how would each handle an employee whose vision for the company goals would not fully conform to their own? Stuppler said he would listen to what the employee had to say. He said he knew when he was an intern he mentioned to his bosses alternative ways of doing things and sometimes they listened. Zarokian also was very open to suggestions. “I am always open to ideas,” Zarokian said. “I encourage ideas and I reserve the right to not accept it if we go in a different direction.” Gelb also said he would open to suggestions. “We like people to be creative and come up with new ideas that are creative,” Gelb said. Robin had a more traditional approach to someone whose vision for the company goals varied from his own. “Of all the employees they understand the goal of the company is to provide efficient products to the customer at a fair price,” Robin said. “Everybody here is taught that from the beginning. If they don’t fit into the mold they either leave or we have to let them go.”

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