In August 2019, Gallup conducted its annual Work and Education survey, which determined the satisfaction levels of U.S. adults (employed full and part time) with various aspects of their jobs. How did the pest management industry compare to this national benchmark? Not bad. Pretty awesome, in fact.
The Gallup and PCT/NPMA surveys asked similar but not the exact same questions so the chart below is not a true apples-to-apples comparison. It does, however, offer some interesting insights.
Pest management employees are generally happy when it comes to work. In fact, 83 percent said they were satisfied with their jobs overall, according to the 2019 PCT/NPMA Workplace Survey.
“I am 110 percent satisfied with my job,” said Antonio Briceno, who has worked as a service coordinator at Truly Nolen of America in Miami Beach, Fla., for eight years. He credits his employer’s “outstanding training” and for paying for his pest control operator certification.
“My job gives me a great sense of identity and through the years I have become the service professional to go to when somebody has a pest control issue,” he said.
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of pest management employees said their jobs were a good match for their professional skills and training, and 55 percent said the work gave them a sense of identity, found the survey.
“People want to have a purpose. They don’t want just a job. They feel satisfied when they feel like they’re making a difference in the world,” explained Leila Haas, director of human resources at Sprague Pest Solutions in Tacoma, Wash. Don’t leave employees to figure this out on their own; instead help them see how their daily tasks impact people’s health, wellness and well-being, she advised.
Still, parts of jobs can rub employees the wrong way. “It’s really simple things that are irritating,” said a pest control technician in Stillwater, Okla., who asked to remain anonymous. For her, these include the challenge of finding addresses in the “middle of nowhere” and not having client cooperation to prepare sites and improve sanitation.
Job dissatisfaction spurs some people, like Nick Madero, to start their own pest control businesses. Madero grew frustrated with his former employer’s compensation package, route schedule and general business practices. He left to start Madero Pest Control in Pueblo, Colo., with his wife Angela in 2014.
“Over time I think your vision gets clearer and you start seeing the bad things and you just don’t want to be attached to that,” Madero said about leaving his old workplace.
Great news: Employees plan to stick around…for a short while, anyway. According to the 2019 PCT/NPMA Workplace Survey, 75 percent of pest management employees said they were likely to stay at their current jobs for another three years.
Still, they’re keeping close tabs on company culture, which largely influences whether they stay at or leave an organization.
A former regional manager who worked for a pest control company for seven years summed it up on the job review website Glassdoor: “Start taking care of your people or they will continues (sic) to leave and your culture will continue to be terrible.”
Many employees liked working for companies with a family ethos, said people interviewed for this report. Also important: Managers who can relate to the challenges of working in the field.
Terminix Service promotes from within for this reason. Even top management started in technician roles. “I think that goes a long way for employees to see the possibility for some advancement and also understanding that when we make decisions we do have a reference point for what they’re going through,” said Rion Cobb.
To build relationships between management and employees, company leaders at Rose Pest Solutions in Northfield, Ill., attend monthly branch meetings and ride along with field employees every six months.
“If you put yourself in an ivory tower then you’re never going to get to know your coworkers and we don’t want to do that,” said Angie Persinger, who heads human resources at Rose and previously worked as a technician.
Some companies survey employees and the feedback helps them to improve the work environment. “It’s really given our employees a voice to give us some ideas of what their challenges are,” said Persinger.
Feeling respected, rewarded and heard made for satisfied employees. “(I’m) definitely loyal to this company because I think our company is the best around,” said a pest control technician in Stillwater, Okla.
Gregory Pest Solutions Q&A
Features - Focus on M&A
Editor’s note: In October, ServiceMaster announced the acquisition of Gregory Pest Solutions, a $26.5 million firm based in Greenville, S.C., that ranked #30 on the most recent PCT Top 100 List. Phil and Sara Gregory launched the business in 1972 while in their 20s, building the company into one of the largest regional pest control firms in the Southeast. Today, it employs more than 250 people in 11 states. PCT recently caught up with Phil Gregory to learn more about one of the most high-profile acquisitions of 2019.
Q: What was the number one reason you and Sara decided to sell Gregory Pest Solutions at this time?
A: It was mostly a matter of good timing. ServiceMaster was in the right place at the right time and everything just seemed to come together for Sara and me. Our president, Ben Walker, had developed a productive relationship with ServiceMaster during the Copesan sale. This gave us all great confidence that ServiceMaster would value the Gregory workforce and maintain the Gregory culture we have built over the last 47 years. Recognizing the value of the Gregory brand, ServiceMaster intends to continue operating its new business as Gregory Pest Solutions, as part of a multi-brand strategy and commitment to growth in the region.
