Understanding Pest Control Non-Competes- The Employer’s Perspective

Agreement DocumentAs pest control operators, you spend years building your companies. Blood, sweat, frustrations, and tears go into building relationships with your customers, and your employees.

What if one of your employee technicians decides that he or she wants to quit and start their own pest control business? Are you protected?

Many pest control companies utilize non-compete agreements or clauses in their businesses.

What exactly are pest control non-compete agreements? Do they work, and how are they enforced? Are there any drawbacks to using these clauses in the employee hiring process? What about legal issues that come up?

Many questions arise when it comes to pest control non-competes. In part one of our look at pest control non-competes, let’s take a closer look at the employers or PCO’s perspective:

Pest Control Non-Compete Agreements

A non-compete agreement or clause is a contract under which an employee (in this case a pest control employee or technician) agrees not to enter into or start a similar profession that is in competition against the employer, or PCO. It basically prohibits a current or former pest control employee from starting a similar pest control business in your competitive markets.

The majority of states in the U.S. recognize and enforce various forms of non-compete agreements. A few states, such as California, totally ban or prohibit non-compete agreements except in limited circumstances.

Reasons To Use A Pest Control Non-Compete Agreement

The reason for having your pest control employees or technicians sign a non-compete agreement is simple. You must protect yourself and the business you’ve put so much time, capital, and effort into.

Owning or managing your own pest management company comes with many risks. One such risk is the possibility that upon an employee’s termination or resignation, they might begin working for a direct competitor or even start their own business. By doing so, this former employee can gain a competitive advantage by exploiting confidential information about their former employer’s operations, trade secrets, or sensitive information such as customer lists, business practices, most effective products, and marketing plans.

The purpose of having your technicians sign a non-compete agreement or clause upon employment is an attempt to prevent this from happening. This protection allows the PCO to hire, contract and otherwise operate a pest control business without fear that the business knowledge and advantages will soon be used against them.

Ethical vs. LegalStealing Customers

The biggest concern I hear from PCO’s when it comes to employees leaving their companies and starting their own businesses, is taking customers with them when they go. These technicians develop close relationships with the customers on their routes. These customers trust their technicians, and these technicians know exactly what the customer’s wants and needs are. Many will follow a tech when they leave.

When this situation occurs many legal and ethical issues arise. As the owner of your pest management company, you paid for the trucks, the insurance, the chemicals, the training, the customer service reps; basically all of the overhead. You’ve also spent advertising money, paid sales commissions, and paid for online marketing in order to attain these customers, but also retain them. When a former employee takes these customers, it can be construed as theft.

Drawbacks Of Pest Control Non-Compete Agreements

One of the biggest disadvantages of non-competes is that they can be incredibly difficult to enforce. Enforceability can even depend on the state. Like I mentioned before, a few states (California), employment related non-competes are illegal.

Legal IssuesIn many cases, enforceability may require legal action.

Pest Control Non-Competes & Legal Issues

As mentioned, the enforceability of a non-compete may require legal action. As the owner of a pest management company, you must evaluate the cost of suing your former employee who is breaking a non-compete agreement. You also must determine if there is any chance of actually getting paid; which may be unlikely if your former employee is just starting out and has very little capital. Usually the costs are higher than your losses, and even if they win, you may never get paid.

Every pest control business should have legal representation. Consult with yours to ensure your non-compete agreement, or any other legal document for that matter, meets local, state and federal requirements.

Confidentiality agreementTry Non-Solicit or Confidentiality Agreements Instead

I’m hearing more and more from pest control operators, that they are changing their strategies when it comes to non-compete agreements. Many have changed from non-compete agreements (which are VERY difficult to enforce) to non-SOLICIT agreements. One such agreement will state exactly what the PCO wants– That a former employee can’t solicit the customers you invested resources and time in getting. They seem to be a little easier to legally enforce.

I’m also hearing that some PCO’s are beginning to use confidentiality agreements; which are very similar in nature. Every state is a little different, so do some research and find out which contract is right for you and your pest control business.

In Conclusion

The topic of pest control non-competes is a difficult one; full of ethical and legal issues. No PCO wants to lose their hard-earned customers to anyone else, so look to non-compete agreements; or better yet, consider a non-solicitation agreement instead.

Consult with your company’s legal representation to ensure your non-compete or non-solicit agreement meets local, state and federal requirements.

Click Here For Part Two On Pest Control Non-Competes- The Employee’s Perspective.

Becoming A Pest Control Operator

Pest Control TechnicianIn an economy where jobs can be hard to find, sometimes it’s worth it to consider jobs you may not know much about. One job you may not have considered is that of a pest control operator. In 2013, Fox Business named the pest management industry as one of the top 8 jobs to ‘escape the office’ and with good reason. The pest management industry is in constant demand, which is great for job security. Here is some more information that can help you decide whether this career path is right for you.

What is a Pest Control Operator?

A pest control operator is also called a PCO or, more commonly, an exterminator. They use the equipment and preventive measures at their disposal to control infestations or to eradicate animals and bugs from various locations, such as homes or commercial buildings. A PCO may work for a pest control company or be an independent contractor, hired individually to rid a location of pests. Some companies may have an extra interest in controlling their pest population – food manufacturing companies, for example – and they may even employ a full-time pest control operator to ensure their locations always remain pest-free.

