“I’d like for you to write this month’s column about millennials,” was the assignment given to me by PCT Publisher Dan Moreland. Cool, I thought! PCOs we communicate with regularly are spending more and more time trying to better understand millennials in order to (1) unlock their potential as employees; and (2) appeal to this customer of the future. In fact, this goal of making sense of millennials is such a hot topic we made it this month’s cover story and have packaged our coverage with several topics about this transformative generation.

My second thought after taking on this assignment was: How do I, a member of Generation X (the generation born between 1961 and 1981), write about millennials without sounding like a cranky, old person (you know, someone who might say, “Hey kids, get off of my lawn!”).

For perspective, I decided to dig back into the PCT archives for an article I wrote in 2000 titled “An Xtra Challenging Workforce.” The article, which examined the challenges and opportunities presented by Generation X, was based on a presentation I attended given by Tom Aho, a business consultant with pest control industry experience. I wrote that Generation X “has been characterized as apathetic, selfish, cynical and quick to question authority. But more accurately, they are aggressive, hardworking and fiercely independent individuals.” In 2000, many baby boomer owner/operators were grappling with how to manage Generation X and how to appeal to this group as customers, just as many of today’s PCOs are trying to figure out millennials. Fast forward to today and I’m certain that today’s most successful pest control companies were able to embrace Gen X-ers in the late 1990s, and today Gen X-ers are an integral part of their business. In fact, many Gen X-ers are now running businesses. If there were one theme from my 2000 Gen X article that holds true today it is that PCOs are the ones who have to change and adapt — not the incoming generation.

With that in mind, PCT’s coverage of millennials in this issue includes an examination of what makes millennials tick and interviews with PCOs who share some of what they’ve done to “meet millennials on their turf with creative recruiting, improved communication, engaged management and the latest technology,” as PCT contributing writer Kristen Hampshire noted.

Some good news for PCOs is that the very nature of pest control does provide opportunities to reach millennials. For example, millennials want to be a part of a company that has a great vision and purpose beyond just turning a profit. As Hampshire wrote, “With a career in pest control, they can make the world a better place, find flexibility, embrace innovation, better their communities and feel valued.”

More good news for PCOs is that millennials hold great potential as your customer of the future. One of the reasons for that is sheer numbers. According to 2015 Pew Research, there are 83.1 million Americans 35-and-under, compared to 75.4 million baby boomers. By 2020, millennials will completely outpace all other generations in the workplace. Why are those figures important? Millennials really value their free time, and they will pay for services such as lawn care and pest control, instead of trying to be do-it-yourselfers.

It’s an exciting time to cover the pest control industry, as many firms now have four generations of workers employed. We look forward to seeing how millennials and future generations will reshape the industry in the present and in the future.

The author, a member of Gen X and fan of 1980s icons Michael J. Fox and Alf, is managing editor and Internet editor of PCT and can be contacted at bharbison@gie.net.