For the last decade, my career has been centered around recruiting and managing millennials. Plus, I am one.

When we talk about recruiting and retaining millennials, I know what a lot of people are thinking: I don’t want to.

Millennials have been labeled as entitled, unfocused, and job jumpers. Some even call us narcissistic. When you think about the stereotypical millennial, this may resonate:


“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants.”

Said every generation about the next. Don’t believe me? This quote is from Socrates.

Love them or hate them, millennials should be embraced into your organization. That is, unless you’re ok not employing anyone between the ages of 23-37. This makes millennials the largest generation represented in the workforce today. We’re extremely underrepresented among skilled trade workers in the U.S.. There are a higher number of skilled workers over the age of 45 and a higher number of them between 55-64 getting ready to retire. So during the skilled labor shortage, the largest generation available to you is being underutilized. That’s the bad news. You need millennials in the business and in your industry, and right now, they’re not there.

The good news is that once you start attracting millennials, they can help you attract more. If you create an environment to retain them and help them to thrive, they’ll not only be the future leaders of your company, but they’ll help drive you forward.

So, what do they want? Millennials prioritize these five attributes when looking for a job opportunity:

  1. Money
  2. Job security
  3. Benefits
  4. Time off
  5. Great people

It doesn’t sound too different from what previous generations valued. What is different is how we define each of these. Remember, I’m an older millennial, and in 1998, I was 14 and a freshman in high school. This was the same year that Amazon started selling more than books and Netflix made it possible for me to rent movies without leaving the house.

About a decade later, I’d graduated college and moved to Montana with the dream of being on ESPN someday. It was also the time we went from


Suddenly, information was in the palm of our hand and we were connected with people across the country and around the world. We had an inside look into people’s lives. This was also the time of the great recession with home foreclosures, the stock market crash, and bank bailouts. And in 2008 we went from 630,000 Americans who were unemployed to 11,400,000.

Millennials grew up in a world of constant innovation throughout our adolescence. We became used to instant gratification, information at our fingertips, and glorified easy-money lifestyles. While many of us were impacted by the recession in our adult lives, we’ve really only seen a growing economy and we’re trying to optimize our own growth through it.

So let’s look at those five priorities again.

Money. As always, money is important. But what I hear is that millennials don’t want to pay their dues. They want it now. They don’t want to work for it. Well, you could blame Mark Zuckerberg. He became a millionaire at age 22 and a billionaire at age 23. So in one year, he want from a millionaire to a billionaire. It took Warren Buffett 26 years to do the same.

Social media has opened the door for us to see those glorified lifestyles. We get to see the best part of people’s lives. Lifestyles and experience let us show off the best part of our own. We want to be able to afford it. The skilled trade industries are increasing wages at a slower rate than others. Be competitive. Know what industries you’re competing against for employees.

Job Security. While most millennials don’t remember details around the last recession, we weren’t blind to the millions of people who were suddenly employed. For older millennials, we entered the job market and were suddenly competing with people with 10, 20, 30 years’ experience for entry-level jobs. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg went from a millionaire to a billionaire. So job security meant having the experience, the skills, the ability to self-improve, grow, and have the opportunity for growth.

It’s not just the second-highest priority that millennials look for while job searching, it’s also the second-highest reason why people leave their existing jobs.

Most millennials would prefer staying with the same company for the long haul but only if the growth opportunity exists. Ask yourself, when you have millennials who were in the business for a short period of time, how valued did they feel? Did they make an impact? Did they have an opportunity to grow, and did they know that?

Benefits. Traditional benefits like healthcare and retirement still apply – but those have become basic requirements. Lifestyle and experience have really expanded the concept of benefits.

This picture of me was part of a recruiting campaign for a company I worked for. There isn’t a software company that doesn’t advertise benefits like free snacks and things that some people call silly or distractions like Nerf guns, video games, or beanbags. They all play into the concept of lifestyle and experience that aren’t restricted to after 5pm. Ask yourself, what kind of lifestyle are your benefits supporting? Fun and fitness? Fun and creativity? Furry friends?

Time off. Growing up in a world when you’re constantly connected means that work doesn’t happen between 9-5. You aren’t restricted to an office or a desk. Because we’re constantly connected, the flexibility to step away is more important. We want the ability to take care of our personal lives, even if that’s during the week. Things like taking extended vacation is highly valued. I know these things are easier to do with office staff than with technicians, but I’ve talked to several companies who have worked with technicians on creating some level of flexibility. Get creative. It takes some work, but that work pays back dividends.

