May PCT includes Hal Coleman's feature "The Awesome Power of Video Marketing," in which Coleman explores how video allows you to build a face-to-face relationship with someone you’ve never actually met.
Click here to watch videos from Coleman.
Included as part of PCT’s Top 100 coverage is an interactive map. The below map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of PCT’s Top 100 firms, all of the demographic data included on the list and live links to each of the companies’ websites.
|Just Announced: 2013 PCT Top 100 Entry Form
PCT magazine is in the process of identifying the largest 100 pest management firms in the U.S., based on 2013 revenues. Please take a moment to provide us with the following information about your company and submit it to us by Friday, February 21.
CLICK HERE to download the online form.
CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the form that can be faxed back to PCT at (330) 659-0823.
We look forward to your reply so that your company receives the recognition it deserves as a member of PCT's Top 100! *If you encounter any problems with either form please e-mail email@example.com.
To see the full list, click the picture above.
A few notes about this year's list:
Big Changes to the List... Next Year
What triggered so much M&A movement in the industry last year? And why?
Every year PCT compiles its list of the Top 100 pest management companies in North America. This year, our list is not as up to date as it will be next year.
Why? A number of ranking companies, the most notable being Western Exterminator (#12), were acquired in late 2012. Because these companies operated independently for most of the year, they are still on the 2012 list (if they submitted their revenue figures to PCT). This is a policy PCT has followed since its inaugural list 12 years ago. The purchased companies are listed as independents; their revenue is not reported as part of the acquiring company.
Next year’s list will be a different story: We’ll combine the revenues of acquired and parent companies, listing them as one entity. This consolidation will significantly shift the ranking of the Top 100 firms.
With that in mind, what triggered so much movement in the industry last year? And why?
According to Potomac Company Managing Director Paul Giannamore in Philadelphia, the last nine months were “the greatest time to sell a pest control business in recent memory.”
Here’s what made for a perfect storm:
Tax Uncertainty. The threat of a higher capital gains tax was a “major motivator” for many sellers, said Michael O’Connell, managing director of Brockett Tamny & Co., the Los Angeles firm that guided the $92.6 million purchase of Western Exterminator by Rentokil (#4).
In 2012, the capital gains tax was 15 percent; owners wanted to sell while the rate remained low.
Mergers and acquisitions really picked up after the November presidential election, said Tammy Dosenbach, a consultant with A+ Business Brokers in High Springs, Fla. She had five deals close that month.
Fears caused by the fiscal cliff, a stock market reaching pre-crisis highs and global banks’ “reckless monetary shenanigans” further fueled the race to the exit, said Giannamore.
Valuations Were High. The number of M&A transactions last year was not out of the ordinary, but the prices paid by buyers were, said Giannamore, who admitted to not seeing this level of competitive pressure in five years.
An aggressive push by buyers and a strong year of growth and profit helped Jack Marlowe sell Eden Advanced Pest Technologies (#84) at the top of its value to Rentokil last November.
He hadn’t planned to sell the Olympia, Wash., business, just recapitalize it. The process to do this was the same as showing the company to sell, so he decided to test the waters. Marlowe’s price was met on the first offer, leading to many “oh crap” moments, he admitted. Barely four months later, he inked the deal with Rentokil.
Buyers Had Cash. Lance Tullius, partner at Tullius Partners in Portland, Ore., said buyers had more cash on hand “than I have ever seen in our history.”
Large cash reserves, low debt and slow organic growth spurred buyers to acquire companies to increase their reach and revenue.
Massey Services (#5) in Orlando acquired Myers Services to penetrate the Texas market, said Quality Assurance Vice President Adam Jones.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” said Jones, who is always looking for acquisition opportunities in the right markets. “I don’t think there’s any year that’s a bad year to grow.”
But an acquisition does require “timing and fit,” he said. Massey leaders knew Danny Myers since the early 1990s when he spent a week learning Massey best practices. When Myers was ready to exit, this long-term mentoring relationship paid off for both parties, said Jones.
M&A Drivers 2013. Kevin Burns, chief development officer at Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta, thought M&A activity would be slower this year, but “I’m seeing even more right now than in the past 24 months.”
Tullius said to expect “quite a bit of movement in the top 100” companies going forward.
Not everyone who wanted to sell last year could. Giannamore has $40 million in pest control transactions that didn’t happen because there wasn’t enough time to close. Deals often take 6 to 12 months to complete.
Sellers today will pay significantly more in taxes given the 20 percent capital gains tax and new 3.8 percent health care tax. But some owners fear taxes will rise even higher in 2014, which may be causing the increased activity, Burns said.
More drivers: The rising costs of running a business — fuel and health care, for example — and the fact more people are nearing retirement age and don’t have heirs interested in carrying on the business.
Owners who were forced to shelve plans to sell or retire when the Great Recession hit “are more than ready to get out,” said Barbara Taylor, co-owner of Synergy Business Services in Bentonville, Ark. They’ve recovered from losses in 2008-11 and are seeing valuations go back to more palatable levels, she said.
A key motivator for Marlowe, 54, was the opportunity to grow professionally. He described the sale as “not an ending, but a beginning” for he and his employees.
Sellers are selling for the same reasons in 2013 as they did in 2012, said Massey Services Business Development Director Ian Robinson.
Window Closing? Buyers still face pressure to “move the top line” and “have a lot of cash available” or the ability to borrow, said Tullius.
But don’t expect this flush market to last, warned Giannamore. Acquirers soon will realize “they can’t get the returns they need by paying what they are paying now.”
He said the market is peaking for high-quality acquisition targets, and multiples are declining for smaller, “less special” companies. “I am going to bet that over the next six months, the highest acquisition multiples will be history and we will revert back to the long-term mean.”
Not All Owners Sell to Retire
What makes an owner pull the trigger to sell? Each “has something that’s ticking in their head,” said Kevin Burns, chief development officer of Arrow Exterminators. He recently worked with an owner worried about providing benefits for employees given rising health insurance costs.
Burns said about 80 percent of the owners he deals with go on to do something else or work for Arrow Exterminators. “It’s rarely retirement” that motivates them.
How long an owner stays on with the new company depends on the deal, said Tammy Dosenbach, a consultant with A+ Business Brokers. “True entrepreneurs” may take on a role at the new company.
As reported in PCT, Michael Katz, 62, will continue as president of Western Exterminators following its acquisition by Rentokil. The Western management team will remain intact, overseeing close to 1,000 employees at 36 offices in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Jack Marlowe will run Eden Advanced Pest Technologies, bought by Rentokil in November, as long as he’s “still contributing and having fun,” he said. Cultural fit, access to leadership and resources, and the ability to continue operating with “minimal disruption to customers and employees” were factors that weighed heavily in choosing a buyer.
Buyers new to a geographic territory usually want the management team to stay in place, explained Chris Ball, director of Brockett Tamny & Co. in Los Angeles. “The larger the acquisition, the more the buyer is buying the success of the management team.” Small companies, he said, often are bought for their customer lists.
Some owners may stay on for a transition period. The more critical the current owner’s involvement is to the company, the longer the period of time he’ll be asked to stay post-sale, said Barbara Taylor, co-owner, Synergy Business Services. Generally, an employment agreement will extend one to two years. Non-compete agreements are standard.
If owners want to walk away quickly after a sale, Taylor tells them “to strive to make themselves operationally irrelevant.”
Anne Nagro is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flip-flop your customer mix. Trade a stale service for a niche offering. Bring on a whole new business. Here’s how successful pest control operations — both on the Top 100 list and not — stirred up more revenue by adopting the mantra, ‘change is good.’
