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Dr. Ken Yeargan, Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, discussed the biology, behavior and control of spiders in his well-attended session, “Think Like a Spider.”
|Participants in a panel discussion about “Termite Protection Plans” included (left to right) PMPs Kevin Pass, Kevin Kordek, Steve Good, and Cindy Mannes. The session was moderated by Donnie Blake, owner of OPC Pest Control, Louisville, Ky., and Tim Leatherman, owner of Perfection Pest Control, Florence, Ky. (far right).|
Kevin Pass, owner of Action Pest Control (left), and Kevin Kordek, president of the National Pest Management Association, answer questions from conference attendees.
|Large crowds attended the educational sessions at the 40th Annual Kentucky Pest Control Short Course.|
|David Duncan of Beeology.com, Crestline, Ohio, shared real-world stories about “Extreme Wasp and Bee Control.”|
|PMPs learned about the industry’s newest products in the exhibit area.|
|Dr. Michael Potter welcomes a standing-room-only crowd to the 40th Annual Kentucky Pest Control Short Course.|
|Mike Masterson, star of “The Verminators” on the Discovery Channel.|
|Dr. Chris Christensen (left) presented a plaque to Dr. Mike Potter for his years of dedicated service to the Kentucky Pest Control Association and Kentucky Pest Control Short Course.|
|Don Jamison, owner of Jamison Pest & Lawn, Memphis, Tenn., led a session on “Getting the Most from Your Employees.”|
One of the key indicators routinely cited by the media to gauge the economic health of Americans is the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI). Nearly 45 years old, the CCI is the brainchild of The Conference Board, an independent business membership and research association that surveys 5,000 households every month to assess the public’s degree of economic optimism both now and in the future. The survey is conducted for The Conference Board by TNS, the world’s largest customer research firm.
While the Consumer Confidence Index is a valuable tool for predicting future economic activity in the United States, what we really need to be tracking is the economic health of entrepreneurs, the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. That’s because they are the individuals who ultimately will determine if we’re successful in bringing down the nation’s seemingly intractable unemployment rate, our most pressing economic problem.
Fortunately, entrepreneurs are generally an optimistic lot. That’s because pessimists either fail upon launching their own businesses (no surprise) or spend so much time worrying about what potentially could go wrong they never pull the trigger on opening the doors to a new venture. Even more significant, once they’re in business, entrepreneurs are all in, understanding that their livelihood is contingent upon making things happen, and when I say "things" I mean offering products or services that meet a market need and generate a profit.
Even with such a single-minded commitment to succeed, however, it hasn’t been easy for entrepreneurs the past few years given all the challenges they’ve faced in this economy, from increasingly frugal customers and limited access to capital to escalating health care costs and declining profit margins. Fortunately, true to their nature, entrepreneurs don’t require an enormous amount of good news to spur them into action. They simply need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how faint, which is what is currently happening as the U.S. gradually emerges from one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.
Regardless if the Consumer Confidence Index rises or falls in the coming months, I’m optimistic our readers are going to make something happen in 2011 because that’s what successful entrepreneurs do. They adjust their business model to address ever-changing market conditions; they do whatever is necessary to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations; and they nurture the hopes and dreams of their staff, all while meeting payroll week-in and week-out. It’s why the pest control industry has been successful in the past and it’s why the pest control industry will be successful moving forward. Best wishes for continued success and good health to all of our readers in 2011.
One of the reasons we’re optimistic about the coming year is the opportunity to work with so many talented columnists including Cindy Mannes of Arrow Exterminators, Missy Henriksen of the National Pest Management Association and members of the Copesan Technical Committee, who contribute regularly to our Tech Talk column. The newest addition to this accomplished group of individuals is Greg Baumann, technical services director of Orkin Pest Control, Atlanta, Ga. The long-time vice president of technical services for the National Pest Management Association, Baumann is a former PMP himself, who also has extensive food processing experience as a corporate quality assurance auditor for The Hershey Company. We know our readers are going to benefit greatly from Baumann’s valuable market insights and extensive industry experience in his new quarterly column called "Pest Perspectives." Welcome aboard, Greg!
