Twin brothers Jeffrey and Jason Linford, owners of the pest control firm Hollywood Bug Guys, have made a name for themselves in pest management and in entertainment. The 34-year-old Arizonans made their NPMA PestWorld debut at the Mattress Safe booth last year, where they entertained attendees with fiddling fun.
The Linfords were introduced to pest control while in college, working as door-to-door sales professionals for Bulwark Exterminating in 2004. In 2010, they launched Green Worx Pest Control, the forerunner to their current business, The Hollywood Bug Guys. The company serves the East Valley area of Phoenix.
Growing up, the duo was always involved in music, particularly playing the violin, which they put to use selling pest control services (they were known as the twin-fiddling pest control salesmen). And they’ve kept their musical interests alive, first performing as the Linford Brothers and now on television as the Hollywood Bug Guys. They created an act that combines fiddling and performance art — specifically costumed cockroaches. “We developed a show called ‘We don’t fiddle around with bugs’ that received first place in Arizona’s Rock’in with Talent Show competition a few years ago. We have been fortunate and blessed to perform on a couple of national television shows like America’s Got Talent and The Gong Show revival on ABC.”
For their Gong Show appearance, the Linford brothers fiddled to the tune of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” as dancing, costumed cockroaches closed in on them. Although the duo did not win, they scored well with the judges and did not get the dreaded gong!(Watch the video).
The Linfords said future plans include continuing this marriage of pest control and entertainment. Specifically, they have been pitching themselves to those in Hollywood such as producers, casting directors and production companies with the hopes of becoming reality TV stars. — Brad Harbison
Termite-Themed Cake Was Center Stage at BASF Booth
At NPMA PestWorld 2017, BASF called upon one of host city Baltimore’s most famous institutions — Charm City Cakes — to help it launch the new Trelona ATBS annual inspection interval. The result was an eye-catching cake featuring a below-ground perspective of termites surrounding a Trelona Advance Termite Bait System (ATBS).
The custom-designed cake also featured decorative termites and a backyard scene complete with above-ground landscaping (e.g., trees, flowers and vegetation).
The termite-themed creation was another addition to Charm City Cakes’ impressive portfolio of custom cakes. Founded by guitarist-turned-chef Duff Goldman in 2002, Charm City Cakes prides itself on “churning out cakes the world had never seen before: cakes with sound, cakes with smoke, cakes with motorized moving components and life-sized baby elephant cakes,” according to the bakery’s website.
The bakery and its team of colorful decorators caught the attention of Food Network producers, who made them the subject of a hit reality TV program “Ace of Cakes.” Check out behind-the-scenes clips.— Brad Harbison
BASF: Investing in Your Business Success
BASF Professional & Specialty Solutions is committed to being a true industry partner by providing innovative products and services that solve the “real-world” business challenges PMPs face every day. Wherever bed bugs, termites, ants, flies, rodents or cockroaches pose a threat, BASF offers cutting-edge active ingredients and technologies designed to control these common pests, including Alpine® insecticide, Selontra® rodenticide, Fendona® insecticide, Termidor® termiticide/insecticide, and Trelona® ATBS Annual Bait Stations. All of these products play an important role in protecting the health and property of millions of people throughout North America, but BASF goes even further in its commitment to the professional pest control market.
Since 2015, BASF has sponsored an annual survey in cooperation with PCT and the National Pest Management Association devoted to addressing key issues of importance to pest management professionals. The first of these research studies was titled “Benchmarking Your Business” featuring an operating cost ratio survey designed to allow PMPs to compare their business costs and financial performance against their industry peers. In 2016, as a way of once again giving back to an industry that has been so supportive of us, we sponsored a “Compensation & Benefits” survey, and last year we supported a “Business Outlook” research study. In each case, the results of these studies have been published in the January issue of PCT magazine and shared with attendees of NPMA Legislative Day.
In assessing what type of information would be most useful to PMPs in 2018, we decided to address a topic that is top-of-mind for virtually every PMP in North America – “Employee Recruitment & Retention.” In this year’s market report, PCT and NPMA explored a wide range of topics including the industry’s most effective recruitment vehicles, onboarding strategies, employee turnover rates and much, much more. The results, which are featured in the following pages of PCT, are both insightful and enlightening, and should prove beneficial as PMPs grapple with the challenges of recruiting and retaining quality employees in the year ahead.
We would like to thank all those randomly selected PCT readers and NPMA members who took the time to participate in this year’s survey. We’re confident you’ll find the results beneficial to your business, laying the groundwork for continued growth in 2018 and beyond!
Jonathan K. Sweat
Director, BASF Professional & Specialty Solutions
Recruiting, onboarding and training require a lot of time, effort and money. But this investment you make into each employee isn’t the only thing you lose when that employee decides to leave; you also lose the intangible assets. Maybe your customers really liked this person, and now they have to get to know someone new. Or maybe the employee was a pivotal member of your internal team, and morale will suffer when they’re gone. Whatever the case, losing a good employee is never easy.
That’s why everyone strives for high retention. In the NPMA/PCT study, 78 percent of respondents said that half or more of their employees have stayed with their company for more than two years. That’s good news, because, the study points out, employees who have hit the two-year mark are less likely to leave.
The big question is How do you get them to stay?
