Upon first meeting him, David Boose, owner of PestMasters Termite & Pest Control in Richmond, Va., doesn’t appear to be a particularly aggressive personality. Analytical by nature, the soft-spoken pest control operator typically shuns the spotlight, often deferring the stage to his more gregarious colleagues in the Virginia Pest Management Association (VPMA).
That doesn’t mean, however, that Boose is an ineffective leader. In fact, he’s one of the most powerful and universally respected members of the association, playing a key role in defending the industry’s interests in the halls of power at the Virginia State Capitol, just up the road from his company’s headquarters location.
As chairman of the VPMA’s Legislative Committee, "Dave works endlessly to promote and protect the pest control industry without asking for anything in return," according to Joe Wilson, owner and president of PermaTreat, Inc., Fredericks-burg, Va., one of Boose’s longtime mentors. "He is extremely effective."
"Dave Boose has done about as much for the VPMA as any other individual in its history," adds Kevin Kordek, president of A-Active Termite & Pest Control in Virginia Beach, Va. "He gives of himself unselfishly for the betterment of the association and the entire pest control industry."
Yet, if not for a father-in-law involved in the pest control business, Boose would likely be practicing his leadership skills in another industry altogether. "I worked part-time as a termite technician in high school and college," Boose says, "but I wasn’t interested in making a career of it."
That is, until his father-in-law, Steve Manley, who worked in sales and management for Terminix International for many years, told him "the sweetest sales territory in the country" had just opened up in the Philadelphia area. Boose jumped at the opportunity. "I interviewed for the job and because of my pest control experience I got it," he recalls. "They were among the happiest three years of my life. I loved selling. I loved being out in the field meeting people.
"They used to give me hundreds of termite renewals at a time that needed servicing in and around Philadelphia," he says. "I’d start off in row houses in South Philly and end up at a mansion in the finest neighborhood in the city. They had so many renewals that I’d park the car and walk from house to house," he says with a laugh. "It was a great job. The territory was so good, I couldn’t help but be successful."
It wasn’t long before management took notice, and in 1978 Terminix promoted Boose to branch manager of the company’s Runnemede, New Jersey office. While he didn’t enjoy management as much as sales, Boose "learned a lot" during that time, knowledge that would prove beneficial in running his own business years later.
Eager to broaden his professional experience while making a name for himself in another organization, Boose left Terminix in 1980 to join Rentokil, which was starting to invest heavily in the U.S. pest control market at the time. "As much as I loved Terminix, I saw an opportunity at Rentokil and thought it would be exciting to build the business," he says. "So I took a job with them as a regional manager in New York and New Jersey."
While challenged by the work, Boose found himself spending more and more time on the road at a time when he and his wife, Susan, wanted to start a family. "It was a grueling schedule," he recalls. "Within a year Rentokil had bought several companies in Indiana and Illinois, so I was flying all over the country overseeing various businesses. I’d fly out on Monday and return on Friday. It was tough."
After two years on the road, Boose knew he had to make a choice … his work or his family. "I decided that if I was going to stay in the pest control industry and we were going to start a family, I was going to have to start my own business."
Coincidentally, his father-in-law was also interested in making a career move, having left Terminix in 1979, so he and Dave began laying the groundwork to start their own pest control business. After checking out several firms in the Northeast but not making any offers, Steve learned of a small pest control business in Virginia that was for sale called Algo Exterminating Co. "It had three broken-down trucks and an office in a bad neighborhood," Boose recalls. "It wasn’t much to look at but it did have a decent termite renewal base," producing about $125,000 in annual revenue.
Despite the financial risks, the two novice entrepreneurs made an offer that was accepted, and in August of 1981 they purchased the Richmond, Virginia-based pest control business, renaming the firm PestMasters Termite & Pest Control. "I had no doubt we would be successful," Boose says. "I was training salesmen in New York City to sell commercial pest control. I figured if I could do that I could do anything!"
That didn’t mean it was easy, however. "It was several years of very long hours," Boose recalls of those early days in business for himself. "I’d sell all day and work all night. I didn’t think anything of going out at 2:00 a.m. to do a cleanout. It was difficult, but we gradually started to grow." A turning point came in 1996, when the company topped $1 million in annual sales. "That allowed us to do more advertising, which resulted in greater recognition for our company and more customers, which in turn resulted in more word-of-mouth referrals. That’s been the difference for us."
Today, PestMasters boasts 25 employees and serves a 50-mile radius around Richmond. The company’s service mix is 60% general pest control and 40% termite control. Residential work accounts for approximately 85% of its overall business.
COMMITTED TO QUALITY. "We’ve chosen to grow slowly over the years," Boose observes. "We decided early on that we weren’t going to be the low-price leader in Richmond. We were going to do quality work at a reasonable price, but we weren’t going to be the low-price guys." They’ve been true to their word. PestMasters Termite & Pest Control isn’t the cheapest company in the Richmond area, but it is one of the most highly regarded by both its competitors and employees alike.
Charlie Church, president of Getem Termite & Pest Control in Norfolk, says Boose operates a quality business and is "one of the most intelligent and nicest guys around," sentiments shared by his employees.
Conrad Lyons is second in command at PestMasters and has been with the company five years. "I decided that if I was going to make this a career, I wanted to work for a quality company," he says. "It sounds corny, but PestMasters is a good place to work. It’s a fun place to be. Our customers aren’t ever going to be neglected and neither are our employees."
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the equipment used by PestsMasters’ field staff. Service Manager Robert Wray says Boose is committed to providing the finest quality products and equipment in the pest control industry. "In the past we could have cut some corners in purchasing or upgrading our equipment, but Dave said ‘No,’" he says. "He wants to make sure that everyone has the proper equipment at all times and he’s willing to pay for it."
Office Manager Deniz McCay, who has worked at PestMasters for more than a decade, describes Boose as "the nicest, most honest, most compassionate man I’ve ever worked for. He’s a very clever businessman, but what sepa-rates him from other successful businesspeople is his honesty and integrity.
"At times everyone gets mad at their employer and they may think the grass is greener somewhere else, but that’s not the case at PestMasters. It’s a great place to work. If you’re good to Dave, he’ll be good to you."
So, what does the future hold for PestMasters Termite & Pest Control? "We want to continue to grow," Boose says. "Last year we grew 20% and this year we’re on track to grow 10% to 20% again, so I’m excited about the future. We’ve got great employees at PestMasters. I want this company to grow so they can continue to advance." Spoken like a true entrepreneur. n
The Ultimate Family Man
David Boose is described by all who know him as the ultimate family man. While he enjoys his work, Boose also takes time out of his busy schedule to enjoy his family. His daughter, Kristen, 22, recently graduated from the University of Virginia and is a high school Latin teacher. His son, Daniel, 17, plays piano and is a reporter for his high school newspaper. His wife of 31 years, Susan, is a stay-at-home mom who worked as an administrative assistant at Sun Oil Company before marrying Boose, her high school sweetheart.
Business Group Involvement Pays Dividends
Along with being a respected entrepreneur, David Boose is also a respected business leader in the Richmond area. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia and is also a member of the Virginia Council of CEO’s.
“My association with these groups has raised the profile of PestMasters and played an important role in the growth of the company over the years,” he says. “Not only have I learned a lot from my work with Better Business Bureau and the Virginia Council of CEO’s, but I’ve developed some important business relationships with other prominent members of the business community. That’s the primary benefit to involvement in these kinds of groups.”