A lot of technicians view the promise of a management position as the ultimate reward for their hard work and achievements. Tony Decker sees things differently. The 2013 Residential Technician of the Year has no immediate intentions of giving up his daily face time with customers to take on a management role. “Maybe one day,” he says, “but for now, I’m having too much fun going out and talking with people, helping them resolve their pest issues. I feel like I haven’t worked a day in the 19 years I’ve been with Scherzinger. I figure I have a good 20 more years of doing this before I think about making a change.”
It’s not that the offer hasn’t been extended. Hank Althaus, president of Scherzinger Pest Control, the largest independently owned pest control company in the Cincinnati area, has asked Decker at least a half-dozen times to consider a supervisory role. “Tony is totally committed to his job, his customers, his co-workers and this company,” says Althaus. “He strengthens our organization in countless ways: our relationships with customers, our capabilities, our morale. We feel fortunate to have him on our team — whether in the field or in the office.”
What makes Decker such a valuable asset to Scherzinger? He knows the technology, understands the operational aspects and delivers flawless customer service. Most importantly, he personifies what Althaus calls “the service heart.”
“Tony cares about people, from his customers to his co-workers to his family,” Althaus says. “The hard part of this business isn’t killing the bugs. It’s working with the people. Our customers know that Tony is always there for them — day, night, weekdays, weekends. He is diligent about taking care of people. You can’t teach that to someone. It comes from the heart.”
Leading the Way.
Decker plays an important role at Scherzinger as not only a technician but also an early adopter. He is always one of the first on the team to test new methodologies and products. General Manager Kurt Scherzinger says, “When we ask Tony to try something out for us, we know he’ll give us honest, useful feedback. He helps us anticipate and work through any challenges that the other technicians might encounter as they begin using the new product or procedure.”
Adds Althaus, “Whatever we’re introducing, Tony makes a point to learn it best. When we decided to start using ‘heatigation’ services for bed bugs, for example, Tony made time in his days to show up on heat jobs to find out how we do them and how best to explain them to customers so he would be comfortable selling the service. His enthusiasm caused us to have an aha moment, realizing that every technician on the team should come and watch the process.”
He’s quick to share his knowledge with his co-workers, too — and they are eager to listen. Part of the reason is they see that Decker consistently ranks among the top five performers in production and sales. A bigger part is that he has established a reputation for having valuable insight and experience. He is, in Althaus’ words, a “lead-by-example kind of guy.”
“My dad was a carpenter, and he had an amazing work ethic,” says Decker. “He taught me to count on myself — to go to work every day, work hard every day and work out the challenges along the way. When I see technicians struggling with something, when they say ‘I can’t do this or that,’ I say ‘Yes, you can. If you believe in yourself, you can do it.‘ With a little guidance, they get it done.”
Scherzinger and Althaus say that Decker takes it upon himself time after time to help his fellow technicians. When one co-worker was having trouble completing his route, for example, Decker called him night after night, reviewing the next day’s schedule with him and coaching him on how to break down the route and plan each stop.
“Tony is committed to the professional growth of his co-workers,” says Scherzinger. “He teaches them how to maintain their equipment (he often spends his days off repairing equipment) and plays a pivotal role in training new technicians. He follows up with our new hires a month later, then two months later, to see how they’re doing.”
Finding the Right Fit.
Decker came to Scherzinger in 1994 after working for two years at a large, national pest management company. “A friend had convinced me to try pest management; he told me it was good, steady work, and a fun job,” Decker says. “I was drawn to Scherzinger because it was family-owned. I thought it might be a better fit for me. It was — and continues to be.”
Decker covers two of the biggest ZIP codes in Clermont County. Although he does both residential and commercial work, he prefers residential because he finds he can build a stronger rapport with his clientele. People’s homes and families are precious to them; Decker takes great pride in protecting both.
Even during his earliest years in pest management, he was concerned about his customers’ health and well-being. “I’d be servicing a home where a baby was crawling on the floor, and it made me stop and ask whether the products we were applying would be safe for this family,” he says. “I wondered why we couldn’t control the pests from outside the home.
“As almost two decades have gone by, the industry has evolved to place more emphasis on protecting people and the environment. At Scherzinger, our IPM approach dramatically limits the amount of pesticides we put into a home. We educate our customers about where their pests are coming from and teach them how to keep them out, minimize harborage and eliminate food and water supplies. We use baits where we can and only use spot treatments when absolutely necessary. It make me feel great to be part of a company that cares so much about customers.”
Moving Scherzinger Forward.
Since Decker joined Scherzinger, both staff and the number of routes have tripled — to nearly 100 employees and more than 50 routes.
“It’s very exciting, and I feel fortunate to be part of it,” he says. “To see a small family-owned company achieve the level of success we have is inspiring.”
Althaus and Scherzinger say that Decker has made tremendous contributions to that success, and they make it clear that the door to the management position remains open. “If I could replicate Tony a hundred times, I would,” says Althaus. “He shows people — customers and employees alike — what it really means to have a service heart. We wouldn’t be who we are without him.”
The author is a Cleveland, Ohio-based writer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.