Consumers are accustomed to rising prices — at the gas pump, the grocery store, restaurants and everywhere else we buy what we want or need. Inflation is a fact of life; if it weren’t, we would still be able to buy that nickel loaf of bread our grandparents were always talking about.
So why are some pest management companies so hesitant to raise prices? We all want to remain in our customers’ good graces, but does it really make sense to keep holding off on price adjustments as your materials, labor and operational costs continue to steadily rise?
Absolutely not, says Ralph Zuponcic, president of Hudson, Ohio-based PricePoint Partners. “Even if you don’t see tremendous increases in product costs in a particular year, your cost of doing business does increase every year, attributable to any number of rising costs — fuel, equipment purchases or leases, employee health insurance, etc.,” he says. “If you ignore this upward creep, you will at some point be squeezing your margins so tight that you are not making money or, worse, losing money. Keeping pace means adjusting your prices, even slightly, every year or two, consistently.”
Customers of businesses that raise prices on a regular schedule get used to seeing these small increases and understand why they’re necessary, because we all live in a world where prices inch up. It’s when companies wait five or six years and then find they need to do a much more dramatic increase that sticker shock sets in, Zuponcic says.
“A 2 or 3 percent adjustment each year keeps you at the pace of inflation,” he says. “And when the increase is this small, you may decide that you don’t even need to announce it to your smaller customers. If someone’s getting a $100 quarterly service and you’re adding $2 or $3 to that price, they are unlikely to take issue with that; in fact, they may not even notice it.
“On the other hand, large commercial accounts do need to be notified, preferably with at least 60 days’ notice so they have time to adjust their budgets. Be sure to let them know in a face-to-face conversation, or by their preferred communication means, why the increase is necessary,” he said.
REAL-WORLD SUCCESS. Kevin Lemasters employs this strategy effectively at EnviroPest, which serves northern Colorado. “Residentially, we increase prices about 3 percent every other year, making sure that our new customers don’t see a price increase in the first two years they’re with us so that they have an opportunity to experience the value we provide,” he says. “We don’t announce these small increases because when we did try that approach, we got many more questions and cancellations. So now we make the adjustment and if a customer takes issue with it, we negotiate with them. We’re not willing to lose a customer over a few dollars.”
On the commercial side, Lemasters takes a strategic approach to each account, evaluating how much time the technician is spending there, how many follow-up calls are required, how much material is being used, etc. “Our goal is to generate $125 to $150 an hour in revenue, whether it’s a large or small account. If we’re not in that range, we make an adjustment. We’ve even lowered prices on a few accounts when we found it didn’t take as much time and materials as we had anticipated. We pass that cost savings back to the customer to ensure they are always getting great value,” he explains.
Commercial customers are notified of price increases by EnviroPest, usually without any negative feedback. “Commercial clients tend to understand that labor and material costs, along with other costs of doing business, go up over time,” Lemasters adds. “Sometimes when a client has been with us a long time, we ease them upward more gradually. Again, we don’t want to lose a loyal client over a few dollars; we take the whole relationship into account.”
While Lemasters has found that applying a biennial 3-percent adjustment typically covers any increases in labor, materials and operating costs while not stirring up too much concern on the customer side, PMP Billy Blasingame says he has been able at times to raise prices as much as 5 to 10 percent without negative repercussions. However, his increases don’t follow a set schedule.
“We do assess our pricing every year, but we avoid raising prices that often because, unless you’re talking about a locked-down customer, they might start shopping because they think we’re nickel-and-diming them,” he says of Blasingame Pest Management’s Atlanta clientele. “We are strategic in bumping up prices where it’s appropriate, giving consideration to customer loyalty, the type of services required and the costs we incur on the account. Our loyal customers know that if we’re raising their quarterly fee from $80 to $88, it’s because we need to. No one has ever left us for that.”
Blasingame’s experience may be the exception rather the rule, however, as a 10-percent increase might be off- putting to some customers, particularly if you don’t have a longstanding relationship with them. Before you implement a price increase, look at how past increases have been received and try to anticipate customer response. “Taking a pragmatic approach to pricing makes sense, but you might want to throw in a little gut instinct as well. After all, no one knows your clientele and their expectations better than you,” says Zuponcic.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.
