Editor’s note: In compiling this second list of "Companies to Watch," PCT contacted state and national association officials, prominent PMPs, industry consultants and others affiliated with the industry, as well as monitored news reports of up-and-coming firms. After reading the following company profiles, we’d appreciate your feedback. Did we miss a company that’s on the rise? Know of a firm that has developed an innovative marketing program, enviable community service record or differentiated itself in the marketplace in some other way? If so, we would love to hear about them. E-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Company to Watch" and we’ll take some time to learn more about the firm and possibly include them in a future issue of PCT magazine.
The Value of an Idea Lies in the Using of It’
What’s the value of a good idea? The answer is nothing. That’s according to American scientist and inventor Thomas Edison, who once said, "The value of an idea lies in the using of it." Ideas become powerful when they are put to work.
PCT’s second annual Companies to Watch special report highlights 25 companies that are putting good ideas to work to achieve their business goals. Finding ways to innovate and improve is the constant challenge at Dow AgroSciences. For example, the new Sentricon® Termite Colony Elimination System with Always Active™ technology was an idea that took more than seven years to bring to fruition. Innovation and constant improvement also are the challenges for your company. The value of considering what other companies are doing is not to copy them, but rather to motivate us to make the effort to improve.
Edison certainly saw ways to improve lives — he held 1,093 U.S. patents in his name! But he is most known for the ideas he put to work — the light bulb, record player and movie projector — as well as launching dozens of successful businesses, including General Electric. Let me share a couple of other nuggets of wisdom from Edison:
• To have a great idea, have a lot of them.
• Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.
• Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
• I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
• Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Dow AgroSciences is pleased to sponsor this special report, and we hope some of the ideas shared will help inspire your company. Our congratulations to PCT’s 2011 Companies to Watch.
Commercial Director, Pest Management,
For many pest management professionals, last year was a return to healthy revenues after several years of economic doom and gloom. But it certainly wasn’t a return to business as usual.
Some companies reinvented themselves. Others took networking with peers to new levels. Most re-evaluated how they serve customers — from how they listen to the services they provide — and took steps to ensure they delivered maximum value.
And because you can’t offer value without dedicated employees, leading firms took efforts to inspire, motivate and retain the talent that sets them apart.
Sprague Pest Solutions Vice President Larry Treleven said, "We’re in the people business." These companies proved him right.
Building Excitement, Growing Revenue
American Pest Management,
Team members at American Pest Management bring a natural curiosity to solving customers’ pest problems, said CEO Ravi Sachdeva. Employees’ opinions matter and their innovative ideas helped the company organically grow 22 percent last year. One employee developed a new bed bug inspection and prevention protocol, which is helping commercial clients control the costs and liability of infestations. This program alone is expected to boost revenue 20 percent this year. Employees are encouraged to do the things they enjoy: This creates excitement, and everyone benefits, explained Sachdeva.
The Art of Reinvention
Apex Pest Control, Rockledge, Fla.
Apex Pest Control was a heavyweight in the termite pretreat business, but when that industry bottomed out in 2006 President Peter Eldridge knew "we were going to have to do something else." The company started pursuing specialty jobs it previously avoided, such as controlling bats, birds, bees and wildlife. Five years later, Apex is a recognized expert doing "big dollar" work for school districts, hospitals and major league sports stadiums. Thinking outside the box breathed new life into the business, which is coming back stronger, said Eldridge. "Our people are excited and our revenues are up."
Adding Value by Keeping it Simple
Black Pest Prevention, Charlotte, N.C.
Black Pest Prevention has made pest and termite control more convenient and affordable for customers. It bundled the two services, started billing credit cards monthly, and after two-plus years of testing switched to a triannual rotation. "We increased the value but not the price," said Chief Operating Officer Mike Davis. Customers love the results, which have boosted productivity and the bottom line. "We don’t care about being the biggest; all we care about is being the most profitable," said Davis. Keeping things simple – the company only offers three residential services – ensures service quality.
Blue Sky Pest Control, Mesa, Ariz.
