Looking Back: What Can I Pass Along?

Departments - Tech Talk

January 15, 2020

After 50 years in the workforce and 37 years as a pest management professional, I retired in December. As such, there are a few things I’d like to share with you that I’ve learned during those many years.

I’m tempted to reminisce about the good old days of stinky emulsifiable concentrates and cyanide dust, but by way of advice from an outgoing guy to PMPs with their careers ahead of them, it makes more sense to talk about the “soft” stuff — the art of being a service professional. So, in no particular order, here are some nuggets of wisdom that will help you succeed and enjoy your chosen profession:

RESPECT PESTICIDES. Complacency is your enemy. Take time to read and follow label directions carefully. Wear PPE required by the label to prevent immediate harm — or harmful effects — that might appear down the road.

SOMETIMES CLIENTS GET ANGRY. Defuse their anger. “Suck out the poison.” By this I mean, if your client is angry, give them time, and even encourage them to express their concerns. The more you listen and let them talk, the less angry they will be.

LISTEN. We are often tempted to fix a prob- lem before we fully understand the situation. It’s important to listen carefully. Ask questions to make sure you understand the concern. Conduct a careful inspection. Only then can you devise a solution.

RESPECT EVERYONE. This especially includes their children, pets and belongings. Don’t spray those pet toys left out in the yard – move them out of the way.

BE NICE TO EVERYONE. This means being as kind to your poor clients as you are to your rich clients. Every client we meet presents an opportunity to serve. Everyone deserves your time, attention and kindness.

SEE AND BE SEEN. Get in front of your clients as much as you can, even though you might be tempted to do the service under cover of night and then make a break for it before the decision maker arrives. If he or she doesn’t know you, they’ll be less loyal to you.


USE NAMES. There is no sound as sweet as the sound of one’s own name. Call your clients by name and make sure they know and use your name.


WORK AS THOUGH YOU OWN IT. The only boastful thing I’ll say in this column is that, on many occasions, a client mistakenly assumed I was the owner of our company. That’s because I persisted in finding a solution to their problem and delivered their service with professionalism, thoroughness, friendliness and appreciation.


GO HOME ALIVE. This means do not take shortcuts at the expense of your safety. If you need a ladder, a chair will not do. If you encounter a situation that doesn’t look safe to you, stop working and don’t proceed until you are sure you are working under safe conditions.

YOUR COMPANY IS AN ASSET. Your co-workers are a bountiful supply of advice and encouragement. Use them. This includes not only your supervisor, but fellow service professionals as well.

TAKE CARE OF YOU. Proper nutrition, good hydration, a full night’s sleep and exercise will go a long way toward keeping you at the top of your game. Depression and anxiety strike PMPs as often as they do the general population, so there’s a chance you may experience these illnesses. You don’t need to suffer. Consult with your firm’s human resources manager or call your health insurance company to find resources. Most counties have mental health services; use them. There is no more shame in having a mental illness than there is in having any physical disease.


BE PROMPT. Return phone calls, e-mails and service requests in a timely fashion; if you’re going to be late, let your client know.


BE AN EXPERT. Read trade magazines; participate actively in company training activities; take part in remote learning opportunities; enroll in correspondence courses from Purdue, AIB, etc. Your clients will have more confidence in you if you clearly know your stuff, and you’ll gain more pleasure from your job.

LEARN ABOUT CLIENTS’ BUSINESSES. Knowing the “flow” of things can help you solve pest problems. Your clients’ pest concerns may start upstream from their actual facility (at their suppliers, in the surrounding environment, etc.) and continue downstream (transport vehicles, warehouses, distribution centers, all the way down to the end user). The source of a pest problem may be anywhere along this journey.

INSIST ON COOPERATION. When sanitation, exclusion or physical controls are needed, let your client know, verbally and in writing. Persist in reminding them. Pest management is a partnership between us and our clients.

OWN YOUR ROUTE. You are the face of your company to your company’s clients. We know from business experts that the No. 1 reason clients quit our service is that they’ve gotten the impression we don’t care. Show them you care in everything you do.

OURS IS A NOBLE PROFESSION. Put your uniform on each day knowing you are performing a service that contributes significantly to the healthy living conditions we all enjoy.

FROM ME TO YOU. I wish you a career filled with satisfaction and pride. You are a hero!


The author just retired from Plunkett’s Pest Control, in Fridley, Minn.!


Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.