2003 Residential Technician of the Year: Larry Williams

Features - PCT News

A-Active Termite & Pest Control’s Larry Williams is highly regarded for delivering standout customer service.

December 17, 2003

eople bask in the remembrances of the "the good old days." They remember paying 39 cents for a gallon of gas, 25 cents for a loaf of bread, and receiving complete attention to their needs by clerks or service providers. They lament "You can’t find good customer service anymore." Obviously, these people don’t know Larry Williams of A-Active Termite & Pest Control Co., Virginia Beach, Va.

"Larry’s quality control rating is 99 percent and he has never had clients say they would not refer his service to their friends, neighbors or families," says Jeff Johnson, vice president of A-Active. "He constantly turns down tips from his clients, but not the photographs of their children. After a recent knee surgery, Larry received many get-well cards and phone calls at the office and at his home from clients. In fact, the only complaint we’ve ever received about Larry was that he took too long and was too thorough. I guess the customer was in a hurry."

Williams is a proponent of the Golden Rule: Treat others just like you’d want to be treated. He practices this belief everyday, in every situation. "As a pest control operator, I must conduct a thorough inspection, and tailor a solution to that situation," Williams says. "I won’t sell services that a homeowner doesn’t need. Sometimes a chemical treatment is the answer, but other times, a more integrated approach is what’s needed. I’ll be honest and tell the homeowner that it’s not the quick solution, but it’s the correct solution. By being honest, you build a relationship with your customer."

CAREER CHANGE. After a career with the federal government for nearly 30 years, Williams opted for retirement, but soon found that household tasks, and even fishing, were not challenging and he became bored. He weighed possible new careers, and determined that he enjoyed being outdoors. He had grown up on a farm, and even as a child, had been the one to crawl into tight spots to spray chemicals for pest control.

Williams wanted to be sure, however, that the company’s ethics would match his own. "Friends told me that Kevin Kordek, the president of A-Active, was an admirable person and oversaw a wonderful operation. I met with Kevin and offered to work for free for a week to see if our philosophies matched. That was six years ago," says Williams.

He remembers the mantra of "Spray! Spray! Spray!" from his childhood days on the farm, and one of his first experiences in a residential setting was memorable. "A home was infested with German cockroaches, so I used a chemical treatment. I left the house, was standing on the sidewalk, and still had my respirator on. I noticed that the neighbors were coming out and looking toward me. What caught their attention was the literal waterfall of roaches coming out of every window, and dying on the front lawn," he says.

AN ADVOCATE OF EDUCATION. Williams’ belief that knowledge sharpens skills has led him to attain many certifications in his relatively newly adopted field. Additionally, he is enrolled in the Purdue University correspondence course in pest control technology and is participating in master’s training at Virginia Tech University.

Meanwhile, even as he continues his education, he has become a source of knowledge for newer technicians at A-Active Termite & Pest Control.

"Larry handles most of our new service technicians’ field training; he often helps other technicians with difficult accounts; and he assists our service manager by helping with inventory management, vehicle inspections, and helps in the daily check-in process with the other technicians," Johnson states. "Additionally, Larry often mans our after-hours emergency pager and dispatches these services and leads. Larry is a mentor to all the other technicians and sets the standard for quality services."

Indeed, Williams feels that the work he does with newer technicians is very meaningful. "I spend a minimum of 40 hours with a new technician, helping that person learn what to do to solve a problem," he says. "I hope to continue here at A-Active Termite & Pest Control, to see how much I can do and how much the company can grow. There are so many good things happening here. Unfortunately, there are bad operators who hurt the pest control industry’s reputation, but being a part of this team, and making a difference, is what matters.

"I can compare this experience to my previous career with the Naval Reserves and the Naval Aviation Depot," he adds. "We had a good team, we did the right thing, we weren’t in it to make a lot of money, and we felt good about ourselves and our work. I looked for ways to improve on productivity and to cut down on injuries to make us even better. That relates to the pest control industry in that we don’t follow the old extermination routine. Newer procedures are being tested, and they will elevate the industry. I’m proud of my role in that," adds Williams.

Brightening The Holiday Season

Larry Williams cares about his customers, a fact that became evident one holiday season. He was inspecting the house of an older couple who had experienced some health problems. He noticed that the mood in the house was somber, and no decorating for the season had been accomplished, so he asked if he could come back that Saturday and decorate for them. The couple didn’t want him to go to the trouble, but he insisted.

“At that point I called Kevin Kordek and asked if he could help me, and he agreed. As it turned out, my son was able to help also, but we got a later start than I had anticipated, so I called the couple to tell them we’d be over momentarily. ‘That’s all right,’ they said.

‘There are already two men here decorating.’ I called Kevin, and he had bought all the supplies and furnished the workers. When my son and I pulled up, the job was done, and the couple was moved by the generosity. It was a humbling experience, and made me appreciate the company all the more,” Williams remarks.

A Helpful Recruiter

In addition to his impeccable skills as a technician, Larry Williams has also been involved in recruiting for A-Active. Theresa Bartlett was a successful Williams recruit. A single mom with three jobs, Bartlett was working at a location where A-Active held its staff meetings. “She overhead some of our discussions and asked us how to solve some problems she was having with insects. We gave her advice and she became so interested that Kevin suggested she should ride with one of the technicians to see if this was something she would want to do. She accompanied me on a rainy day, and her resolve impressed me.

“After she was hired, she trained with me. One day, an older couple approached the counter at the office, and I heard them challenging each other about the name of their technician. They asked me if I was the owner of A-Active, and I replied no, but could I help them? ‘We had an ant problem and a young lady came out,’ they explained, and I asked if the service was to their expectation. ‘She inspected our home and sat down with us after identifying the species and explained why we were seeing them and what she was going to do to get rid of them, and what we could do to improve the results. She said she’d only been on the job for six weeks and she mentioned what a great teacher you were.’ I acknowledged this with a thanks, and the woman said, ‘You don’t understand – I’m a retired entomology professor and some of my third-year students were never that sharp. We’re telling all our friends about your company.’”