Meet your next wave of customers and employees: the "millennials," people born from 1982 to the present.
This generation is now gaining more-widespread attention. For instance, expect to see politicians catering to the crowd that frequents MillennialPolitics.com, a site started by activists Scott Beale and Abeer Abdalla, a Democrat and a Republican, respectively, who recently sold out their first printing of Millennial Manifesto (Instant Publisher). Half a dozen other millennial titles, such as William Strauss and Neil Howe's Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (Vintage) and Daniel Egeler's Mentoring Millennials: Shaping the Next Generation (NavPress), as well as edgier, younger-skewing magazines, are fussing over this market.
So what should entrepreneurs know about millennials? They "may comprise the most supervised and scheduled child generation ever," write Strauss and Howe in Millennials Rising. "For most, hardly an hour goes by in which they are not within sight of a parent, a teacher, a coach, a relative or a child-care provider (with mom and dad occasionally peeking in via their Internet "kiddiecam")--or strapped in a minivan in supervised transit between various adult-watched activities."
The Nickelodeon channel commissioned a study in 2002 to better understand their millennial audience, children who are, for the most part, offspring of the youngest baby boomers and older Generation Xers. The report concluded that Generation Xers generally grew up with set rules that had consequences and had fewer choices and input in family matters than the millennials, who get more choices, more freedom and more empowerment possibly than any other generation in history. Millennials have been fussed over and have parents who play good cop more than bad cop, threatening consequences but not following through with them.
That has resulted in a generation tightly knit with their parents, and they have a greater respect for authority than generations before them. But will getting to know these young men and women result in a better company? Jay A. Kayne, who teaches entrepreneurship at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, thinks so. Kayne observes that millennials "have an aversion to being ordinary. They don't want to be cubicle clones-they'll be looking for a more relaxed environment in which to work."
In terms of marketing, Kayne notes that because of 9/11, this latest generation could possibly be the most self-analytical generation ever, so services or products that help them find themselves are likely to be winners. For instance, traveling is an important pastime to the millennial.
But the best reason to be aware of the coming of the millennial? If you're a Gen Xer or a baby boomer, "you'd better look over your shoulder," advises Kayne, "because the people coming behind you are part of that market and in tune with it, and they're anxious to service it."