Q:I’m sure your company had many high-quality suitors. Why did you decide to sell to ServiceMaster and how long was the deal in the works?
A: Actually, the deal was only in the works for a short few months because we already knew the ServiceMaster leadership and their approach to business very well. As mentioned, Ben’s experience with ServiceMaster in connection with the Copesan acquisition and several other projects was very positive. We believed that ServiceMaster would take care of our employees, based on how we observed their approach to business in connection with the Copesan and Assured Environments deals, and many others.
Q:How did your staff respond to the announcement that Gregory Pest Solutions had been sold to ServiceMaster?
A: As you can imagine, there was plenty of joy, but it came with mixed emotions. Also, for many long-term employees, it was an end of an era so there was the fear of the unknown. Employees responded well, however, when we pointed out the new opportunities that would come from working with a Fortune 1000 global company. Sara, Ben and I are extremely confident that the future is very bright for Gregory and the entire team.
Q:How long do you anticipate the integration process will take?
A: The initial basic integration probably will take approximately six months. Due to the structure of the deal, however, it will take longer to fully integrate our 267 employees and the $26.5 million company into ServiceMaster’s business. In addition, ServiceMaster is retaining our management team and the Gregory brand, a testament to the strength of both. Nothing like this has been done before, which makes it a new adventure for everyone. The complete integration could take up to 18 months.
Q:What role will you play with Gregory Pest Solutions/ServiceMaster moving forward?
A: Sara and I are shareholders of the new Gregory Company, so we are fully committed to the future success of the company and the well-being of the wonderful team we have built over the years. I also will be serving as Board Chairman of the new Gregory Company. Sara and I will be attending board meetings, quarterly managers meetings and other annual functions.
Q:What do you have planned for your post-industry career?
A: I plan to stay active in the industry. In addition to my duties with the new company, I will be attending industry events such as the NPMA PestWorld convention and Legislative Day. Sara and I, of course, will stay in close communication with our Gregory family as all of our employees have always meant so much to us. Gregory would not be the success it is today without our dedicated team members.
Q:What will you miss most about the pest control industry and why?
A: Without question, Sara and I will deeply miss the day-to-day interaction and communication with all of our employees. We have dedicated our lives to this business and our employees, and it will be a bit heart wrenching not to enjoy those relationships as much. Also, we have had some great mentors over the years, including Richard Yashek, Bob Russell, Bob and Judy Dold, and many others who were instrumental to our careers in the early years and beyond. We will miss them. And we will miss the very strong relationships with our vendors who were not only our business partners, but also our friends.
Q:Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to add?
A: I just want to thank PCT magazine for the opportunity to express our appreciation to ServiceMaster for its professional approach to this acquisition and how it has been so welcoming to the Gregory team members. I also want to thank PCT for allowing me to share my thoughts on what a privilege it has been to work with some of the most exceptional professionals in this industry.
7 Tips for Exponential Growth
Features - Focus on M&A
At PCT’s annual M&A Virtual Conference, consultant and former pest control operator Greg Clendenin shared his best tips for getting your pest control business on the path to efficient and immediate growth.
Greg Clendenin has spent 39 years leading a number of successful pest control companies. He recently transitioned into the consulting side of the business, launching The Clendenin Consulting Group in 2018, where he helps owners prepare to sell their company to the right buyer. At this year’s PCT M&A Virtual Conference, Clendenin shared some practical tips he has learned and developed over the years that are immediately applicable for driving growth to position a company for sale.
VISUALIZE GROWTH. Clendenin’s first tip for business leaders is to visualize the end result you want to achieve with growth in your mind’s eye. “If you can’t see it in your mind, you’ll never have it in your hand,” he said. “So growth is a mindset.” Clendenin added that PCOs should largely focus on organic, or internal, growth, which does not include acquisitional growth. This type of growth comes in two forms: incremental, or any small rate of growth above zero, and exponential, which refers to growth at an increasingly rapid rate. However, be careful of only relying on incremental growth. If your company’s growth is less than the overall cost of business, not only will your company lose money, but other negative factors like employees not seeing career growth or advancement opportunities could affect growth.
BUST BUSINESS MYTHS. For Clendenin, there are always ways of improving a company’s operations and growth. That’s why his next tip for PCOs is to think outside some of the common myths that surround the business world.