When the recession forced some homeowners to cancel service, fast-growing Blue Sky Pest Control reinforced its service values by treating customers with "dignity and respect," said President Nate Wolf. By avoiding high cancellation fees and sales pressure, a higher number of customers reinstated service as the economy improved. Losing accounts is difficult, but in the long term it’s "an opportunity to show our true colors," Wolf said. Not cutting corners and working hard to earn the business every time stem directly from a culture of respect. "If you treat people well, ultimately it pays itself back in spades," he said.
The Bug Master, Austin, Texas
Vice President Dauphin Ewart said The Bug Master has focused on its strengths in the commercial sector and "not believing the economy is a reason for failing." And because the way people interact with the company is changing, it has continued to reinvent and refine its "store." That’s what Ewart calls the company website, which is visual and intuitive, and not jargon-filled or wordy. The key is making the site easy for people to buy stuff, and in technologically savvy Austin where most people use smartphones to shop, The Bug Master is speaking customers’ language.
Adept at Telling Its Story
Cascade Pest Control, Redmond, Wash.
Taking care of clients’ needs, doing it well and having a strong referral base are the foundation of Cascade Pest Control’s success. Telling this story in the context of third-party endorsements only helps build customer trust, said Director Kurt Treftz. Cascade has received many business and community honors and 11 environmental awards from national, state and local agencies. Being actively involved in programs and getting recognition for these efforts "has contributed to our success" by leading to more contacts, new business and customers’ deeper understanding of what sets Cascade apart.
A Passionate Response 24/7
New York City, N.Y.
In the city that never sleeps, customers want immediate service whether it’s 7 p.m. Friday or 2 a.m. Clients "come to us because they know we’re going to be able to meet those needs," explained Chief Operating Officer Barry Beck. Employees understand this mentality and "step up." Trained sales and office staffers even volunteer to help with non-chemical tasks on big jobs. Employees understand clients’ needs and what it takes to get the job done, said Beck. They’re "passionate about what we do and who we are and how we’re perceived."
Honesty, Integrity and Frank-isms
Customers are BugMaster’s first priority, and if employees need a reminder, they can read what’s posted on the office walls or company website: "Frank-isms." These Yogi Berra-like pearls of wisdom from Owner Frank Alardo include, "There is but one boss and his or her name is…The Customer," "A good deal is only a good deal when both parties win" and "If you think a professional is expensive, try an amateur," which points to the state certification achieved by all technicians. Frank-isms are the foundation for BugMaster’s service, and it works: Customer referrals outrank other leads.
Listening Opens New Doors
Catseye Pest Control, Castleton, N.Y.
A couple of years ago, customers would occasionally ask Catseye Pest Control to recommend an air duct cleaning service. After an employee experienced this service himself, the company knew it was on to something. "Our indoor air quality service took root at that point because we saw there was a great lead-in to many of our residential customers" who are having allergy issues, said Technical Director Luis Pabon. "We’re hoping to make this one of our fast-growing divisions." Catseye excels, he said, at identifying what folks need and filling that niche.
Staying True to Community Roots
Commonwealth Exterminators, Lawrenceville, Va.
With a service area between I-85 and I-95 in rural southern Virginia and northern North Carolina, Commonwealth Exterminators is right where it wants to be. Small towns and high-end weekend homes surrounding Lake Gaston have "been good to us," said President Rodney Elmore, who grew up here. Being a part of the community by supporting little league teams, chambers of commerce and golf tournaments has helped build the company’s success. So has offering innovative programs to real estate agents and weekend visitors. These include well, septic and radon testing to assist with real estate closings, and guest concierge services.
Keeping Customers, Mother Earth Happy
Corky’s Pest Control,
San Marcos, Calif.
Controlling Argentine ants isn’t easy, but for more than 30 years Corky’s Pest Control has satisfied customers and the environment. After eliminating ant colonies on a property, technicians spray EPA-exempt botanical products on perimeter landscaping plants to kill the eggs of sap-sucking insects. These insects produce honeydew, the ants’ preferred food, so getting rid of them prevents future scout ants from finding a sustainable food source and setting up satellite colonies. It works: Re-treats account for less than one-half of one percent of 40,000 customers, said President Corky Mizer.
