[Special Report] Star Power

Features - Special Report

These 25 companies to watch are rising in rank by playing to their strengths.

November 30, 2012
Anne Nagro

Editor’s note: In compiling this third Companies to Watch list, PCT contacted state and national association officials, prominent PMPs, industry consultants and others affiliated with the industry, as well as monitored news reports of up-and-coming firms. After reading the following company profiles, we’d appreciate your feedback. Did we miss a company that’s on the rise? Know of a firm that has developed an innovative marketing program? An enviable community service record? Differentiated itself in the marketplace in some other way? If so, we would love to hear about them. Let us know! E-mail jdorsch@giemedia.com with the subject line “Company to Watch” and we’ll take some time to learn more about the firm and possibly include them in a future issue of PCT magazine.

What makes a company successful? Just ask these 25 companies on the move.

They grabbed our attention by excelling in a particular service, customer relationships, business systems, employee development, niche or small markets, and much more. Some companies have been around for generations, while others are newer to the scene. All have steady revenue growth and employ strategies that play to their strengths…a“secret sauce,” if you will.

Certainly, these Companies to Watch do many things right. Here are some of the highlights:

Thoughtful Innovation
All-American Pest Control, Nashville, Tenn.

All-American Pest Control lives for continuous improvement, whether tweaking cross-selling methods or improving team member leadership skills. “Thoughtful innovation” is a core value and part of the culture, said Vice President Erin Richardson. Employees on the Innovation Team meet weekly to review customer and coworker feedback, identify areas for improvement, prioritize opportunities and make changes. Richardson hopes over time all employees will get involved in the initiative. People make the difference, she said, and those who can lead will move the company forward.

Instant Access
Apex Pest Control Service, Oakwood Village, Ohio

Responsiveness and clients’ easy access to management sets Apex Pest Control Service apart. “Customers who choose Apex know they’ll have direct contact with us,” said President James Stocker, who returns calls instantly. “I’ll come right out to the house if they need to see me,” he said. This extra touch helped the company expand its commercial client base in the food and medical industries.Mobile technicians use tablets, which receive work orders, print and email service reports, capture signatures and add to an already professional image.

Target Termites
Action Termite Control, Phoenix, Ariz.

Termites are the sole focus of Action Termite Control. Eliminating these pests the right way, with the best people, and asking for referrals has led to growth over the past 11 years and a 25 percent revenue jump in 2012, said General Manager Mike Saldivar. Customer buzz often turns one neighborhood job into 15, and the company’s animated website, showing termites gathering on high for a Phoenix assault, is a major lead generator. Aggressive marketing drives site traffic; contact from leads, sometimes seven a day, go directly to Saldivar’s cell phone.

Build Route Density
Arrow Environmental Services, Sarasota, Fla.

Arrow Environmental Services aims to be the biggest lawn and pest service provider in Southwest Florida. It has acquired eight companies since 2010, giving it a “quantum leap” into markets and services, said CEO Bill Hurd. It then leverages customers and services to build route density: Newly acquired lawn customers are sold pest services; pest customers are offered new lawn services. Maintaining customer service, quality and the company’s 100-year family atmosphere have kept cancellations below 1.5 percent. Expect more mergers, and 2012 revenue to reach $10 million. Future sights are set on Orlando.

Serve Customers First
BOWCO Laboratories, Woodbridge, N.J.

“Customer service is everything” at BOWCO Laboratories, said President Barry Bowers. Phones are answered instantly and courteously and professional appearance is paramount at the fourth-generation, $4 million company. Tradition works — BOWCO has kept some clients for 50 years, and has served multiple generations of the same family. The company founder wrote a termite protocol in the 1940s still used in the industry today. Dr. Doug Mampe, staff entomologist, has worked with BOWCO since 1966. With 80 years behind it and Vice President Heather Bowers ready to lead, the future looks bright indeed.

Go the Extra Mile
Brock Lawn and Pest Control, Lynn Haven, Fla.

In a small market like the Florida panhandle, name recognition is huge. “With it comes great responsibility, because word of mouth works both ways,” said Brock Lawn and Pest Control President Tim Brock. To help employees exceed expectations, the company closes quarterly for off-site training. Employees also are recognized for extraordinary service. Brock has “dozens of stories” like the employee who did handyman chores at an elderly customer’s house on his day off for no pay. This $3.5 million company’s strategy: Hire the right people; teach them pest control.

Stand Out
C.O.P.S. (Customer Oriented Pest Services), Enterprise, Ala.

“Marketing is huge and that’s where most small companies fall short,” said C.O.P.S. President Josh Jones. Not true for this company, given its high-profile name, website offering convenient online payments, and trucks featuring reflective graphics, unit numbers and the promise to “protect and serve.” The goal: Appear coast-to-coast but deliver mom-and-pop attention in the company’s small markets. It’s working. Clients not from Southern Alabama near Fort Rucker “think we’re a national company,” said Jones. He expects the seven-year-old company to surpass $500,000 in revenue this year.

