Top 3 Shockers of Owning a Pest Control Company

A man with a clipboard freaking out, isolated against a white background

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

Financial report and pen

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

IT service team

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.

Guide To Buying A Pest Control Company

Pest_Control_TechWhether you’re looking to buy a one man pest control operation, or a multi-million dollar pest control company, the process of buying a company can be overwhelming and challenging. It takes some serious planning and consideration. Any lapse in the course of action can cost you thousands of dollars or more. You definitely want to make sure you do it right the first time.

Here is an introductory guide for anyone out there who is thinking about buying a pest control company:

Places to Buy & Sell A Pest Control Company 

The first step in buying a pest control company is to find a company you may be interested in acquiring. I asked a few online pest control communities where they have seen businesses for sale. Here are a few responses I got; places to look that will get you started:

Broker: Many pest control operators turn to a broker when it’s time to buy or sell. A broker is there to guide and educate both parties through the process, for a fee of course. Expect to pay top dollar when buying through a broker, as they’ll do their due diligence to get the highest possible price for their client.

Trade Magazines: Pest control magazines, like PCT magazine, have listings for pest control companies for sale.

Craigslist: Many smaller or family owned pest control companies turn to Craigslist when trying to sell. Search “pest control” under “For Sale By Owner” in the geographical areas your looking to service.

Check With Suppliers: If you are already an existing pest control operator, and looking to grow by acquiring another pest control company, check with your chemical and equipment suppliers. They typically have their ear on the industry and may know of someone who is looking to sell; possibly one of their own clients.

Pest Control Specific Online Classifieds: There are a few pest control specific online classifieds out there; pestweb.com and pestcontrolbiz.com to name a couple. Some out there may act as a broker for a seller.

If you are a pest control operator who is looking to sell your company, please comment below. 

What To Consider Before Buying 

Financial report and penThe first step in the buying process is determining if the company you’re interested in buying is a good fit for you, and sets you up for the highest probability for success in the industry.

The first key is determining the value drivers of the potential company you’re thinking of purchasing; and it’s more than just earning potential. Here are a few things to consider before you buy:

Types of Pest Control Services 

What kind of pest management professional do you want to be? Whether it’s generic pest control, termite control, rodent control, bird control, bee removal or relocation, or even weed control; most extermination companies have a distinctive service mix. Each service may require a specific set of licenses. Do you want to service commercially or residentially?

Generally speaking, you’ll want to purchase a company that has a product or service line that will differentiate you from the rest of your competitors in the industry… A company that has a built in niche.

Reputation Of Company 

You can get a very good feel for a company, by what their customers think of them; after all, customers are the life-bread of a pest control company. Check out online reviews and see what people are saying about the company you’re thinking about buying.

Customer Base 

When purchasing a pest control company, one of the biggest aspects to consider is what kind of established customer base you’re getting with your purchase; and keep in mind there will be some attrition during the transition period. You will be essentially buying customers along with inventory and human capital.

Figure out how many services you’ll need each quarter to break even, and then how many you need to be profitable. Is this number above or below the number of customers you have to service? Additionally, you’ll want to pay close attention to customer retention rates. Does this potential company have high turnover in it’s customer base, or is more secure and established. Generally speaking, a retention rate over 70% is a good number.

Existing Cash Flow 

Before making any purchase, you’ll obviously want to examine the financial records of the company. Like previously mentioned, you’ll need sufficient cash flow to pay overhead and make a living. How strong is the company’s current revenues? Take a close look at monthly or quarterly revenues, and make sure there is a consistent level of revenue being generated. You don’t want to see these numbers all over the board. I’d advise having a second party, like an accountant; take a closer look at the finical records before signing on the dotted line.

Price Point 

What are your margins? Take a good look at just how competitive your prices are in the industry. Is your product and service being sold at a premium price point offering fewer services, or are you going to be a volume provider? How much room do you have, if any, to adjust your prices either lower or higher to be competitive?

Closeup image of Vision flow chart on a blackboardLocation & Competition 

This day and age, it’s nearly impossible to find a location or market in the pest control industry that doesn’t have a lot of competition. Just how much competition you’ll have is the key. Determine your breadth of reach in a given location, and how much opportunity there is for growth. What and where is your niche going to be?