Comings & Goings
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The Colorado Pest Control Association announced the recipients of the 2019 Bob Hand Scholarship Program: Dylan Blankenship from Arizona State University, and Gabe Murdock from Colorado State University. In 2007, CPCA established the Bob Hand Scholarship Program to financially help CPCA members and their children planning to pursue a higher education.
Wil-Kil Pest Control, Sun Prairie, Wis., announced Quality & Technical Training Director Shane McCoy was recently certified as a Board Certified Entomologist (B.C.E.) by the Entomological Society of America. McCoy is the eighth B.C.E. in the state of Wisconsin, and the second at Wil-Kil.
Phil Cooper recently participated in the Bike MS: City to Shore annual fundraising event for the 29th year to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Cooper Pest Solutions staff (a business unit of ServiceMaster Global Holdings) also set up 420 yellowjacket traps along the bike route to prevent the bikers and volunteers from being stung in the summer heat when yellowjackets are active. This year, more than 8,000 yellowjackets were caught in the traps.
AP&G announced the addition of Liz Turner as south central regional manager for the Catchmaster Pro product line. Her territory will include Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, western Tennessee, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska.
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Veteran driver Jeff Arend drove the Nitro Funny Car owned by the Russo family at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at the Pomona Fairplex in November. California Pest Management sponsored a press opportunity for photos and interviews of the car owners, Peter and Helen Russo, along with the La Verne, Calif.-based Arend at the California Pest Management offices. Jim Harmon, California Pest Management, is a major associate sponsor of the car.
Fox Pest Control, Logan, Utah, recently helped grant wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The pest control company, along with several other businesses, helped Make-A-Wish reach the goal of granting more than 40 wishes to children this past fall. “At Fox we aim to give back wherever we can within the community. When we are able to make an impact for the better in someone’s life, that’s when we are truly accomplishing our goals as a company,” said Bryant White, co-founder of Fox Pest Control.
In October, Atlanta-based Arrow Exterminators announced the acquisition of Exterminating Unlimited, a full-service pest management company based in Richmond, Va. The 37-year-old Exterminating Unlimited provides pest and termite control services to residents and businesses located in the Piedmont region of Virginia. This transaction represents Arrow’s first location in Virginia and sets the stage for further expansion into the Commonwealth, the company said. Paul Giannamore of The Potomac Company acted as adviser to Exterminating Unlimited.
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — ServiceMaster in January announced that Nik Varty stepped down as CEO and board member to pursue other opportunities. The company said Varty will continue to assist ServiceMaster’s management team and board of directors in an advisory role to ensure a smooth transition.
Replacing Varty is Naren Gursahaney, current chairman of the board, who has been named as interim chief executive officer of ServiceMaster.
“Over the past two years, Nik has helped drive shareholder value creation through the successful spinoff of American Home Shield and the transformation of ServiceMaster’s core Terminix business,” Gursahaney stated in a press release. “With the company moving toward becoming a more focused, pure-play organization, Nik felt it was the right time to step down. The board thanks Nik for his leadership and commitment to working to ensure a smooth transition.”
Gursahaney has served on the ServiceMaster board of directors since 2017. He was appointed non-executive chairman on May 1, 2019, and was previously president and chief executive officer of the ADT Corporation.
ServiceMaster also announced it will explore strategic alternatives for its ServiceMaster Brands business, including a potential sale of the segment.
“Our continued focus on maximizing shareholder value has led us to the decision to explore strategic alternatives for our ServiceMaster Brands segment,” said Gursahaney. “Following a thorough review of our portfolio of businesses and the current strong valuations for businesses like ServiceMaster Brands, we determined the timing is right to explore strategic alternatives. We believe ServiceMaster shareholders would benefit from our Terminix business becoming a pure-play, global pest control company with enhanced management focus and resources. We expect that proceeds arising from a possible transaction would be used for debt reduction, prudent strategic growth opportunities and shareholder returns. At the same time, we will continue to advance our commitment to predictable, sustainable growth and profitability at Terminix through continued execution of the cultural and operational transformation of the business that is underway.”
