Larry Dix II On How To Navigate The Generational Differences That Are Disrupting Workplaces

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Be open and listen to all ideas no matter how crazy they may sound at first.

Today’s workplaces are a melting pot of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. Each generation brings its unique perspective, work ethic, communication styles, and values. While this diversity can foster innovation and creativity, it can also lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and productivity challenges. How can businesses effectively bridge these generational gaps to create harmonious and thriving work environments? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Dix.

Larry Dix, a titan of entrepreneurship, has carved an extraordinary path from humble roots in a small Texas town to towering success at 60. His story is a testament to grit, determination, and unwavering perseverance in the face of adversity.

Starting as a yard dog at just 18, Larry navigated the turbulent waters of the S&L Crisis and embraced the challenges of the sales world, swiftly climbing the ladder to manage a truss plant by age 27. But his journey was far from over. In 2000, Larry took a bold leap into entrepreneurship, founding APEX with the guiding principle to always “Do What’s Right.”

Rooted in the lessons from his resilient mother and perseverant father, Larry’s ethos propelled him to new heights, earning him the prestigious title of “Manager of the Year” and inspiring countless others along the way.

Today, Larry is not only a successful entrepreneur but also a beacon of inspiration and mentorship. His latest venture, the “Born or Made” podcast and accompanying book, dives deep into the heart of entrepreneurship, exploring the age-old debate through Larry’s unique perspective and insightful interviews with top business minds.

But Larry’s influence extends beyond the boardroom. As an entrepreneur and life enthusiast, he races cars, raises beef cattle on his farm, and dabbles in real estate. He’s passionate about fitness, nutrition, and pushing his limits through marathons, cold plunges, and saunas.

Through his podcast, book, and personal endeavors, Larry strives to inspire others to live their best lives and be their best selves. His story is a reminder that success is not just about wealth and status but about staying true to oneself and making a positive impact on the world. In a realm where many aspire to greatness, Larry Dix stands tall as a true Entrepreneur — a living testament to the idea that success is both born of inherent qualities and forged through life’s fiery trials.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I never really had a career path. I just wanted to own my own business since I was 14 and wanted to be a millionaire and I honestly didn’t know what that meant or how to achieve it. Now they are known as entrepreneurs and it’s cool. Maybe not having a concrete plan was easier because I was not stuck on a particular path just the result. I have never found a job I was too good for so I just do it and see where it takes me. I always kept my head down and worked. I learned people are constantly changing jobs and looking for a quick move up. I just did my job and when things changed they would look around and say “Hey that Dix kid always shows up and has a good attitude with good results.” They would give me a chance and I would get the ball and never relinquish it and never look back.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We always call people back.

We fix problems quickly and decisively no matter who is at fault. Make it go away.

High sense of urgency.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Empathy is something that has helped me as I can relate to anyone in any position. I started as a yard dog and became a business owner. I would never ask anyone to do something I haven’t or wouldn’t do.
  2. Integrity

I trademarked “Do What’s Right” for myself as much as for everyone who deals with me.

3. Being direct and to the point. I place a very high value on my time and if I give you same respect for your time this helps cut through all the BS.

In your experience, what are the most distinct characteristics, values, and work preferences of each generation currently present in the workplace?

  1. We all have a high sense of urgency.
  2. Loyalty.
  3. Treat each other with respect.

Can you describe a specific instance where generational differences caused a significant challenge in the workplace? How was it addressed, and what lessons were learned?

I think it really is about change. Most people complain that things will never change and when they try to change they fight you. We are always willing to try new things especially when it comes to technology. Our first big leap was to put in laser projection systems for our jigging and people were really freaked out about it. Once we got it installed they were amazed. It was like opening the flood gate and now every time we bring in new technology they get very excited and are willing to jump in and try.

Technology adoption varies greatly between generations. How do you recommend companies bridge the tech-savviness gap without alienating any generational group?

I personally think it was a lot harder even 10 years ago compared to now. People pretty much embraced it as a general rule. Thanks to smartphones. I mean, you have self-check out now, and you order food without talking to people. I mean our everyday lives are so surrounded by technology I just don’t think it’s that big a deal anymore. I mean I think some people will never change no matter what, and that’s just who they are.