Human Capital 

When buying a pest control company, you’re also purchasing the employees, or human capital, that comes along with it (in most cases). Examine just how much experience these employees have, from technician to administrative assistant. Are all the right people in the right locations?

Look at the turnover rate of employees and gage the commitment level of the current employees. If you have to hire a lot of new employees to run your newly purchased business, that could be a cost burden as well. Training, licensing and certification can be an expensive endeavor.

Areas To Grow And Improve 

Lastly, take a close look at areas you can grow and improve the business. Typically, you’ll notice a few things right off the bat; other noticeable improvements may take some more research. If you’re not seeing a lot of these needed improvements, there may not be much room to grow your business once you take over.

Closing The Deal 

Choose your own way, conceptAfter you have thoroughly done your due diligence on a company, and feel like purchasing it will be a good fit for you and your business aspirations, it’s time to go ahead with the purchase. First, you will have to agree on a fair purchase price. Their may not be much wiggle room in this area, but I would strongly recommend hiring an experienced appraiser.

Next, you need to agree on exactly which assets you’ll be buying in the purchase. Most purchases of a pest control company will include: existing customers, equipment, a fleet of vehicles, human capital, building(s), and possible franchise fee. Most often, businesses are purchased on an installment plan, with a substantial down payment.

After you have outlined the terms on which you and the seller agree, you’ll need to create a written sales agreement and have a lawyer review it before you sign on the dotted line.

Owning Your Own Pest Control Business 

There is a lot of stress and a lot of joy that comes along with following your passion and owning your own pest control business. You feel pride in owning and building something. You are challenged every day.

With this venture, many challenges can arise. Do your due diligence before hand to minimize as many challenges as you can.

If you have bought a pest control business in the past, we’d love to hear your story.

If you are a pest control operator who is looking to sell your company, please comment below.

 

Note Highlights of #ICON14

ICON14

#Icon14 was a power packed three days. Catering to small business owners, infusionsoft championed success stories, rejuvenated entrepreneurs with motivating keynote speakers, and urged small businesses to improve and move forward. On day one, Simon challenged those attending to ignore the fires and work on improving themselves. Stepping back and working on one’s business instead of in one’s business is essential to progress. As business owners face the struggles of surviving and thriving, it is important for leaders to recharge. This event was one of kind, and it allowed just that, recharge, charge up, and push on. Here are a few notes I took of the event. I hope you are inspired to do and be more.

Find more of my notes on my twitter account: @Thos003

Entrepreneurs

Some days you wake up and say “I want more.” And not more money… More out of life. – Heather Lemere, Salon Success Strategies 

Leadership is not a rank it is a choice. It is the choice to look out after the person to the left of them and right. – Simon Sinek

Leadership is being the one willing to take the risk or make the sacrifice first. – Simon Sinek

Applying intensity alone to a problem that needs consistency will not solve your problem. – Simon Sinek

Take the leap and learn to fly on the way down. – Seth Godin

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Innovation is failing over and over and again. – Seth Godin 

Go to the edge of failure swinging. Small business owners need to be willing to get their knuckles bloody. – Thomas Ballantyne

I took the liberty to inject my own verbiage to Seth’s ideas and personalize it. Adam Seever, owner of Bulwark Exterminating, my boss, and my brother-in-law, once put in my head the image of moving forward hard, and blooding one’s knuckles. Sometimes you pick a fight and loose. Other times you must charge forward and win through sheer exertion. And yes, you will bloody your knuckles doing this.

Business success comes from finding a need and filling that need.

Marketing Fundamentals

Icon14 Simplify

Simplify your design. Don’t decorate! Be intentional.

Confused minds don’t buy.

Copying competitor marketing can be dangerous. You don’t know their goal.

Selling product/service is small business marketing goal #1 #2 & #3!

Marketing Rule: Results Rule Period. No one can argue with the numbers. Your opinion and my opinion are secondary to the results. If the results pick the color pink, then my blue or your red loose. Period.

Content Marketing is conversational. Talk to me like we’re having a conversation. Don’t kill the conversation with boring facts. Add emotion.

If you can’t say it in 140 characters, don’t make up words/hieroglyphics! Work on your brevity.

Learn to write. 1 of 2 home pages has a grammatical error.

