PCT caught up with Lou Schager, president of Mosquito Joe, and a decorated Navy fighter pilot, who made five deployments to the Persian Gulf aboard aircraft carriers, including combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.
Schager is still involved in safeguarding others, although in a different way. As president of Mosquito Joe, he leads a company that provides services that keep people safe from outdoor public health pests, primarily mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.
Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly
company based in Virginia Beach, is a fast-growing business. The company, which began in 2013, has grown to include 165 owners, servicing 350 territories in 38 states, and generated $98.5 million in 2020. In 2018, Mosquito Joe joined Neighborly, the world’s largest provider and franchisor of home service brands, to include brands like The Grounds Guys, Mr Handyman and Molly Maid.
In the following Q&A interview, which took place during PestWorld 2021, Schager discussed his military experiences, how and why he came to Mosquito Joe in 2017, and some current and future initiatives for Mosquito Joe.
PCT: When and why did you decide to join the military?
Lou Schager: Well, the practical reason was that growing up one of 14 children, financially it was a challenge for my parents to get all of us through college. I was fortunate to excel in academics and soccer, so I applied and gained an appointment into the U.S. Naval Academy. But mainly I always wanted to fly. Upon completion at the Naval Academy, I was selected to become a pilot and then spent half of my 27-year career flying F-14s with the second half of my career flying FA-18s.
PCT: Tell us about your overseas deployments as well as what you did back home?
LS: Overseas, I conducted five deployments flying aboard aircraft carriers and conducted combat missions primarily over Afghanistan and Iraq. During my career, I was selected for and graduated from TOPGUN (The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program) and later commanded an FA-18 squadron. For my last job in the Navy, I was the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Oceana, which is the largest naval air station on the East Coast.
PCT: What type of missions were you involved in while in Afghanistan and Iraq?
LS: Our mission was to provide air-to-air and air-to-ground combat support for coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Close Air Support being the primary mission. The aircraft carrier deploys with 5,000 Sailors, eight squadrons and around 70 aircraft so it was always empowering with all 5,000 Sailors aboard dedicated to the common goal of “Victory in combat.”
PCT: What does it take to be a good fighter pilot?
LS: With so many variables while flying, you have to be able to think quickly and compartmentalize well. And I think that leads to the sentiment of being “cool under pressure.” When in the air, you can't afford to get too emotionally excited even when you are getting shot at or if you have an aircraft malfunction. You have to remain composed and take care of your own aircraft, but as you get more senior, you may be leading a wingman or four aircraft or even a strike of 30 aircraft, which requires focus, attention to detail and leadership, especially when things don’t go as planned.
PCT: Looking back at your experience in the Navy, what gives you the greatest sense of pride?
LS: Without a doubt, it's getting to know the great Americans from across the country, from all walks of life, serving side by side with them, with a common mission. These are lifelong friends.Whether it was a superior officer or the youngest sailor or marine in my command, I felt a kinship with my fellow military friends and, of course, the dedication to the overarching mission. Recognizing the importance of the mission is never lost on any of our servicemembers. When you’re flying in combat and supporting troops on the ground and you hear the fighting and shots of gunfire in the background of the radio, you’re prepared to do what is necessary to protect them. To that end, after every mission, upon landing, I took pride in thanking every sailor I passed on my way back to the ready room because without them, jets don’t fly and we cannot meet our mission.
PCT: What led you to Mosquito Joe and how do your military skills transfer over to running this business?
LS: I love the military because I appreciate the sense of purpose and mission. When you’re overseas and in combat, it's easy to rally your team and say, “Team, we’re going to work 20 hours straight on the flight deck today because our troops on the ground are counting on us.” When seeking an opportunity after my military career, I asked myself, “Where can I find that sense of purpose in the private business sector?” Mosquito Joe’s mission of bringing happiness and health to families and their pets really resonated with me. Also, I was drawn to Mosquito Joe as I knew it could be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of my military-inspired leadership skills, strategic thinking and a disciplined approach to following processes.
Even before I joined Mosquito Joe, my family was a customer for years. I admired the work they were doing and their customer service was second to none. Of course, it's not the exact same as what I experienced when flying missions, but I certainly feel good about bringing happiness and health to families around the country.
PCT: Since you took over as president in 2017, what has been your focus and what have been some of your initiatives?
LS: At first, early on, my charter was to help out with processes and training. Through my TOPGUN training, I have been able to codify a more sequential and robust training continuum to support all of our franchise owners. I also had a goal of developing our professional expertise, our core competency, when it came to recruiting talented entomologists for our staff. That was a big goal. I brought on our Technical Director and his Technical Specialist, David Price (also a U.S. Air Force veteran) and Shannon Harlow-Ellis, and they've done a fantastic job for us.
We want to continue our growth around the country because it’s obvious - outdoor pests are never going away. We’ve made a dedicated effort in the Midwest and New England for ticks and mosquitoes. Also, with mosquitoes becoming a really big problem in California, we're pleased to be a solution for our customers’ needs out West.
Also, we want to continue the strong growth that remains focused on our professional, superior customer service. Being a part of the EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) is really important to me and our owners, as well as the consumers, because it shows we are thoughtful about our approach to Integrated Pest Management while considering the effects on the environment.
PCT: How do you see Mosquito Joe evolving in the future?
LS: Being a part of the PESP program is making sure we are executing our services with a professional, dedicated Integrated Pest Management process. So, it's not just about a ridding a yard from mosquitoes. We’ll always maintain our core competency for mosquito, tick and flea control, but we’ll also be tackling other outdoor pests to ensure our customers remain happy and healthy.