What Kind of Pests Do They Deal With?

CockroachThis varies by location. A few of the most common pests you might be asked to deal with as a PCO are:

        • Spiders
        • Termites
        • Ants
        • Cockroaches
        • Bedbugs
        • Fleas
        • Rodents
        • Bee hives
        • Wasp nests

Not all pests are insects, however. Pest control operators are also called upon to deal with rodent infestations like mice and rats. On occasion, they may even have to rid a building of birds or snakes that have taken up residence in a building.

Pest InspectionRoutine House Inspections

Typically, a homeowner or business owner will contact a pest control operator to get an inspection. They may do this if they have seen pests in the building, if their neighbors have pest problems, or simply a routine basis to ensure the building is clean.

During these inspections, the PCO will examine the building and its surrounding yard. Using special tools designed for pest control, they must make sure to check areas known as good pest hiding places, such as attics, basements, foundations, and beneath trees and shrubs. After the inspection, the PCO will usually give the building owner a report detailing any concerned or infested areas, as well as a recommended course of action.

After the Inspection

If the building owner opts to go ahead and eradicate pests in infested areas, the PCO may ask them to sign a contract if required for the job. They will then make an appointment for a follow-up and return to the home or business to do the job of removing the pests from the area. Occasionally toxic materials are used as part of this job, and in this case, residents may be asked to leave the premises or segregate their pets to make sure nobody is accidentally hurt during the process. Some companies also offer organic pest control treatments in addition to standard treatments which may or may not contain toxins depending on the treatment needed. These organic options may be useful in situations where pets, children or outdoor gardens are involved.

There are many methods of dealing with pests, such as setting traps, destroying nests, spraying the infested area, and sealing up entry points. If these methods do not work and the pests stay or return to the area, some pest control companies offer a money-back guarantee or return inspections.

Exterminator sprayingBecoming a Pest Control Operator

Most of the time, a college degree is not necessary to become a PCO, although a high school diploma or its equivalent is usually required. The most important part of the process of becoming a PCO is training. In some areas of the country, pest control operators will be required to take specific training programs, like these for example, and apply for a pest control license from their respective state before they are able to work for a company or start their own business. This does not necessarily mean you need to have a license before you are hired. Some companies may hire you and then work with you to provide that training with the understanding that once you get your license, you will continue to work for them as a licensed pest control operator.

Even in jurisdictions where you do not need to have a pest control license, training is still a vital part of the job. Not only does this allow you to do your job effectively, removing pests completely and preventing them from returning, but it ensures that you do your job safely. Pest control operators often work with toxic substances, and companies want to make sure their workers handle the toxins properly. Neglecting that can endanger the health of the humans or pets involved, not to mention the possibility of polluting the building’s air and water.

If you are seeking a job as a pest control operator, your best bet is to contact your local pest control company to ask them about the application process. If they are seeking new PCOs, you can ask them about the training process and if you need to be licensed before applying. They can tell you what you need to know to get your foot in the door as a pest control operator.

You may never have considered the possibility of becoming a PCO, but with a little training, you could be well on your way to a promising new career path.

10 New Years Resolutions For The Pest Control Operator

As pest control operators (PCO’s), we all have inspiring visions for our companies in 2014. We want stability… We want growth. Without specific goals and resolutions, it’s going to be difficult to reach the growth and prosperity we all desire.

Here are ten New Years resolutions for PCO’s in 2014:

branding1. I Resolve To Build A Better Brand.

Many PCO’s wonder how to make themselves a brand. When your day to day operations keep you busy keeping your customers pest free, it is easy to postpone working on your business. Thinking about “branding” gets left on the back burner for another day. Ultimately your brand is what the public perceives of you. And you can influence that by what you show the public. It’s important!

I resolve that every interaction, from receipts, to signage, from website, to brochures, from all call greetings, to “hold” music, will convey the message of my brand. Each of these touch points will convey a core message, the message, which brings my signature service to life.

Learn More About Branding Here.

2. I Resolve To Embrace Social Media.

Social Media Icons

Gone are the days when a presence on Twitter or Facebook seemed like something of a luxury. Now days, as PCO’s, we must engage via social media if we are truly looking to expand our pest control businesses.

I resolve to embrace social media networks like Twitter, Google+, and Facebook this year, with the intention of building a better brand and growing my business. I will spend the time necessary to get to grips with these networks, as to not be left behind in this particular race.

3. I Resolve To Go Paperless.

Paperless

Here’s your PCO fact for the day: One of your techs can use almost 10,000 sheets of paper in a calendar year. Now figure this, an average tree only produces about 17 reams of paper—that equates to each one of your pest control technicians responsible for using 1.2 trees a year just by doing their job. Each tech uses over one tree a year! As PCO’s, we can change this!

In 2014, I resolve to go paperless. Here are a few pointers to get us started on our journey to go paperless. First off, a PCO must provide convenient electronic access to pest control documents, from anywhere at any time. Secondly, the use of paper needs to be made inconvenient. It is critical to do both. If paper use is made inconvenient without offering a great alternative, going paperless simply won’t work.

Read More About Paperless Pest Control

4. I Resolve To Properly Address All Negative Online Reviews.

Negative Review

All of us hope to provide our customers with the best products and services we can, and most of the time we do. Part of being in the pest control business is getting an upset customer or two every once and awhile. It’s just the reality of dealing with pests… It can be tough to exterminate every single scorpion or spider. Sometimes these customers leave negative online reviews on services like Yelp, Angie’s List, or Google+.