Nurture Your Customers

Spin, hype & ads are OUT! Tribe, support, usability, price and product or service that matters is IN. – Seth Godin

I find it interesting that many small business owners don’t understand the most basics of marketing gears. Advertising is part of marketing, but it is not the whole of it. Branding is also part of marketing, but just a part. Even in Greg Head’s Marketing Strategy session, Greg skipped the idea that the “product” is marketing. “Product” is one of the four P’s of marketing. Your product or service is fundamental to your marketing success. That product/service must fill a customer’s needs, wants, and/or desires. Nurturing your customers is meeting their needs. When they need you then you matter.

Time and energy, the secret ingredients in building relationships. – Thomas Ballantyne

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If you want WOW customers, working to WOW customers will help you actually WOW them. – Scott Martineau 

Power of personal recommendation is the future. Network is your power. – Peter Shankman

Treat different people differently. – Seth Godin

Email Marketing

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Do it wrong… You can be banned for spamming. You can risk your reputation.

Direct to buy offers get 1% conversion. Lead Generation is not asking to buy now, but only asking them to ‘raise their hand’.

When using automation with emails, you must switch up the layout from time to time. Send a plain text email on occasion.

Marketing Communication: There will always be an offer. Always ask them to do something.

Cheese block vs. salt block. Do you want to attract mouse or deer? What is your audience interested in?

The sale doesn’t stop until they say “No”. – Hamish Macqueen, Cleancorp 

You worked really hard to get them to your page, No Exit Link. The only exit link is conversion.

Good Business Sense

If you don’t think money is important than your business is going to suffer.

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Spend money/time on customers who are changing behavior (accelerating or decreasing speed). Jermain Griggs, Hear and Play Music

Careful, don’t confuse historical customer value with future value. – Jermain Griggs, Hear and Play Music

Competing on price is a race to the bottom. Don’t compete on price. You don’t want to win that race.

People that search and knowingly click an ad are looking to buy.

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Don’t get mad. Get data. – Bryan Hatch

When you fail, don’t give into defeat and anger. Be smart. Look at experience objectively and fix what went wrong.

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“Customers will always remember generosity and they will never forget your greed.” – Jon Acuff 

Thomas Ballantyne

Could You Be Using Pinterest For Marketing?

Small businesses are often wary of using Pinterest for marketing because it doesn’t seem as rewarding or straightforward as Instagram. Admittedly, Pinterest won’t work for all brands, but some companies can benefit enormously from including the image-pinning site in their social media marketing plan; including pest control companies. Here’s how to decide if Pinterest is for you, and if so, how you can use it:

Is Pinterest right for your business?

Some companies won’t get anywhere using Pinterest, and that’s fine — but you don’t want to be spending time getting to grips with the site if it isn’t going to benefit you. Work out whether it’s right for your brand before setting up your account.

Pinterest works best for fashion, design, beauty, furniture, and home-ware, but many other trade industries are finding it beneficial; including pest control. It doesn’t matter whether you’re offering products or services, as long as you can make them look good in an image.

Find out whether you’re already being Pinned

Type “http://pinterest.com/source/[YOUR WEBSITE URL]/“ into your address bar. This will display all the images pinned from your website. By studying the comments, tags, and what boards they’ve been pinned to, you’ll learn how people on Pinterest view your brand. This will give you an idea of how to market yourself on the site — and, possibly, elsewhere.

Make your account look attractive

Fill in all the boxes you can — you want as much information about your brand on the site as possible, because you won’t be putting this on the images themselves. A good profile picture can do wonders for boosting your follower count, too. Make sure this is all set up before you start pinning things.

You need to stay active on Pinterest. That means Pinning other people’s images, engaging with content, following users and collecting followers. Alert fans on other social networks that you’re now active on Pinterest — and, if you think it will help, offer 10% discounts to your first 100 followers on the site. You can also link your Pinterest account to your Facebook or Twitter, but be careful not to spam anyone. People won’t feel the need to follow you on Pinterest if they’re seeing everything you pin on Facebook already!

When it comes to images…

Don’t put your brand logo on anything, and keep people out of the picture. You want pictures of your product, either on a plain background or in a real-life situation — but if something looks like advertising, it’s not going to get repinned, so be careful not to include any text or branding in your pictures.

