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[Special Report] The Innovators

Features - Special Report

These 25 companies to watch are setting the pace for the industry’s future.

Anne Nagro | December 20, 2013

Positively Dissatisfied


When is good enough not good enough? Always, according to the 25 companies featured in this PCT Companies to Watch special report. Dow AgroSciences is pleased to again sponsor this special report, which recognizes 25 up-and-coming pest management firms selected by PCT. It highlights actions each company is taking to stand out in the market, grow revenue, increase profitability and please customers. The ideas are wide-ranging. The common trait is an underlying desire to make changes to become even better.

I have an appreciation for business people who are dissatisfied with things, as long as it is coupled with a desire to find a better way. In my world, that means investing to improve the Sentricon® System, keep Vikane® gas fumigant ahead of the curve in regulatory requirements and ensure our field sales and field scientists have all they need to serve our customers. Plus, I take time to work with other manufacturers and industry leaders to help keep the pest management business environment healthy. When is my job done? Never.

2013 Companies to watch
 

Aardvark Pest Management, Philadelphia

Absolute Pest Management, Derry, N.H.

Advanced Pest Management, Elkton, Md.

Arizona Pest Squad, Tempe, Ariz.

Armor Pest Control, Baltimore, Md.

Assured Environmental Solutions, Maple Ridge, B.C.

Blue Ridge Wildlife Management,
Roanoke, Va.

Bugs Are Gone Exterminating, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bug-N-A-Rug, Wilmington, N.C.

Buono Pest Control Company,
Belmont, Mass.

Capital Pest Services, Raleigh, N.C.

Enviroguard Pest Solutions, Ringgold, Ga.

FarmerGuard Pest Control, Helena, Ala.

First Rate Solutions, New Windsor, N.Y.

Future Services, Snellville, Ga.

Griffin Pest Management, Santa Ana, Calif.

Innovative Pest Management, Columbia, Md.

McNeely Pest Control, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Perfection Pest Control, Union, Ky.

P.E.S.T., Goodlettsville, Tenn.

ScorpionTech Termite & Pest Control, Mesa, Ariz.

Sherrill Pest Control, Manchester, Tenn.

Steve’s Pest Management,
East Chatham, Ontario

Swat Pest Management, Evansville, Ind.

Ultra Safe Pest Management, Canton, Mass.

Let’s agree that the dissatisfied side of the equation is easy to see. Pick up the newspaper or watch the evening news and you get a dose of business concerns. You can’t do too much about the economy, the weather, housing starts or termite swarms in 2014. What you can do is focus on the positive side of the equation. You decide what services your company will offer, how to connect better with more customers, how to train and motivate your employees, what technologies to invest in and a host of other ways to take your business to the next level. Forget the bad news on the TV or in the newspaper. Instead, create some good news for yourself and your company.

What will 2014 look like for your company? I enjoyed this PCT special report because it highlights positive moves that companies like yours are doing to realize their potential.
 

Dave Morris
Commercial Director Pest Management
Dow AgroSciences


 

By Anne Nagro

Never before has so much change — and opportunity — converged in pest management. Big data and social media are honing marketing efforts. A new regulatory landscape and advanced science are spurring fresh protocols and ways of solving pest problems. Collaboration and intuitive technologies are fostering more efficient operations, communications and customer relationships.

From start-up to multi-generation companies, agile pest management operations are embracing these innovations, along with good old-fashioned hard work, to set themselves apart and grow their revenue. Rising to the challenge is in their DNA; their targets include bed bugs, commercial work and niche markets. With these companies leading the charge, the industry’s future looks bright, indeed.
 

Maintaining Flexibility
Aardvark Pest Management,
Philadelphia

The success of Aardvark Pest Management, topping $1 million this year, comes from a strong work ethic and satisfying commercial clients like the University of Pennsylvania, said President Marty Overline. He relies on robust word of mouth and invests in the best employees, equipment and tools to do “the proper job.” Job flexibility is so valued that employees work extra hard prioritizing customer needs. Bed bugs will continue to be big business. In 2014, Overline sees growth from converting one-time bed bug jobs to monthly prevention and general pest contracts.
 

Underscoring Education
Absolute Pest Management,
Derry, N.H.