This year I resolve to make a stronger effort and spend more time addressing these negative reviews. I will do this by (1) reading the entire review, (2) not reacting to angrily, (3) responding to the review quickly and sincerely, (4) stating who I am in my response, (5) make the situation right, and (6) offer an incentive for a return visit. I resolve that I will do this to each and every negative online review.

Click Here For Advice On Addressing Negative Online Reviews

5. I Resolve To Expand My Pest Control Knowledge.

PestWorld 2013

One of the most rewarding experiences I had as a pest management professional this previous year was attending PestWorld 2013 in Phoenix, AZ. I got to expand my knowledge on all things pests, and all things pest control. I got to catch up on some of the newest trends in the industry, and I got a few pointers for running a pest control business.

In 2014, I resolve to expand my pest control knowledge. I will look for opportunities to go to conferences and conventions, classes and seminars—anything that may help me get a leg up in the pest control industry.

Read About My Experience At PestWorld 2013

6. I Resolve To Finally Let That One Employee Go.

Employee Termination Notice

Unfortunately, all of us have that one employee who has lost some of his or her motivation. An employee who regularly shows up to work uninspired, simply going through the motions. Sometimes this employee is a cancer to the rest of the team. It’s time– They must go!

This year I resolve to let that one employee go, who is a detriment to our team. A lot of the difficulty in terminating an employee is a lot of the legal implications that you must keep an eye on.

Here Are 6 Tips To Successfully Letting An Employee Go

7. I Resolve To Improve Technician & Employee Morale.

employee morale

You’ve now finally let that one employee go—the one who needed a change of scenery. In doing so, employee morale may be low. Even if you don’t fire an employee, efforts need to be continually made to ensure your workforce is happy and productive.

I resolve to improve employee morale in my pest control business. I will look for ways to celebrate accomplishments, mix up a few of the usual ways of doing things, keep a positive attitude, and have more fun.

8. I Resolve To Offer An All Natural Pest Control Option.

Go Green

It seems like all natural pest control is all the rave right now. Many customers calling in with pest issues want the all natural option—until the problem escalates; then they just want the bugs nuked! Still, it’s an important market every PCO should try to tap into.

I resolve to develop and implement an all natural option for my customers in 2014. It can be just as simple as contact your chemical supply company, then marketing your new option appropriately.

Inventory Control9. I Resolve To Have Better Control Over My Inventory.

As pest management professionals, we have products that must be stored and distributed in multiple locations. It’s important to keep an updated inventory control system to track all of our products.

This year, I resolve to implement an updated inventory control system that includes product analysis, site representation, system cohesion, and employee training.

Here Are The Four Points Of Inventory Control

10. I Resolve To Better Manage My Online Reputation.

Online Reputation Management

The online reputation of your pest control business is so important that you literally cannot afford to sit idly by while it develops on its own.

I resolve to be proactive in managing my online reputation by frequently checking each of the review sites my business is located on.

Here Are Four Ways To Be Proactive In Managing Your online Reputation

Have any other New Years resolutions you’d like to add to the list? Comment below!

May 2014 be our most successful year yet!

Is My Pest Control Company Big Enough To Be A Brand?

Well-Known Brands

Many small business owners wonder about when or how to make themselves a brand. This problem and question are not unique to pest control companies. The root of this question stems from the misunderstanding around what a brand is and how to build a brand. The misconception that building brand requires a large investment in advertising dollars is common. Branding doesn’t begin with advertising, nor does it end there.

When your day to day operations keep you busy working in your business it is easy to postpone working on your business. Thinking about “branding” gets left on the back burner for another day. Building a pest control brand is often overlooked, and the power gained by branding your business successfully is missed. In reality, pest control operators everywhere, regardless the size, need to take a moment and plan out their branding. So let’s begin with better understanding branding.

Branding & Advertising

Branding is often confused as simply advertising. You don’t need to advertise to establish a brand. There are plenty of local restaurants that don’t spend a dime on TV, radio, or newspaper ads, yet everyone in the neighborhood knows their name. And that is all branding is, branding is a Name. Yes, a Name with a capital ‘N’. Branding is a proper noun that has come to mean something to someone. Brittany. Madonna. Eastwood. All of those conjure up associations with a single name. But those are BIG brands. So let’s get small. Name the star athlete of your High School or the senior class president. Name a pretty girl that everyone knew as Ms. Popular. Jenny? Regan? Jessie? Lisa? Sally? You could drop her name among old High School friends even to this day and she’d be recognized. The star athlete and Ms. Popular both achieved a brand. Sure the senior class president had to put up posters to get his brand out there. But even without big advertising budgets you know a few small brands. Branding can be achieved without advertising dollars. Branding can happen at any size.

Advertising alone is not branding. Adverting doesn’t guarantee branding. Advertising can and does get a company exposure. And if you do advertise, push your brand. Make the message consistent with the brand you are creating. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is BMW’s successful branding mixed with advertising. “Can you hear me now?” is Verizon’s successful advertising conveying “the nation’s most reliable network.” Very planned, very succinct, very powerful. If you automatically associate Verizon with “reliable” then you are living proof of the influence behind building a brand message.