Peter Eldridge saw the writing on the wall when the Florida construction market was off the charts. “The building frenzy was insane — and I knew it wasn’t going to keep up like that,” says the president of Apex Pest Control, a six-branch operation in Florida that covers 30-plus counties.
Termite pre-treat services were pretty insane then, too, he said. But how long would that last? Eldridge and most others sure didn’t expect the housing bust that occurred, but fortunately, he had started to diversify Apex, investing more in marketing and branding general pest control services and expanding into services like animal trapping, bees, birds and bats, and aquatic weed control. Eldridge took an inventory of services that typically got subbed out. Then he mobilized his team and reeled that business back in house.
“We made the transition [to general pest control] by looking at what we could do really well without bringing anyone else into the picture, and as we got proficient in certain areas, we really exploded,” Eldridge says.
One of those areas is aquatic weed control, and another is serving commercial clients in the municipal and government sector — big clients like the cities of Orlando and Tampa. (And don’t forget expansion into cities you aren’t familiar with, because as Eldridge says, you have to build a referral base somehow.)
Switching the business mix helped Apex rebound and gain market share. Today, business is up by more than 25 percent and the company opened a new office in Miami that grew 340 percent in 2012. “What we used to specialize in is slowly beginning to pick up again after six years of a non-existent housing market,” he says. “But we are not only replacing that revenue with our ‘new cheese,’ as I like to call it, but we are still up even after losing other revenue.”
Change really can be a good thing, whether to protect a business during recession, reach new customers, expand into different markets or all of the above. That’s what the Rollins Corporation discovered during the last 15 years as it gradually evened out what was historically a homeowner-focused client base into one that’s pretty evenly split between residential and commercial accounts.
“We didn’t do it at the expense of residential pest control customers, but we expended our energy and efforts on chasing and acquiring new commercial customers rather than new termite customers,” says John Wilson, president and COO of Rollins (#1 on the PCT Top 100).
Meanwhile, at Orkin Canada, President Gary Muldoon shares how the company added a washroom care program that includes an entirely female workforce for its hygiene service. “We were already servicing restaurants and hotels,” he says. “Our sales pitch is, we’re already there, our trucks are in the driveway.”
Now, Orkin is the second largest washroom care company in the Canadian market, where like in Europe, there is demand for this service. (Muldoon said he expects this to spread to the States, and says that Orkin will be positioned to capture the market.)
“The service has helped reduce our cancellation rate,” Muldoon adds, relating that the more entrenched the company is on a property, the less likely the client is to grow fickle and fire them over a small thing.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” Muldoon says of branching out into new services, testing new markets and appealing to different customers.
Finding a Niche. Apex Pest Control never had a municipal contract until after 2008 when the company joined the bidding game. It wasn’t easy at first — the firm didn’t have a track record, despite more than two decades in the industry. It didn’t have a referral base for this type of work. Essentially, Eldridge was building a reputation from scratch.
Math Homework: Before You Add On
Stop subbing. What services does your company offer but require “special forces” from outside talent to perform? Could you train your people to deliver these services? Consider restaurant work, animal trapping, fumigations, bee work, bird and bat exclusion, aquatic weed control, commercial accounts and others. Do you have the capacity to provide one or more of these offerings?
Think ‘bigger.’ Who are the people in your neighborhood — and would you be even better off if you pushed the borders a bit? “Consider a geographic area you could expand to that has a higher profit margin or larger population than where you are now,” Eldridge suggests. (He adds that if he had stayed in Merritt Island where he started the business, he still would only have three routes after 28 years.)
Crunch the numbers. After considering subbed services and geography, determine which services would produce the highest profit margins.
Look around. Who else is offering these services? “Identify which services have the least competition,” Eldridge advises. “See if there is a true niche that you can exploit.”
Start small. Begin building a track record by selling a few jobs and getting your feet wet. What looks good on paper may not be in practice. Figure out if those jobs present a nice profit-margin opportunity, and determine whether you could continue selling the service over the long-term. How sustainable is this service? If the results of your sample jobs look promising, keep building that portfolio of references, Eldridge says.
“It’s awfully hard to get major work when no one knows you in that line of work,” Eldridge says simply. So he took a “boots on the ground” approach and began joining bidding sites where government and municipal agencies put out their requests for bids. He joined the scene. “You really have to aggressively go after it,” he says of calling on clients in person.
Apex started servicing some smaller municipal accounts for cities, building a base of referrals. Eventually, the company started going after larger contracts. Today, it has 40 to 50 multi-year municipal and government contracts. “That business has become huge for us,” Eldridge says. “We no longer have to be ‘low bid’ to win contracts because of our stellar service reputation and impressive client referral list.”
Building the commercial side of the business required bringing new offerings to market — services like bee control, rodent control, bird and bat control, live animal trapping and aquatic weed control, which has been a real breadwinner. Treating “dead” lakes, ponds and ditches is lucrative business, and it made sense to add this service because it fit within the company’s existing line of work. “We didn’t want to get into anything that was totally removed from pest control,” Eldridge says.
Although other pest management firms have taken on adding “pest insulation” to homes, that wasn’t a good fit for him. Eldridge said that service would require his technicians to crawl around in hot attics during Florida summers — plus there were startup costs, including specialized trucks and insulation machines.
“There is a learning curve, equipment costs, training — there were many services that required too much of an outlay of cash, learning curve and marketing curve,” Eldridge says, explaining why Apex chose to add new services that fell within the pest control spectrum of treating properties.
One lesson Eldridge has learned through his company’s service evolution is the value of adding a niche service, like aquatic weed control. “When you bid on termite work or lawn care, you’re bidding against the same people,” Eldridge says of profit potential. “It’s a much easier bidding process when you get into services your typical competitors don’t offer.”
So how’s Apex doing today, after expanding its services and moving into the Miami market, where it opened a new branch? For one, the workforce is back up to where it was before the housing bust. Apex Pest Control employed 100 people in its pre-treat heyday during the Florida construction boom. In 2008, payroll sunk down to 55 workers. Now there are about 90 cross-trained technicians on board.
“All of the acquisitions in our industry have helped us,” Eldridge says of recruiting workers to provide the breadth of services Apex offers. “There is a lot of buying and selling going on, and when that happens, there are employees who don’t want to work for huge, nationwide companies.” That’s more talent for companies like Apex. “We were able to gain quality people that way,” he says.
Get Personal with Service. Muldoon learned much from his company’s foray into washroom care, and now that Orkin Canada is entrenched in the fast-growing segment, potty language in the conference room is business as usual. (Pun intended.)
Washroom care was a natural fit for Orkin because the pest control business in Canada was already mostly commercial, and those clients know exactly how important it is to keep bathrooms clean. “In the past, those services were done by janitorial companies, and because of the consistent turnover, a lot of times, the service just didn’t get done every month,” Muldoon relates.
Washroom care represents a $15 million dollar business in Canada, and it’s now 15 percent of Orkin Canada’s total revenue. The company has dedicated trucks and a specific hygiene team that manages disposal of sanitary napkins. (This is an issue in Canada and Europe where plumbing pipe is smaller and more easily blocked, resulting in costly fixes.)
“If you look at the way the pest control market has gone, there is a lot of consolidation, and you don’t see as many mom and pop stores like you used to,” Muldoon says of reaching a more corporate customer base that values washroom services. “Even our restaurants are all becoming chains, and we have been able to get on that bandwagon so we can bring national coverage to all of their locations.”
Orkin Canada employs about 750 people (compared to roughly 10,000 in the United States), and over the years it has focused on training technicians to serve the commercial market. “We don’t use any subs — we do all the work ourselves, and that has been appealing to a lot of our larger accounts,” Muldoon says of the business model.