The author is publisher of PCT magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imagine the following scene: Standing in a backyard your salesperson hands a ½-inch thick, 1.5-pound computer to a potential customer. The device is so light the customer might as well be holding a printed brochure. With the touch of a finger on the vibrant 10-by-8-inch display, your termite sales pitch begins, presenting the homeowner with a cinema quality mix of video, audio and information. Next, on the same device, the salesperson displays photographs that show termite activity in the customer’s crawlspace — not demonstration slides from an entomologist’s lab nor line drawings of termites from a 30-year-old textbook, but actual, time-and-date-stamped images of termite activity in your client’s home. To close the presentation, your company website appears on screen, fully functional, as the sales rep highlights your company’s proud history and advanced capabilities.
Sound far-fetched and expensive?
Neither, says Ray Johnson, president of Johnson Pest Control, Sevierville, Tenn. During the last eight months, Johnson’s sales team has used the Apple iPad to dazzle potential customers and boost termite sales. "It’s amazing how much information you can show the customer, in a very professional and efficient way, from one device," says Johnson. "We’ve done it many times now and it blows the homeowner’s mind each time. The technology amazes them." Apple’s ultra-thin, handheld touch screen tablet has proven so successful as a sales tool that Johnson Pest Control now owns four iPads, with immediate plans to add two more.
HOW HE DOES IT. For $729 (current pricing as of December 2010) Johnson suggests a 32GB, 3G iPad from Apple. Though it’s more expensive than the base iPad ($499), the 32GB version allows for increased video storage (an important feature for sales presentations) and the 3G capability allows Internet access anywhere for about $25 a month.
From the Apple desktop computer in his office Johnson can create a custom Power Point-style sales presentation that is loaded onto the iPad, and then presented to potential customers in the field. Additionally, he’s converted sales videos, such as Dow AgroSciences’ Sentricon DVD, for use on the iPad. Often, when Johnson’s sales personnel are at a prospect’s home, they’ll hand the iPad to the homeowner, who can view the video while their property is inspected. "We’ve handed out hundreds, if not thousands of DVDs and have asked the customer to watch it later after the inspection. But what are the chances that the homeowner really watches the video? Slim to none. With the iPad, we hand it to the customer and push play. The customer is going to watch that video if for no other reason than that they are genuinely intrigued by the iPad itself."
While the salesman is inspecting the house, he can take photos of termite damage with his iPhone or Blackberry and e-mail them to the iPad. When the video and the property inspection are complete, the salesperson displays the images to the homeowner, creating a potent one-two sales punch.
Despite tough economic times, Johnson’s sales have remained strong, something he attributes, in part, to the iPad. In fact, the company has been quickly adding an array of pest-specific presentations to its iPads, including a bed bug pitch designed for busy hotel operators. "Rather than needing a meeting room to setup a projector, laptop, etc., we just schedule a meeting and bring the iPad. My guys are telling me how helpful that’s been when dealing with potential hotel management customers. It’s quick, simple and it has definitely helped our close rate."
Johnson Pest Control provides each member of the sales staff with his own iPad, just asking that he treat it with care and limit its use to company business. "We did a little bit of training, but really that’s the great thing about an iPad, it doesn’t require much training."
Further, Johnson streamlines and simplifies the iPad as much as possible. For example, rather than use Keynote (Apple’s equivalent of PowerPoint) to display the presentation, Johnson turns his presentation slides into individual images and uses iPhoto (Apple’s photo management application) to arrange them into an "event" (slide show). This allows the salesperson to simply and quickly scroll through the presentation in the same way that he might show someone his vacation photos. "My guys just turn on the iPad, go to iPhoto, select the correct show and bam, it‘s right there in full-color, full-screen. It makes it very simple as compared to booting up a laptop, opening up PowerPoint, finding the right file, starting the presentation, etc."
All the company’s iPads are synced with Johnson’s Apple in the office, allowing him to control what’s on each one. "We’re all on the same page because I preload everything on the iPad in such a way that it can’t be changed. And from the office I can go in and very quickly change the message, the program, the pricing, whatever. I don’t have to worry about wasting thousands of brochures I just had printed."