Paying it Forward
Holiday Termite & Pest Control, Springfield, Va.
Getting involved in industry associations may seem like a waste of valuable time to some, but not Cleveland Dixon. The president of Holiday Termite & Pest Control heads the local pest management association, is a state association board member, chair of the Virginia Wood Destroying Insect committee and was nominated for director at large of the National Pest Management Association. Insights he’s gained from peers have "saved me tons" by helping him avoid costly mistakes and opened doors to subcontractor opportunities. Grateful for advice that’s helped grow his business, "I try to spread it along."
Wow Power Delivers the Goods
Cooper Pest Solutions, Lawrenceville, N.J.
Last year, Cooper Pest Solutions was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 40 small businesses to work for in the U.S. The honor is a direct result of employees living and breathing the company mission, said President Phil Cooper. That is, to "wow" clients, teammates, community, service partners and the bottom line. The company works hard every day to maintain its upbeat culture, from hosting an "amazing" annual meeting to awarding "wow" money. It’s paying off: The company projects 50 percent growth in 2011. Having the right people in the right environment makes it happen.
Principled Employees Make the Difference
Craig Thomas Pest Control, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Attention to detail, thorough explanations, and friendly, honest service have Craig Thomas Pest Control customers talking. Trusted employees make this possible, said President Craig Thomas. So does their ability to listen, give honest and sincere appreciation, and show interest in others, some of the many people principles Thomas teaches by example. The cumulative effect is great for the bottom line. New wildlife and home improvement services marketed to existing customers brought in $450,000 in their first year. In 2011, the company expects a 20 percent jump in revenue.
Helping Great Reviews Go Viral
Environmental Health Services,
A renewed focus on teaching customer service skills resulted in "rave reviews from customers" this year, said General Manager George Williams. Social media has helped this praise go viral: One positive comment on Facebook alone resulted in three new customers. Customer service and referrals have been our greatest strength, and now customers can share their experience with hundreds, Williams explained. By leveraging this, the company creates new opportunities. Its website even is optimized for smartphones, so busy consumers can seek pest solutions and give feedback on the go.
Relationships Bring in the Business
Enviro Safe Pest Control, Las Vegas
Kurt Trombetti is a busy guy. The president of Enviro Safe Pest Control is president of the Nevada Pest Control Association and active in Community Associations Institute, Institute of Real Estate Management and One Stop Shop Las Vegas, a group that markets to property managers. All this networking has been good for business, resulting in referrals for specialty pest work and opportunities to bid on huge senior center jobs. It even opened the door to hire a high-caliber sales professional. The company is growing double-digit every month despite the area’s economy, said Trombetti.
Positive Attitude Drives Results
Killingsworth Environmental, Indian Trail, N.C.
A positive attitude goes a long way in building a successful company, said President Mike Rogers. That means ensuring his 100 employees have the opportunity to make good money and know they work for a sound company. Keeping people updated on the company’s health relieves them of job security worries and translates into better job performance. It also emphasizes the importance of working as a team to achieve a common goal. "We’re all in this together. No one person is responsible for the success," he said. The company saw revenue grow 19 percent in 2010.
Building a National Presence
Maheu & Maheu, Quebec City, Quebec
From a great-grandmother who sold "mysterious powders" that killed roaches to today’s respected firm that controls pests from field to plate, Maheu & Maheu is a growing force in the North American pest management industry. Specializing in farm facilities, grain centers, feed mills and food plants, as well as commercial and residential services, the company is actively acquiring firms and solidifying its operations in Ontario. The goal is to become a national company "that can play with the big guys," said President Michael Maheu. For this employee-owned firm, it’s only a matter of time.
Technology Empowers Employees
Myers Pest & Termite Services,
At every level, employees of Myers Pest & Termite Services are empowered to make customers happy, said Corporate Vice President Vicki Hummel. Technology helps: Technicians use Internet-capable handhelds to alert managers to problems and opportunities and get immediate support. Employees are trained to make decisions on their own without having to go through multiple levels of management. People want to work for a company that appreciates what they do, trusts their ability, and invests in their education and advancement, said Hummel. The company is "our people," and customers realize this.
