[Mannes on Marketing] It’s Time to Go Back to School!

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My employer, Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta, established an internship program two years ago. The main purpose of this program was to allow students (late high school and college) to experience all aspects of the pest control business.

August 31, 2012
Cindy Mannes

My employer, Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta, established an internship program two years ago. (See their photo below!) The main purpose of this program was to allow students (late high school and college) to experience all aspects of the pest control business. Why is this important? Because these students and their friends are our future employees and customers. We give them an “insider’s view” of our business and a sense of the value we provide to society.

The response from many of our interns is about what you may expect. “We thought you were just bug guys.” “We had no idea that this was really a service that protects families and properties.” “We didn’t realize all of the different career opportunities in this field.” I feel pretty safe saying we have more than 15 new people who will go and tell their friends about our fabulous industry!

Pictured from back to front and left to right: Shay Runion, Emily Thomas Kendrick and Heather Gordy, Arrow Exterminators; Carson Bell, Garrett Price, James Spencer, Megan Burns, Emily Strickland, Maggie Sudholt and Alex Link. (Ryan Singley is not pictured.)

To grow our industry and continue to spread the word on the value of professional pest services, we all need to “go back to school,” if you will. In the process of recruiting the best possible talent for our industry, we are also responsible for changing the perception of our business. We are responsible. No one is going to do it for us. PCT Magazine reaches more than 20,000 subscribers. If we all “go back to school” in some small way, we can shape our own destiny and grow our businesses.

Here are a few ideas to get started:

Hire an Intern.
It doesn’t matter the size of your business. High schools, junior colleges, technical schools and universities are all looking for quality internship programs for their students. Maybe you need an intern for the summer to write those press releases on your “to do” list. Maybe they could call your customers to check in on your customer service. You also should provide the opportunity for them to shadow you as you go about all the different aspects of running your business. And you can learn from them as well. Learn how the next generation gathers information from sources like the Internet and social media sites. You may discover an intern who loved bugs as a child — they’ll learn about the possibility of becoming an entomologist. If you can match your needs with what an intern may offer, it is a win-win situation. And the bonus — you will send someone else out into the world who will sing the praises of our industry.

Visit Elementary Schools.
There is no getting around this one. Kids and bugs were made for each other. You should consider visiting your local elementary schools and providing a “bug” program. There are even many turn-key programs that you can use or you can create your own! By getting in front of these children with your interesting bug adventures, you will be on your way to creating our future customers and employees.

Middle School and Up. Public school systems are always looking for speakers and experts to help their students make decisions about what they want to do when they grow up. It’s been said time and again: “The one person who made a difference in my life was a teacher.” Go and be that teacher. Share with this group of kids the value of what we do in society and the breadth of the jobs available — service professionals, sales representatives, customer service, finance, marketing and even owning their own pest control company. We are in the people business. Your pride in your work will create interest and help guide this next generation to consider our industry for a profession.

Technical Schools and Junior Colleges.
Most technical schools and junior colleges host frequent job fairs. They too bring in guest speakers, again to give their students ideas and choices about their future. Set up shop at the next job fair and share what we do.

Final Thoughts.
We are a growing industry and one of our most limiting factors is getting good people. In many areas, people just don’t understand what we do. Going back to school, engaging young folks in our business and teaching them the value of what we do sets each and every one of us up for future growth. Only 25 to 28 percent of the entire U.S. population hires professional pest control services, so there is plenty of opportunity for all of us to grow. We need to educate that other 75 percent of the population on the value of what we do. Engaging schools and hiring interns are not the only ways to educate, but they are certainly strategies for success.

The author is chief marketing and strategy officer for Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, and can be contacted at cmannes@giemedia.com.