So when Orkin Canada added washroom care, it took the same approach: Train the employees who are already on board, and selectively hire people who are good at selling the service. Muldoon says he essentially marketed the service to his own employees. “I showed them that if they added washroom care, they could make substantially more income — and it worked,” he says. In meetings, Orkin managers highlight how much technicians make if a route adds washroom care compared to one without it. “It’s hard to find a technician that isn’t capable of putting in a urinal dispenser and an automatic flusher, or putting in a soap dispenser. We even have technicians installing hands-free faucets.”
Because Orkin Canada has given technicians another service to perform, Muldoon says the company has a lower turnover rate than before. The average worker will stay 14 years.
And clients don’t jump ship that easily either. Plus, they know this aspect of their business is being managed consistently, which is a key selling point, Muldoon says. “We have done research that shows you can go into a restaurant and have a nice meal and good service, and then if you walk into the restroom and it’s dirty you all of a sudden have a whole different opinion of that establishment,” Muldoon says.
Washroom care is a tangible service — clients see the results. This is not necessarily the case with pest control, Muldoon points out. “If we do washroom care at a location, the client can walk in and say, ‘That smells nice,’ and their customers have a better feeling,” he says.
Commercial crossover. Shifting from a mostly residential customer mix to a 50/50 split has taken about 15 years at Orkin USA. When termite business exploded in the 1990s, the company worked harder at building its commercial operation. But it costs a lot more to acquire these type of clients, Wilson says.
Specifically, Wilson estimates that the cost of acquiring a commercial customer costs 60 percent for every dollar of revenue that first year of the contract. That’s 60 cents spent on pay, commissions and startup costs for every dollar earned.
On the other hand, residential sales can be managed by phone and in larger volume, so the cost of acquiring a customer is much less.
“We love the residential pest control business; its’ very profitable and doing well for us,” Wilson says. But the company recognized the importance of diversification and profit margin potential with commercial clients, he adds.
“It takes training to elevate your management skills and to deliver higher-end commercial service — and you have to make investments in training people,” Wilson says.
The challenge with selling to commercial clients is that many view pest control services as a commodity, Wilson says. “We have to work each and every day to build value in what we do and to show our customers that what we are doing is worthwhile. Many struggle to make that connection until there is an event that damages their brand. Then they get it.”
Wilson says the key to switching the business mix is to commit to your decision and deliver on promises. “Otherwise, you could harm your reputation,” he says.
This is partly why Mike Masterson of Isotech Pest Management in Covina, Calif., (#70) turns down residential business. After Isotech was featured on the Discovery Channel’s reality show “Verminators,” his exclusively commercial company began fielding thousands of phone calls from residents wanting service.
Not wanting to take on this business, Masterson passed it on to other pest control firms — which bit him in the end. He heard back from some of these people who complained about getting overcharged or underserviced.
So now, Masterson is very careful about referring people to other firms. And he has an equally strong opinion about sticking to his commercial specialty. For one, his technicians are trained to perform this high-level work. Asking them to do a home pest treatment would degrade their skills, he says.
Switching the business mix isn’t always the answer, Masterson said. “In the world today, it’s about diversification, and in tough times you diversify. But you diversify if you have something that is not really working. We have a very successful program and business philosophy that, from day one to present day, has worked. And we don’t want to change that.”
Masterson’s success hinges on supporting his “superstars” in the field. “Our business prospers because our guys are phenomenal, and customers refer us to other customers,” he says.
Be careful about diving into a brand-new business, Masterson warns. Diversification alone does not justify adding a new service, he says. “I read too many stories about companies that have very good business models and all of a sudden they get into something else, and it never takes off,” he says. “If you are training your technicians, the excitement should be in new sales, not in diversification.”
But what diversification can do is spread risk if a company is putting too much stock in an area of business that could fall out. And, it can help a company expand its reach if acquiring new, different customers is part of its business strategy. “Jump in and get your feet wet,” Eldridge encourages. “Sell and do a few small jobs at a dead cost to figure it out and get some references under your belt.”
Kristen Hampshire is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Being Happy Pays Off
How does a pest management company grow from zero customers and no revenue to 13 locations and nearly $12 million in sales in eight months? That’s the question we asked David Royce, CEO of Alterra, which entered PCT’s Top 100 list at #52.
His response: By having fun, utilizing a great business model and hiring passionate employees. Some serious capital didn’t hurt, either.
In 2011 Royce “reluctantly” sold EcoFirst, his pest management company with 12 locations and $24 million in revenue, to Terminix. This gave him capital to start Alterra, based on a vision inspired by two books: “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor.
Royce wanted to create an organization that makes pest management “sexy,” where employees enjoy working and gain a higher quality of life. “If your employees are happy, your customers are going to be happy,” he said.
He realized he could take steps over many years to change EcoFirst’s culture, or start fresh and implement all of the new ideas immediately. He and his executive team chose the latter.
The processes they honed at EcoFirst helped them quickly build revenue, picking up 53,000 new customers last summer alone. Having “a rule for everything” is how a “professional organization should be run,” said Royce, who learned this working at McDonalds as a 15 year old.
Alterra, from the word “all” and the Latin word for “earth,” combines these proven systems with a culture of fun and empowerment. Its mission: to “wow” customers in every Alterra interaction, said Royce.
Employees are encouraged to live and work by the company’s 10 core values. The first, “Elevate the Tribe,” is about building a positive team and family spirit. To achieve this, Alterra hosts picnics, breakfasts and teams for charity events. It remodeled its headquarters in Provo, Utah, to give employees a place to socialize. Looking more like home for an ad agency or tech start up, the building boasts a basketball court, movie room, and game room with foosball, ping pong and billiards. These activities and amenities “pay dividends,” said Royce.
Alterra has invested in proprietary software to develop and track employee incentive programs, and pays customers $5 to complete satisfaction surveys. It has a staff entomologist and an MBA-degreed chief customer officer charged with developing the customer experience and a fun working environment.
The goal was to “build a better company, not just a bigger one,” Royce explained.
But bigger is in the plans, too. Alterra expects to double its revenue, customer base and workforce this year. In April it opened locations in Baltimore, Columbus and Indianapolis for a total of 16 offices in 11 states.
Over the next decade, Royce’s plan is to build a $100 million company with 50 to 60 locations across the country. Growth will be organic, not through acquisition. “We like hiring new people and building our culture,” he explained.
Most of the company’s business is residential pest control, but it eventually will expand into commercial, termite, lawn care and home services, he said.
— Anne Nagro
61 Heron Lawn and Pest Control
Continuous Training Means Continuous Growth
Heron Lawn and Pest Control, Apopka, Fla., has maintained a quick clip when it comes to growth over the past several years. The company saw a 24 percent increase in revenue from 2011 to 2012, topping out at just more than $11 million for 2012. President and CEO Rodney Lackey says he expects those numbers to continue to grow — and he said that growth is spurred by a few strategies the company is fully committed to.
“First and foremost, it’s the service we provide to our customers,” Lackey said. “We do a lot of things above and beyond. We’re always looking for ways to improve.”
Heron (#61) was established in 2001, and provides a mix of pest control, turf and ornamental, termite, and irrigation services that make up the company’s revenues. Heron first broke into the Top 100 in 2010, with 2009 revenues of just less than $6 million. With seven branches throughout Florida, Lackey said the firm expects revenues to break the $14 million mark in 2013. How have they done it? Chief Operating Officer Steve Orkos attributes the firm’s success to passion and the creation and maintenance of certain operational systems.
Continuous improvement doesn’t materialize from thin air. Heron Lawn and Pest Control utilizes a model of continuing training of its employees in order to ensure that the quality of the work stays up to snuff. The company puts each new employee through a three-week training program. As well, employees perform their duties along with a quality manager each Tuesday and Thursday. Heron also performs five quality control reviews for each employee, each month.