Any Opportunity to Serve
PermaTreat Pest and Termite
Control, Fredericksburg, Va.
PermaTreat Pest and Termite Control has a long history of serving the community, including its four-legged friends. It has sponsored adopt-a-pet ads around the state for years, donated two acres of land for a new animal welfare facility and sponsors the area’s long-running Dog Fair. It also supports United Way and organizes an MS walk. CEO Joe Wilson has "been involved in just about every cause you can imagine," way more than we have room to mention here. Not only does Wilson enjoy being involved, he said it’s good for business and enhances the professional image of the industry.
Addressing Concerns Quickly…with Cookies
Spencer Pest Services, Roswell, Ga.
"Anytime a customer takes the time to complain, it’s an opportunity" to build loyalty, said President Sheri Spencer, a self-professed "customer service junkie." That’s why managers have 15 minutes to respond to unhappy customers, and Spencer’s contact information is on every service ticket and the company website. "The sooner you diffuse the problem, the smaller the problem becomes." Sometimes, customers are sent Mrs. Fields cookies in a company logo-engraved box. A note thanks them for bringing the problem to the company’s attention and the opportunity to make things right. The response, said Spencer, is amazing.
Making Pest Control Fun
Turner Pest Control, Jacksonville, Fla.
Over the last few years, Turner Pest Control shifted its focus from termite pretreats to recurring revenue, and from barely advertising to spending 8 percent of revenue on consumer TV, billboards, social media and the Internet. "That was a really interesting learning curve," admitted President Mark Slater. The company’s evolving website maximizes search engine optimization, uses crisp graphics and integrates social media with fresh, fun content. This helps more people relate to pest management and boosts interaction, explained Slater. "It’s all about establishing the brand, maintaining it and staying top of mind."
Strong Management Team Gets It Done
Modern Pest Services,
Lots of things have led to Modern Pest Services’ success, said Chief Operating Officer Scott Stevenson, but none could have happened without the company’s strong management team, which thinks creatively, motivates and executes. In 2010, Modern bought a wildlife company that should double in size this year. It added bed bug service, picked up Copesan business following the Waltham Services acquisition by Rollins, expanded its full-time commercial sales staff, consolidated five service centers into one and crafted a new mission. "Our team is executing on every one of those projects," he said.
Getting to Know You Better
Schendel Pest Control, Topeka, Kan.
Schendel Pest Control spent considerable time with its commercial customers learning how they define value and what they’re willing to pay for. "It’s amazing what they’ll tell you," said President Brent Boles. Making lives easier ranked at the top, and "it’s the little things" the company now does that make a big difference. For example, it provides one client with written quarterly reports he can share with his executive team instead of having to compile them himself. Adding value paid dividends: Last year, the company grew nearly 11 percent, surpassing $12 million.
Education is Good for Business
Venus Pest Company, College Station, Texas
Dr. Scott Lingren, BCE, is an educator. The president of Venus Pest Company regularly uses blogs, community forums and social media to give consumers the straight scoop on pests, whether allaying fears of fire ant swarms or addressing green pest management myths. Social media adds value and makes "it easier for our customers to refer us." Empowering employees to deliver a shockingly impressive customer service experience is part of the winning formula. Last year, the company had 20 percent-plus growth and was recognized as one of the fastest-growing firms in the Brazos Valley.
It’s All About the People
According to Larry Treleven, vice president and owner of Sprague Pest Solutions in Tacoma, Wash., "We are not in the pest control business. We’re in the people business."
Having the right people on board in the right positions and with the right responsibilities are essential for "keeping all the cylinders clicking" as you grow your company. It can make or break you, especially when a company gets to a certain size, he said
Treleven urges company leaders to hone their people skills, which includes delegating and trusting employees. It’s a mistake "not to let people succeed or even fail while you’re watching" so they learn along the way. "If you don’t, you can never grow past what you, yourself, can do," he said.
Leaders also need to be cheerleaders. "People, just by our positions, are going to catch whatever we have. So whatever we have better be worth catching." Praise in public, he advised, and if a coaching opportunity arises, do that in private.