The ServiceMaster Brands segment provides residential and commercial services primarily through franchised operations. Those brands include ServiceMaster Restore, ServiceMaster Clean, Merry Maids, Furniture Medic and AmeriSpec.
In related news, ServiceMaster announced Kim Scott has joined the business as president of Terminix Residential.
Scott joins the company from Rubicon Global, a venture-backed technology company that provides waste, recycling and smart cities solutions to businesses and governments worldwide. After serving on the board of directors for three years, Scott stepped in to the role of president to support the company in advancing its mission to end waste.
Prior to Rubicon, Scott was president of CHEP North America, a division of Brambles Limited, for four years, where she was responsible for the $2.3 billion supply chain logistics company.
The company also announced the recent promotion of Lance Martin to vice president of field operations, reporting to Scott. Martin has been with Terminix for more than 25 years, beginning as a branch manager in Oklahoma and taking on successive roles of increasing responsibility, serving as Southwest division vice president since 2012.
Purdue Pest Management Conference Held in January
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — About 400 industry professionals and 38 exhibitors gathered in West Lafayette Jan. 6-8 for the 84th annual Purdue Pest Management Conference. During the course of the three-day event, attendees heard from industry experts who presented on a variety of cutting-edge pest management topics. Attendees also had opportunities to network with one another and learn about the latest industry innovations in the exhibit hall. Some of the highlights included:
On Jan. 7, Dr. Gary Bennett, who recently retired after having led the Purdue Pest Management Conference for 50 years, was “roasted” by friends and colleagues during a special gathering on his behalf.
A business session led by David Mueller, founder of Insects Limited. In addition to moderating the workshop, Mueller presented on the topic “Reading the Tea Leaves.” Leading off the workshop was Bob Dold Jr., president of Rose Pest Solutions, who provided an overview of today’s business climate. Dold said PCOs should be encouraged in 2020 because the nation’s economy “has been firing on all cylinders.” He challenged PCOs to think strategically (“Play chess instead of checkers,” he said.) and constantly re-examine how they are performing in the following areas: operations, sales, marketing, HR, IT and training. Following Dold was a presentation from Francie Hinrichsen, owner of Simply Integrated, Morton, Ill., who reviewed “4 Smart Habits for a Successful Business.”
A vector management session created by Rentokil’s Gene White and presented by Stan Cope of AP&G. Cope noted that although vector management is not technically difficult, there are some land mines, including understanding local regulations; extensive paperwork; and drift concerns. Following Cope was Leo Reed from the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. Reed reviewed Indiana’s pollinator protection plan.
Pi Chi Omega held its annual bowling party. The pest control fraternity used this occasion to raise a total of $160 that was given to the Ace Campus Food Pantry, which provides assistance to Purdue students and faculty who may be experiencing food insecurity.
Rodentologist Dr. Bobby Corrigan discussed “The Sherlock Holmes Approach to Rodent IPM.” Like the famed fictional detective, pest management professionals have been “trained to see what others overlook” Corrigan said.
At the Pi Ci Omega member meeting, Pi Chi Omega President Mark Sheperdigian noted that thanks to a recent generous donation to The Norman Ehmann Scholarship Fund, the fraternity will be able to increase scholarship payouts from $9,000 to $11,000 per year. The scholarships are given out annually to five undergraduate or graduate students pursuing degrees in urban and industrial pest management.
Back by popular demand were Purdue’s entomology lab tours. Attendees got to see first-hand some of the work being done by Purdue students and researchers.
In addition, this year’s conference included presentations on termites, bed bugs, cockroaches, ants, flies, wildlife pests and more.
Pi Chi Omega Adds New Scholarships, Receives Additional Donations
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Pi Chi Omega, which has been awarding scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in urban and industrial pest management since 1976, now offers five scholarships to students. To date, more than $200,000 in scholarship support has been provided to 135 students. Eligible students should be currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate college students interested in urban or industrial pest management. Completed applications are due March 15.
Visit www.pichiomega.org to download the application form. For questions, call Pi Chi Omega at 540/376-3617.
In related news, the Pi Chi Omega Scholarship Program recently received additional funding.
