Collage of popsicles

Getting in Touch With My Inner Millennial

Collage of popsicles

I recently attended the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) conference in Palm Desert California.

It’s a tough gig I know. I didn’t want to impose it upon too many of my staff, so I decided to attend it for a number of reasons.

First of all, it was hot. Second of all it was sunny. And third of all it was hot and sunny.

The TIA conference brings together ‘Transportation Intermediaries’ – or freight brokers if you will – and suppliers like Tailwind – a cloud based transportation management software company. It was an enjoyable three days filled with education sessions, networking, eating & drinking, and drinking & eating.

In one particular session I remember a moderator from the floor asking,

“Are there any Millennials in here?”

About 4 or 5 hands went up… and one of them belonged to a guy two rows in front of me who was clearly a Gen Xer, or perhaps a latent Baby Boomer. His colleagues were trying to explain to him that it didn’t mean that ‘he was still alive in the new millennium’. He looked like he was in sales because he seemed to want the attention.

I almost laughed at the question though. I remember I used to work for private education company back in 2007 and they reoriented their entire marketing and sales approach around ‘Millennials’. That was some 11 years ago.

I am not sure if Millennials really know whether they are Millennials. That may owe to the fact that they really haven’t grown attached to the label.

It conjures up memories of the ongoing battles at our supper table between my 5-year-old son and my 12-year-old daughter.

“Are they ‘bad teenagers’ dad?” he would ask me.

You see, there were no ‘good teenagers’ in his lexicon. The lovely woman who would help us with some babysitting before and after school, had somehow convinced him that all teenagers are in fac,t bad.

My daughter, on the cusp of teenage-hood herself, felt duty-bound to pick up the noble fight for teenagers.

“Richie, just because they are teenagers doesn’t mean they are all bad!” she would retort.

(He also like to sing a line from the Katy Perry song ‘Skin so hot, it melts your Popsicle’ – primarily because he liked Popsicle. My daughter would turn red and look down. That’s a whole other story)

I remember once going to hear David Foote, a noted demographer and author, speak on the topic of Boomers. He wrote a book called ‘Boom, Bust and Echo’ many years back when I was a much younger Boomer.

Like any good marketer, I slavishly attended one of the marketing conferences he spoke at to hear the insight that he had on ‘us Boomers’.

Yep – I’m a Boomer. In Canada, a Baby Boomer is someone born between 1947 and 1966. The US Baby Boom occurred earlier (1946-1964) because the US servicemen returned home earlier fhan the Canadians (I believe Canada had one ship at the time and it had a 40-horsepower Johnson engine that kept breaking down mid-Atlantic).

David Foote’s premise was this.

‘Demographics can’t explain everything, but it can explain about 2/3 of the dynamic.’

So basically, he was describing something that is 66.6667% explainable – which made me want to ask him what impact the 80/20 rule might have on his work. Combining the two I would have got him down to a 50/50 proposition, and might make him more than 1/3 uncertain that he knew what he was talking about. But only the mathematicians would understand how the mechanics might or might not work… and I was liking his presentation.

He also said something that I found profound, and was something that most people didn’t cotton to.

He said,

‘Every year, a person gets one year older.’

Seems simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many people have their labels fixed on the age and not the birth year of the demographic. So, Doug Copeland’s Gen Xers are trapped in their mid 20’s to late 30’ still trying to get a foothold in our workforce.

Right now, I am trying to understand those darn millennials who were brought to my attention back in 2007, the way they wanted to learn, how they want to be entertained all the time, how they are pampered by their ‘snowplow’ parents – and trying to figure out how they are impacting the industry I am now in some 11-years later. And worst of all, they appear to be the same age as the kids we were teaching back in 2007!

We have some Millennials in our business. I don’t know if they feel or label themselves as such. They do some awesome work, primarily in our Development department. It is a closed room in our offices, but there is a big window where you can look inside and see them at their desks.

Sometimes I like to sit down and observe them as they work. They are so fixated on their screens and when I am watching them and taking notes – sort of like my own millennial lab – they look up and see me. They sort of wince, and dart a look at one other.

I have so many notes about Millennials now, I can’t tell you how many observation sessions I have done. But as President of our company I have to track the progress of the next generation of people that will impact not only our company, but the broader industry as well.

I am probably going to set up a meeting next week with them. I think I will start it off by saying

“You guys are Millennials, you know.”

And then they are sure to look up from their phones and say something like


And then one of them might say to me

“Hey Murray, sorry we put the ‘Kick me’ sign on your back the other day. We heard it was an old Boomer joke, and thought you might appreciate it.’

And then we will laugh and chuckle together – each consistent with the way our demographic interprets humor. And we will be happy that we are at least two-thirds of the way to understanding one another.

And we will probably realize that we are just people – just some folks working in a business and trying to find our way this world.

Then probably sit down and enjoy a Popsicle.