Before unveiling its bed bug service, President Larry Johnson and son, Erik, company service director, spent more than 250 hours in seminars learning about the pest. Besides thermal remediation, it is one of three regional companies licensed to fumigate bed bugs. Employees get extensive training, and their ability to answer customer questions is key to closing sales. New bed bug routes, increased termite activity and improved procedures should help the company grow 20 percent next year, said Johnson, who is making big investments in equipment and people.
 

Building a Lifestyle
Arizona Pest Squad,
Tempe, Ariz.

Arizona Pest Squad is a “lifestyle” centered on the customer experience, said President David Marshall, who ensures technicians have top-notch products and equipment, and the time to go the extra mile. A former model and music industry publicist, Marshall knows attention to detail makes one stand out. The company is raking up online reviews and “growth is substantial,” said Marshall, who spoke on viral marketing at NPMA PestWorld 2013. The two-year-old company should hit $250,000 in revenue this year. Offices in Chicago and Ohio are planned to support commercial client expansion.
 

Adjusting the Sails
Advanced Pest Management,
Elkton, Md. 

In 2010 Advanced Pest Management offered a once-a-year service. Despite tremendous growth, revenue became “seasonal,” making it challenging to support personnel, said Jeremy Kreer, who, with brother, Nam, purchased the third-generation company from their parents in 2001. After downsizing, the company renewed its focus on profitability, switched to a bi-monthly service strategy and is exploring acquisitions and expanding its commercial client base. Leadership training, open-book management and community involvement have reenergized employees. This year the company posted positive gains; solid growth is forecast for 2014, the company’s 50th anniversary.
 

Owning Bed Bugs
Assured Environmental Solutions,
Maple Ridge, B.C.

Brett and Melanie Johnston started Assured Environmental Solutions in 2011 when their employer retired. This year, the thermal remediation specialists will surpass $500,000 in revenue. “We are good at what we do, we charge a fair price for it and word has spread,” said Brett, who credits referrals from colleagues, industry connections and stellar employees for the growth. No longer an issue: turning away big clients until the company was large enough to service them properly. Bed bugs and general pest services will be huge in 2014, said Brett.
 

Reinforcing Values
Armor Pest Control,
Baltimore, Md.

Armor Pest Control may be a small operation but you’d never know it by its website. The clean design and modern logo reinforce an earth-friendly approach and appeal to women decision makers; helpful content helps close sales, said President Carnell Mayo. Small-company values rule: Treat employees right and they’ll do the same for customers, said Mayo. Honesty, a strong work ethic, promptness and steady, profitable growth are company tenets. Revenue boosts for 2014: new client referral and mosquito control programs and an expanding commercial client base.
 

Making Opportunities
Blue Ridge Wildlife Management,
Roanoke, Va.

President Jason Reger knows how to spot market opportunities, like tick, bird, urban deer and pond management, while positioning his company’s expertise. He said TV ads, which provide “repetitive brand awareness” and a touch of humor, helped the company reach $800,000 in sales this year. Specialized pest control and exclusion work and annual warranty renewals for bat, rodent and squirrel control will spur growth in 2014, said Reger. Learning from peers at association meetings and partnering with pest and landscaping firms gives the company wide reach.
 

Automating Interactions
Bugs Are Gone Exterminating,
Brooklyn, N.Y.

At this service-driven company, a new system lets clients schedule appointments, pay online and get email or text confirmations that feature photos of their technicians. Automatic reminders are sent to former customers; the system even suggests additional services customers may need. The approach is helping the company “make each customer aware how critical his or her satisfaction is to us,” said President Todd Pemberton. Marketing and referral programs, trend tracking, and new sales and in-house “street” teams should boost revenue 15 percent next year, he said.
 

Making it Easy to Buy
Bug-N-A-Rug,
Wilmington, N.C.

This second-generation company streamlined its service offerings, giving customers fewer packages to choose from and boosting sales in the process. “We love to bundle” services, said President Stan Hollingsworth. “One price and you get it all.” TV ads by college film students (Wilmington is a movie industry town) and networking with real estate agents also are driving the business. This year, sales should grow 28 percent to $1.95 million. Hollingsworth expects big growth in 2014 from bed bug heat treatments for beach rental properties, a new program introduced this year.
 

Supporting the Sciences
Buono Pest Control Company,
Belmont, Mass.