When millennials talk about time off, it’s not about unplugging. We’re addicted to our phones. We don’t unplug that much. It’s more than anything about flexibility.

Great people. Back during that recruiting campaign I mentioned earlier, I did a radio ad with a tagline “I have fun at work.” I wasn’t lying. I had a lot of fun at work. When I left six years later, the people were the hardest thing to leave. Looking back, the people kept me there for an extra year.

There are studies that show that having a work best friend increases productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. Those miscellaneous reasons in the chart above why people leave are often because of a toxic workplace and bad managers. So great people make a big difference.

Know what is important to all your prospective employees. Give your managers the resources and support to create an environment that makes everyone thrive. Millennials may value things a bit differently, but you’ll find that at the end of the day, they share common personal and professional goals with your more experienced employees.

When you deliver great service, equipment and systems don’t fail, nothing happens, and your customer is left wondering if you’re worth the money. When you deliver poor service, systems fail and the customer gets frustrated. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Billy Marshall’s keynote presentation at the 2017 Digital Wrap Conference, Money for Nothing: How Exceptional Service Brands Earn More Pay for Less Work, explains how to keep customers happy and earn a premium when nothing goes wrong. As Billy explained in an earlier blog post, this strategy requires you to show customers all the “snakes” you find in their systems:

You can give the customer what they want, which is nothing, as long as you are regularly finding snakes on the roof, snakes in the riser room, snakes in the ductwork, snakes in every nook and cranny of their critical equipment.  Of course, these are figurative snakes, not literal snakes.  The snakes are the equipment deficiencies that your technicians are recording with photos, audio, and video for the customer to review online via your Service Link. The deficiency snakes are clickbait that constantly reminds the customer how your diligence keeps them from getting bitten by disruptions and breakdowns which inevitably lead to hassles and aggravation.

Billy didn’t stop talking about snakes for months. He managed to take this snake analogy all the way to his keynote presentation:

The analogies and stories don’t stop at snakes. Check out Billy’s entire presentation to learn how to make “Money for Nothing” and create a customer program that will let you charge a premium because you provide more value.

When I joined ServiceTrade to begin its services division in 2012, Billy greeted me with the
welcoming threat “if you screw this up I’ll fire your ass.” I’m still with the company, so here is my advice for how to buy good software and not get fired in a growing company.

  1. Use the right tool for the job.
    I didn’t set out to solve our CRM, marketing, accounting, and payroll challenges. I was looking for the right tool for customer service. Any software that says it can solve all of your problems is going to be terrible at everything. I focused on choosing the right tool for one problem at a time.
  2. Choose good software.
    Two of the most important elements of good software is open APIs that allow for integrations with our other applications and that it is SaaS. The picture below shows what integration looks like with bad software. Nobody at ServiceTrade is spending time managing our own servers. We have better things to do with our resources.

    This is what integrations look like in a server environment.

  3. Blow it up from time to time. 
    When I started, I chose ZenDesk to run customer service. About five years later, we blew it away because something better came along. We discovered that Intercom offered a few more integration options and we like its online chat. So one morning in about four hours we unplugged ZenDesk and plugged in Intercom. It didn’t require us to change our accounting system. It didn’t bring down our CRM. It was just like when you get a flat tire – you pull over, change the tire, and leave the rest of the car alone.
  4. Enable more integrations.
    In making the change to Intercom, we added more options for creative integrations. We rely heavily on Zapier to connect our apps to each other, so compatibility with Zapier is a must. Search for “Zapier library” to get an idea of how an application you are considering can connect with other apps in your company.
  5. Be decisive.
    The Practical Guide to Buying Software for Service Contractors gives you six things that should be easy to determine when you’re working with a good software company. It’s important to us that our applications keep up with the pace of our growth and new ways to help our customers. If that means adding new software, we’re decisive and act fast by following the tenets in this guide.

Also read:

This blog post is adapted from a 2017 Digital Wrap Conference presentation by ServiceTrade Vice President of Customer Success James Jordan. Presented here without the rooster photo.

Every popular book or movie generally hues to a typical formula.  A hero faces a daunting challenge and makes a big effort to overcome trouble.  The reason this formula works is because humans are captivated by trouble and drama.  Jonathan Gottschall, the keynote speaker for the Digital Wrap Conference, documents in great detail the human attraction to dramatic story in his book The Storytelling Animal.   