WHAT TO OFFER? Of course, atop the list of employee “wants” are competitive wages, benefits and opportunities for advancement. For starters, you need to fulfill their professional expectations just as they fulfill yours. Be as generous with compensation and growth opportunities as possible from the moment they join your team.
“Compensation matters,” says Brad Bartlett, president of Hire and Retain Good People. “If you want to compete for and retain the best talent, you have to be willing and able to pay better than market wage. Remember: The people applying for a position with your firm aren’t looking just at pest control but at other industries as well. You need to be aware of what HVAC technicians are making, for example, and offer a competitive wage.”
A SUPPORTIVE CULTURE. Building a supportive culture entails as many elements as you can think of: flexibility in helping employees achieve work-life balance, solid relationships between employees and their direct managers, mutual respect and understanding, and anything else that meshes your values and mission into your corporate culture.
Inspect-All Services’ Brian Lunsford, who has hired 100-plus employees over his Atlanta-based company’s past decade of growth, shares, “Years ago, we laid out our core values, which set the standard for the way we operate our company. In line with these values, our employees strive to always do things the ‘right way.’ This approach has given them the opportunity to realize significant growth, and to enjoy the fulfillment of giving our customers a world-class service experience.”
OPEN, HONEST COMMUNICATION. Communication is the foundation of every great relationship, including your employee’s relationship with their employer. For example, employees want to know what’s expected of them and how they’re doing. They want clear direction and receptiveness to their questions and concerns. And they want to be part of something bigger, which means understanding and working collaboratively toward the company goals, with the potential to make a real difference.
“Having a climate of honesty, nurtured through consistent, highly efficient communication with our team, as well as with our customers, has been very important to our success,” Lunsford says. “Through open communication and a deep understanding that our people are the key to our company’s success, our management team has created an outstanding environment for new hires to flourish. Once folks are here, they typically do not want to leave.”
When we asked how challenging employee recruitment and retention have been over the past three years, 34 percent of PMPs said that retention is challenging or very challenging. Nearly twice as many — 62 percent — said the same about recruitment. Only 10 percent of respondents feel that attracting quality employees has gotten easier.
RECRUITMENT DIFFICULTIES? The employment market presents its own challenges where recruitment is involved. But PMPs place a couple of factors above economic conditions. More important than the size of the labor pool, you tell us, is the quality of the labor pool. While just over a third (36 percent) of respondents cited the improving economy as a hindrance to recruiting, well over half said they are hindered by the lack of qualified candidates (61 percent) and the poor work ethic of candidates (56 percent).
“There are a lot of people who will apply for a position but just don’t want to work — at least not at the level we need them to,” says Brett Lieberman of My Pest Pros in Fairfax, Va. “By nature, pest control can mean working long hours. Technicians might have very early or very late appointments to accommodate customers’ schedules, and most candidates aren’t willing to be that flexible.”
Maybe that’s one of the reasons two-thirds of PMPs say that service technician is the position most difficult to fill. Other potential reasons: Crawlspaces. Spiders. Snakes. Hornet nests. Technicians need a fairly courageous constitution to go out and do battle with pests every day. They also need detective skills and perseverance, says Lieberman. “This job doesn’t lend itself to rote memorization. You have to be inquisitive, pay attention and be a problem-solver. That’s not everybody,” he says.
And if he can add one more point: Strong communication skills are essential.
“Once I thought a new employee must be using voice to text because the comments on his reports made no sense. I would have to go back into his notes and try to figure out what he was trying to convey. I discovered later that he just had very poor language skills,” Lieberman shares. “I’ve since learned to be more pragmatic about interviewing, not just going on personality but also testing for basic math and writing skills.”
Customer service and other office positions tend to be easier to fill because they require more broadly available skills. Management can be easier to fill, too, in large part because companies tend to promote from within. But, if you don’t have someone in line for a sales position and you need to go outside, it can be a rough go, says Jeremy Clark of Dugas Pest Control.
“It’s hard to be successful in sales in any industry, so you really have to look hard to find good talent,” he says. “Plus, some candidates aren’t interested in pest control because they don’t think of it as the sexiest or highest-paying business. That’s why we focus on finding up-and-coming sales reps who might be more likely to stay with us for a few years.”
RETENTION IS EASIER. As noted previously, PMPs aren’t nearly as concerned about keeping employees as they are about attracting them. Turnover reports help explain why.
Overall, PMPs reported turnover rates (over the past three years) averaging about 14 percent if you look at the mean, 7 percent if you look at the median. Either way, these are relatively positive numbers, given 10 to 15 percent is generally considered by business experts to be a “healthy” turnover range. Diving more deeply, 58 percent of respondents reported turnover of less than 10 percent, with 27 percent reporting no turnover at all for the three-year period. On the high end, about a quarter (24 percent) reported turnover of 20 percent or more.
Who’s leaving? As might be expected, technicians are leaving companies more often than those holding customer service, sales and management positions. Managers represent the smallest turnover percentage.
“The low unemployment rate puts more pressure on businesses: Employees know they have choices, and they are always looking to see if they might do better somewhere else,” says Burns Blackwell of Terminix of the Triad. “We talk about retention a lot, exploring proactive measures we can take to keep people here, keep people happy. We believe that the key is building a culture where everyone wins.”