According to Pew Research, millennials are going to pass Baby Boomers as the United States’ largest living adult generation sometime in 2019. The question that many people have is this: Will they also become our next greatest generation?

I wanted to interview a millennial who is in the building products industry to get their take on this generation. I think you will be surprised by some of the answers this millennial has, as well as by some of the misconceptions many of us have of this generation.

I sat down with Ryan Fogarty, who is an in-home sales person for BGE HOME in Baltimore. Ryan is in the heart of the millennial age group. I have known Ryan for a few years. Soft-Lite hired him right out of college. He has since moved into the in-home sales side of the business. He has proven to be extremely focused, hard-working and motivated.

Tyson: Ryan, how do you feel about the term millennial?

Ryan: The first thing that comes to mind is laziness. This isn’t because I believe it is true, but even I have been conditioned to associate the word of my generation to that of lazy people. I graduated from Ohio University and on most interviews, I have been asked about this idea and what I thought about it. I believe there is some truth to it, but just like every other generation, your work ethic depends on your upbringing as well as the period in which you were born.

Tyson: What are your goals over the next three to ten years?

Ryan: My immediate goals are monetary while learning every aspect about this industry. Over the next five to ten years, I would like to gain some leadership experience. Around the ten-year mark, I would like to be looking more “big picture” and either working directly with or being an executive in a company. Personally, over this same time frame, I would like to get married and start a family.

Tyson: How important is social media to you and your workplace?

Ryan: Social media is currently important in the building products industry, and I believe it will continue to grow rapidly as the millennial generation purchases homes. As a current in-home representative for BGE HOME, I see social media frequently playing a part in my workplace. As an example, I have had homeowners request certain door configurations with different glass styles or ask if we carry certain window brands. They see these door configurations or window brands on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. These customers can get so much information online now, I usually ask for them to do online research on our company and products when I am scheduling the appointment with them.

Tyson: Are millennials willing to sacrifice money for happiness in the work place?

Ryan: One of the characterizations of my generation is that we want to make six figure incomes and not have to work for it. I believe money has a lot to do with the viewpoint of my generation.  Most millennials have Baby Boomers as parents. Baby Boomers have been an extremely successful generation. Many in this generation are making six-figure salaries now. As a general rule, they want their children to be more successful, have what they have and even more. In addition, millennials have grown up in a time where waiting just is not tolerated or acceptable like it has been in past generations. Growing up with the Internet and having information readily available to us might have something to do with millennials wanting what their parents have now. But it doesn’t mean we do not want to work for it.

Tyson: How are millennials motivated in the workforce? By their bosses? Is it all about technology?

Ryan: Generally, I have had a great relationship with all my bosses regardless of which generation they are from. If there is a gap with older generations leading younger ones, it seems to be with the use of technology. I have had managers tell me to use the phone book to get leads. And I am sure 20 years ago this was normal, but now, I just use the Internet. Social media has enveloped most of our lives, and so a lot of what drives us is also looking good in front of our peers. A lot of people want the “sexy” jobs that they can boast about on social media networks with hashtags such as #workperks.

Tyson: What about the building products industry? Is this an industry millennials are interested in or is it not sexy enough?

Ryan: I do not believe the building products industry is as well known by millennials as one might think. I often try and explain what a home improvement sales representative does, and it is hard for my peers to grasp since not a lot of them own homes yet. When I was working for Soft-Lite as a territory manager, I would often tell my peers that “I sell windows for a living.” I was trying to avoid the confusion of having to explain what a territory manager does in manufacturing. The response I would get is ‘Oh, you sell computer software.’ It’s not a secret that there is a lack of millennials in the building products industry. I believe this directly correlates to why we have been seeing a decrease in people entering the trades, it seems to just not be sexy enough.

Final thoughts from Ryan

The well-kept secret in the building products industry is you can make a great living in all facets of the business. You can make great money not just as an executive, but also selling retail, being a manufacturers’ representative, and even installing windows, siding, etc. In addition, the stability of the industry is very strong. Home improvement is here to stay.

Finally, I only know a handful of millennials working in the building products industry. All of them are some of the hardest-working people I know. All of us see this industry as a “diamond in the rough” that seems to be an afterthought to many in my generation. But the ones currently in the industry are enjoying every second of it. I am proud to say that I am in the home improvement industry. To help a customer transform “just a house” into their “dream home” is extremely gratifying and rewarding.

Tyson’s Take

Millennials are changing how we look at business. Whether it is #workperks, how we market, how social media is enveloping our lives and how urgency is taking a precedence, millennials are pushing us to think differently and perform differently. Where email was considered fast, now texting has taken over as a more immediate way to get answers.

Taking what Ryan said about the building products industry, it would seem we have some work to do in marketing ourselves and our industry. This is a huge concern as the job market is becoming more competitive. We have to do a better job showing why our industry is “sexy” for millennials.

Finally, my prediction is millennials will not only become the United States’ largest generation next year, they will also improve on the crown the Baby Boomers have, which has been that of innovators. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs started a new type of industrial revolution, and the millennials are going to make it even better. Time will tell whether the millennials become the greatest generation, but there is no doubt in my mind that millennials are going to accomplish some great things.

Great selling!


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