Now that you understand branding to be more than simply advertising and getting your name out there, you can begin the process of creating your brand. Start the process of building your message now by taking these steps.

Begin with the why.

brandingWhy pest control? Why are you working in pest control? Why are you in business? Why do you get up every morning? Why do your potential customers need your flavor of pest control? Why are you special? Answer the why and you are on your way to defining who you are. And branding is about defining who you are and what your business stands for. So begin with the why, and start defining who you are. You must know yourself first.

What sets your brand apart?

Once you know who you are, you must know who they are. Identify who you are and how you are different than other pest management companies. And be different. If your competitor is Red then be Blue. If your pest control buddies drive white trucks consider driving a black car. Will your pest control service aim to be cheaper, more convenient, friendlier, quicker, last longer, smell better or something else? Define those areas where you believe you can mark a real difference between you and the other pest control guy. Being a brand name is about being different. If you are not different then you are generic.

Set the Standard. Monitor Improvement.

Where did you start? What are you now? What do you want to be? Start now by taking stock in what people are already saying about your pest control service. What do your customers talk about the most? Why do people buy from you? Find out how you are currently perceived. Identify current strengths. Now magnify the ones that you feel will best define your company.

Study a few other companies and measure them. Look outside our industry. Take cell phone services and pick some brands and then try to define the brand. What words come to mind when you think of Verizon? What about Cricket? And Sprint? Then go to the auto industry and select a few brands and define them. What words describe BMW, Toyota, Ford, Chevy? Strive to understand what makes industry leaders successful in their branding efforts. Implement strategies that big brands use.

Find the consistent message that you want delivered and repeat, repeat, repeat. Measure it as you go. How often do online reviews reflect your message? How often is that message repeated from new contacts as a reason they called you? If you really want to take this a step further, use surveys. Ask your customers via mail, email, or your website how they define you. Do this regularly and gauge the changes. Are you hitting your goal? Is your message, the message, being heard?

Fence In & Fence Out.

A fence not only defines the area it circumferences by what is within, but a fence adds further definition by what it keeps out. You must learn to say “No.” Part of being a brand is not being everything to everyone. In fact, as a brand you may offend someone. Bulwark Exterminating in Austin, TX to this day has a bad review because they told someone “No.” A property manager was furious, because Bulwark would not service them. Bulwark is a residential pest control service. Bulwark says “No” to commercial properties. Bulwark also says “No” to pigeons, rodent exclusions, bee removal, bat control, and wildlife removal. Don’t chase every new product or service you could introduce. Don’t chase every new type of clientele you might market to. Make precise breaks. Be brutal at times and just say “No.” Anything that does not fit your brand definition is a “No.” If your brand is “All Natural Termite Control” then you will need to say “No” to Termidor. If you want to be the “Bed Bug Exterminator Extraordinaire” then say no to ants, spiders, crickets, cockroaches, and mosquitoes. Mosquito Squad had done a fantastic job and grown a large business based solely on mosquito and tick control. Know what you want to fence in and fence the rest out.

Brand the real you.

In the past many companies used advertising and public relations to by pass real brand experiences. It was easy to fake it back in the day when media was so easily trusted and word of mouth only traveled as far as your close neighbors. Crafting a well thought out and perfect brand experience to introduce through advertising what your brand hopes to achieve often falls flat in today’s consumer savvy world. Modern day communication travels from Houston to Tokyo in a Facebook second. Online reviews paint pictures more trusted by consumers than any ABC, NBC, of Fox 30 second spot will produce. How your brand behaves in media and in the real world must match. At some point your pest control service will face bad press, horrible reviews, and negative tweets. How does your brand respond? Are you as smiley and happy in your commercial as you are when facing real pest problems? Do the clean white trucks on TV reflect what your techs drive? What about the uniforms, do they look like the commercials? Reflect on every interaction, from receipts, to signage, from website, to brochures, from your call greeting, to your “hold” music, on what message is being conveyed. Each of these touch points is a chance to convey a core message, the message, which brings your signature service to life. Ultimately your brand is what the public perceives of you. And you can influence that by what you show the public. Brand yourself, be yourself, behave yourself, be true to the brand.

Thomas Ballantyne

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Handle With Care: How To Address Negative Online Reviews

Every company hopes to provide the best products and services, and they hope to make every customer’s experience enjoyable. Unfortunately, that’s not always going to occur. Sometimes, your company is going to upset a customer to the point where they write a negative online review about your business on sites like Google+ Local or Yelp. Although you cannot control what customers say about you online, you can help to diffuse the situation by addressing these negative comments.

The following tips will help you handle each and every negative review with care to help put the customer’s mind at ease.

Read the entire review.

Don’t read the first line and assume you know where it’s going. Instead, read the entire review, and re-read it if you have to in order to ensure you understand everything that the customer is saying. The last thing you want to do is to respond to a negative review without understanding the entire complaint.

Don’t react.

You take your business seriously, and when someone says something bad about your business, your first response may be to become upset or angry. It’s very important that you don’t do this. Never accuse a customer of lying or exaggerating the truth, and never ever sink to a level where you berate a customer on a public forum. Instead, if you become upset, be sure to walk away and take some time to calm down before responding to the review.

Respond to the review sincerely.

