To meet revenue goals and overcome obstacles to growth, a growing number of PMPs are adding non-pest services to their client offerings.
Springer Professional Home Services, Des Moines, Iowa, struggled to maintain growth levels in recent years due to its market size, said President Jeff Springer. The company sustained $4 million in revenue and has good value per household, but with a population of only 380,000 to draw on, “We were just struggling growing.”
Bobby Jenkins, president of ABC Home & Commercial Services, faced a similar situation in mid-sized Austin, Texas.
The tightening economy influenced Craig Thomas, president of Craig Thomas Pest Control in Hyde Park, N.Y., to “do different things” three years ago.
And, A-Abel President Jay Moran in Dayton, Ohio, found that to gain incremental growth in pest control he’d have to expand into commercial services or other geographic markets, where these margins were less than ideal.
For these PMPs, diversifying offered far more potential.
Evolving Add-Ons. Jenkins first ventured into lawn care, offering fertilization, insect and weed control. Twelve years ago he entered the lawn maintenance market, which evolved to include irrigation, landscaping and tree trimming. Handyman service was added on in 2009, but when local regulations changed, requiring master plumbers and electricians to fix things like faucets and ceiling fans, Jenkins expanded into plumbing and electrical to keep these employees busy. Likewise, he found replacing ductwork and thermostats required an HVAC license, so he developed this trade as well. He plans to add on recurring pool service in the near future.
Thomas developed wildlife and home improvement divisions. Services like deck building, TAP insulation and exclusion systems delivered $450,000 in revenue in their first year. He expects these services to increase 20 percent in 2011.
|Crawlspace Care Launches Crawlspace Depot|
Crawlspace Depot is a new firm dedicated to providing everything needed to enclose a crawlspace. The e-commerce website at www.crawlspacedepot.com is central to the company’s effort to educate pest management professionals, homeowners and others about the advantages of turning a vented crawlspace into an insulated, sealed conditioned crawlspace.
“Enclosing crawlspaces has been an incredible source of new customers for our company. The crawlspace jobs range from $3,000 to $10,000, so they are good work to begin with, but in almost all cases we end up getting the termite and general pest contracts for the home as well,” said Billy Tesh, president of Crawlspace Care. “This is a great opportunity for our industry, and in this new venture we’ll be working with Nisus Corporation, who will provide a national footprint for sales and marketing. I believe this joint effort will allow us to target the crawlspace opportunity and take this business to the next level. My goal is to seize this opportunity for the pest control industry.”
Rodney Elmore, president of Commonwealth Exterminators in Lawrenceville, Va., started a concierge service for weekend homeowners, real estate agents and property managers around Lake Gaston. Among other things, his team buys groceries, changes linens, adjusts thermostats and leaves the porch light on for clients. He also expanded into well, septic and radon testing for real estate closings.
Luis Pabon, technical director of Catseye Pest Control in Castleton, N.Y., saw the potential for duct cleaning after an employee had the service performed at his home. “Our indoor air quality service took root at that point because we saw there was a great lead in to many of our residential customers.” The twice-yearly service includes a special HVAC filter that Catseye crew members inspect and clean during regular service visits.
Adding duct cleaning opened eyes to “a whole new world,” said Pabon, who expects the new service to become one of the company’s fastest-growing divisions.
Pest control accounts for only 20 percent of A-Abel revenue. Roofing, plumbing, heating and air, electrical, carpet care and fleet services make up the rest. In the Dayton market, each service has one or two national competitors and numerous small ones, said Moran. “We compete well in those environments,” he said.
Pest control was an add-on for Moyer Indoor Outdoor in 1994 and now contributes 15 percent of revenue, or $3.5 million. The Souderton, Pa.-based operation, which was founded 140 years ago as coal and feed company, also offers heating and air, pool and spa, plumbing, lawn care, tree and shrub, water quality and more.
Adding services isn’t the same as a typical start up, said Jenkins. ABC’s huge customer base is attractive to companies like HVAC supplier Lennox and UgMO, which makes wireless underground soil moisture monitoring devices for irrigation systems. “It’s worth them investing with us,” he said.
Companies also can hook up with good, regional tradesmen who want to expand their offerings, said Moran. Since 1997, A-Abel has added services by acquiring independent local businesses. Moyer Indoor Outdoor likewise has grown through acquisitions and mergers, said General Manager Bob Williamson.
