Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a manual that could teach you, step-by-step, how to create a successful pest business? Step one: organize your business entity. Step two: open a business checking account. Step three: obtain your Pesticide Business License. Step four: . . . .
Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. On the other hand, if it were easy, everyone would do it. While starting and operating a pest control business is not easy, in this article I will discuss three things that will eliminate some of the unknown. By doing so, my hope is that you will not make some of the mistakes that I did.
In 2011, after working in the extermination industry for 6 years for a multiple companies, I decided to venture out on my own. I remember googling “how to start a business” on several occasions, searching for a golden nugget of information to making my project easier. However, despite what some may say, Google does not have all the answers.
You could say I’m still a novice at this stuff, but one thing I do know about business is that it is NEVER easy. In fact, “easy” should be permanently removed from every pest control entrepreneur’s vocabulary. Having been a pest control business owner for four short years, I have learned a lot, and continue to learn on a daily basis. Many things I didn’t anticipate. And it rarely goes the way it is supposed to go. Although this all may seem a bit pessimistic, there is much more upside than downside, and I can’t see myself doing anything else. Having said that, there are three things I’ve come across in this business that I would like to share. They are three pest control business “shockers,” if you will.
1. Financial Barrier to Entry
It is very surprising how expensive starting an extermination service can be. Obviously, how much money you need will largely depend on how fast you want to grow. The slower you grow, the less startup capital you need. Or rather, the less you have, the slower you can grow. Either way you dice it up, starting one of these puppies aint cheap. It may shock you. A general commercial liability insurance policy can get pretty expensive depending on the state. Vehicles, gas, materials, equipment, tools, uniforms, leases, website, marketing expenses, and the list goes on and on. You cannot rely on the banks. It is very difficult to get startup capital from them, no matter what your credit score is. It’s funny how much more willing they are to loan you money after a few years in business when you don’t need their money as much anymore. Having a rich uncle would be nice. Or if you have saved well, then that could work. Either way, make sure you plan correctly before you break the piggy bank because you might need two or three (thousand) piggy banks.
2. Hiring Good People
How hard can it be, right? You are providing quality employment for people, and you are paying them well for their work. The economy is on the rise so there are less people looking for jobs, but still, it shouldn’t be this hard to find good quality employees. Reality check: It is very difficult. Maybe it’s because the pest control business isn’t glamorous. Killing bugs and rodents doesn’t have the same professional appeal as working in a Verizon call center, I dunno. What I do know: the people that work for you define your business, especially the technicians. Technicians mean everything to the success (or lack thereof) of a pest control business. You could implement the best marketing strategy in the world, and with poor techs, your success would be short lived.
“So,” one may ask, “how do I find and hire good techs?” I would respond, “how do you find the fountain of youth?” In all seriousness, I may not know all the secrets of hiring, but I do know what doesn’t work. Money isn’t what motivates technicians to represent your company correctly. “What? Of course money motivates people,” you may be thinking. Test it out if you don’t believe me. Pay your techs more and see if your quality increases (it won’t). I’m not saying to short side your techs, because paying well does increase longevity and retention, but it doesn’t change how they perform at a customer’s home. The technicians HAVE TO BELIEVE in the people they work for. They have to believe in a noble purpose. Your company must have vision. The vision needs to be expressed regularly. Mission statements seem to be corporate sounding lines of proverbial B.S., but employees will subscribe to a higher cause, if the owners believe it themselves. The reason it may not work for billion dollar corporations, in my opinion, is that the workers are too far removed from the owners, and are separated endless levels of “bosses.” In a startup pest control company, the owners are right there. Employees know very quickly what the owners believe, and how much or how little drive, dedication, and vision they have. During the interview with your next technician prospect, remember to express what your company vision is, even if it seems like it goes in one ear and out the other.
3. Working With Vendors
In the realm of customer service, or in businesses providing work for the end consumer, it is normal to believe the most difficult people to deal with are the customers. They are needy sometimes, they want more bang for their buck, and they call when they notice a housefly or spider after leaving their doors open all day. In my experience, the customers are the easiest people to work with. The vendors (other businesses that provide their goods or services to your company) are the absolute worst (sometimes). When you own a pest control company, it’s alarming how much you need other businesses to function. To list a few: uniform companies, printers, web designers, material distributors, equipment manufacturers, etc. You have to keep your vendors in check. Since they know you are also a businesses owner, they may treat you differently than they would an end consumer. Vendors also make mistakes that could affect your back pocket. Always ask for proofs before embroidering or printing anything. I have already had the wrong phone number put on a truck two different times from two different vendors. Try not to pay in advance, because if you do that and the vendor messes up, you can kiss that money goodbye. You may think the vendor will take care of you and “make it right,” but that is not always the case. Like I said before, vendors treat you differently, and many of them don’t care if you never use them again.
Out of all the frustrations or surprises I’ve had over the past four years, these are my top three. Keeping this information in mind may save you a few headaches along the way.
About The Author
Brent Draper is a pest professional with Proof. Pest Control; Michigan’s preferred pest control service company. Servicing the Detroit metro, all of Oakland County, Michigan and Western Wayne County, Michigan; Proof. keeps your home bug-free year round, the Green Way.