Coming up with a narrative about bird control for PCT readers is an increasingly difficult task. With access to past articles so readily available on the internet, it wouldn’t be a real value to readers if an author were simply to rehash previously covered subject matter. (I went back as far as 2006 issues to make sure this contribution to the industry body of knowledge would not be redundant.) What I found, however, is that not much has changed in the past 11 years. Although bird control hasn’t been in the consumer news in recent years like bed bugs or mosquitoes, birds haven’t gone away and the opportunity is still there for qualified providers to do good business.
Bird work is different than traditional pest control work. It is important to determine the measure of success in advance and ensure you can deliver. The costs associated with the risks of trying and failing are crippling to a project’s profitability when you are struggling with the callbacks or extra days of labor and expensive lift rental equipment. More importantly, you suffer damage to your reputation and risk losing future business if you fail to provide a positive result.
Growing up in a pest control industry household, I was both subjected to and fortunate enough to have an opportunity to learn from the wisdom of an elder generation in this business. I was taught that “everything starts with a sale.” But what are you really selling when you’re in the bird control business? Are you selling a service? Are you selling a product? Or, are you really selling a solution to a customer’s problem?
The various suppliers and manufacturers of bird control systems have been innovative over the years, delivering new products in an effort to bolster the arsenal of tools available to PCOs who perform bird mitigation. There are new variants of netting and installation hardware, improvements to electric track systems, new ledge deterrent systems, vaporizers, sonic blasters, ultrasonic blasters, laser blasters, a chemical sterilization compound and more.
In the end, however, is any of that what you’re really selling? No. The customer by and large does not care about the nitty-gritty details. To quote my father, “All they want to know is are you going to solve my problem and what’s it going to cost?”
Customers generally don’t care which brand of spike, net or track you use. They don’t care what the break strength of the netting is or if there is one row of track on a ledge or three. They want a solution to work for their unique situation. They want a solution to last. They want to know that their problem has been resolved so they can focus their attention and resources on other issues.
That said, they may want/need to be aware of project execution details to properly coordinate logistics on their end: will there be a scaffolding rig or boom lift used to access the work area, will they need to move the sofa to give you access to a work area, etc. They also will need to know about any expenses associated with maintaining a solution.
Of course, you have to assure customers that what you will do does not have unintended consequences. Sometimes the following happens:
- Public relations fallout from dying birds.
- Damage to the building, or worse, leaks from holes drilled on facades or roofs.
- Preventing access to areas that the client requires.
- Limiting building functionality in some capacity, such as preventing windows from opening.
- Simply moving the birds to an equally undesirable location.
There is a balance that needs to be struck between wanting to look at bird work as a simple pest control function and as a construction project. Often clients or general contractors to whom the pest industry acts as a subcontractor want to take more of a formulaic approach:
Materials + Labor + Equipment (access) + Overhead & Profit Markup (of 10-20 percent) = Price of the Job
However, this simplistic construction project model fails to take into account all that is necessary to produce the necessary results, the risks associated with performing the work, and what is necessary to be successful both in terms of bird problem mitigation/remediation and profitability for the vendor. Overhead expense is a variable among organizations of different sizes/structures. The items, however, always need to be factored in to overhead:
- Specialized training
- Vehicles (maintenance, gas, etc.)
- Tools and equipment
- Management/supervision for quality control
- Stock of materials
- Office expenses (rent/utilities)
- Office equipment/Computerization
- Office supplies
- Business services (legal/accounting/human resources)
- Employee benefits
- Administrative help
Also consider, relatively speaking, how low the cost of materials is for a bird control project relative to other construction trades. There is no fancy or pricey equipment involved in a project where a markup amounts to real added cost to cover overhead expense. Customers are paying for more than the sum of the parts. They are paying for a result.
You as a provider of that result are taking on a number of risks that have to be factored in to the price to customers:
- Warranty coverage on workmanship.
- Delays due to weather.
- Delays due to work area access.
- Equipment malfunctions.
- Payment risk.
- Any other large construction project- related risks.
FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER. Though the physical installation work associated with structural bird mitigation is different from traditional pest control, performing as a business is very much the same:
- Be responsive to inquiries.
- Show up when you say you will.
- Be truthful and willing to say, “I don’t know” when it’s necessary.
- Cordon off the work area to prevent risk to pedestrians and client staff.
- Make sure your teams are dressed appropriately with clean uniforms.
- Workers shouldn’t be smoking, even during outdoor projects. It’s actually a safety hazard as much as a customer experience issue.
- Installers should not discuss the work with random people at the site.
- Clean up after your work daily.
- Present completed work to the customer.
- Follow-up about results and potential additional work.
Heath Waldorf is an independent consultant and principal of Bird Control Advisory, a New Jersey-based firm that assists architects, governmental agencies and more with elimination or prevention of the problems associated with pest birds. Learn more at www.birdcontroladvisory.com/pct.