This business is so much more than "just learning how to control or eliminate insects and rodents," Treleven said, who was National Pest Management Association president in 1994 and just celebrated his 40th year in the industry.
Get to a Meeting
Small business owners may find it a burden to attend national and local pest management association meetings because they feel it takes them away from generating revenue and earning a living.
But 40 years in the pest management industry has taught Richard Berman the value of being involved. Building relationships with other professionals creates better business leaders and stronger companies, said the technical services and quality control director of Waltham Services in Waltham, Mass.
"Once you know people, you can pick up the phone, and people are more than willing to share," he said. Insights gained from others can help a company save money, increase efficiency and grow the business. Contacts even can open doors to cooperative agreements and new business opportunities.
"Every time I hear somebody’s killer wasp story or about a problem they had and how they solved it, that gets filed in the back of my mind," explained Berman. "You learn and grow."
Being committed to learning and growing is a trait of successful pest management professionals, he added.
Norman Goldenberg, senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Terminix International in Memphis, has seen a lot of changes in his five decades in the industry. Advances in technology are some of the biggest.
Tablets like the iPad can help PMPs illustrate the value of their services. This "show-and-tell" device takes customer presentations to a new level, he explained. Videos and training aids from universities and manufacturers are readily available. "No one needs to reinvent the wheel. It’s just taking those applications that are already out there and using them so you can best describe what you’re going to do for the customers," he said.
A few years ago, Terminix made a substantial investment in technology. Sales and service professionals now use handheld devices to write proposals, record service and capture customer signatures. Data is transmitted automatically to the company’s servers, and customers can access their account information online to change service times and report problems. Smart trucks have full-size printers and GPSs, which has reduced fuel consumption.
Technology helps employees be more productive, said Goldenberg, and that translates into higher wages and more satisfied customers.
Companies of every size can take advantage of technology, he added. Vendors offer many solutions that can be added on as a company develops.
Practice Leadership and Management Basics
According to Massey Services CEO Harvey Massey, four basic principles are critical to the success of a company: Never stop learning about your business, your customers and your people. Hire, train, develop and promote good people. Never forget the proper language of leadership is "we," "us" and "our," not "I," "me" and "my." And work hard.
Massey has realized these wisdoms hundreds of times in his 48-year career. Some have come from trial and error, and others from people in the industry. The success of Massey Services is proof they deliver.
"We follow these four basic principles every day," Massey explained. They’re "part of our culture."
He advised pest management professionals to act on them. It’s one thing to talk about values but the few that "walk the talk are the ones that rise to the surface — like cream in a cup!"
Everyone has the ability to work, and it’s important to plan your work and work your plan, but the difference lies in those who work hard, he said.
"It’s not what you know about business and management that makes the difference, it’s what you do with what you know that makes the difference," he said.
Improve Your Systems
From marketing to account service, every function in the pest management business depends on a system, those "orderly steps necessary to achieve success," said Don Jamison, president of Jamison Pest and Lawn Service in Memphis.
A network of well-developed systems is the foundation for a profitable company that can respond to change. He encouraged PMPs to work daily to build, implement, manage and refine these systems.
One of the harder systems to master is "managing the numbers," said Jamison, who has spent nearly 50 years in the industry, many as an owner and consultant. How do you assess and respond to the profit and loss statement? How do you "swing into action" when numbers don’t fit your budgeting system?
As a young professional, Jamison learned these lessons by trial and error. He also gave credit to mentors Bob Russell and Jerry Keown, plus the hundreds of pros he’s networked with over the years, for providing direction and advice. When professionals benefit from the advice of others, he urged them to "return the favor" by helping others.
This "Companies to Watch" Special Report was sponsored by Indianapolis,
Ind.-based Dow AgroSciences, a leading supplier to the pest management industry. The company’s innovative technologies to the structural pest control industry include the Sentricon® Termite Colony Elimination System, Vikane® gas fumigant, Halo™ Electronic Termite Detection, ProFume® gas fumigant and the
Hex-Pro™ Termite Baiting System.