XENIA, Ohio — For Robert (Milt) Phelps, pest control is not just a job – it’s a passion that has become so engrained in his life that he continues to solve customers' pest problems at age 85, with 38 years of experience behind him.
“I am 85. I like what I’m doing and I don’t intend to stop,” said Phelps, owner of MP Pest Control (formerly Milt’s Pest Control), Xenia, Ohio.
|A younger Milt Phelps. Now age 85, Phelps has become an institution in Xenia, Ohio, and surrounding areas.|
Phelps has become somewhat of an institution in Xenia, Ohio, and surrounding areas, where he is regarded as an honest businessman and skilled solver of pest problems. “Experience, honesty and dependability” is the company’s motto and the reason he’s been successful, he says.
Many of Phelps’ customers have used him for pest and termite control work since he opened his business in 1978. “The phone rings all the time,” said Phelps, who estimates he handles anywhere from 8 to 10 jobs per day. Phelps takes care of the majority of these accounts himself, calling on family members (or hiring others part time) only for very labor intensive work, especially accounts requiring a lot of bending and squatting (e.g., termite work, raccoon jobs, etc.). People are amazed at the amount of work Milt handles, said son Robert, Jr. (Milt Jr.), age 51, who owns his own pest control company, Milt’s Termite and Pest Control, Manchester Ohio, and also assists his dad with accounting and other business needs. “My CPA asks me, ‘How does an 85-year-old man make more money and do more work than a 51-year-old-man?’ When he does our taxes every month he says, ‘I don’t understand how you let that 85-year-old man outwork you?’ And I’m working my rear end off,” Milt Jr. says.
How much energy does Phelps have? After a hard day’s work he will travel about 13 miles each way to church in Dayton, Ohio. “And when he gets there he doesn’t just stand there – he worships God with everything he’s got because he’s so thankful for the health and strength God has given him to go on,” Milt, Jr. says. “He’s a very thankful man and loved by everyone at church.”
Phelps has not slowed down much since he started in pest control. He went to work for John (Corbett) Moore, then-owner of Moore’s Termite and Pest Control, in 1972, after working many years as a truck driver for Xenia Panel Co. & Supply. “Someone told me that Corbett needed help. I met with him, and he said, ‘Give it a try and if you like it, someday you can go into business yourself,’” the senior Phelps said.
The rest, as they say, is history. Phelps’ first introduction to pest control was digging trenches for termite work. “Like a mole, I would burrow under a home with a short-hand shovel and dig until the job was done. I didn’t like the work,” he recalled. “But I did what I was asked to do, and it paid off.”
But Phelps soon warmed to this new profession, becoming a trusted expert and valued member of Moore’s Termite and Pest Control. Corbett Moore eventually sold the business and Phelps stayed on board for a period of time, all while remaining in contact with Moore. Once again, Moore encouraged Phelps to open his own business, and offered to supply him with equipment to get him started. In 1978, Phelps decided to give it a shot and, after doing due diligence (obtaining insurance and proper licensing), he officially opened up business at the same location he works out of today – his home at 176 Cato Drive, Xenia, Ohio.
Phelps didn’t have to look further than his own family for employees. His wife, Starrlene – a full-time secretary – handled the paperwork and books (until her passing in 2008), and sons Robert, and Tim, became service technicians. The company grew mostly by word of mouth, from customers who had good experiences with Phelps. Another successful marketing tool has been ink pens with the company’s name and phone number, which Phelps says is his version of a business card. Son Milt Jr. says the pens can be found all over town, and around the country. “I went to the bank the other day and a teller said, ‘I have one of your dad’s pens.’ “
One of Phelps’ greatest sources of pride is that sons Robert (Milt Jr.) and Tim have branched out, starting successful pest control companies of their own. Robert (Milt Jr.) owns Milt’s Termite & Pest Control, based in Manchester, Ohio (with a branch office in Dayton), while Tim, age 48, owns Phelps Termite & Pest Control, South Webster, Ohio.
The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.