Quality is incredibly important on Pinterest, so make sure your images are of a good resolution, and that the colors are fresh, vibrant, and attractive. Black and white Pins don’t tend to get re-pinned all that much, so you’ll want to be wary of that.

Featured images:

By Sam Wright

Sam Wright is a freelance writer specializing in small business. He is currently working for Brand Republic.

Understanding A Pest Control Non-Compete- The Employee Perspective

Non-Compete AgreementAs a pest control technician, you labor long hours in often times uncomfortable, dirty, and hot conditions. You work hard! You build rapport with many of your customers. You learn your trade inside and out.

After years of working for a pest management company, you’re done lining the pockets of “the man.” You decide to take your pest control knowledge, skills and abilities and start your own pest control business.

Your plan has just one kink. Upon initially becoming a pest control technician, you signed a non-compete agreement with your former employer.

Before you start your own pest control business, first you must understand the non-compete agreement or clause you signed; as many questions arise when it comes to pest control non-competes.

In the second part one of our look at pest control non-competes, let’s take a closer look at the employees perspective:

The Non-Compete Agreement You Signed

These days many pest control companies have their new hires sign a non-compete agreement or clause in order to protect their business; especially the bigger pest control companies. This agreement or clause is a contract in which you the employee (in this case a pest control employee or technician) agree not to enter into or start a similar profession that is in competition against the employer, or your former company.

The terms of the agreement are usually for a span of two or three years, but this may vary from company to company.

Legal IssuesLegal Issues Of Breaking A Non-Compete

If you are even thinking about breaking your pest control non-compete, be prepared for possible legal issues. First and foremost, being in compliance with your legal commitment and still being able to start your own business is the desired outcome. If your former employer wants to enforce the non-compete you signed, it will require legal action. The company must determine if it is worth suing you for breaking the contract, and if they’ll even get paid.

When starting your own company, there is a good chance that you’ll have to compensate your former employer for the customers that leave with you.

Challenging A Non-Compete Agreement: Legal Issues

lawsuitIf you are looking to start your own pest control business, but signed a pest control non-compete, there are a few things you can do.

First, you can move out of the competing area to start your business. You can always return to the market when the non-compete expires; usually two-three years later.

A second option would be to challenge your former employer and the contract you signed. If you have a good relationship with your former employer, they may let you out of your contract if you agree to not take any current customers. If this doesn’t work, you will likely have to challenge the agreement legally.

If you’re going to legally challenge the non-compete you signed, it will require you to be super aggressive. Communication must be documented, and should be done through legal representation or certified mail; Return Receipt Requested. Make copies of everything.

In the challenging process, challenge your former employer on a dollar amount of alleged damages; as you cannot sue someone without proving damages and base your suit on those damages.

You may have to defend the fact that you have taken, or may take, former customers with you in starting your new business. You must challenge the notion that no company can “own” a customer, unless there is an exclusive contract between those two parties that says they are mutually exclusive to do business only with each other.

Like I said before, you may have to compensate your former employer for any customers you take with you; even if you’re still legally able to compete in the same market.

EthicsHow Ethical Is Breaking A Pest Control Non-Compete?

It can be argued that breaking a non-compete agreement, and taking customers away from your former employer, is not only unethical… It’s stealing. Your former employer paid for the trucks, the insurance, the chemicals, the training, the customer service reps; basically all of the overhead. They’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.

Not to sound like the moral authority on the matter; but remember, if you start your business this way, it represents the ethics you will take and carry with you.

Starting Your Business The Right Way

Choose your own way, conceptPest control non-competes are very real but they do have limitations. Stealing customers is an area that can get you into some real legal headaches. In starting your own business, you want it start off the right way.

Your best bet is to move out of the competing area. Remember, you can always return two or three years later when the non-compete is up.

If you can sit down with the owners of your current or former company and explain that you want to start your business the “RIGHT WAY” and that you won’t accept any customers from their customer list for two years following leaving them.

You don’t need customers from your current employer in order to get started building our own company. You will want to design a unique and new way of running your pest control business that is your own, and then get your own customers.