For 35 years, Buono Pest Control has served the needs of medical, research and pharmaceutical facilities. Word of mouth is golden: General Manager Steve Buono had two bio research firms call the day of this interview with PCT. Clients know the firm will resolve pest problems while being alert to unique safety issues. “We aren’t thinking about the next account, but solving the problems and building relationships,” said Manager Marillian Missiti. Part of a five-year, NIH-funded mouse allergen and asthma trial, the company is hiring new employees and is active in the community.
 

Making it Personal
Capital Pest Services,
Raleigh, N.C.

Second-generation Capital Pest Services was built on builder relationships and termite renewals. When the housing market tanked, the company lost $250,000 over three years, said General Manager Mitch Taylor. To boost revenue, he added mosquito control, closed crawlspace renovation and bed bug heat treatment. A sales incentive program helped cross-sell services to existing termite customers. New home pretreats are increasing, and a multi-touch program encourages homeowners to renew termite warranties and add general pest services. The company will have its “biggest year yet” at $1.8 million, said Taylor.
 

Standing for Community
Enviroguard Pest Solutions,
Ringgold, Ga.

Some companies say they’re active in community affairs; employees of Enviroguard Pest Solutions are. They participate in chambers of commerce, serve local government, talk to elementary schools about beneficial insects and lead discussions on entrepreneurism at local colleges. Why? “You meet people,” which results in “quite a bit of business,” said President Lee Tubbs. Revenue jumped 18 percent last year. Customers want to see technicians involved; employees enjoy it, reducing turnover and boosting customer retention, which lets the company focus on delivering quality service, he said.
 

Making Local Count
FarmerGuard Pest Control,
Helena, Ala.

Marketing local gives “us an edge financially,” said Owner Alan Farmer, who tracks every dollar spent to achieve “more bang for the buck.” A new office on a busy street where 15,000 vehicles pass daily generated a 1,000 percent return. The company actively supports local charities. It donated 50 percent of new revenue for a month to repair youth baseball dugouts, while gaining new business and tons of publicity. Revenue jumped 17 percent this year despite raising termite prices to combat this segment’s slow growth. Increasing pest revenue is Farmer’s goal in 2014.
 

Banking on Big Impressions
First Rate Solutions,
New Windsor, N.Y.

Staying ahead of the curve helped this company increase revenue 24 percent this year, said President Sam Soto. Technicians use apps to create professional, easy-to-read reports with photos and diagrams for residential customers, and give educational presentations on iPad minis. The latest equipment, like mini sprayers, ups their professional image. One potential client was so impressed by Soto’s inspection technology he awarded the job on the spot. In 2014, the 23-person company will expand its commercial base and suburban routes, and is exploring new insulation and maintenance services.
 

Finding the Right Fit
Future Services,
Snellville, Ga.

Not every customer is a good fit for Future Services, a lesson learned after the housing market collapsed. Today it is “more on the choosing end,” said President Darrell Lee. Services cost more upfront and are paid annually or by credit card on file. Employees use online tools to investigate property history and identify red flags, cross-sell services and provide instant lawn care quotes. Lee hired an Internet marketing expert and got a 500 percent return on investment. The company grew 10 percent in 2013, which is “phenomenal” given it is actively shedding less desirable customers, he said.
 

Growing Virtually
Griffin Pest Management,
Santa Ana, Calif.

Three years ago this company opened as a virtual office, a necessity given its four-county service area in Southern California. Though management now meets at corporate digs, most employees work from home using real-time software and in-field devices. The model saves money — gas was $5 a gallon at the company’s start — and helps develop business in communities where employees live. New technology is “critical” for growth, said President Travis Swope. So are acquisitions and a focus on pest prevention. Revenue grew 23 percent this year to $1.5 million.
 

Capitalizing on Knowledge
Innovative Pest Management,
Columbia, Md.

In nine years, Innovative Pest Management has become a major player in Washington, D.C., with $2.5 million in revenue. Employees are “subject matter experts” and clients are “engaged and selling for us,” said Vice President Josh Kramer. A content-savvy website contributes to a near-90 percent close rate, he said. Though pinched by the government shutdown — clients include many federal institutions like the Smithsonian museums and Secret Service — revenue should reach $3 million in 2014 from growing residential accounts, acquisitions and bed bug heat treatments, said Kramer.
 

Exploring All Options
McNeely Pest Control,
Winston-Salem, N.C.