Although you may not want to apologize or be nice to the angry reviewer, it’s important that you not only respond to the review, but that you also respond sincerely. Make sure that you apologize to the individual for their poor experience with your business and be sincere about it. Sometimes receiving a response from you will make the reviewer realize that their experience wasn’t as bad as they claimed it was, or they may simply be appreciative that you took the time to respond to their review at all. Don’t let negative reviews sit on review sites unanswered, and instead respond sincerely.

State who you are.

It’s very important that the person responding to the review states who they are. For example, give your name and your title at the company. This personalizes your response and lets the reviewer know that they are talking to a real person and not just some random individual hiding behind a computer. Keep in mind that it’s also better if responses come from higher employees, such as managers, owners or CEOs. If possible, always have these people respond to the reviews.

Make the situation right.

Listen to what the reviewer is saying and do what you can to make the situation right. For example, were they complaining about an unclean bathroom? If so, be sure that your staff is constantly monitoring the bathroom to ensure cleanliness. Let your reviewer know that you’ve taken the steps to right the situation. They’ll be flattered that you took their advice.

Offer an incentive for a return visit.

You can always offer the individual an incentive to come back and check out your establishment once you’ve made the necessary changes. You can offer them something for free, or even offer them a coupon for a nice discount. If they do come back and like their experience, they may write a positive review for your business.

Respond quickly.

It’s also very important that all negative reviews receive responses in a timely fashion. The longer you let the review sit, the longer the individual will stay upset, and they may turn to other review sites to post their negative comments about your business. Make sure that you’re using an online review monitoring system to help you stay on top of any new reviews that appear on your page.

Austin Jones is an online reputation management professional who specializes in tracking and monitoring negative customer reviews. His reports help businesses take counter measures to turn unhappy customers into loyal customers.

Published by Thomas Ballantyne

6 Tips To Successfully Let Employees Go

Employee Termination NoticeWe can be brutally honest here, and please believe in the uncompromising honesty of this fact: firing an employee is just about as hard as getting fired! Seriously. You, as an employee, may think that the fires of Hell rained on you when that boss called you in to say “you’re done,” but I’d wager that it was just as hellish for your boss as it was for you.

No one likes to fire anyone — except for maybe Donald Trump. It’s a necessary evil as an owner you have to be okay with doing. A lot of the difficulty, though, of having to terminate employees is a lot of the legal implications you have to keep an eye on. That’s, yet, another key reason to hire a good business lawyer, specifically with expertise in employment law.

To successfully navigate the legal waters of perilous storms involved with the firings of employees, you have to keep an eye on the port bow, stern and the wheel. Weather the storm. And you’ll still come out on top with only a disgruntled employee walking out your door, possibly calling you a scumbag. Nothing too much to feel bad over, especially when you have justifiable cause to terminate the individual.

So pay close attention. This is what you need to do to successfully let your employees go when it’s time.

Record Every Single Mishap

This is a logical first step, but many CEOs forget to do it. If you’re firing someone, it’s obviously for a reason. Maybe the employee committed theft. Maybe the employee was consistently late, more than three times. It could be anything, as long as it directly relates to what’s in your documented employee manual.

The reason why you’ll want to document everything is to ensure that you have the evidence in the event that such an employee tries to take you to court for wrongful termination. You want to protect yourself. Wrongful termination is a big deal under employment law. Make sure you cover all your bases.

Make That Policy Manual Your Own

At the very least, we hope you didn’t just pull another business’s manual off the internet, making the legwork that much easier. If you did, though, you better have taken the time to tweak the content to match your needs for your business. No manual is perfect.

So if that’s the case, ensure that your manual lists these mandatory legal statements, generally benefiting you in the long run: disclaimers and at-will employment clauses.

You’ll want a disclaimer front and center of the manual, specifically stating that the manual is not a contract of employment. That means none of the provisions listed in the manual won’t actually constitute a binding commitment, rather just a guideline to follow.

The at-will employment clause, too, is important, because it allows you the very best defense against a wrongful termination lawsuit. It allows you the right to terminate employment at will while also allowing the employee the right to quit at will. It emphasizes fairness while ensuring that you’re never taken to court for any reason.

You also should have the right to change the conditions of employment. Be careful about any ‘promises’ listed in the manual, too. You don’t want anything in there stating that the employee “shall” or “will” do anything. Rather, simply state that the employer “may” do whatever your manual will say the employer will do. No promises. Promises can easily be broken.

Get Your Employee’s Signature

Truly binding protection. These written documents have such power. Such is the case for the annual written acknowledgment, a document designed to get an employee to agree to just about anything you’d like to stipulate in a contract. It even covers the affirmation that the employee hasn’t witnessed or experienced any type of harassment, discrimination or wrongdoing at your company. That way, even if the employee accuses you of that, that annual written acknowledgment will say otherwise.