For example, there’s no such thing as status quo when it comes to growing your business, according to Clendenin. “Nothing remains the same over any period of time,” he said. “Business is either going forward or backward; it’s either growing or dying.”
This constant ebb and flow of business means there are always new ideas or potential revenue sources to be considered. This leads into another everyday mindset that Clendenin believes harms rather than helps a business grow: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. “A leader really has to see around corners, and when you see around corners you’ll see things that aren’t broken that need fixed,” Clendenin said. And it is OK to want to improve upon something that technically works as it should. Looking to the future like this allows PCOs to offer new services or change strategies ahead of trends in the marketplace.
OFFER AN ‘X FACTOR.’ Exponential growth can only happen on a sustained basis, and in order to be sustained, Clendenin said a company’s foundation should always be quality service. “There’s a direct correlation between the quality of the service and the quantity of the customers. Revenue is driven by customers, and quality service drives the growth of the customer base,” Clendenin said. “So quality service is the center of your customer base growing.”
This quality service could be a part of your company’s unique selling points, or what Clendenin called the X Factor. “These are defined as what you really do well and what the customer wants. It differentiates you from your competitor and puts the client first,” he said.
Offering quality services and delivering an X Factor to increase the number of customers is only the first step, however. After the money starts coming in, it is imperative to make sure you know your cash flow and what you’re spending your money on.
MANAGE CASH WITH BENCHMARKS. Clendenin, who has worked with many businesses that struggled with cash management, saw how it impacted them in the long term. “It really hindered their growth,” Clendenin said. He went on to explain that one of the best ways to avoid bad cash management is to benchmark.
Benchmarking begins by asking what goal your company is trying to reach for various facets of your pest control business, and then working towards those goals — or benchmarks. Ask questions like what percentage should customer retention be in different service areas? What should closing rates be? What should your management to employee ratio be?
Once these benchmarks are determined, meeting them is the next step in building your business. “Benchmarking is really important to do to figure out a way to have everything in place that you operate,” Clendenin said. Benchmarking also sets up the company for success and challenges everyone, from CEO to technician, to participate in meeting those goals.
BUILD UP PEOPLE. In addition to meeting your set benchmarks, Clendenin went on to say that the most important aspect of growth for PCOs to remember is that you “build a business by building people.”
Building up your business through people can come in many different forms. For example, Clendenin suggested when hiring a potential employee, hire for character and attitude first. That way, their strengths and confidence in the job can be easily cultivated as their work progresses.
Clendenin also said that “everything rises and falls on leadership,” and a major part of company leadership comes from middle management. That’s why it is important to develop strong leaders in management positions. “Your branch managers can make or break you,” he said, because they are responsible for everything from facility management, to customer service, to fostering a positive corporate image. “Your middle management roles need to be occupied by eagles not ducks. Eagles soar, ducks quack.”
STRONG SALES. Another significant component of growth is creating a sales team that is driven and gets results. Clendenin warned that even if your company exhibits good customer retention, a weak sales performance could keep your incremental growth in single digits.
“You need a large enough sales force, and the number of new sales should crush the number of customer cancellations each month,” Clendenin said.
To have a strong sales approach, sales material should be both illustrative, so the customer knows exactly what they are spending their money on, and competitive enough to make it easy for customers to want to spend their money on your services. Salespeople also need to be well-versed in lead generation, knowing what products or service would interest the most customers and focusing more money, time and energy on those areas.
PRICING STRATEGIES. Every customer is important. However, when deciding the price of service, PMPs should target their most profitable customer. Find out which service, which type of house and which locations are associated with the most customers. “Are we charging enough?” Clendenin asked. “Or is that an unprofitable customer? We need to tag the unprofitable customer and then do what’s necessary to make that a more profitable situation.”
PCOs should promote and tailor pricing for services that have recurring revenue more heavily than one-time services. And after you get your pricing strategy established, make sure you enforce that pricing.
FINAL THOUGHTS. Other components of growth are things like scalable, documented systems and procedures. Systems and procedures are the scar tissue of past failures. If PMPs are to achieve sustained exponential growth, they need to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.
Another component of growth is what Clendenin calls “footprint management.” How far do you drive to get to a stop before you start losing money to get there? Route density is an “eighth wonder of the world.” Reducing windshield time may be more important than a manager might realize.
Finally, one of the most impactful components of exponential growth is organizational alignment. This means everyone in the firm is going in the same direction and reaching for the same results and goals. “We get more done and we get there faster if we are working together in a cohesive and cross-departmental manner,” he says.