Here are a couple of the money quotes from the book:

“Human minds yield helplessly to the suction of story.  No matter how hard we concentrate, no matter how deep we dig in our heels, we just can’t resist the gravity of alternate worlds.”

“Stories the world over are almost always about people . . . with problems.  The people want something badly – to survive, to win the girl or boy, to find a lost child. But big obstacles loom between the protagonists and what they want.  Just about any story – comic, tragic, romantic – is about a protagonist’s efforts to secure, usually at some cost, what he or she desires.”

If you want to keep the attention of your customers and get paid a premium for your services, you need to give the customer some trouble.  That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  “The customer doesn’t want trouble!” you retort indignantly.  “Quite the opposite, in fact.  The customer really just wants nothing!  No breakdowns, no disruptions, no aggravation, no hassles.”  

And I couldn’t agree more.  But the problem with delivering nothing is that your service is taken for granted, and you will get unplugged from the account by “one truck Chuck” when he promises a lower price.  You can almost hear the customer now responding to Chuck’s low price pitch:

Nothing ever happens around here!  Why am I paying these other guys so much?  Chuck, thanks for saving me some money!  You won the business with your low price!

Of course, Chuck will screw it all up, and pretty soon the “nothingness” that was taken for granted will become a series of disruptions, breakdowns, hassles, and aggravation.  It doesn’t have to be this way.


You can give the customer what they want, which is nothing, as long as you are regularly finding snakes on the roof, snakes in the riser room, snakes in the ductwork, snakes in every nook and cranny of their critical equipment.  Of course, these are figurative snakes, not literal snakes.  The snakes are the equipment deficiencies that your technicians are recording with photos, audio, and video for the customer to review online via your Service Link. The deficiency snakes are clickbait that constantly reminds the customer how your diligence keeps them from getting bitten by disruptions and breakdowns which inevitably lead to hassles and aggravation.

The customers are only human.  They can’t resist clickbait.  Clickbait is a good story that shows how you have charmed and corralled the threatening snakes to save them from trouble.  When they open your online quotes offering all manner of snake traps and snake killing repairs and upgrades (mind you, no snake oil for the customer!), they are practically gleeful that the hero of the story (that would be you) has again prevailed over the devious equipment snakes that were plotting to harm them.  Approved! If you want to keep your customers for the long term, give ‘em some trouble by finding some snakes on the roof!

Also read:

Significant objects are worth more than regular objects.  At least that is the conclusion arrived upon by the significant objects project and its team of researchers.  Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, a writer and a journalist respectively, set out to prove that stories can increase the value of objects.  While it is tempting to view the goal of the exercise as justifying the existence of the writing class, the results of the experiment are unequivocal. Humans value stories, and they become invested in the life objects that reinforce the stories they enjoy.

Joshua and Rob purchased one hundred pieces of stuff from garage sales, thrift stores, and related trinket outlets for a grand sum of $129.  They then enlisted professional writers to conjure stories related to each piece of stuff to accompany the auction of said stuff on eBay.  The auction value of the storied stuff as measured by sales price on eBay was $3,612 – a return of 2,700%.  Pretty good margin, huh?

So what is the return on your services?  How much are you able to charge above what it costs you to deliver?  Somewhere between 30% and 50%?  Maybe your services would be more significant, and therefore more valuable if you delivered your services with the story describing what happened.  I don’t mean an invoice.  The story is what you saw, what you did, why you did it, and what likely trouble the customer avoided because of you.  It is also the photo essay of images that reinforce your story.  And I am not suggesting you type it all out.  Record it as a video or audio memo.  It will take all of 2 to 4 minutes extra, and it could be worth a lot over the course of the relationship with the customer.

Humans learn from images, story, rhythm, and rhyme.  It is programmed into us since the days of the cavemen and the campfires.  Since you are not going to insist the technicians become poets or rappers, you should at least insist that they relay their good work to the customer in the form of images and stories.  When you teach the customer something about their facility, it reinforces the good decision they made in contracting with you. Over time, the accumulated review of your work will imprint your brand in a manner that is not easily supplanted by the “one truck Chuck” competitor that is always willing to go lower on the invoice.   You will be able to raise prices because your services have become significant through the power of story.