You're Fired SignBe Simple and Straightforward

It’s a lot easier than it sounds, but you’ve got to train yourself in it. When you bring that employee in, take a deep breath, and just say it like it is. Don’t get emotional. Don’t apologize. It’s business. Moreover, you especially need to focus on these characteristics:

  • Consistency — The basic idea behind this is to ensure that you treat all your employees equally. In other words, don’t fire one employee for eating too many donuts when Wilbur over in the other cubicle, who you have not fired, constantly chows down on long johns like the end of the world is near. That’s discrimination. So be consistent.
  • Fire Without Fury — Never terminate an employee out of anger. Even if your decision is justified, it could present a negative image to your company, especially in a court of law. Always wait at least 24 hours before calling the person in. That’ll make sure you have a cool enough head to say those three seemingly unholy words (YOU ARE FIRED).
  • Be Honest — Yes, it may make you look like an evil person. But it’s a lot better than the court revealing that you lied about why you fired the person. You don’t want that biting you back in the tail when you had told the individual that the position was, for example, “eliminated,” when, in fact, the real reason why the person lost the job was because you thought the employee didn’t produce enough revenue or profit. Lying won’t get you far.
  • Be Nice— Likewise, the other extreme is something to avoid. Be truthful, but don’t be outright mean. It could lead to defamation claims. Saying that an employee fell asleep at his or her desk constantly is one thing. Saying that the employee was downright lazy could get you in some trouble. So watch your mouth.

Never Be Alone, and Do It Quickly!

That’s not to say that you should be terrified of what the employee might do to you for firing him or her. But expediency is specifically a time management issue. You have a business to run. You don’t want to waste time having to fire someone.

They should always be face to face out of courtesy. Never call in or e-mail a termination. Record the meeting for information and possible court purposes. Always have one or two other associates sitting with you to witness it. They can corroborate what exactly happened just in case the employee falls off the deep end later on with a wrongful termination lawsuit. Above everything else: be swift! Less painful, less torture. And definitely less dramatics.

There Are Just, Unfortunately, Some Days That You Have to Be a “Meanie”

We’re not perfect. And neither are your employees. You, however, have to minimize the prospect of being sued for firing an associate from your business. These are the tips to ensuring the success of that goal.

Additionally, let’s face it: you cry, feeling like you’re this horrible demonic monster boss for taking away the person’s livelihood, ability to provide for the food at the table, sort of like you’re a veritable Ebenezer Scrooge with a black heart.

But you’re not. You’re a businessman. And you did what you had to do. Let’s just hope you don’t see any Christmas ghosts in your bedroom on the next night!

Author Bio: Matt Faustman is the co-founder and CEO of UpCounsel, a marketplace and distribution platform for legal services. You can follow more of his business insights on Twitter at @UpCounsel.

Published By Thomas Ballantyne

Blog Pest Control Headed To PestWorld 2013

Business conference

Blog Pest Control Headed To PestWorld 2013

Exciting news! Blog Pest Control will be at NPMA PestWorld 2013 this week. For those of you in the pest management industry, tune in this week for our comprehensive daily reports regarding all things PestWorld.

Blog Pest Control will be front and center at PestWorld, getting all the latest info on everything from new methods of treatment and control to marketing strategy; as we receive focused education, browse hundreds of pest control related exhibits, and mingle with some 3,000 pest management professionals.

In addition to our daily reports from PestWorld, the experience will no doubt allow Blog Pest Control to continue to bring you the most cutting edge information on the most cost-effective and efficient ways of running a pest control business, along with all the latest trends in technology, pests and pest management.

We look forward to seeing all of you at PestWorld 2013!

NPMA PestWorld 2013

PestWorld 2013 is October 23-26 at the Phoenix Convention Center, located at 340 North 3rd Street in Downtown Phoenix. PestWorld is the foremost platform to conduct business in the pest control industry. For more information on PestWorld 2013, visit http://www.npmapestworld.org/

Phoenix Convention Center

How Much Does A Pest Control Technician Cost?

Pest Control TechnicianConsumers and pest control operators alike value their pest control technicians.

For the consumer, a skilled and attentive technician keeps their families safe from dangerous pests like stinging scorpions, poisonous Black Widow spiders, and disease carrying cockroaches. This VALUE is immeasurable but in terms of a monetary COST; it’s about $50 a month, depending on the size of a home, location, and treatment methods.

For the pest control operator, a reliable and experienced technician creates immense value for the company. A high-quality technician retains customers through their expertise and superior customer service. This value and monetary cost is a little more challenging to calculate, but really got me thinking: How much does it cost to replace an excellent pest control technician?

What It Costs To Replace A Pest Control Technician

Financial costs reportDetermining what it costs to replace a pest control technician is a difficult task, especially since there are so many different variables. These direct cost calculations are a very rough estimate. The dollar figures used come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimates the average pest control tech makes $14.59 hour; and pest control manager makes about $50K a year. These are the numbers I went by.

Please note that these figures are direct costs only. There are many more indirect costs like: loss of productivity while other techs run partial routes, lost manager and supervisor productivity, and a drop of customer satisfaction due to a temporary loss of customer service or even losing their once favorite tech. These indirect costs are nearly impossible to calculate.

Want Ads. In order to replace an old technician, you need to find a new one. An online pest control technician want ad runs about $40.00.

Interview Process. Management must spend time going through applicant resumes and conducting 30 minute interviews. I estimate this to be about a half day’s work/ salary ($50K yr/ 260 work days yr/ 2 for half day = about $100). Multiply this by two, because two managers are usually present for interviews. $200.00.

HR Administrative Time. After hiring an employee, a company must get them ready for the work force. This includes, collecting records, on auto insurance, gas cards, company phone, etc. I figure this is about a half days work ($50K yr/ 260 work days yr/ 2 for half day). About $100.00.

Background Checks. Make sure your new hire is safe to send into your customer’s homes. $36.00.