An anonymous donation was made in the amount of $20,000 in memory of Norm Ehmann. Ehmann was a leader in the pest control industry, educating the service and sales forces of pest control businesses by designing and implementing a national education program. This donation enabled Pi Chi Omega to add an additional $2,000 scholarship to the 2020 program. At this time, the Norm Ehmann Scholarship will be awarded for 10 years, however if an additional $30,000 in funds are raised, the scholarship will be made perpetual.
A second wave of funding that came in was a $6,000 donation from the Orkin Franchise Owners Association (OFOA), honoring Dr. Austin Frishman. During its annual meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., OFOA held a fundraiser in honor of Frishman to support ongoing efforts of Pi Chi Omega’s Scholarship Fund.
President Todd Sawyer noted that, “Doc has been a part of all of our learning and growth. Through his lifelong dedication, he has made an impact on every PMP whether they’ve known him for 30 plus years as I have or have never met him in person. The Pi Chi Omega Scholarship Fund is a clear path towards generating the next industry legends.”
Pi Chi Omega currently awards a perpetual Austin Frishman Scholarship annually in the amount of $2,000. The funds donated by OFOA will help Pi Chi Omega meet the yearly financial commitment to fund $11,000 in scholarships.
SenSci University Features All-Women Presenter Lineup
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — BedBug Central’s new educational arm SenSci University, featuring a new platform for virtual training, is hosting its next event on March 31, from 1 to 2 p.m. (EST).
“We’re looking to kick off 2020 and our next SenSci University event in a whole new way,” said Robert DiJoseph, president of BedBug Central, “by featuring an all-women virtual presenter lineup!”
The second event, “SenSci University Presents: Bed Bugs & Termites” will feature BASF’s Sylvia Kenmuir and BedBug Central’s Sarah Latyn.
Kenmuir will be presenting on “Termites Behave! Termite Behavior and Management Strategies” and Latyn’s presentation will be “Bed Bugs: ‘No Prep’ Case Studies.”
New to SenSci University’s events are the offering of CEUs for select states. Currently Delaware and Michigan can receive the education credits for attending the courses but other states are expected to participate in the CEU offerings, the company says.
“We are committed to providing the training and education that BedBug Central is known for but with more accessibility and personalization,” said DiJoseph. “Our virtual platform VirBELA allows us to deliver our training virtually but still encourages you to interact one-on-one with speakers, vendors and attendees alike. We’re also thrilled to be offering CEUs for the first time for select states.”
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Nisus Corporation recently unveiled its new brand identity, including a new logo, tagline and website. The new materials are intended to more clearly represent the company’s commitment to innovation and new product development while honoring Nisus’ 30+ years in business, the firm says.
After analysis of the company’s former logo, which was created in 2004, Nisus said its leadership determined the need to update and refresh the brand to better align with the company’s current positioning and core competencies. Additionally, the new website has been designed to offer a user-friendly experience, Nisus says. Its improved mobile and desktop navigation and functionality allow customers to see the full product portfolio Nisus offers along with easy access to specimen labels, SDSs, technical bulletins and other materials.
“In the last few years, Nisus Corporation has successfully diversified and scaled its product offerings while broadening our own global footprint,” says Jim Gorman, vice president of marketing for Nisus Corporation. “Our new brand better reflects our market-leading position, and the new website clearly demonstrates the comprehensive product portfolio we bring to our clients across the globe.”
The new brand keeps the original company name while the new design features a flowing letter “N,” which represents “the funnel of growth resulting from listening to customer needs to placing ideas in R&D to finalizing products to meet those customer needs,” Nisus says. The “N” is placed on a green background that speaks to the company’s strength in sustainability and environmental awareness, the company reports.
Nisus also added a tagline to reinforce its messaging. “Better science for a better world” rounds out the branding to share the company’s core mission of offering efficacious products based on science that help reduce environmental impact, Nisus says.
“With the expansion into new markets, the timing was ideal to move forward with a fresh new look and strengthened brand,” said Kevin L. Kirkland, CEO and president for Nisus Corporation. “A brand is so much more than just a logo design. It reflects who we are as a company and helps to create a consistent brand experience in all divisions.”
FSS Hosts Pair of Educational Sessions
WESTFIELD, Ind. — In December, Fumigation Service & Supply (FSS) hosted two educational sessions for the food industry.