Hone Expertise
Braemar Services, Bedford, Nova Scotia

Serving Canada’s Atlantic provinces since 1962, Braemar Services specializes in food-production facilities. Only highly trained employees with Quality Pro, AIB and National Pest Management Association food plant designations service this market, said Vice President Randy Hobbs. Another strength: nuisance wildlife control, with raccoons, skunks, birds and bats topping the list. The company relocated more than 40 60-pound beavers for a pipeline project. Skilled personnel make it all possible, said Hobbs. With four offices and 50 employees, Braemar had revenue of $5.2 million in 2011.

Partner for Success
Collins Pest Management, Evansville, Ind.

A focus on the commercial food industry helped Collins Pest Management grow 40 percent last year. Partnering with bakeries, pet food manufacturing facilities and food-related packaging makers is something the company does very well, said President Dan Collins, who leads food safety training seminars for clients. He also likes to explore non-traditional sources of revenue, like the brown recluse spider management program that has done well with little advertising. New marketing initiatives and expanded service offerings in 2013 promise to keep momentum going for this $1 million company.

Turn Jobs into Careers
Guardian Pest Solutions, Duluth, Minn.

To improve employee service delivery, Guardian Pest Solutions created a place where people wanted to work, said President Jason Wick. It changed its culture, which took years and daily vigilance. Today, employees in eight states are supported by management, not the other way around. “We do whatever it takes to make them successful because we know that if they are successful the company will be successful.” Its customer Partnership Promise centers on the same values of cooperation, communication and community awareness. Guardian had 2011 revenue of $7.6 million.

Hire for Attitude
Halt Pest Control, Beaverton, Ore.

Success requires having “the right people on the bus,” said Halt Pest Control Owner Robert McMaster. “If you don’t have the right clay, you can’t make a masterpiece.” Business systems let him hire people who are sympathetic, inquisitive, outdoorsy, analytical and have great verbal skills. Systems also make his trucks some of the most productive in the business, he said. More musts: continuous system improvement, having a mentor and working on the business, not in it. The $1 million company started in 1990 and has six employees.

Sing the Same Tune
James Pest Management, Memphis, Tenn.

Information — and misinformation — travels fast. That’s why James Pest Management employees are trained weekly to address consumer concerns calmly and accurately. Everyone on the team delivers the same message, especially important for public health issues like bed bugs, West Nile virus and hantavirus, said Vice President Shane James. Technicians quickly identify pests and provide solutions. Customers appreciate this — the company has a barely measureable cancellation rate and referrals account for 87 percent of new business. “We attribute that to our technicians in the field,” said James.

Build Teamwork
McCall Service, Jacksonville, Fla.

A company achieves it goals when everyone works together. That’s why teamwork is a tenet of McCall Service. To build trust, accountability and frank discussion, the company’s 90 employees make and prioritize business objectives at its annual planning meeting. Progress is shared weekly. Employee goals are tied to those of managers, who attend seminars to improve team-building skills. Ensuring all are focused on the same priorities makes a big difference, said President Bryan Cooksey. The prime objective: $20 million in revenue by 2020 through acquisitions and organic growth.

Set Up Systems
Heron Lawn & Pest Control, Apopka, Fla.

One of the fastest-growing companies on PCT’s Top 100 list, Heron Lawn & Pest Control saw revenue jump 24 percent this year so far. COO Steve Okros said the organic growth is due to “the systems we put in place.” Seven branch managers manage employees equally; service meets standards everywhere, every time; sales are proactive; and people accountable. Employees sign off on the systems manual, a focus of regular training. Started in 2002 by three partners, Heron has 138 employees and expects 2012 revenue of $11.5 million.

Get Civic Minded
Killum Pest Control, Lake Jackson, Texas

Community service rules at Killum Pest Control. Operations Vice President Eric Melass and Sales Vice President Bryan Melass are highly active in Rotary, chambers of commerce, business groups, YMCA, the adult reading center and more. It’s a value learned from their father, who bought Killum in 1973. Technicians are involved, too. Being civic minded differentiates Killum from competitors, “never fails to spark new leads,” and lays a foundation in new markets, Eric Melass said. It’s not all about business. “I’ve found the things I’m passionate about and I enjoy them.”

Bet on Branding
McCauley Services, Benton, Ark.

McCauley Services changed its name in 2010 and has since grown 20 percent each year, expanded across Arkansas and moved into Texas and Oklahoma, said Vice President Justin McCauley. Previously it shared a name with a nearby company, limiting marketing and territory. Now, aggressive promotion and new markets should generate $2.9 million in revenue this year. Limitations of a shared name helped lay a solid foundation. “The only way were able to grow was to become very involved in the community,” said McCauley. This strategy is key moving forward.