But size does matter. Companies need to reach a “critical mass” to diversify. “We haven’t gone into these other services without losing money for a period,” Jenkins cautioned. “The pest control business has allowed us to expand into these other services” and attract quality people.
Recurring Revenue. The key is expanding into services “similar in competence to what we do already” and that provide recurring revenue, said Williamson.
Springer agreed. He added handyman services and attic insulation, and although insulation brought in $1 million this past winter with help from local utility rebates, neither service delivered recurring revenue like pest control. So two years ago, he devised a quarterly carpet cleaning service that is “a unique business model for that industry.” Initially carpets in the entire house are cleaned. High-traffic areas are treated each quarter. Like pest control, the service is guaranteed — spills are spot-cleaned at no charge.
The program is growing near the same pace of the company’s early rise in pest service. “It seems to be a natural fit,” said Springer. Carpet cleaning, handyman and insulation services now account for 30 percent of revenue, while pest and termite make up the rest.
Jenkins developed a service agreement for his HVAC offering, a “new thought process” in that industry. It provides a twice yearly check-up and maintenance and a reduced rate for repairs. In pest control, “we innately understand the value of service agreements” and this has allowed his company to jump ahead of HVAC competitors. In fact, Jenkins sees HVAC as his company’s biggest growth opportunity.
“If you live in central Texas, and your air conditioner goes out, you’re going to fix it before you worry about even eating,” he said.
Master of None? Offering a wide range of services begs the question, are you good at any of them?
Convincing customers of expertise across service lines is a challenge, admitted Williamson. “We work to communicate this at every opportunity,” he said.
Jenkins thought “long and hard” about this issue. “We’re trying to brand the service person who shows up on the doorstep as a specialist.” The tagline, “Specialists for your environment,” is used everywhere. Service trucks feature similar signage, but are singled out for pest, lawn, plumbing and other trades. The goal is to let customers know they’re getting a credible specialist who meets the high personnel requirements of a long-standing community business. “I think that’s working well.”
Thomas doesn’t plan to expand far from his core business, but “why would I recommend another company that potentially could take over the pest control?”
Jenkins, who has five master plumbers on staff, said managing different businesses models can be difficult but said similarities exist. At the end of the day, “we are a service company.”
On the other side of the spectrum is Black Pest Prevention in Charlotte. It only offers three services: an annual termite renewal, combined termite and pest service, and pest service. “We don’t do bed bugs, we don’t clean gutters, we don’t do lawns, we don’t do moles, we don’t hang Christmas lights,” said COO Mike Davis.
This allows Black to “concentrate on what we do best.” Adding services adds layers of complexity, which can make it harder to be profitable, he explained. “We don’t care about being the biggest, all we care about is being the most profitable. We keep things simple.”
Relationships Rule. Customers want to do business with people they trust. “The relationship matters most,” said Williamson, who will resolve every issue to the customer’s advantage. “We want them to feel good about who they’re dealing with so they buy other stuff from us.”
Using one vendor for multiple services can make life easier. “If it simplifies things for the homeowner, we’ll benefit as a company,” said Moran.
But every service line has to deliver value, and that requires trusted employees, said Thomas.
Companies can’t be great at some services and pretty good at others, cautioned Jenkins. “We have to ring the bell and hit excellence in every single service we do,” he said.
The more services you provide a customer, the more valuable you become, he reminded. Likewise, the more services your customer buys, the more valuable she is to you. Jenkins strives for a relationship where “we can’t live without each other.”
The Industry’s Future? Diversification looks like it’s here to stay, whether it’s adding closer-to-core services like wildlife and mosquito control or wider-ranging ones like HVAC and home improvement.
“If you want to remain a viable source, you’ve got to be able to adapt to the current markets and see what folks are in need of and find that niche and fill it,” said Pabon.
PMPs are operating in a slow-growth, no-growth category, reminded Steve Good, senior vice president of business development at Terminix in Memphis.
“We all have to get very creative and very engaged with our customers in order to continue to meet our goals and objectives and satisfy the customer on all fronts.”
Good is a member of the National Pest Management Association’s business development committee, which found most PMPs have not deviated too far from core services.
“When done right and when done carefully, extending beyond our core is something we all have to take a look at doing.” As business development lead for Terminix, Good is “looking at opportunities left and right.”
Springer said numerous members of Associated Pest Control Services (www.associatedpest.com) are looking at new growth opportunities. “I think other folks in the industry are going to catch on to that.”
|Marketing Insights: Adding Non-Pest Services|
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.