I think about what Amazon has done to most Americans’ lives. I live 20 miles from anywhere and I can get stuff delivered in two days. Technology has gotten so simple even for older people. My father is 80 years old and he can do anything and he doesn’t mind change. Even though those that don’t like change, everything is changing at such a rapid pace. People don’t think they realize how much things have changed, and lives are simpler.

How can organizations create cross-generational mentorship programs that allow older and younger employees to learn from each other?

Create a culture that has mutual respect for all generations. We must be willing to learn from younger people, just as they must be willing to learn from older people. We have people from all ages, working side-by-side. If young people show respect by taking their time and showing older people new technology, then older people can show younger people how they did it without technology. By doing this, it actually helps younger people understand what the new technology is really doing because so many other things we do now or just a click of a button. This can handicap young people because they don’t really understand what they are creating. This also helps older people understand how the technology is getting to the end result. It’s a win-win. It just creates an atmosphere of not only creativity but respect. This country has been run for a long time without a lot of technology, at least in my industry.

From face-to-face conversations to instant messaging, each generation has its communication preference. How can businesses foster effective communication that caters to these diverse preferences?

As a visual learner and a good communicator, this one has been a challenge for me on many levels. Nothing gets me more fired up than getting a caddy email about something. So we keep it simple. If you’ve got a problem with somebody, pick up the phone and talk to him about it or come to their office don’t send an aggressive or mean email.

Communication face-to-face is a lot more challenging and tends to not get as heated as emails due. Words on a piece of paper do not show facial expressions or voice inflection. When I first started, my business people would send me emails and I would answer and they would be like are you mad at me all you said was yes and I would be like well, your email asked me for a yes or no response. Email, text, and instant messaging have made an amazing use of time. There’s no talking about football games over the weekend or water cooler talk so that part I love. I’m just not a big fan of someone being captain badass behind the keyboard.

How should training and development programs be tailored to cater to the unique learning styles and expectations of different generations?

As I have learned over the years it’s now so much more generational as it is having programs that adapt to people’s learning styles. I take for instance that I learn visually better than by data. Data helps build a platform but I need to do and watch it to really learn. Everyone is pretty comfortable with technology now you can tailor to people’s style.

Personality tests are so easy and pretty cheap to get now and I encourage people to check them out. Hire people that fit the job, not people that interview well. I have made that mistake so many times in my life.

Lastly, everyone struggles with training. This has been a problem for the 40 years that I have been in business. Train attitude and effort.

In what ways can leaders ensure they’re being inclusive and not harboring unconscious biases towards one generation over another?

I think you have to have a culture of wanting everyone’s input to come up with the best ideas. You need to be able to take input from all generations no matter their position. If people see you trying ideas from their peers this just solidifies that everyone’s input is important and listens to.

As we look towards the future and the eventual integration of newer generations into the workforce, what strategies should businesses implement now to be prepared for even more diverse generational dynamics?

I always laugh when people start talking about the millennials and how they are terrible. I can’t imagine what my parents must have said about my generation. My view is simple: we need to figure it out because they are running the place in 20 years whether you like it or not so we better figure it out.

What are your “Five Things Leaders Need to Know About How to Navigate the Generational Differences that are Disrupting Workplaces”?

1 . Be open and listen to all ideas no matter how crazy they may sound at first.

2 . Make sure you are knowledgeable about current trends.

3 . Don’t have a “this is the way we always have done it” attitude.

4 . Hire people good at the job, not people you like.

5 . Never be afraid to try new things.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Simple Stupid.

I own quite a bit of real estate and people always ask me how to figure out what to buy. I tell them I built a very simple spreadsheet. I show them the spreadsheet and it’s always the same response, wow that’s simple. If it does not meet my criteria, I say no, it’s that simple. It takes all the emotions out of it for me. There is always another deal tomorrow.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Everything keeps me up at night. People ask when do you work and I always say when I am awake.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, for me, I trademarked “Do What’s Right” as doing the right thing is not always the easy thing, but it’s always the right thing!

How can our readers further follow you online?

Check out my new podcast for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs, Born Or Made.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.