Do It Right the First Time
Lady Bug Exterminating, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Lady Bug Exterminating President Ola Phipps is a go-getter, especially when she sees customers in need. She’s bought families a stove, bags of new children’s clothes and more. “When you’ve been blessed, bless others,” said Phipps, whose childhood development work and thorough service get customers talking. So does her ladybug Beetle, a stoplight photo opp. Bed bugs have helped the 30-year-old, four-person company grow monthly. “I enjoy what I do and I love making people happy,” said Phipps, one of few African-American women exterminators licensed by the state.

Sell Yourself
McGrath Pest Control, Houston, Texas

Reputation separates McGrath Pest Control from competitors. “I kick butt in Angie’s List,” said President Scott McGrath, who cited the importance of selling clients on the company as much as its services. Another differentiator: McGrath’s hilarious and quirky radio ads, which have a cult following as far away as Seattle and Georgia. (Really, you should listen now: www.mcgrathpestcontrol.com.) Started in 1974, the nine-person company expects revenues of $700,000 this year with future growth coming from commercial work, promotions on Angie’s List and Yelp.com, and, of course, radio.

Be The Resource
RK Environmental, Cresskill, N.J.

Exclusively serving the food industry, RK Environmental is a one-stop client resource, said President Hank Hirsch. Beside pest management, bird control, food safety and weed/foliage abatement services, the company runs the LinkedIn Food Safety and Pest Management Solutions group, and Hirsch regularly speaks at industry gatherings. The company will hold food and pest management continuing education sessions at its new training center in 2013. The $5.5 million company has grown yearly since Hirsch took the reins in 2000. Its sister company is a nationwide food safety auditing firm.

Serve Internal and External Customers
United Pest Solutions, Seattle, Wash.

United Pest Solutions may provide pest control service, but its reason for being is building “life-enhancing relationships with our clients,” said CEO Sean Bergmann. Employees are trained to be attentive to customer needs so they can provide not only pest control but peace of mind. To help this happen, the company invests in its internal customers — technicians, customer service reps, managers — with rigorous training and provides them speaking platforms. More values: safety, courtesy, service and efficiency. The company has 17 employees and anticipated 2012 revenue of $1.6 million.

Stick to Your Best
Midstate Termite & Pest Control, Cookeville, Tenn.

Residential work makes Midstate Termite & Pest Control tick. It used the economic downturn as an opportunity to “focus on what we do best,” said Owner Randy Adcock. Talking up its strengths boosted employee morale. Intensive universal training and personnel changes improved service delivery and helped the company grow, said Adcock. So have marketing campaigns for specialty services. Bed bug billboards brought in $20,000 in two months. In a small market, the 20-person, $1.3 million company has grown steadily for 10 years, including 11 percent in 2011.

Hire the Best
State Pest Control, Clinton, N.C.

State Pest Control President Wes Wooten credits his team for the company’s 30 percent yearly growth. “I hire the best I can.” Technicians aren’t over routed but given time to develop relationships with customers. Quality is top priority: Each week, “we inspect what we expect” at random job sites. If necessary, Wooten brings the technician back for training. “The customer really appreciates that.” Particularly proud of his fire ant service, Wooten expects public health pests and entry into large markets like Raleigh and Greensboro to boost 2013 revenue.

Maximize Each Stop
Triangle Pest Control, Holly Springs, N.C.

Triangle Pest Control doesn’t want to be the biggest pest management company, just the most profitable, said President Donnie Shelton. His strategy: increase revenue per stop, which so far has increased 35 percent. A lot goes in to making this happen, but the results speak for themselves. The company consistently achieves 20 percent profit. “The more you focus on the bottom line, the faster you grow because you have money to reinvest in the business.” The 20-employee company expects revenue to reach $2 million in 2012.

Own It
NaturZone Pest Control, Sarasota, Fla.

For 24 years, NaturZone Pest Control has delivered green pest solutions. It owns this service, as proudly shown by its name, local awards and third-party certifications like the U.S. EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program. This differentiates the company from competitors, said President Doug Longfellow. The expertise has attracted commercial clients in industries like health care and manufacturing. A new website and search engine optimization boosted residential revenue 20 percent. “We’re just growing like crazy,” said Longfellow of the $1.5 million company that doubled between 2005 and 2010.

Master the Soft Skills
Varment Guard Environmental Services, Columbus, Ohio

Listening and communication skills separate Varment Guard Environmental Services from competitors. Employees engage customers on their level and don’t dictate but listen, provide feedback through education, and reset expectations, said President Scott Steckel. The company spends considerable time training employees on soft skills, which account for 50 percent of the learning curve, and even changed its hiring practices. The $6 million company now looks for more outgoing applicants. “It’s sticky and they don’t leave,” said Steckel.


The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine. She can be reached at anagro@giemedia.com.

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