“If they (employees) go below a certain standard, they get put back into training,” Lackey said. “If they’re doing well, we keep track of it, and they’re in our employee rewards program.”
“Our success has been no accident,” said Joe Patti, chairman at Heron, adding that the company’s growth has been part of its vision. “That’s the model we created, and our customers recognize the difference once they meet us.”
Lackey attributed the firm’s sustained growth to having been able to keep the right people in the right place. Lackey, Orkos and Patti started the business with no one but themselves, and Lackey said each has been able to focus on a certain aspect of Heron. That focus has been hugely important, he said.
As well, Heron’s growth has been entirely organic, Lackey said. “The three of us went door to door, did the services ourselves, did the data entry, the phone calls,” he said. “We were able to add one employee, and we just grew from that point. All of our growth has been 100 percent organic, which for a company to grow to where we’re at, it’s not very common.”
— Bill Delaney
98 Lewis Pest Control
Lewis Pest Control Celebrates 50 Years of Quality Service
When Burke and Erin Lewis started down the path of founding a pest control company in 1963 in rural Alabama, the cost of a first-class stamp was 5 cents. When you filled up at the gas pump you paid about 30 cents per gallon, and a pesticide named DDT was eradicating bed bugs for good — or so we all thought.
The days of nickel stamps and 30 cent gallons of gas are long gone, but bed bugs have reemerged, and the Lewis family and their loyal employees are still going strong. From modest beginnings, Lewis Pest Control (#98) has enjoyed consistent growth and now provides pest management services in three states — Alabama, Mississippi and the panhandle of Florida — along the Gulf Coast.
“Even though we have grown into a regional company we always strive to keep the company family-oriented,” says President Scott Lewis, one of three brothers who work in the family business. “We are fortunate to have great employees and little turnover. Those things have earned us a solid reputation in the area.”
How has the company built such a loyal employee base? Lewis credits several factors for the success.
“Our employees live and work in the community and as a result are dedicated to delivering the best possible service,” says Lewis. “We also offer a higher than average compensation package that allows technicians to increase their earnings by growing their routes and in the process establish a good income.”
With more than 60 employees operating out of five offices, the Thomasville, Ala., company carved out a niche in the early 1990s by offering quarterly residential service vs. the more traditional monthly service often found in the South (where pest pressures are higher).
Lewis says the quarterly service model is the backbone of the company’s service lineup since it allows them to service more accounts per technician and generate higher revenue streams.
“The advances in product technology and application techniques let us maintain control of pests like cockroaches and ants with fewer service visits,” says Lewis. “We can offer customers year-round protection with less intrusion into their schedules.”
The company also has benefited from the pro-business climate in the Gulf Coast region, with major multinational companies including Airbus, a Chinese copper tubing firm and building materials manufacturer Louisiana-Pacific either building or reopening large manufacturing plants in the region.
“The influx of new manufacturing jobs has been a plus for the housing market and that has translated into increased demand for termite and other pest management services,” says Lewis.
Another niche market Lewis Pest Control has developed is servicing the region’s numerous paper mills. Lewis says the abundance of pine trees and water make the area ideal for paper and packaging goods manufacturers.
Lewis says the company works with several food-grade paper packaging facilities that have zero-tolerance for pests. And because of the swamp-like terrain in and around the plants, plus abundant exterior lighting, they are a hot-bed of insect activity.
“We work closely with the plants on exclusion methods to keep flies and mosquitoes out and away from the packaging materials they are producing,” says Lewis. “Since most of the packaging is white board material, a dead insect can really stand out.”
— Jeff Fenner
32 Sprague Pest Solutions
Sprague Pest Solutions Takes To The Streets to Battle Rodents
Rodents and pests are no stranger to the Seattle waterfront district. However, when the state of Washington decided to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a double-decked elevated section of state Route 99 along the city’s waterfront, with a 2-mile tunnel, it opened the gates to a significant pest threat — mainly from rodents and cockroaches — to local business owners and property managers.
The displacement of rodent and pest harborages due to the multi-billion dollar construction project (boring of the tunnel is scheduled to start this summer) made it imperative that Sprague Pest Solutions inform and educate current and prospective customers in the “pest impact zone” about preventive rodent and pest measures.
When Carrie Thibodeaux, director of client experience and marketing for Sprague (#32), wanted to push the word out about looming rodent and pest problems facing clients in Seattle’s waterfront district, she could have tapped one of the usual marketing vehicles like direct mail, television or radio.
Instead she used a vehicle — bicycle billboards — that literally wheeled around, among and next to her target audience.
The bike messengers, working in groups of three, pedaled around downtown Seattle and the city’s waterfront district towing A-frame signs with catch phrases such as “Save Your Building! Ratpocalypse is coming!”; “Sven the Rat is coming to your neighborhood!!” and “Prevent the destruction — Call Sprague.”
The two-wheel marketers also handed out information cards encouraging business owners, property managers and residents to follow Sprague’s resident rodent expert, Sven the Rat, on Twitter @Ratpocalypse, and to act early to prevent rodent and pest infestations.
“It was a unique way to place our message in front of our target audience in an unexpected way,” says Thibodeaux. “There has been a lot of coverage of the tunnel project and the bicycle billboards allowed us to present a different and entertaining perspective. It was a perfect fit.”
The campaign — which garnered an estimated 10,000 views on the first day of the campaign — yielded such a positive response that Sprague plans on doing it again when the tunnel digging starts this summer.
Sprague also sent a press release to the Seattle/Tacoma media announcing the coming Ratpocalypse and the results were — to borrow a catchphrase — apocalyptic.
The release generated coverage from numerous Puget Sound print and electronic media outlets, including a live report on the local ABC news affiliate with the bicycle messengers riding around the reporter clearly displaying the Sprague name and the customized ads.
“The media coverage came fast and furious within the first 24 hours of the campaign and even received mention in USA Today,” says Thibodeaux.
Did the rolling message bearers have the intended impact Sprague hoped for?
Thibodeaux tracked at least $1 million in public relations value for Sprague as a result of the Ratpocalypse campaign coverage, as well generating solid business leads from existing and new customers seeking rodent prevention services.
— Jeff Fenner
51 Poulin’s Pest Control
Hatred of Rats Founds an Empire
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Pest Control Canada e-newsletter, sponsored by Univar Environmental Sciences. To receive this e-newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “subscribe Canada.”
As a young boy, Napoleon Poulin hated rats. He had good reason — the vermin killed his puppy.
Because his dog wasn’t allowed in the house, he kept it safe at night in a backyard shed. One evening, rats attacked the little dog and killed it. “That’s why he always had a hatred for rats,” explained his son, Don Poulin.
Years later, Napoleon fell into pest control by accident. He was in the hotel business in St. Jean, Manitoba, and a particular property was infested with mice, bed bugs and cockroaches. Only one room was rented and the dining room had been closed for a long time. The local health inspector said Napoleon was wasting his time: Conditions were so bad the building would be shut down.
Napoleon asked for a chance to clean it up and when he did, the inspector “kept telling him he was in the wrong business,” recalled Poulin. Unfortunately, his father had to walk away when the deal with the hotel company soured.
About this time a fellow told him the city needed someone to kill rats. “My dad said, ‘That’s a great idea,’” smiled Poulin. It fell right into his passion, and is how Poulin’s Pest Control (#51) got its start. The company was incorporated in 1946.
Napoleon quickly became known as the rat control expert. The Province of Alberta hired him for 18 months to train government employees on how to inspect for and control the pests, said Poulin, who started working for his dad in 1951 and now serves as president.