McNeely Pest Control keeps an open mind when it comes to growth, considering add-on services, acquisitions and initiatives to deepen its offerings. It trains 70 employees in diverse skills, gives them a voice in company management and charges a fair price so they can make a career in the industry, said President Scott McNeely. This helps retain talent and ensure quality. Sales follow: Growth averaged 18 percent the past three years. Initiatives for 2014 include Internet marketing, a customer feedback program and crawlspace renovation service.
 

Covering the Bases
Perfection Pest Control,
Union, Ky.

Using every tool to meet customer needs helped Perfection Pest Control increase revenue 21 percent this year, said President Tim Leatherman. One of the first in the region with bed bug detection dogs, it created a handyman division because customers couldn’t find good help to exclude stink bugs, rodents and bats. Acquisitions helped the company grow in Cincinnati, and it’s expanding its commercial base through word of mouth and maintenance-based services like drain cleaning. More acquisitions and great employees will spur growth in 2014, said Leatherman.
 

Stirring up Passion
P.E.S.T.,
Goodlettsville, Tenn.

P.E.S.T. has a “greater vision of treating people well,” said Julie Yant, who started the company with husband, Andy, in 2001. “Making sure people are doing things they’re passionate about” drives growth, she explained. Case in point: A technician with an innate ability to grow his route is now the company’s first salesman. This culture carries through to customers; revenue will exceed $1 million this year. A new nuisance wildlife service, expanding mosquito and bed bug control, and social media and community involvement will boost 2014 sales.
 

Being the Specialist
ScorpionTech Termite & Pest Control,
Mesa, Ariz.

As consultants, ScorpionTech employees work with homeowners to reduce conducive conditions and seal gaps and cracks to achieve a near-zero scorpion threshold. It’s basic Integrated Pest Management, but this approach is new for many customers, said President Andy Witcher. Cooperation helps ScorpionTech succeed where other companies have failed. “It’s surprising how fast the word spreads when you’re standing behind your services,” he said. Company revenue jumped 29 percent in 2013. Next year looks just as promising with initiatives to go mobile, expand service offerings and target charter schools.
 

Improving Internal Processes
Sherrill Pest Control,
Manchester, Tenn.

Sherrill Pest Control has a 96 percent customer retention rate. It’s due to trust, which is built on a customer-centric culture and employees who are empowered to make decisions in the field, said Operations Manager Kevin Sherrill. While customer referrals account for 85 percent of sales, the company is moving into new markets and aggressively cross-selling services. To support profitable growth, Sherrill is restructuring the third-generation company’s systems and procedures. Revenue per employee increased 28 percent this year and should reach $1.5 million. He expects double-digit growth going forward.
 

Building Long-Term Loyalty
Steve’s Pest Management,
East Chatham, Ontario

The 25 employees of Steve’s Pest Management are driven to find solutions, not temporary fixes, to pest problems. This mindset helped the company grow from a one-man to a $1.6 million operation in 10 years, said President Steve Peltier. Recognized for bed bug expertise, the company early on used innovative technologies and creative thinking to control the pests, as well as trained clients in prevention strategies. Technicians are paid hourly to ensure they have time to do their jobs properly. Commercial work will provide solid growth in 2014.
 

Mining Big Data
Swat Pest Management,
Evansville, Ind.

Last year, Swat Pest Management compared its customer list with a database of similar-sized, non-pest service companies. It gained valuable insights to help align its services and messaging, as well as target its marketing spend at “more profitable” opportunities, said President Tim Runyon. Next up: Holding blind customer and employee focus groups with an outside facilitator to dig deeper. The company, which operates a basement and crawlspace renovation division, should hit $4.6 million this year. Runyon said general pest control offers lots of growth potential in 2014.
 

Running With the Elite
Ultra Safe Pest Management,
Canton, Mass.

A scientific approach to pest control helped this 14-year-old company double revenue from 2011 to 2012. To ease growing pains, President Vic Palermo, who likes “running with a small, elite group,” throttled back for more controlled, 20 percent growth this year. Improving work flow efficiencies, profitability and customer service are major initiatives, with employees actively brainstorming solutions, like using satellite images to gain early customer intel. Palermo said rats are “the new bed bugs” in Boston; calls increased 75 percent this year, mostly for urban multi-unit housing complexes.

 


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

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