With video, Johnson uses a free downloadable application called HandBrake, which converts a traditional DVD into iPad format. Once the file is loaded on the iPad, a simple touch of the screen gets it playing.
The iPad’s web access allows sales personnel to navigate industry websites, check e-mail and use online maps and GPS while in the field. What’s more, a number of industry-specific iPad applications are available, such as the NPMA Field Guide, the University of Florida’s iPest1 and PCT Magazine. "It’s astounding what is available now, and just imagine what apps and capabilities we’re going to have a year or two from now," Johnson says.
For estimates and contracts, the sales staff uses traditional printed forms. However, Johnson foresees converting to digital versions in the future. "The latest iPad update [rolled out in late November] has printing capabilities, and certain printers in the market will allow printing directly from the iPad," Johnson says.
APPLE TO THE CORE. You might think that such a high-tech, ultra-thin device would be fragile, but Johnson says his sales team hasn’t encountered any issues with the iPad. "We haven’t had any problems. I’ve found all Apple products to be very reliable, very stable."
Johnson admits he’s a bit biased when it comes to Apple. When he started Johnson Pest Control in 1984, his first purchase was a brand-new Macintosh computer—downright eccentric in the quaint Smoky Mountain Resort town of Sevierville, Tenn. Twenty-six years later, Johnson remains a die-hard fan.
So it’s no surprise that in April when Apple launched the iPad, Johnson awoke in the wee hours to make the 30-minute drive to Knoxville, where he was fourth in line to grab one. Within days he was putting it to work in his pest management firm. "The iPad is a great tool. I think we can use it in our industry for many different things."
The author is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at email@example.com.
In 1970, a gallon of gas cost 36 cents, the median household income was $9,028 and fewer than 50 PMPs attended the inaugural University of Kentucky Pest Control Short Course. Oh, how times have changed! In 2010, more than 500 PMPs from throughout the country recently traveled to the Lexington Convention Center to participate in what has become one of the finest regional conferences in the industry thanks to the leadership of Dr. Michael Potter, extension entomologist, University of Kentucky. The popular conference is held annually in cooperation with the Kentucky Pest Management Association and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Shortly after welcoming a packed room of attendees to the three-day conference, Potter was recognized for his contributions to the growth of the Short Course by Dr. Chris Christensen, the first director of the conference, who shared some of his early memories of the event, including planning the conference on a shoestring budget.
From the beginning, Potter said, "fellowship" and "continuing education" were central to the Short Course’s mission. Throughout his tenure overseeing the event, he’s tried to honor Christensen’s legacy and "uphold the proud tradition of this conference," he said, while developing an educational program that features real-world benefits for attendees. "We salute you for taking the time…to be a part of our Short Course family," he told a standing-room-only crowd at the opening ceremonies. "Our goal is to make it (the conference) as practical as possible."
STAR POWER. Mike Masterson, star of "The Verminators" on the Discovery Channel, was the keynote speaker at this year’s conference, which included more than 20 educational sessions focusing on such diverse subjects as termite protection plans, bed bugs, sales training and route risks that kill.
During his presentation, Masterson shared some insights about what it’s like to host a weekly television series, pointing out that it’s more time-consuming and costly than it looks. While Masterson said "The Verminators" has raised the profile of his business and enhanced the image of the pest control industry, PMPs interested in starring in their own show may want to think twice about it. There’s a lot more involved than initially meets the eye. For instance, to get a show off the ground requires four key steps, according to Masterson:
A Great Idea – And "not just any idea," he said, but a unique idea. "How do you bring something different to the table?" he asked.
Lots of Cash – "It costs a lot of money" to bring a show to market, not only for the network airing the program, but for the pest control company participating in the show. "When you take on a challenge like this, you’re going to lose the production produced by five to six routes every month during the 10-month filming process," Masterson said. When technicians are on camera, they’re not generating income, so that revenue needs to come from other sources.