If they found rats in a zone, they’d stay there until the pests were eliminated and would then move out to neighboring townships to make sure the pests hadn’t gained a foothold there. “That program is still in effect and Alberta still brags of being rat free,” Poulin said.
Today, the Winnipeg-based company’s 101 employees control rodents, general pests, bed bugs, birds, mosquitoes and grain pests in five provinces from eight offices. In 2012, it had revenues of $12.7 million U.S. The company sells products online and has retail stores at each office, where trained employees help do-it-yourselfers choose materials, provide application tips, and advise customers how to protect themselves and the environment. Poulin’s Pest Control even manufactures and sells its own products. At one time, the company formulated more, but increasing government regulations has made this difficult.
Poulin’s Gopher Doom controls gophers, voles, mice and rats. Poulin’s C Plus C Insecticide is a pyrethrum-based spray effective for fly control and can be applied with a mister to cattle and hog pens in manufacturing plants. Poulin’s Super Strength controls ants, cockroaches, silverfish and other crawling insects.
Poulin says he expects bed bug control to remain strong. The company specializes in heat treatment and each branch has its own portable heat trailer. In the 1950s people wanted their bed bugs kept secret because of the social stigma, Poulin recalled.
He also plans to get more aggressive in acquiring companies in the future. He receives several calls each year asking if he wants to sell, but Poulin likes the idea of being a third-generation company. He says he sees the industry eventually becoming comprised of fewer big companies and more smaller shops focused on specific geographic areas.
He attributes his company’s success to hard work and having the right employees. Most of his employees have long tenures — two have been with the company more than 26 years. Good employees make the difference, he said.
That’s one of the reasons hiring is so difficult. He encourages managers to have someone on staff who can be groomed to cover for ill or injured coworkers, handle emergencies or replace a bad hire. Though this person isn’t always generating income, the potential cost of hiring the wrong person when in a bind or of not being able to service a route are far greater. His advice: Hire slowly and fire quickly.
— Anne Nagro
11 Truly Nolen
Tapping Into The Energy Market
As the public grows more energy conscious, Arizona’s Truly Nolen (#11) has taken advantage, offering its customers a product that can help them save on pest problems and energy costs.
With higher gasoline prices, heating and electric bills, Justin Bellet, vice president of operations for Truly Nolen, said customers are in the mindset to become more energy efficient. “When we can get in front of people and show them, not only can you be energy-conscious, but you can have an impact on your pest control needs, it’s a double-win.”
Bellet said the idea for installing insulation came when the company was looking to revamp its rodent program. In Florida, Bellet said rats have become a larger problem over the past few years, particularly roof rats and Norway rats. Truly Nolen wanted to offer remediation services for attics that had become corrupted by rat damage. The company decided it could sanitize and fix damaged areas, as well as help with insulation needs. Truly Nolen began to offer installation of TAP Pest Control Insulation, a borate-treated insulation made from recycled paper. Since then, the company’s insulation business has grown from one truck in Tampa Bay, Fla., to seven trucks installing insulation in Florida, Texas and Arizona.
In the last two years, Bellet estimated that the company has sold around $1.6 million in insulation. But it didn’t happen overnight. “In the beginning, it was absolutely not profitable,” he said. “There was a learning curve. A lot of wasted material, a lot of wasted time, but it’s profitable now.” He added that the cost to run the insulation program is not akin to run-of-the-mill pest control costs — the proportion of labor vs. material costs are reversed. “It’s a flip-flop of the standard model,” Bellet said. “It’s a little more controllable, because your bigger cost is actually on the product, not the labor.”
Bellet said the insulation has become part of the company’s overall sales presentation. “The key to the whole thing is, we’re in people’s attics all day long,” he said. “Whether we’re inspecting an existing customer’s house for termites, or a new lead, when we’re in that attic, we not only educate people about their needs for pests, we include insulation as part of our presentation in general.” Bellet said the average cost to the customer is between $1,500 and $2,000.
Truly Nolen is looking to continue building its profile as a company customers can turn to for their energy needs, Bellet said. “We’re trying to become more energy-related as a company. We do plan on in the future getting into energy audits, inspecting people’s homes (for energy needs).”
— Bill Delaney
7 Arrow Exterminators
Arrow Exterminators Launches New Brand ‘Stark Exterminators’
What’s in a name? It’s a question many Top 100 companies must consider as they enter new markets and grow through acquisition. For Atlanta-based Arrow Exterminators (#7), growth over time has resulted in a strategic development of a family of brands.
Since opening its doors in 1964, Arrow has acquired more than 100 companies and has expanded its footprint into 10 states. Typically, a newly acquired company becomes an Arrow service center.
“The Arrow name is important to us,” said Emily Thomas-Kendrick, president and chief executive officer for the firm. “Ideally, we will use the Arrow brand with any expansion. However, every acquisition and growth opportunity is unique and we make decisions based on the specific market we enter.”
Plans for growth into North and South Carolina in 2012 meant entering a market where a competing Arrow brand already existed. As a result, Arrow launched Stark Exterminators. “We wanted to develop a solid brand to use in any market where there may be a competitive situation with the Arrow brand,” said Kendrick.
“We chose Stark Exterminators because of the strong tie to our family,” said Kendrick. The “Stark” tie spans three generations beginning with company founder, Starkey Thomas, and includes current Arrow Chairman, Joe Stark Thomas, and Kendrick’s cousin Starkey who represents the third generation.
“We have always been family owned and operated and we wanted to honor that family connection,” said Kendrick.
Originally launched in North and South Carolina, the Stark Exterminators brand now extends into Mississippi and Alabama. The brand joins Florida-based Nader’s Pest Raiders and Hughes Exterminators under the Arrow brand umbrella. “We retained the Nader’s name after that acquisition in 2010 because of the company’s considerable local brand equity,” said Cindy Mannes, chief marketing and strategy officer. Arrow retained the Hughes legacy name after acquiring the company in the late 1990s to avoid marketplace confusion with an existing Arrow company.
“Developing any brand is an investment,” said Mannes. “The more brands you have, the more financial resources are needed for brand support. The launch of the Stark Exterminators brand gives us one solid secondary option to use in our future growth.”
Though the Arrow family of companies includes several entities now, the look and feel of each mimics the Arrow Exterminator parent brand.
“Regardless of the name of the company in the market, all or our customers will continue to receive Beyond the Call services which Arrow is known for in the markets we service,” said Tim Pollard, chief operating officer for Arrow.
— Jennifer Kreitzer O’Keef
64 Alpha Ecological
Who We Are, Not What We Do
New to the Top 100 this year is the Portland, Ore.-based Alpha Ecological, a company that covers six states — Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona and Texas — and pulled in more than $10 million in revenue in 2012. The company’s business mix consists of around 75 percent residential work and 25 percent commercial — but for CEO Scott Sneer, those nuts and bolts aren’t the sorts of things that make customers pick up the phone when they’ve discovered a pest problem.
“The reality is, people call you when they need you,” Sneer said. “When people get in that frantic state where they have a problem, we want them to think of the company they know.” With that in mind, Sneer wants customers to know who they are, more than what they do.
That idea drives a number of initiatives for Alpha Ecological (#64). Founded in 1986 as Alpha Pest Control by Sneer’s father-in-law, Jim Hargis, the company changed its name to Alpha Ecological in the late 1990s to better reflect the value of environmental stewardship. “On the marketing side, we saw the need to explain to people we were taking a lower-toxicity road to handling problems, as opposed to the ‘spray jockeys’ of old,” Sneer said.