I’ve heard a personal account of a former technician who abided by the non-compete agreement when starting his own business. To this day the former employer sends their new over-flow work that they are unable to respond to quick enough during the busiest times of the year to the old technician who left.

This speaks volumes about the benefits of doing things as they should be; or “the right way.” In the long run you will retain the respect of your peers and that of your former employer and co-workers.

If you’re going to break the non-compete agreement, or challenge the contract, be prepared for legal issues. If you are aggressive enough, you may get out of the non-compete agreement.

Here’s your former employers perspective on pest control non-compete agreements.

Will This Record Cold Affect The Pest Control Industry?

Snow_CarMost of the United States is experiencing record cold temperatures with this polar vortex. The end of January was down right glacial with temperatures plunging more than 20 degrees below normal. This record cold and snow is expected to last a couple more weeks.

This frigid weather has us pest management professionals wondering, just how much this severe cold is going to affect business this upcoming pest season. There’s no doubt that these cold temps will kill off some of the invasive pests we service, but to what extent?

mosquito in iceHow Extreme Cold Affects Insect Pests

As PCO’s, we all know that many of the pests we strive to manage can be extremely hardy and resilient. Years of evolution have programmed them to be so. They can go weeks without food, days without water, and months surviving among the elements.

However, insects being exothermic rely heavily on ambient temperature for warmth. The cold causes slower egg hatch and development, and prolonged, unprotected exposure will even kill insects. The longer the frigid weather lasts, the more insects are going to die off. It also means there will be fewer breeding cycles during the season, especially when the colder temperatures are prolonged.

As to how many insect pests will die off? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Yes, some insect pests will die because of this record cold, but the truth is it will probably have a minimal effect on most insects, especially our native species.

Ladybug In Snow

How Will Insects Survive This Record Cold?

Many of the common pests us PCO’s service have lived in the United States for millions of years or longer. They are well adapt at surviving all types of inclement weather; including a polar vortex. Like I said, they’ve had millions of years to get it right. Just how do they do it?

First off, insects go through a physiologically intense process of acclimatization in the fall. There are actually changes in their bodies. It’s the equivalent of having antifreeze. If these insects didn’t create this antifreeze, they would surely die; as their cells freeze and burst.

Second, when it begins to get chilly, insects will harbor or overwinter. Pests like ants and termites will bury themselves in the soil; underneath leaves and under other debris. These pests have a tendency to be less affected by the extreme cold.

Some kinds of pests will burrow behind tree bark. Others pests, like cockroaches for example, will enter our customer’s homes hoping to find warmth inside garages, walls or attics.

Will This Record Cold Affect The Pest Control Industry?

Concerned Business OwnerGiven that temperatures across most of the United States have been some 20 degrees colder than average, and not for just one night but for an extended period, many of us pest management professionals are curious about insect mortality.

According to a recent study from the USDA Forest Service, this record cold is going to have some affect on the number of invasive insect pests this upcoming pest season. We will see a nominal drop in the amount of pests invading our customer’s homes. This drop will be minimal, and could’ve been a lot worse if the polar vortex occurred earlier in the winter; say November.

By mid January, when this polar vortex first hit, most insects have already acclimated themselves to the freezing elements. It would have hit in November, it would have certainly taken a much bigger toll on the bugs.

It is important to note, that if the cold stretches into the spring months, pest management professionals will see fewer bugs. The longer the winter, the fewer the insect breeding cycles… hence, fewer bugs.

As a pest professional with Bulwark Exterminating in Mesa, AZ; last year we experienced some record cold. The cold even did some major damage to our beloved citrus trees. While the freezing cold did a number on our pipes, it really had little effect on our pests. We saw the same amount of bug and scorpion activity, as in previous years.

I’m expecting more of the same this year, but it may differ as to the part of the country in which you live. We’ll just have to wait and see… But hopefully not too long. It’s cold out there. Brrrrr!

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.

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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Blog Pest Control 2014!

Happy New Year 2014

Peace out 2013! Another year has come and gone, and all of us bug guys and gals here at Blog Pest Control are so very grateful for all of your continued reading and viewing. We’ve put a lot of work into this publication, making it the go-to place for all things pest and pest control… The best is yet to come!