A Great Attorney – "Attorneys are deal breakers, not deal makers," he said. They’re going to "guide you" through the process of getting a show off the ground, from negotiating contracts to ensuring that both parties are meeting their obligations. A word of warning, however. "You really need to make the final decision on what is best for your business and future," Masterson said.
Total Commitment – "You can kiss your family goodbye," he said. Hosting a television show – even one that runs only 13 episodes a year – "consumes your whole life and requires working, on average, 15-hour days," he said. Each program consists of three to four segments that run 15 to 20 minutes of air time each, but requires two to four weeks to film and three weeks to edit.
Despite the mind-numbing hours and challenges posed by shooting on location, Masterson said "The Verminators" has been worth the effort. "I think it’s been great for our industry," he said, and PMPs seem to appreciate it, at least those he encounters during his travels or who contact him via e-mails, phone calls and letters. "I think we’ve taken pest management to a new level."
"The Verminators" is currently airing on the Discovery Channel and in 108 countries. This month, "The Verminators" will begin airing on TruTV in South America. To learn more about the show, visit www.dsc.discovery.com/tv/verminators/verminators.html.
BIG-CITY RATS. One of the more popular speakers at the Short Course every year is rodent expert Bobby Corrigan, president of RMC Pest Management Consulting. During a one-hour presentation, Corrigan discussed his work managing area-wide rodent populations in New York City, a rather daunting prospect considering the complex nature of the urban environment.
With 8.6 million people living on 320 square miles of aging infrastructure, he said, "We have a city on top of a city," and residing in the bowels of the "Big Apple" are an unknown number of rats and mice, although they could number in the millions. One way to attempt to manage such a large population is to break the city into grids. "Ask yourself, ‘Where are the lines?’" he said. Where are rodents traveling to and from food sources? They’re traveling along curbs, sewer lines and the edges of buildings.
In that way, they’re not that different from people, traveling similar routes to and from work every day. "I can read a sidewalk in a rat-active area and tell you where the rats are feeding and traveling in a neighborhood," Corrigan said, "and so can you. Knowing how to read rodent-active surfaces are the roadmaps to where PMPs should be installing equipment; not simply placing them out at yardstick measurements such as every 25, 50 or 100 feet."
The urban rat problem is exacerbated by the fact that city rats have such a diverse palette and an ample supply of food at their disposal, including trash, nuts, fruit and food discards from pedestrians. Rats "are not picky eaters," he said. "This animal gets the job done (when it comes to obtaining its nutrition)."
When inspecting inside buildings, "always ask yourself: ‘Where are the warm, hollow walls within 50 feet of food?’" Corrigan asked. More often than not, that’s where you’ll find the rodents. And don’t overlook ceilings, a common mistake of inexperienced technicians, who have a tendency to focus on rodent control efforts at the floor level. "You can’t do (successful) rodent control unless you’re at least inspecting, and possibly treating, ceilings," he said.
CONCLUSION. Look for additional coverage of various educational sessions from the Kentucky Pest Control Short Course in future editions of PCT magazine. To view more photos from the 40th Annual Pest Control Short Course, visit the "Online Extras" section of the PCT website, www.pctonline.com.
This year’s conference sponsors included BASF Pest Control Solutions, Bayer Environmental Science, Bell Laboratories, Central Life Sciences/Zoecon, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Professional Products, Liphatech and Oldham Chemicals. The Planning Committee for the Short Course was Tony Bohnert, Terminix International; Scott Broaddus, Bayer ES; Gary Blankenship, Guarantee Pest Control; Chris Christensen, Urban Insect Solutions; Eric Ham, Nisus Corporation; Erich Hardebeck, Permakil Pest Control; Tim Leatherman, Perfection Pest Control; Mark Myers, Forshaw Distribution; Tom Myers, All-Rite Pest Control; Jeff Nickelson, Nick’s Termite & Pest Control; Don Partin, Okolona Pest Control; Kevin Pass, Action Pest Control; Mike Potter, University of Kentucky; Steve Sims, Kentucky Division of Environmental Services; Scott Underwood, Oldham Chemicals; and Gary Wheeldon, The Wheeldon Co.