Within the past three years, though, Sneer said the company has ratcheted up its efforts to show its customers “who they are.” The company is involved with a number of outreach efforts in the communities it serves, whether through its involvement in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Hiring Our Heroes” effort, a nationwide initiative to help veterans and military spouses find employment (Sneer said about 20 percent of Alpha Ecological employees are veterans); or through its sponsorship of the bug exhibit at Fraboom, an online children’s educational museum (www.fraboom.com). Sneer wants customers to know “what’s the purpose behind Alpha beyond killing things,” he said. “Anybody can do pest control service, so for us it’s about our commitment to give back.”
Another of the company’s core values is conservation, revolving around environmental stewardship and sustainability. The company’s service vehicles are customized Nissan Cubes —Sneer said searching for a fuel-efficient vehicle with a heavy-enough payload was tough, but the Cube fit the bill — and is every bit as effective as a small truck like the Ford Ranger, Sneer said.
Sneer said the company experienced “explosive growth” between 2001 and 2006, when the company quadrupled in size. The company’s focus is on larger metropolitan areas in the states it serves — in Colorado, most business is in Denver, and in Texas, the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex — and Sneer said that he has his sights set on expanding into Nevada and California.
— Bill Delaney
17 Critter Control
Critter Control Celebrates 30-Year Anniversary
Critter Control employees and franchisees assembled in Chicago, Illinois, earlier this year for the company’s annual meeting and 30-year anniversary celebration. Additionally, 10 franchisees celebrated 25-year anniversaries with the company.
It all started in 1982 when Detroit-based chimney sweep Kevin Clark received a call to remove a raccoon from a customer’s chimney. Seeing an opportunity, Clark’s Critter Control was born and in 1987 the company began franchising the concept.
Today, Critter Control (#17) is North America’s largest wildlife pest control firm, with more than 100 offices coast-to-coast. Clark shares the credit with his franchisees, who’ve helped grow the business. “We have dedicated people, who are passionate about protecting people, property and wildlife,” he said. “Franchising was the perfect way to grow the concept and share the dream,” and adds that, “it’s been extremely satisfying to help pioneer an industry, and in the process create over 400 jobs.”
These Top 100 articles were written by several authors. Bill Delaney is associate editor of PCT magazine. Jeff Fenner is a freelance writer based in Mentor, Ohio. Anne Nagro is a Chicago-based freelancer and frequent contributor to PCT magazine. Jennifer Kreitzer O’Keef is a Milwaukee, Wis.-based freelance writer.
Terminix’s New Commercial Focus
Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Terminix International (#2) hired three national account managers: Jennifer Callahan, George Armstrong and Ed Guenther. Their goal is grow new business and better service the firm’s existing commercial accounts. All three will report to vice president of commercial sales, Michele Vance, who joined the company last fall through its acquisition of Schendel Pest Services.
PCT recently interviewed Vance and Bob Sanford, vice president, commercial division, to learn more about Terminix’s renewed focus on the commercial market.
PCT: Why is Terminix focusing on the commercial segment now? What has changed within the organization that has made commercial a more prominent focus?
Bob Sanford, vice president, commercial division: Terminix has had a commercial presence for years, but it’s been under-represented, particularly given the size of our national and international footprint and the depth of commercial talent and experience that exists within Terminix and other ServiceMaster brands. Terminix is a market leader in residential and we feel we can bring the same level of focus to our commercial efforts.
We also have a new technology platform that will allow us to deliver information to customers in real-time like never before; providing an opportunity to capture more market share in a segment that’s not received our full focus in the past. Terminix offers a complete scope of services that no other national provider can match — particularly on the commercial termite side.
PCT: In what way is Terminix focusing on the commercial segment? How are you targeting these customers?
Michele Vance, vice president of commercial sales: Terminix now has dedicated commercial branches that are supported by regions that consist of only commercial branches. We also have an entire division that’s solely focused on commercial and supports our teams in the United States, Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
We’ve also brought in leadership from the outside with strong industry backgrounds (who) come with a breadth of knowledge and experience in driving commercial growth. We also brought in three new national account managers — the first time in company history that we’ve hired dedicated team members to focus on specific commercial regions.
We are focused on the vertical markets Terminix can best serve while tightening our service protocols for partnering with them. At the end of the day, we want to make our clients’ lives easier, so having a deep understanding of these verticals and the issues and regulations that impact them, will position us for success.
BS: We also are utilizing more sophisticated technology to drive the customer experience. Our new “Connect” platform for our sales professionals allows them to better connect with prospects in ways in which they have not been able to in the past. We can keep that connection throughout the lifecycle of the sale and as an added touch point for the duration of the relationship.
Our National Accounts team is also growing due to improved organization efforts and by taking advantage of this technology on the service side of the business. Our Connect Service Cloud has closed the gaps that existed in the past, making our client relationships even stronger.
PCT: To Terminix, what’s different between the commercial and residential markets?
BS: At the basic level, they’re very similar. Both residential and commercial customers want a relationship with their technician where we communicate what we did and what to expect next. As accounts grow larger in scale, reporting and documentation becomes even more critical. Data integrity is a constant focus. “If we don’t document it, it didn’t happen,” is a common mantra in the commercial segment.
MV: From a customer experience standpoint, we are there to protect the customer’s brand. Part of being a good brand steward is staying on top of industry regulations and being thoroughly knowledgeable of all the areas which impact their market. This partnership approach assures pest issues will not get in the way of a customer’s business operations.
Terminix Closes Six Acquisition Deals in December 2012
For many firms in the pest management inudstry, 2012 was a busy year for buying and selling. That certainly was the case for Terminix International, which announced the closing of six asset acquisitions in December 2012. These transactions contribute strong management teams, additional service offerings and geographic diversity to the Terminix portfolio, further highlighting the company’s aggressive growth strategy, the firm said.
Terminix plans to continue its organic and acquisition growth strategy in 2013 with a focus on domestic and international acquisitions to expand the company’s geographic footprint, the firm says. Terminix adds that it actively looks for a variety of pest control operators (PCOs) and, as with the businesses acquired in December, utilizes different integration models, from tuck-in to stand-alone operations.
Collectively, the annualized revenue for these recent acquisitions is in excess of $10 million.
The acquisitions include assets from:
PCT: How confident are you that Terminix will be successful in the commercial segment?
BS: We’re all really excited about the year to come with Terminix Commercial. We have an amazing team in place — from front-line associates, to management and sales teams, to the corporate support we’re receiving. Add to this our depth of knowledge in specific vertical markets, our robust recent hires, as well as our dramatically enhanced technology platform, and I think you’ll see a much stronger, more well-rounded Terminix Commercial emerge.
PCT: In what way will Chuck Fallon’s resignation affect Terminix’s goals and strategies moving forward? Will the focus on commercial change as a result?
BS: One of the many positive things Chuck brought to the organization was a greater focus on the commercial business. I don’t see that changing, as the leadership of both Terminix and ServiceMaster is very much focused on commercial growth. Additionally, with Larry Pruitt’s [interim president] 27 years of leadership within the organization, we’ll effectively maintain this focus moving forward.
PCT: What’s the biggest challenge in the residential pest control market right now? In the commercial market?
BS: The responses for both markets would be similar. We understand that our people are what make the difference, so recruiting and retaining the most experienced, passionate professionals is a top priority for us this, and every year. We also have a keen focus on keeping our value proposition strong while continuously updating and expanding our technology platform. Also, the ways in which we communicate have dramatically changed in recent years, both on the residential and commercial sides of business, so being ahead of the curve in regards to e-communications is vital to remain relevant.
PCT: Anything else you’d like to add?
MV: Overall, I’d just like to reiterate that this is a really exciting chapter in the company’s history. We have such an amazing opportunity to leverage not only the institutional knowledge of the organization, but to better position our industry expertise in ways we never have before. While the residential segment certainly remains important to us, this is the first time in company history that we’re putting such a depth of resources behind commercial efforts.