Driving Records. Make sure your new hire is safe on the roads. $15.00.

Licensing. Each new technician needs to be licensed. This is about $50.00.

Uniforms. Five shirts ($30 each), uniform hat ($40), uniform jacket ($60), protective boots ($100) and individual technician manual/treatment guide ($100). This equates to $330.00. Note: some PCO’s require new technicians to purchase these.

Training. A new technician requires 2-3 weeks of paid training. This training includes working on-site while a manager or supervisor is present. Calculating the paid training ($14.59/hr for 3 weeks @ 40 hrs a week = $1750.00), plus three weeks of a manager’s or supervisor’s time/salary (Approx $1000 a week for 3 weeks = $3,000), equates to $4750.00.

Technician Overtime. Overtime that goes to technicians who are covering the vacant route also need to be factored in. If the vacant tech was working 40 hrs a week, then I figure about 40 hours of overtime for all other staffed technicians, per week ($14.59 an hr @ time and a half multiplied by 40 = $875.00). If it takes a month to hire and train a new technician, you’re looking at $3500.00 in overtime paid to other techs covering the vacant route.

Summary:

Want Ads–   $40.00
Interview Process–   $200.00
HR Administrative Time–  $100.00
Background Checks–   $36.00
Driving Records–   $15.00
Licensing–   $50.00
Uniforms–   $330.00
Training–   $4750.00
Technician Overtime-   $3500.00

Total:   $9021.00

WOW! When factoring in direct costs alone, it costs $9021 to replace a pest control technician. That’s a significant hit! If the average technician makes $30,340 per year, the financial hit is about 109 days of a technician’s pay. This doesn’t even take in to account any indirect costs of losing a technician.

Pest Control home inspectionThe Value Of A Good Technician To The Consumer

For customers of pest control services, your home is your castle. It’s also your biggest investment. A good pest control technician protects this investment from destructive pests like termites and Carpenter ants.

A quality pest control technician also keeps your family safe from dangerous pests like stinging scorpions, poisonous Black Widow spiders, and disease carrying cockroaches.

A first-class technician will do all of this, all while being punctual. You are busy and need a technician to be on time. An excellent technician is somebody you can trust; somebody you feel comfortable letting inside your home and around your family. They make you feel safe, and not just from the bugs. On top of it all, a good technician is somebody you have rapport with; somebody you can talk to about your day.

There is immense value in having a good pest control technician.

Pest Control Technician SprayingThe Value Of A Good Technician To The Employer

We already determined the cost of replacing a good technician. It’s just over $9000. The VALUE of a good technician is something completely different.

Pest control technicians are the face and image of your company. They are face-to-face with your customer daily; customers who rely heavily on first impressions. Good pest control technicians create value. They are the first ones you send to service troubled accounts. They get excellent online reviews. They have high customer retention rates. They are reliable, dependable, punctual, and keep your customers satisfied.

Not only do good pest control technicians add value to your business, they are the backbone!

What It Costs Keeping A Bad Tech Too Long

We determined that good pest control technicians are extremely valuable to both consumers and pest control operators alike. It’s also a big financial hit to replace a technician ($9021); But bad technicians are equally bad for business.

We’ve all seen it before in the business world… An employee who is unproductive, burnt out, and ready for a change. For PCO’s these employees have both direct and indirect costs associated with them as well. Low productivity, bad company morale or culture, and lost customers are some of the costs that come to mind. Sometimes pest control operators hold on to bad employees too long, because they don’t want to have to hire a new tech (with accompanying costs). As for a direct monetary number associated with these bad pest control technicians; that’s another blog post for another day. I’m guessing it’s comparable to the costs associated to losing a good technician.

What It All Means

Pest control technicians are very valuable to both the pest control operator, and to the consumer.

For pest control operators, technicians are the backbone of your business. Maximum effort must be utilized to not only hire these good technicians, but to retain them. The old saying goes, hire tough, manage easy. Do this, and retain your technicians through compensation and motivation, and you’ll be one step closer to succeeding in business.

For pest control consumers, let your technician know how much they are valued. Give them a good review on Yelp or Angie’s List. There isn’t a lot of glory in keeping you free from dangerous pest, but these excellent pest control technicians show up everyday and work hard, so you can live pest free.

 

Catch Negative Reviews Before They Happen – Why Customer Resolution Matters

Business Sign X

Customer service is the cornerstone of any business. If your customers aren’t happy, then you don’t have any customers. Your employees should be trained on the best ways to resolve all different types of complaints or problems your customers could have. And, your employees need to know how important that customer resolution really is. In the past, one unresolved complaint could go unnoticed and not have a large effect. Now, one unresolved complaint can turn into an online rant that can reach all of your customers and potential customers.

Customers Require Resolution

When customers have problems with your company, their shopping experience, their purchase, etc., they want a resolution to it. In fact, they expect a resolution. No matter what, a customer wants to be satisfied with your company, and they will usually give you a chance to make it up to them if they aren’t satisfied right away. Without a resolution to their problem, customers will be unhappy with your company, and you could very well lose them as a customer for good. If you want to hang onto customers, you need to be able to resolve their problems.

