[Market Watch] Coming to America

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Andy Symons, a respected executive with a track record of success at Whitmire Micro-Gen and S.C. Johnson, is back in the industry after a two-year hiatus, leading Brandenburg’s efforts to expand its footprint throughout North America.

July 27, 2011

There’s something about the unique nature of the pest management industry that makes it difficult to leave once it gets in your blood. Such is the case with Andy Symons, the former president of Whitmire Micro-Gen, who has returned to the industry after a two-year hiatus. PCT recently sat down with Symons to learn about his plans for Brandenburg NA – an international supplier of flying insect control products – as he embarks on the latest chapter of his career, this time as part owner of a company committed to expanding its footprint in the North American pest control market.

PCT: How would you describe Brandenburg’s mission as it relates to the structural pest control industry?

Symons: Our focus is on the non-chemical side of the pest control, public health, and hospitality industries. For that reason, our company specializes in developing innovative, eco-friendly products that do not use chemicals or pesticides to control pests. In no way should that be construed as us being opposed to pesticides or chemicals. It’s simply that other companies are significantly more capable than Brandenburg in producing pesticides and chemicals. While we’re probably best known in the United States for our line of electronic flying insect control systems (Genus), we are currently in the process of broadening our portfolio to include bed bug monitoring systems, fruit fly and wasp attractants, mattress encasements, and air sterilization units. In addition, the company is studying the viability of using our proprietary technology to monitor pest activity remotely with the goal of providing enhanced profitability for our customers through greater technician efficiency.

Ultimately, we are looking to add value to the marketplace by allowing PMPs to leverage our innovative technology to create a competitive advantage that translates into increased profits.

PCT: As a relatively new player in the marketplace facing significant competition, how does Brandenburg NA plan to establish its corporate identity in the United States?

Symons: We’re looking to partner with PMPs by offering them a range of non-chemical solutions to their pest problems. By establishing strategic partnerships early on, we think we can bring more value to the relationship rather than trying to be all things to all people. We’re essentially a start-up company in North America, so we have to prove ourselves. We have to establish our credentials, which we’re trying to do now by educating the marketplace about our products through advertising, attending trade shows and face-to-face visits with PMPs. Historically, as you know, Brandenburg has been a contract manufacturer of insect light traps for Whitmire Micro-Gen (now owned by BASF), so it’s going to be a challenge to establish our own identity, but I’m confident we’ll be successful. Our first few months in business, we’ve invested in the nuts and bolts of getting an organization up and running, establishing our back-office systems and ensuring we could ship our products in a timely fashion. Now, we’re ready to begin educating the marketplace about our technology and, more importantly, growing our sales. We are currently seeking partnerships with companies that we can work alongside to develop and share the benefits of these new technologies.

PCT: Upon returning to the industry earlier this year you could have had your pick of jobs. What prompted you to join Brandenburg NA?

Symons: While I really enjoyed my time at Whitmire Micro-Gen and particularly the great team of people I worked with, as well as S.C. Johnson before that, I didn’t want to return to a traditional corporate environment. The good thing about working in a large organization is there are lots of systems and processes in place, as well as people and financial resources at your disposal. But those same systems and structures can occasionally stifle the entrepreneurial spirit. So it’s a double-edged sword. By the same token, I wasn’t necessarily looking to join a start-up business. In November last year Mathew Kaye, managing director of Brandenburg UK Ltd., called me to see if I was interested in working with him. I was very familiar with the company and I knew they had a lot of interesting things in the pipeline. While clearly challenging, I felt they had some leading-edge technology which had some real benefits for the PMP market.

PCT: Has having a financial stake in a business and building an organization from the ground up been all that you anticipated?

Symons: It’s a little early to answer that question but it certainly has been a very interesting and challenging experience for all concerned. I’ve had a few sleepless nights, but I’ve enjoyed the process. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night and constantly adding to my to-do list. It’s 24/7. And while things never happen as quickly as you would like, we’re beginning to gain some momentum now, so I’m optimistic about the future.

PCT: How does MidMos Solutions, which entered the U.S. pest control market in 2009, fit into your organization?

Symons: It’s a fully-owned subsidiary of Brandenburg UK Ltd., our parent company. MidMos Solutions specializes in products that identify, monitor and minimize the effects of bed bugs wherever they occur, whether it’s a five-star hotel or single-family home. Through our BB Alert product line, we offer both "passive" and "active" systems for monitoring bed bug problems in accounts. PMPs understand that bed bugs are developing at an alarming rate throughout North America, so we believe the time is right for a monitoring system that can serve as an early warning system for bed bug problems in a wide range of accounts.

PCT: What role do you see distribution playing in your organization?

