If you hire a member of the millennial generation who brings a know-it-all attitude to the job, you should provide your new employee with an opportunity to make an impact. Perhaps he or she can give you a stronger online presence.

“Why wouldn’t you want someone to take the reins on this? It would be perfect project for a millennial,” Katy Mallios Smith told AIM/R members Oct. 15 during their 43rd annual conference in New Orleans. “Encourage them to take the initiative. Giving them a chance to manage — or even develop — a project that excites them allows them to develop multiple competencies outside their job description and is of strategic importance to your company.”

Smith, a millennial herself, was one of three speakers to discuss millennial employees during their AIM/R presentations. The others were Stew Chaffee, president of rep firm Rich-Tompkins Co., and Chip Hornsby, CEO of distribution company Morsco.

Born between 1980 and mid-2000s, millennials make up the country’s largest generation, Hornsby noted, representing one-third of the U.S. population in 2013. Millennials now also comprise the largest share of the U.S. workforce.

Smith, supply manager for market research technology firm Lucid, offered insights that both reinforced and debunked perceptions non-millennials may harbor about her generation. For example, millennials love feedback but not just positive words about what a great job they’re doing.

 “They want real-time, consistent, immediate feedback; they want to know, ‘What can I do better?’” Smith said.

If your company gives employees annual performance reviews, she suggested increasing the frequency to quarterly reviews. A formal or informal mentorship program allows for more feedback.

“It’s not just about collecting a paycheck,” Smith said. “Growth is hugely important; learning and skill acquisition is a must.”

The common denominator among all millennials is their digital proficiency. She described them as “connected, contributing and engaged.”

Smith disagreed, however, with an AIM/R member who asserted that millennials’ communication skills are limited to — and by — their mobile devices.

“Millennials are very social in general — including face-to-face meetings, the telephone and mobile devices,” Smith said.

In fact, she suggested rep agencies and other employers should encourage their millennial employees to post job openings on their social networks.

“This is huge,” she said. “Doing so shows millennials the kind of company you are.”

In his presentation, Hornsby also addressed what he described as misconceptions about millennials — that they don’t work hard and aren’t loyal to their employer. Some studies show millennials work longer due to the blurring of work/life hours as well as their ability to do their job remotely and through their smartphones.

“Contrary to popular perceptions, millennials stay with their early-career employers longer than Generation X workers did at the same ages,” he said.


Special recognition

The subject of millennials came up again during a panel discussion that featured manufacturers as well as reps. Other topics included how to compensate reps for Internet sales and how to compete against wholesalers’ private-label products.

Manufacturers on the panel were: Todd Talbot, president of Fluidmaster; Brent Noonan, vice president of sales for Uponor; and Chris Capone, vice president and general manager of U.S. trade sales for American Standard Brands. The reps were Alan Guidish, president of Preferred Sales; Mike Mullen, general manager  of A.H. Deveney & Co.; and Val Galvan, executive vice president of Southwest Mechanical. BNP Media Plumbing Group PublisherBob Miodonski co-moderated the discussion.

Other highlights at AIM/R’s meeting included “Fundamentals of Buy/Sell Representation” presented by Mike Parham of PEPCO Sales and Marketing and Richard Goldsmith of Sunbelt Marketing. Robert Parkinson of Equipco and Dan O’Sullivan of Suncoast Sales spoke on “Best Practices for Effective Communications with Your Principals.” Kelly Michel of Michel Sales Agency gave a retrospective of “The Manufacturers Rep Industry, Then & Now.”

Michel took the stage again later in the meeting when Rick Root of Bailey Sales & Associates announced the first class of inductees into the AIM/R Hall of Fame. Other inductees are: Don Bass of Don Bass Co.; Mike Warren of Added Sales Co.; Bob Woolf of Woolf-Harris; Kirby Meagher of Sales Service Plus; Grant Maples Sr. of Maples Sales & Service; and Pete Lewnes of Preferred Sales. Root noted that while AIM/R gives the Golden Eagle Award to honor a manufacturer, the Hall of Fame will give special recognition to manufacturers reps for their contributions to the industry.

Receiving this year’s Golden Eagle Award was Chuck Schwabe, national sales manager for Liberty Pumps. AIM/R gives the award annually to a senior-level manufacturer who has a track record of using manufacturers reps as the most efficient method of going to market.

Another manufacturer receiving special recognition during the meeting was the late Fred Schmuck of Fluidmaster for his role in the creation of AIM/R.

AIM/R’s 2016 conference will take place Oct. 18-21 in Miami, Fla.


This article was originally titled “Reps put focus on millennials” in the November 2015 print edition of Supply House Times.