In 2014, we will continue to keep you up-to-date an all of the latest pest control news for both the general public, and the pest management professional. Check out our profiles of interesting insects with our pest of the week feature, our links round-up to other informative pest control articles, and even professional advice for running your own pest control business.

Blog Pest Control is also going to introduce a new feature in 2014 in which we interview other pest management professionals from all over the world, on some of the hot trending topics in pest control. If you are a pest professional and are interested in being interviewed in the upcoming year; to share your point of view, please let us know by commenting below. We will be happy to link back to your homepage, your Google+ profile, or Twitter page.

In addition, we look forward to breaking out a new and improved theme that will make it even easier to follow along and read all of our great articles. Stay tuned! Let’s keep this remarkable platform alive for many more years to come!

We wish you all a Happy New Year 2014. May this next year bring you joy, happiness, and prosperity. We’re looking forward to your continuous readership through 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

Tips For Successfully Expanding Your Business In 2014

2014 growthAs a business owner, you may have fallen into the trap of believing that your business will continue to maintain a sense of stability. You may be comfortable, for example, with the number of customers and employees that you currently have.

I would suggest that such an approach is unlikely to pay dividends over time. The reality of any business environment is such that a failure to expand and progress almost inevitably leads to a situation where your rivals are making headway. In essence, the danger is that you will be left behind. By attempting to stand still, the reality is that you are actually seeing your business head backwards.

So how can you attempt to make the changes that are necessary, in order to receive better results? As we approach the end of the year, I think that this is a fantastic time to give consideration to how improvements can be made next year. It’s my belief that almost any business has the opportunities available for bringing about an expansion. It’s really just a question of putting a plan in place and then following it through.

I’d like to offer some simple tips on improving the situation for your business:

Plan to succeed

I’m a great believer in the importance of having the right mindset in place. In short, it’s always been my feeling that a negative thought process will almost always lead to negative results.

If you spend your time thinking about the difficulties that you are facing on a daily basis and believing that everything will end disastrously, then the sad reality is that you are looking at a self-fulfilling prophecy. The chances are that things will go as badly as you imagine.

But there is also, however, another way of thinking about your situation. If you truly believe that you will find business success in 2014, then there’s no reason why this shouldn’t happen for you. I would always recommend to other people that they should begin by demonstrating that they have the confidence levels that are required.

What does this mean, in practical terms? What I would suggest is that you outline a clear, written plan of how you are going to produce improvements next year. As you do so, you will be doing more than outlining a plan for success: you will be showing that you have the belief that things will change for the better.

Start looking for new premises

As your business expands, it’s clear that you will be in need of larger premises. You should see this as being a real positive and there’s nothing to inspire the mind more than starting to examine the possibilities. Although I’m not suggesting that you should get as far as hiring an office removals firm right now, I certainly don’t see the problem with pursuing this approach.

Isn’t there a danger here that you will be falling into the trap of indulging yourself in something of a fantasy? That’s certainly a problem that needs to be avoided, though it’s my belief that a little bit of dreaming does little harm.

Hire better people

How do you feel about the salaries that you pay to your employees? I also find it interesting to note that entrepreneurs often feel that employees are being paid too much. Frequently, this seems to be an area where it seems like savings can be made.

I’d like to offer an alternative view here: you should be pleased to be spending big on salaries. Although this may not seem to make an enormous amount of sense, my argument would be that the best businesses usually enjoy the very best people. That’s not something that I see as being a coincidence.

If you’re interested in making real progress, then my suggestion would be that you should concentrate on hiring those who really add value.

Embrace the power of social media

Gone are the days when a presence on Twitter or Facebook seemed like something of a luxury. The truth is that you simply must engage via social media, if you are truly looking to expand your business.

A significant proportion of your potential customers will simply expect to find that you are active on such channels. If you make the choice not to be, then you are simply handing the advantage to your key competitors.

Engaging via social media doesn’t mean spending endless hours, or understanding the intricacies of the software that’s involved. What it does mean, on the other hand, is spending the time that’s necessary to get to grips with these networks. You really can’t afford to be left behind in this particular race.

I believe that you can experience business success in 2014, but do you have the same level of belief?

Simon Barnett advises many small business owners on how to produce better outcomes. He’s often amazed by the impact of positive thinking, when combined with practical decision-making.

Published by Thomas Ballantyne