We have seen this phenomenon time and again at ServiceTrade as our customers are surprised and delighted by how easy it is to get customers to approve online quotes when the photos demonstrating the reason for repair are literally viewed inline with the quote.  They are likewise surprised at how much customers value the Service Link feature that presents the “story” of the services delivered online with a gallery of photos, video, and audio for review.  They shouldn’t be.  Humans sharing photos and stories is the basic power behind the growth of Facebook into a company valued at $500 billion in a little over 13 years.  Maybe some of that Facebook photo and story magic will work for your brand.  Can you think of a better way to make your services more significant?

The Digital Wrap Conference was just a week ago, but we already have an update to one of the stories we shared: Domino’s is dominating even more than we reported at the conference. But first, let me set the stage for anyone who wasn’t there.


Domino’s and their MIPS

At the Digital Wrap Conference, Shawn Mims discussed the ways that service companies can maximize their MIPS – Marketing Impressions Per Service. It’s a way of using technology to get low-cost, low-effort, high-impact marketing impressions with your customers and prospects just by providing your services.

The example that Shawn used came from a very unexpected source: Domino’s. Yeah, the pizza company. The one responsible for that crazy Avoid the Noid advertising campaign in the 80s. Well, they put all that annoying Noid business behind them and created a mobile application in 2009. It would take a while to see the results, but that app changed the national pizza chain game.

Domino’s Mobile Customer Experience

Domino’s mobile app makes it easy to place an order, make your payment, save your preferences and payment options. But the best part is the pizza tracker. Live updates in the app and through notifications keep you updated as your pizza is made and delivered. Domino’s earns a marketing impression at each step of the process:

  • Pizza is being made
  • Baking
  • Quality control
  • Boxed
  • Out for Delivery
  • Delivery Confirmation

dominoes pizza tracker is a great example of Marketing Impressions per Service

Each of those impressions, whether shown on the pizza tracker or in text or app notifications are helpful to the customer by taking away the risk and aggravation of ordering a pizza then waiting around with the hope that maybe it will eventually show up.

While Domino’s was investing in an online self-serve, transparent customer experience, Papa John’s invested heavily in advertising and sponsorships. Which national pizza chain do you perceive as being more successful, Domino’s or Papa John’s? Here are their two stock trajectories that make it pretty clear that Domino’s is leading. Does this surprise you like it does me?



Domino’s Keeps Moving Upward

Domino’s announced their Q3 earnings right after the Digital Wrap Conference. The company reported:

  • 55% of their orders are digital – placed from smartphones, tablets, watches. The restaurant industry average is 20%.
  • Domino’s stock has gained 54% in the past year when the overall restaurant industry is in decline to the tune of about 15% over the same period.
  • Sales in Q3 2016 were 13% higher than Q3 of last year.

So does all of this now make Domino’s a technology company who provides pizza, or a pizza company with an awesome app? Some Wall Street analysts have started to assign Domino’s tech-like stock-price targets based on the rapid growth of its digital sales.

Domino’s Brand Value

Last week, Shawn showed this slide in his presentation


Since then, Domino’s market cap has blown up to $9.48B. The multiple now sits at 4.1x revenue.

But you don’t sell pizza.

For those of you who didn’t hear the whole story at the Digital Wrap Conference, it may be hard to find how this is relevant to you. Two things.

webinar-icon-goldFirst, come to a free webinar on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, at 1pm ET to hear Shawn Mims deliver the presentation. He’ll guide you through the 8 MIPS that you can get from every service appointment that are part of a great experience for your customers.

Sign up for the November 9 webinar here.

Second, Domino’s example shows us all how the value reducing the risk and aggravation for customers – even (and especially!) customers who are owners or managers of commercial or industrial facilities – creates more value for your brand.

Give the Domino’s app a try. Count the MIPS as you go through the process. Count the offers they send you afterward, and think about how each impression shapes your perception of the Domino’s brand. After you do, it’s not so hard to think of the ways that you can earn the same good will with your own service-related marketing impressions.

Read Shawn’s original blog post about the pizza tracker.

We are counting down the days to the Digital Wrap Conference in Isle of Palms, SC, and I am happy to announce that the fishing tournament format is all set. As many of you know, we have quite a reputation to uphold based upon previous success with our tournaments on the Outer Banks of NC. Last year, the participants laid 1,600 pounds of bigeye and yellowfin tuna on the deck. The year before, three boats brought in a haul of 700 pounds of dolphin along with a 400-pound blue marlin release.  Well, in Charleston in October, it is all about the redfish and the trout. Good news for those folks that don’t care for an hour plus ride on the ocean.  These fish are inshore sport, and Charleston serves them up in record numbers.


