To label my model for growth “unique” might be a bit of a stretch, but it does have its own distinctive spin: When my wife discovered me sleeping at the bottom of the stairs, fully dressed right down to my work boots, I knew it was time to add an employee.
That’s to say my business has grown more out of necessity than by design. And while it’s worked well for my family and I, I don’t recommend it as a textbook example for anyone looking to build a pest management business.
Some Good Advice. My company Pestex began one winter morning in 1991 when I had realized it was time to carry on the family history in pest management into another generation. I had worked for my father’s, my uncle’s and grandfather’s businesses during my summer vacations growing up. My dad intercepted me on my way to law school to join his business full-time. I worked there from 1982 to 1988 when we sold the company to a waste management firm (remember when Waste Management set out to merge our industries?).
For the next three years, I bounced from one position to another, looking for the right fit, which brought me to a frigid Boston morning when I woke up, pulled on a uniform, bought myself a truck and drove into one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in town. I was determined.
I scored a single client that day. Then another the next day, and another the next. I didn’t have a growth plan. I didn’t even have a team. I had myself — salesperson, technician, administrator and collector. One evening, I woke up with my wife’s concerned face in my own, as I sat on the stair still in my uniform, one boot on, one off.
“Maybe you need to hire somebody,” she said. It was good advice.
Today, Pestex is a strong niche player. Our 10-person team services commercial and residential accounts, including restaurants, hospitals, schools and nursing homes throughout the Boston area. We’ve grown steadily, and I’m proud of the team I’ve built. Having cut my teeth in pest management, I knew that hiring technicians with a lot of history wouldn’t make sense because they would be set in their ways. I wanted a young, energetic team of individuals willing to learn the right way to do things, from customer service and inspections to IPM practices and product application. I invest a lot of time in training and educating new hires, but it pays off exponentially in their commitment and in the quality of their work.
Map Your Own Course. What might I do differently if I were to start my business knowing what I know today? I might have hired a full-time salesperson. That was impossible at the outset, of course, because the revenues weren’t there yet, but I realize that if I could have had another employee dedicated to nothing but sales, I could have taken this market by storm.
Would that have been a better route to growth? Maybe. Would it have made me happier with the success of my business? Probably not. I like where we are, and I appreciate the lifestyle my business affords my family and myself. Instead of the back-to-back 18-hour days of yore, I can take the occasional afternoon off to play 18 holes.
It’s always in the back of my mind that one day I might appoint a full-time salesperson. I look among my team to see who has the ability and the inclination for that type of work. I suspect we will evolve into a structure where a salesperson takes on a pivotal role and our growth becomes more aggressive. For now, though, we’re a tough contender, and I’m happy to say I sleep in my bed more often than at the bottom of the stairs.
The bottom line is that your growth model depends on your goals. If you want to build market share fast, make hiring a sales representative your top priority. On the other hand, if you’re not in such a hurry, don’t underestimate the value of slow, steady and consistent growth.
As told to PCT contributing writer Donna DeFranco.