Jake Vollink, PCT’s Commercial Technician of the Year, always seemed to know that a career in pest control was part of his destiny, as early as his high school years. Growing up in Michigan, he spent a lot of time outdoors, becoming familiar with wildlife and insects. It was the spark that ignited his interest in pest control.
“I think the passion started with my parents, as they were really outdoorsy, and spent a lot of time outdoors, and that includes bugs and animals. Then, as I got older I started doing some trapping with my brother, getting muskrats and raccoons, along with hunting,” Vollink said. “In high school, I started my interest in pest control because I’d see a Rose technician doing houses nearby and they would service the high school. At the time, I was doing plumbing with my dad.”
The reason Vollink decided to jump into pest control was the fact that a technician’s job seemed to have variety, compared to many other careers that would be labeled as “desk jobs.”
“I always thought when you’d be at the job even for a few weeks it would be monotonous, and I saw the local pest control technician was always moving and that seemed interesting. So, I set up a job shadow through high school with Rose — with the service supervisor in my area — and spent the day working with him.”
When he applied and wasn’t hired on his 18th birthday by Rose, he wasn’t discouraged. After five years at a local pest control firm, Vollink was hired by Rose in 2011 and has felt truly rewarded ever since, calling his experiences at the company “a blessing that has been tremendous” for him and his family.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE. Vollink is highly trained in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and focuses on low-risk approaches to providing control. For example, he recently identified a need for — and implemented — increased monitoring tactics that help reduce the need for a program more focused on broadcast applications.
Rose’s manager of education and training Mark VanderWerp, told PCT that Vollink took over his route in Grand Rapids and the results have been outstanding. “As much as it hurts my pride to say this, this route has flourished much more under the care of Jake than it ever did under my care,” VanderWerp wrote in Vollink’s Technician of the Year nomination form.
“Technicians are the public face of what we do and all too often management doesn’t pause to truly appreciate these men and women that make it all happen … reflecting on the value Jake Vollink brings to Rose and the pest management industry has been a worthwhile exercise,” VanderWerp added. “I would not advance our nominee if I didn’t know that he is one of the very best out there! In fact, I can’t find anyone in our company who has anything bad to say about this individual.”
According to VanderWerp, Vollink excels in every aspect of his job, and he provided a few examples of why he is worthy of a such a prestigious award, spotlighting his efforts in customer relations and safety as well as his leadership skills. Vollink serves many of Rose’s largest customers and is a dedicated family man who will “suit up” whenever there’s a need for him to take care of an issue for a client.
“Descriptors like ‘thorough,’ ‘timely,’ ‘great service,’ and ‘knowledgeable’ are frequently used when our clients comment on Jake,” VanderWerp said.
Dave Popp, general manager of Rose Pest Solutions’ Grand Rapids office, says Vollink has literally grown the business in his territory through great communication and better service, sometimes even during issues that are more “putting out fires” than routine.
“We took over an account with a serious mouse problem in the warehouse,” Popp said. “Jake went to town and knocked out this problem — not with a magic wand but with hard work, dedication and concern. The client absolutely loves what Jake has done. Having technicians with this level of care and initiative makes success a common occurrence and is hugely beneficial to the client, to Rose, and to the pest management industry.”
DAY-TO-DAY SERVICE. While Vollink already had a background in pest control, when he was hired by Rose his focus shifted to larger accounts in the greater Grand Rapids area in southwest Michigan. By doing so, he was able to become an expert in commercial services by thriving on tremendous attention to detail and excellent communication with his customers.
“I service a number of companies and hotels. I get up at 4:30 a.m., and start my hotels at the 5 a.m. hour. Those are usually first. I take care of them and that involves mostly inspecting mechanical areas and kitchens and treating any issues that might arise, and checking any pest activity through the hotel.
“Then I’ll go to a number of large manufacturing, food and meat accounts that I service throughout the day. Those can take up to two hours each to service. It’s a lot of inspecting, and most of those clients are weekly customers, so I’m checking and cleaning areas, replacing or servicing [mouse and rodent traps/stations], monitoring and inspecting all areas throughout their warehouses and near stored products — that kind of thing.”
Being really proficient and a good business partner to his clients comes through knowing what his customers need from a pest control technician. Most of his contacts are the quality assurance or plant managers. At hotels, it is either the general manager or engineering personnel.
Regardless of the title of his contact, Vollink does a great job of listening to their needs and spending an ample amount of time making sure his attention to detail provides solutions that work. For example, many companies have areas that can easily be overlooked if a service technician doesn’t take the time to go the distance to ensure a facility is truly pest free. This involves looking at all issues — not just openings and food sources — but other important aspects of commercial buildings like moisture and activity levels.
“I do a lot of work in the mechanical areas. Some of the larger facilities and hotels, in particular, have large expansive rooms with a lot of boilers and water heaters and air handlers that all have lot of moisture they produce. That’s a lot of heat and it’s all conducive to pest activity like cockroaches or rodents or a number of insects that are drawn to those conditions.
“It takes a lot of inspecting to make sure no issues arise from those areas. Also, several companies have lift stations where raw sewage will come in and those are good for roach activity so those need to be regularly monitored and controlled.”
COMMERCIAL CONSIDERATIONS. Although his residential experience was a great building block for his commercial pest control career, Vollink says there are definite differences between the two customer types and what they need in a business partner.
“There’s quite a bit difference. When you’re dealing with a lot of commercial, third-party audited accounts they directly inspect your work and make sure you’re following their guidelines. Managers will go through your logbook and make sure all is serviced properly and the areas set to be serviced either weekly or biweekly are actually serviced and done properly.
“A lot of what I do is to make sure not only the facility looks good but also the reports,” Vollink said. “It needs to look clean because these are used in audits and QA managers need to make sure the numbers on service tickets match their reports each and every week.”
He added, “Having good communication every week [about work that was performed], like replacing devices, how many had to be replaced due to damage or missing devices and other areas is important. This all has to be recorded and communicated with the customer. That develops a base for everything we do and then they are able to track what we’re doing and what’s happening.”
WHAT HE STRIVES FOR. Every commercial technician has their own skill set they bring to the job. Vollink is no different. He understands that his role is to use those abilities in the best possible way to serve his clients.
“I think what makes a good commercial technician is the attention to detail, making sure that you have good communication and a relationship with your clients. Self-motivation is a huge part of it,” he said. “You have to stay motivated and go from one stop to the next. When you’re working by yourself you need to be self-motivated.
“The other thing that’s really important is the need to make sure you’re meeting a customer’s requirements because that’s a big part of their job. Also, having a positive attitude shows your customers a lot — they will appreciate that. In most cases, that helps develop good relationships.”
Vollink has had most of his customer base for at least five years and he has great professional relationships with them, and knows many of them on a personal level, as well.
The author is a PCT contributing writer.