Save the Date! Top 100 Event to be Held in 2014
The third PCT Top 100 Awards Ceremony and Executive Summit will be held next summer, June 17-18, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio, Texas, located on San Antonio’s famed River Walk. The room rate for the event is $189 per night plus tax. Eligible Top 100 companies may make reservations by calling 888/421-1442 asking for the PCT Top 100 Executive Summit rate.
The program will feature a special reception honoring the PCT Top 100, as well as an Executive Summit, which will include panel discussions and speakers on a variety of topics relating to the pest management industry.
Invitations to eligible companies will be mailed in May 2014. The program will be sponsored by Univar Environmental Sciences.
To whet your appetite for all things San Antonio, here are some fun facts about the city:
PCT to Host M&A Virtual Conference this August
Have you been thinking about entering the M&A market? Not sure where to begin or who to turn to for answers to your questions? By “attending” PCT’s Mergers & Acquisitions Virtual Conference 2.0 on Aug. 14, you’ll acquire expert advice from the industry’s leading authorities on mergers and acquisitions, all from the comfort of your home or office without the headaches often associated with travel.
Registration is now open for PCT’s Mergers & Acquisitions Virtual Conference. Visit www.pctonline.com/webinars.aspx to learn more.
Sponsorship opportunities also are available by calling 757/233-4100.
From the desk of John Bolanos
Dear Pest Management Professionals,
It’s May, which is one of the busiest months of the busiest seasons for the pest management industry. But besides customer calls for ants, flies and spiders, what else happens in May? The annual PCT Top 100 list.
Univar Environmental Sciences is pleased to once again sponsor PCT’s Top 100 List, which is featured on the poster at right. It’s our hope that you tear out and display this poster for reference throughout the year. It’s a great tool to see at a glance how you stack up against your competitors as far as revenue, number of employees and business mix.
Becoming a member of this list is a rite of passage for some firms and a long-term goal of others. And Univar is honored to help recognize these Top 100 firms. We offer them our most sincere congratulations! Their commitment to the growth of the industry is admirable and we respect the hard work they’ve done to achieve such success.
And in 2014, Univar will once again sponsor the PCT Top 100 Awards Ceremony and Executive Summit in San Antonio, Texas. Next summer, representatives of the companies on this list will come together June 17-18, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency in San Antonio to discuss industry trends and to share and glean information from one another. Throughout the event, the PMPs in attendance are not competitors — they are sponges who soak up knowledge from their colleagues. We hope to see you there!
As the entire industry continues to grow at an impressive clip, we congratulate all pest management firms that represent our industry in such a positive way. We’re proud to have you as our customers.
At Univar, our focus is to bring you tangible benefits by offering the industry’s most extensive product portfolio, innovative technology, comprehensive educational resources and experienced industry professionals providing valuable technical support.
We take our partnership with you seriously and are committed to grow and succeed through your growth and success. We love this industry and are proud to be part of it!
John P. Bolanos
Univar Environmental Sciences
More than 400 pest control industry professionals traveled to our nation’s capital in March for Legislative Day 2013, sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions and cosponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
In the day-plus of activities, PCOs attended sessions on important business and tax issues and heard from prominent national speakers before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with their congressional representatives.
A highlight of this year’s Legislative Day was an appearance by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 Republican Party Vice-Presidential nominee. With his budget proposal awaiting a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan advocated his proposal by referencing one of his state’s PCOs. Ryan spoke of Charlie Fisher of Fisher Pest Control, Janesville, Wis., a second-generation PMP who services Ryan’s home district. Ryan said family businesses like Fisher’s are what he and fellow House Republicans are trying to protect from burdensome taxes and regulations.
Cooksey Recognized with FMC Legislative Day Award
Bryan Cooksey, president of McCall Service, Jacksonville, Fla., was recognized with the FMC Legislative Day Award on March 18.
In addition to running McCall for 25 years, Cooksey is an ardent supporter of the pest management industry, focusing on regulatory and government affairs. He’s held several leadership positions within the Florida Pest Management Association and he currently serves on the FPMA Government Action Committee.
Cooksey also has served on the NPMA Board of Directors and remains active on NPMA’s Government Affairs Committee. “Bryan, it’s people like you who make our industry stronger,” said Bethwyn Todd, global director, FMC Professional Solutions. “On behalf of FMC, thank you for all you do.”
In accepting the award, Cooksey thanked his family and his team at McCall, and noted that his daughter’s missionary work in India has put community outreach and industry participation in perspective. “The hunger and the passion of the people of India is to be like the United States. I challenge us not to forget the values and the strengths and the heritage that we inherited. We might get a little bit soft and forget to give forth that little bit of extra effort, but I think it does pay off and I think being here [at Legislative Day] makes a difference.” — Brad Harbison
“Family business is what America is built on, and right now Washington is not thinking about the Charlie Fishers in this country,” said Ryan. “We owe it to the next generation to do something to protect their future.”
Encouraging Words. The day prior to Ryan’s appearance PCOs were briefed about this year’s Legislative Day issues by Gene Harrington, vice president of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, and Bob Dold Jr., president of Rose Pest Solutions and a former Congressman from Illinois’ 10th district. Dold focused some of his comments on the economy, suggesting this might be one way for PCOs to connect with their legislators. “What have we been talking about in Washington D.C., the last several years — jobs and the economy — and that is what you do. You are looking to grow. You are looking to hire. And that is music to their ears.”
Dold had several interesting insights about lobbying having seen it from both sides of the fence. “The most effective lobbyists that ever came to my office were those that got on a flight and came from the district, who took time off work and spent some of their resources on something that was so important that they wanted to tell me in person.”
Also, Dold recommended that PCOs familiarize themselves with not only the issues, but about their congressional representatives. “Pick and choose what you talk to them about,” he said. For example, Dold said if four issues were discussed at Legislative Day and you know that your rep might only be behind two of them, don’t waste your time on the other two.
New Opportunities. Harrington said significant turnover in Congress has resulted in new opportunities for PMPs to have an impact on issues of importance to the industry. “We are undergoing a congressional makeover the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” he said. “One-sixth of the 113th Congress is comprised of brand new members.”
Broken down in other terms, Harrington noted that the House Agriculture Committee — one of the committees that has jurisdiction over the pest control industry’s main issues — features 11 (out 21) new freshman Democrats, and 18 of the 25 Republican members on this committee have served less than three years. “We truly have an opportunity to meet and educate folks that are brand new and establish relationships from the ground floor. You help us extend our tentacles and reach folks that we can’t always reach.”
Harrington then reviewed issues Legislative Day attendees would be discussing with their legislators.
PESTT Act. Introduced in the House in February by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Rep. Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.), the Pest Elimination Services Transparency & Terminology (PESTT) Act (H.R. 730) aims to limit USDA-Wildlife Services competition with the private sector for rodent, nuisance bird and wildlife work.
The issue stems from a 1987 law that authorized USDA-WS to work at non-agricultural settings. Although the primary intent of the legislation was to permit WS to control birds at airports and engage in rabies control initiatives, the language was written very broadly.
Today, there is virtually no type of nuisance bird and wildlife management work that WS does not perform — regardless of whether area businesses also provide the same services. The only type of work WS is not authorized to perform is “urban rodent control.” That term is not defined in statute or regulation, however.
Harrington said NPMA had tried for many years to address these conflicts administratively with USDA prior to seeking this statute change. The two key components of the PESTT Act are: (1) to define the term “urban rodent control,” and (2) to direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) to write a report identifying activities WS performs that the private sector has the capability and capacity to perform and recommend ways to avoid competition between WS and the private sector, including further statutory changes. “In the House, we are asking that you ask your reps to sign on as co-sponsors to this bi-partisan legislation,” said Harrington. “In the Senate what you want to be asking is for them to sponsor a pending measure, and if they are not willing to take the lead, then to sign on as a co-sponsor when legislation is, indeed, introduced. Our ultimate goal is to get this legislation inserted into the farm bill.”