Dissatisfied Customers Will Vent

It’s extremely important to resolve customers’ problems because dissatisfied customers will want to vent. When people are unhappy with the products or services they purchase, they usually don’t keep quiet about it, especially if they tried to get a resolution from the company itself and weren’t pleased with the response. Many dissatisfied customers will vent to a friend, family member, or coworker, and this alone is enough to make you lose another customer. Now, dissatisfied customers can go a step further; they can vent online, where they can share their experience with everyone and get your attention to remind you how dissatisfied they are.

Negative Reviews Matter – A Lot

Yelp Icon

It’s no secret that negative reviews can make a huge difference in the success of a company. If a restaurant has a few bad reviews on Yelp, they could go out of business, and that’s not an exaggeration. When you resolve your customers’ problems, you can catch negative reviews before they even start. At the very least, if a customer still wants to complain online, they will hopefully include the fact that your company did do something to resolve the issue. People don’t want to give their business to companies that don’t do everything they can in the way of customer service. Mistakes or issues are forgivable, as long as you address them properly.

Make sure all of your employees – even those that don’t typically interact with customers or address their complaints – know proper ways to resolve customers’ complaints. Hold regular training sessions, and be sure to monitor and assess the way your employees handle complaints. The best way to prevent negative reviews from appearing online is to make sure there is nothing negative anyone can say about the way you treat your customers or handle your business.

Joshua Reynolds is an expert reviews tracker and avid blogger.  He is currently teaching others about proper online reviews management and customer service.

Published By Thomas Ballantyne

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4 Ways To Save Money In Your Supply Chain

English: An illustration of a company's supply...
Illustration of Supply Chain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter the size of a business, supply chains demand a sizeable cost percentage. In tough times, reducing chain spend wherever possible will give organizations – especially smaller ones with less budgetary leeway – a competitive and monetary edge. But with something as comprehensive and complicated as a supply chain, how do you judge where savings can be made?

1. Start Small- Perform Cost Analysis Of All Chain Components & Implement Changes Slowly

Knowing what you’re spending, where and why, will help eliminate unnecessary cost. Though this sounds obvious, over time it is easy to loose track of such intricacies, so a detailed spend analysis should be conducted regularly.

  • Remember that economizing your supply chain is not an umbrella action. Each component should be reviewed individually to ascertain cost benefits and drawbacks, then risk assessed before changes are implemented.
  • Prioritize your changes to address the most pressing business needs and secure future amendments. The costs saved from one change may fuel and stabilize the next. Take the time to make informed actions rather than hastily implementing numerous renovations for security, profit and long term saving.

2. Negotiate With Manufacturers & Suppliers

Where better to start saving than at the basic supplier level? Examine suppliers to ensure you are still securing the product you want for the best cost. You can then decide if current partners are most cost effective, (and negotiate if not), or source new, lower cost options:

  • Reducing costs with current suppliers. The lower risk option, if you can negotiate reduced costs this will prevent breaks in production, and will benefit a continued partnership. Negotiating rather than moving may be better for smaller businesses with a less established product who cannot afford to risk production stability. This however, is only effective if suppliers are minded to help. If suppliers deal with larger, more influential clients, they may be unwilling to change for smaller businesses.
  • Finding lower cost suppliers. This may be the best option if you have made as many cut backs as possible and are still seeing a decrease in your margins, or, if cost negotiations with current suppliers have been unsuccessful. Sourcing new suppliers increases risk but allows for better costs and innovative approaches. Before switching, assess if business can adjust to the risks associated with changing suppliers or manufacturers.

3. Be As Seamless As Possible

The tighter a supply chain, the greater the potential for savings. To make processes as integrated and streamlined as possible, review supply chain performance management techniques:

  • Audit all aspects of your supply chain (manufacture to supply, warehousing and fulfillment  to review performance and efficiency. Implement up to date supply chain management software to keep processes as cohesive and responsive as possible.
  • Processes, people and technology should all be reviewed. You should be able to save costs by updating and better structuring any of these. Make sure the people involved throughout your supply chain know your money saving goals, and that these goals integrate with processes and technologies to create a synchronized ‘savings-focused’ chain. For example, implementing new warehouse and transport management systems may better suit budget and increase efficiency.

Initially this will require investments of time and money, but will save both in the long run. Additionally, using supply chain forecasting to predict and cater to stock demand will improve efficiency and reduce wastage burdens.

Logistics versus Supply Chain
Logistics versus Supply Chain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Optimize Your Logistics

Plane, train, rail, road – whichever you choose, ensure products are shipped and distributed in the most economical way; at every stage in your transportation network.

  • Check that you are not using express delivery for all shipments, as this is expensive and may be a source of unexplained costs. If transit does not have to be speedy, try to use a cheaper option; rail, or even water is more cost effective than shipping by air.
  • Regarding imported goods, awareness and compliance with non-tariff trade barriers and restrictions will save money and prevent wastage.
  • If possible, consolidate shipments. If you have a number of regional or single country suppliers, consolidate goods into as few shipments as possible to save space, time and cost. Smaller businesses with smaller shipments will often not fill container loads. If other businesses can be found, who import/export to the same locations, forming shipping partnerships may be beneficial.

In the end, when reducing costs in any business situation, it’s most important to maintain a proactive attitude. Only then can challenges be addressed and benefits beyond savings reached.

This article is for 2touch a company based in the UK which provides fulfilment services. For more information visit www.2touch.co.uk

Published by Thomas Ballantyne