CEO blasts millennials for being afraid of hard work

A millionaire millennial CEO who faced intense backlash after calling out the behaviour of some members of his own generation over the weekend has stood by his controversial comments.

The furore began yesterday, when The Sydney Morning Herald published an interview with Appliances Online founder and The Winning Group CEO John Winning about the state of the Australian retail industry - and Gen Y's work ethic.

Mr Winning said good millennial workers were "few and far between".

"People are expecting more than what they put in. Some of the people coming in for interviews, their expectation of what they should be paid versus how much they're expected to work is just crazy," Mr Winning told the publication.

"You train them up and by the time they've finished the two-month training, they're either looking for the next thing or asking for a promotion or more money.

"When I think of hustling, I think of rolling your sleeves up and working from early in the morning to late at night. They see hustling as a get-rich-quick scheme or another easy solution."

The interview sparked a brutal reaction online, with many social media users pointing out the irony of Mr Winning criticising entitled young people when he himself was given a job at his family's 113-year-old retail company, The Winning Group.

Appliances Online founder and The Winning Group CEO John Winning has been criticised for his controversial interview. Picture: Supplied
Appliances Online founder and The Winning Group CEO John Winning has been criticised for his controversial interview. Picture: Supplied

Speaking with news.com.au, Mr Winning said the published comments were just part of a much wider interview covering various topics.

But while he said he didn't mean to "pigeonhole an entire generation", he stood by the comments.

He said he didn't mean to imply millennials were "entitled" - but that he believed they were a "by-product of the world we live in today", especially concerning social media pressure to have extravagant lifestyles and instant success.

"We're the first generation to have really been influenced by social media before people recognise the effects of it," he said.

"We employ people aged from 17 to 70 and … it's more than an observation than anything, but with many millennials I interview I see this kind of almost false expectations as to what they might be able to get. Again, it's not their fault - it's driven by the world they live in and the content they absorb."

Mr Winning said the company employed many "amazing" millennials who had worked hard over the years and risen up the ranks as a result.

He also paid tribute to the scores of successful Gen Y entrepreneurs around the world - but said he believed some members of that generation expected to enjoy incredible success instantly.

"There are probably more millennial entrepreneurs out there than any other generation … and its incredible that we can do such a thing, but there also needs to be a bit of a reality check," Mr Winning said.

"People need to know it's not as easy as watching a video on Facebook of some guy getting out of a Lamborghini and saying he'll give you five tips if you pay him $500 so you can earn $5000 a week working for yourself at home from two hours a day - that's just not reality.

"The reality is … you've got to work your guts out and it takes blood, sweat and tears and before you can reap the rewards you have to stick things out. If you haven't found success in a month or three months, maybe you just haven't done it for long enough."

He also acknowledged he was "lucky" to be born into his family, and stressed that he joined his family business after his sister and cousins decided to pursue other careers, and that the choice had been entirely his.

"I'm very grateful to have the opportunities I have and I don't stand by trying to deny I was very lucky to be born into the family I'm in and to have been given the values my father instilled in me," Mr Winning said.

"I can't change the fact I was born into a family business but it was absolutely my choice (to join it) and I wasn't given the key by any means.

"I speak my mind and I'm happy to answer any question truthfully and honestly. I stand by my opinions and I don't expect everyone to agree, but I'm always willing to defend my opinion. The undertone (of the comments) was not that millennials are lazy, which I don't believe."

Mr Winning's original comments sparked fierce debate online, with many social media users claiming it was "ironic" he called out entitled behaviour after landing a job in his family's successful whitegoods business.

"Can't blame anyone for taking advantage of opportunities offered to them - but the preaching that follows from these heirs is grating," one Twitter user wrote.

Another added: "Millennial who had a multimillion-dollar company handed to him by his dad, who had it handed to him by his dad, who had it handed to him by his dad, laments that his fellow millennials have a strong sense of entitlement & want things handed to them without working for them."

"What rubbish. From a bloke who got his job from family connections!" another said.

In the original interview, the 35-year-old also claimed Instagram was encouraging young people to spend more and live beyond their means.

"People expect they should be able to spend all this money on eating out because they see all their friends on social media eating out breakfast, lunch and dinner, having these great lives and going to Europe every Australian winter," he said.

"So there's a lot of debt and a lot of people really struggling to maintain the lifestyle they're used to."

The controversy comes just months after a Muffin Break boss sparked global condemnation after complaining in a news.com.au interview that entitled millennials had been given an "inflated" sense of self-importance due to social media and were no longer willing to do unpaid work to advance their careers.

In February, general manager Natalie Brennan griped there was "just nobody walking in my door asking for an internship, work experience or unpaid work".

The comments sparked an intense backlash, prompting Ms Brennan to issue a statement and public apology.

Both Mr Winning's Appliances Online and Winning Appliances operate under the umbrella of The Winning Group, which turned over $650 million in sales last financial year, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Winning began his working life as a waiter at 17 before joining The Winning Group as a delivery driver.

He eventually moved into sales before launching Appliances Online in 2005 at just 21.

Today, Appliances Online is Australia's largest online appliance retailer and Mr Winning is also now the CEO of the fourth-generation The Winning Group.



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