Tournament Details:

Wednesday, October 19
~ 6 hours beginning in the morning
$200 per fisher
2-3 person teams

We will have nearshore bay boats and flats boats with 2 to 3 anglers per team competing for largest redfish, largest trout, and most meat at the dock.  Pick your strategy.  Lunkers at the jetty (but you have to release the big fish over 23”) or volume in the marshes, or maybe a little of both.  In the meat category, the flounder counts at the dock as well as any other species that might be great table fare such as sheepshead.  That evening, all of the tournament participants are welcome to a fish extravaganza at our beach house, Ocean Dream in Isle of Palms.

If you have not registered for the tournament yet and you plan to fish, sign up today.  If you have not registered for the conference yet, what are you waiting for?  It doesn’t get any better than great strategies to grow your business plus world-class golf and fishing. Register for the conference at



Read about past fishing tournaments:

What started as an idea evolved into a book, and is now a two-day conference. Today we are happy to announce that we are hosting the first Digital Wrap Conference in October.

Sunday, October 16 – Tuesday, October 18
Wild Dunes Resort
Isle of Palms, SC



Who will attend the Digital Wrap Conference

Anyone from a commercial service contracting company that is responsible for customer service, revenue growth, or brand development. Owners, executive management, and directors are all welcome to join the conversation and participate at the conference. Additionally, management consultants that specialize in helping commercial service contractors build their customer service capabilities and brand image are welcome to attend.

What you get from attending the Digital Wrap Conference

Are you ready to build a Digital Wrap for your service company? Come to the Digital Wrap Conference to learn how to:

  • Create an engaging and dynamic online experience for your customers
  • Add customer service capabilities that create pricing power
  • Build your online presence through your service activities
  • Attract and retain the most attractive customers in your market
  • Increase the value of your business through technology enabled customer service

Additionally, you will be able to connect and share with other service companies that are facing the same competitive pressures and opportunities for change that you are experiencing. The second day of the conference is dedicated to an Attendee Forum for companies to share their successes, ideas, and challenges with each other.

We’re also inviting vendor companies who can help you with the elements of your Digital Wrap to join us at the conference. These are companies that you’ll want to know.

The conference agenda

We start on Sunday, October 16 with a fun, outdoor dinner and reception facing the ocean, weather permitting.

Monday, October 17 opens with breakfast, a general session, then you will choose from several sessions that fall under the broad categories of business and service operations, sales, marketing and human resources for the rest of the day. We’ll end Monday with another relaxing dinner that is included in your registration.

On Tuesday, October 18 we turn the microphone over to our guests for the Attendee Forum where you’ll hear from some of the most successful service contractors about how they’ve grown, increased the value of their business, and improved their customer service because of their Digital Wrap. These folks will share their stories, and answer your questions about what it takes to make meaningful changes in your business. We wrap up midday Tuesday with lunch before you travel or shift to a little relaxing downtime before you return home.

Throughout the conference, ServiceTrade will be providing our version of a Genius Bar staffed with experts that can answer your questions about products and technology that you are embracing to build your Digital Wrap. It’s a great way to get a few minutes of expert attention away from the chaos of everyday operations in the office.

Check out the agenda at  We’ll be filling in more details over the next few weeks.


The conference and hotel are on the property of the Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms, SC.  Isle of Palms is an island off the coast of Charleston.  You can fly to Charleston, then it’s about a 40-minute drive to the resort. Visit the resort website.

Our guests will get a special rate of $209 + fees and taxes per room, per night rate at the hotel on Wild Dunes. Visit the accommodations page on the conference website for info about how to book at this rate.

If you haven’t visited Charleston before, we can’t recommend enough that you book some extra time to explore this beautiful, historic city.


The full conference pass is $500.  It includes everything on the conference agenda, including meals and drinks.  It does not include travel or hotel.

Early bird offer!  Register by August 1 and save $150.  $350 early bird rate offer ends on July 31st.

Conference contact

Let me know if I can answer any questions for you, or if you’re interested in joining as an exhibitor or sponsor.

Shelley Bainter


Visit the Digital Wrap Conference Website