Update. Since Legislative Day, the PESTT ACT (H.R. 730) picked up an additional 12 co-sponsors, a testament to the March 19 visits. Ten Republicans and two Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors.
Paperless Reporting. Legislative Day attendees also encouraged their reps to introduce or co-sponsor legislation that would permit — not mandate — pest control operators to convey and retain pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets or others, electronically.
In recent years, many pest control companies have gone paperless in order to save costs, increase efficiencies and promote professionalism. Unfortunately, a barrier that PCOs have run into is that some states mandate pest control operators provide a hard copy consumer information sheet (e.g., pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets, etc.) at the time of service, or after service. Many of these requirements were written in the 1970s and 1980s before people could imagine today’s technology.
The end result is that many companies have invested large sums of money to go paperless, yet they are unable to do so completely because the state(s) in which they operate have mandated they provide hard copies.
“It’s created an operational nightmare for some of our member companies that operate in different states,” said Harrington.
Some companies have asked their state regulatory authority for clarification, but NPMA and its members believe this issue needs to be addressed federally.
PCT, BASF Present Annual Technician of the Year Awards
PCT presented the Technician of the Year Awards at NPMA Legislative Day. The awards, sponsored by BASF Pest Control Solutions, recognize a trio of service professionals in the residential, commercial and termite categories.
“The Technician of the Year Awards program is one of PCT’s most important projects because it is one of the few opportunities to recognize the contributions of the industry’s frontline professionals,” said PCT Internet Editor and Managing Editor Brad Harbison. “This year’s winners excel in areas that are critical to the success of your company, including (1) technical skills; (2) communication skills; (3) service; and (4) mentoring role.” Harbison then presented the awards to:
On the evening prior to the awards presentation, PCT and BASF hosted a special dinner in which PCT and BASF’s Dan Carrothers recognized each winner.
The 2013 program was launched in April. For more information about the program email email@example.com.
Sulfuryl Fluoride. Legislative Day attendees — specifically those involved in fumigation work — again made their representatives aware of what NPMA and others believe is U.S. EPA’s misguided proposed order cancelling the food uses for sulfuryl fluoride.
In 2004, EPA registered sulfuryl fluoride for control of insect pests in harvested and processed foods (e.g., cereal grains) and also in food-handling and -processing facilities. The fumigant is considered an alternative to methyl bromide, which is being phased out, and some groups in the food sector are now completely reliant on sulfuryl fluoride.
However, under pressure from activist groups, in January 2011 EPA announced it was taking steps to remove the authorized food uses of sulfuryl fluoride. But even U.S. EPA acknowledges that sulfuryl fluoride contributes no more that 2 to 3 percent of the public’s exposure to fluoride, noting that “Use of sulfuryl fluoride is responsible for a tiny fraction of aggregate fluoride exposure,” and “Elimination of sulfuryl fluoride does not solve, or even significantly decrease, the fluoride aggregate exposure problems...”
Update. Soon after Legislative Day, on April 11, U.S. Reps. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), along with a bipartisan group of 13 other representatives, introduced the Pest Free Food Supply Act. The legislation would force EPA to withdraw a proposed regulation that would remove the authorized food uses of sulfuryl fluoride.
Graves, lead sponsor of the bill, said, “If EPA moves forward with this proposed regulation based on emotion, instead of scientific facts, it will cost consumers and industry dearly and has the potential to send American jobs overseas.”
Schrader, lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, noted, “This proposed regulation represents another example of overreaching by the EPA. We need a smart, science-based regulatory structure, not one based on emotion.” (Visit http://bit.ly/YvipGj to read more about this legislation.)
Other Highlights. Legislative Day included presentations from leading politicos and industry professionals, including:
Legislative Day 2014 will be held March 9-11, 2014, at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C. — Additional reporting from Jeff Fenner
The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NPMA Legislative Day is one of the highlights of the year for me, not only because it’s a surefire sign spring is just around the corner, but because it represents an opportunity for PMPs to positively impact the future of the pest control industry, a profession that too often is taken for granted by both the public and our elected representatives. The 2013 edition of NPMA Legislative Day proved particularly significant since so many new faces — 97 in all — are walking the halls of Congress these days. “Legislative Day is about standing up for our collective interests and participating in a political process that can have a real impact on our lives,” said Bethwyn Todd, global director, FMC Professional Solutions. “This year, more than ever before, it’s about engaging with a new generation of federal lawmakers and an emerging generation of new leaders. It’s also about re-connecting personally and professionally in a way that reminds all of us that we’re part of something larger than ourselves and our own companies.”
It’s that sense of selfless dedication for the greater good — personified by NPMA Executive Vice President Bob Rosenberg and NPMA Vice President of Government Affairs Gene Harrington — that has served the pest management industry so well over the years. “I’ve seen first-hand that this industry is filled with hardworking, dedicated professionals,” Todd observed prior to presenting Bryan Cooksey of McCall Service, Jacksonville, Fla., with the FMC Legislative Day Award on the first day of the event. “You’re a group that goes above and beyond for your customers, your employees, your members and each other. Your passion for this industry is inspiring. Your leadership is critical for our future success,” leadership embodied by scores of PMPs across the country who devote countless volunteer hours lobbying their elected representatives at both the state and federal level, the kind of leaders who possess three key qualities that inspire others to follow, according to Todd.
“The first is vision. True leaders have a vision, a picture in their mind of what the world should be like, how it should work and a clear sense of how it will be better than the current reality. The vision is optimistic and the leader is driven by the desire to always find a better way,” she said. “The second element is conviction. A leader has to believe in the vision, believe in the cause. The leader has the conviction — and courage — to stand up and be counted even when the cause might be unpopular,” Todd said. “The last element is service. Leaders look well beyond their own interests. The vision they’re working toward, the manner in which they pursue it and the change they espouse all seeks to benefit the group. The best leaders work for the good of the cause and the greater good of their team or industry.”
When all three of those qualities are present in a leader — whether it be a PMP educating a member of the local city council about the benefits of professional pest management, or a NPMA executive lobbying a member of Congress — something magical happens. The industry’s position moves forward, perhaps imperceptibly at first, often not as quickly as we would like, but with each face-to-face meeting there is an opportunity to change a mind, to alter a long-held inaccurate perception of the industry. And fortunately for all of us, this year’s visits to Capitol Hill by hundreds of enthusiastic, highly-engaged PMPs has moved the ball forward on a number of issues of importance to the industry.
The first issue, H.R. 730, the Pest Elimination Services Transparency & Terminology (PESTT) Act, is legislation aimed at limiting USDA-Wildlife Services competition with the private sector for rodent, nuisance bird and wildlife work. Legislative Day attendees encouraged their congressional reps to support this common-sense legislation introduced earlier this year. How impactful were Legislative Day visits? Since the March 19 visits, an additional 12 co-sponsors had signed on, at press time. The second issue is particularly relevent to PMPs serving the food processing industry. NPMA has been fighting to retain food uses for sulfuryl fluoride following EPA’s January 2011 announcement that the Agency was taking steps to begin a phased-down withdrawal of the fumigant in food-processing facilities. Soon after Legislative Day, U.S. Reps. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), along with a bipartisan group of 13 other representatives, introduced the Pest Free Food Supply Act. The legislation would force EPA to withdraw a proposed regulation that would remove the authorized food uses of sulfuryl fluoride.
So keep up the good work. We’re making a difference!
The author is publisher of PCT magazine.