Rod Wheeler, an expert on food security, discussed how to protect the world’s food supply against adulteration and terror threats. James White presented on the food code and how to handle today’s audits and auditors.
FSS said Insects Limited, Bayer, Pelsis, Woodstream and Liphatech all had unique perspectives on everything from the latest remote sensing technologies to the recent registration of CO2 as a pesticide for use in rodent burrows. FSS’s John Moore, MSc, Pete Mueller, Jeff Waggoner and Josh Wilhelm presented on topics ranging from microbial control using chlorine dioxide, fumigation of commodity and structures and the latest approach to pest management using a DynamicIPM approach.
In related news, Insects Limited and FSS will host the 14th Fumigants & Pheromones Conference at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in the spring of 2020. Visit https://store.insectslimited.com to learn more.
NPMA Executive Leadership Program Class Announced
FAIRFAX, Va. — The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) announced the selection of the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) class of 2020 participants, which the association says continues its commitment to prepare rising stars for association leadership roles and develop successful ambassadors for the structural pest management industry.
“As proven with the previous three ELP classes, the curriculum presents a fantastic opportunity for these aspiring association leaders to grow professionally and personally. In turn, NPMA benefits by hearing fresh perspectives and establishing a pipeline of engaged members. It’s truly a win-win situation,” stated NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf. “I look forward to working with this new group of participants and witnessing their many successes for years to come.”
NPMA said the 10 candidates of this class were selected through a rigorous application process. Applicants were selected based on broad criteria, which accounted for leadership potential, industry participation and commitment to professional development, among other factors. The class includes:
Tim Bird, Mayday Pest Solutions, Cibolo, Texas
Adam Brashier, Modern Pest Control, Katy, Texas
Bridget Carr, Bug Express Pest Control, San Angelo, Texas
Manuel “Manny” Guzman, Pestrol, New York, N.Y.
William “Bill” Horgan, Debug Pest Control, Glocester, R.I.
Trent Kucherka, ABC Home & Commercial Services, Lewisville, Texas
Kaija Saarinen, Green and Gone Pest Solutions, Keewatin, Ontario, Canada
Clint Sowle, Ecolab, Saint Paul, Minn.
Trey Strickland, Waynes Pest Control, Birmingham, Ala.
Donald Volonte, Terminix International, Wilsonville, Ore.
During the two-year curriculum, candidates will participate in training sessions and courses designed to cultivate skills and knowledge that NPMA says are essential to successful organizational leadership within NPMA and beyond. Training will encompass a comprehensive range of competencies including: the history of NPMA and its future plans, industry trends and consumer insights, inclusion and diversity training, executive etiquette, public policy and legislative issue navigation, and community engagement, along with a suite of skills related to strategic management and planning.
The Executive Leadership Program is an NPMA initiative designed to find passionate, committed and engaged individuals who want to enhance the association and the membership experience. Applications for participation will be accepted on an ongoing annual basis. Visit www.npmapestworld.org/elp to learn about the program, the applicant criteria and to complete an application for the 2021 class.
Syngenta joins The Valuable 500
BASEL, Switzerland — In December, Syngenta announced it joined the Valuable 500 — a group of the world’s leading companies — in committing to improving inclusion for employees, customers, and partners who have disabilities.
CEO Erik Fyrwald said, “When we look only at the challenges of disability we can overlook the talent and potential of the individual. I want Syngenta to be a company where all our people feel valued because of the differences they bring in helping teams achieve our purpose to help farmers safely feed the world and take care of our planet. This is exactly why we have joined the Valuable 500.”
The Valuable 500 calls on 500 global businesses to commit to placing disability inclusion on their board agendas and making a firm commitment to eradicating the exclusion of disabled people in business.
Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500, commented, “We are delighted to welcome Syngenta into the ranks of the global businesses who have pledged to join The Valuable 500. It is only with the support of global companies such Syngenta that we can leverage the full transformative force of business in creating a truly diverse and inclusive society for all. We hope the bold leadership that Syngenta has shown will encourage others within the agriculture sector to join our campaign to achieve full inclusion for disabled people worldwide.”