Symons: For us to succeed, we’re going to need to create demand for our products. Therefore, our top priority is to establish our credentials as a company in North America and then drive product sales through distribution. If we can identify some distribution partners that are willing to work with us, we’ll do that, as long as it’s mutually beneficial. We think we have the product line to be successful and add value to the distributor relationship, but only time will tell.

PCT: How have PMPs responded to your entry into the marketplace?

Symons: The response to our products has been very favorable. Everybody likes the product line and is impressed with our technology, but it’s been difficult to carve out a position with so many competitors. It’s hard to get people to talk about flying insects when the phones are ringing off the hook with bed bug calls, so we’re trying to elevate what we’re doing to make it a priority for PMPs. I want PMPs to buy from us because they value our products and trust that we’ll do what we say we’ll do from a product stewardship and support perspective. Our customers are business managers, so we have to provide a strong business proposition that makes sense.

PCT: What will determine the ultimate success or failure of Brandenburg North America?

Symons: There are really only two criteria PMPs are concerned about – product performance and making an economic case for taking on our products. We’re the new entry in the marketplace facing a lot of competition, so we have to prove ourselves. We’re going to be selling performance and value. If we deliver on those two fronts and can provide an outstanding level of customer service, then we have a great opportunity to compete with the established players in North America. As an example, the unique Translucent Technology adopted in a number of our products has some very real benefits which, to date, we feel are not fully recognized. In simple terms, the amplification capabilities of the Translucent Technology allows an insect light trap to generate significantly more ultra violet output than a similar unit without the technology. With increasing focus on energy and cost reduction among many of our customers, this attribute has some real advantages for the future.

PCT: How far are you looking down the road?

Symons: In a new business it’s dangerous to look too far down the road. Realistically, you’re looking at a two-year window. You have to remember we’re not in the chemistry business where it’s necessary to look 15 years out when you’re considering a new active ingredient. For us, the timeline is much shorter. For us, a 5- or 10-year plan is not worth the paper it’s written on. We need to be competitive right out of the gate, working with a select group of industry professionals to make sure our products are on target and functioning properly. We’re in the midst of that now and it’s essential we stay focused on that goal every day.

PCT: What does Brandenburg have in the pipeline that may be of interest to PMPs?

Symons: Without getting too specific, we’re looking at the mosquito and dust mite markets, as well as the air quality and hygiene markets. We’re also looking at remote monitoring, although there’s still some question whether or not the technology can be commercialized. We have a lot of innovative products in the pipeline. Now it’s just a matter of picking the technologies that offer the most promise for the pest control industry, and the products that will generate the greatest efficacy most efficiently for PMPs. It’s our intention to work with some of our partners to fully optimize the value proposition. Our goal is to have an ongoing stream of innovative, non-chemical solutions which will deliver enhanced pest and hygiene control for our customers. We need to be fast, flexible and agile, and customers must be the focal point of all our investments and activities.

Brandenburg At-a-Glance

Year Founded: 1948

World Headquarters: Brierley Hill, England

U.S. Headquarters: St. Louis, Mo.

Countries Served: 115

Corporate Overview: The Brandenburg group of companies includes Brandenburg UK Ltd., MidMos Solutions Ltd. and Brandenburg NA.

Key Executives: Mathew Kaye, managing director, Brandenburg UK Ltd.; Andy Symons, president, Brandenburg NA; Steve Racioppe, director of sales, Brandenburg NA; Jonathan Kitto, marketing manager, Brandenburg UK Ltd.; Tahir Rashid, research and development, Brandenburg UK Ltd.

Product Offerings: Insect light traps, universal glue boards, bed bug monitoring systems and air sterilization units for the pest control, public health and hygiene markets.

Website: www.b-onena.com


Racioppe Directs Company’s Sales Effort

Leading Brandenburg North America’s sales efforts is 28-year industry veteran Steve Racioppe, a graduate of Rutgers University who studied under Dr. Coby Schal before joining Western Pest Services following graduation. After learning the ropes at Western, Racioppe joined Residex – a well-known distributor on the East Coast – before moving to Texas to get married and join ABC Home & Commercial Services as the company’s technical director. Upon moving to St. Louis in 1995, Racioppe joined Whitmire Micro-Gen Research Laboratories, which is where he met Andy Symons, serving as technical services manager, regional business manager, national sales manager and director of sales.

"As a brand, we’re at the forefront of insect light trap technology," Racioppe says. "Our Genus product line has something to meet virtually any PMP’s need. Our Genus Orbit insect light trap features patented Translucent Technology that increase UV light dispersal and scope of catch, resulting in greater control. It also has a fully-hinged cover and quick release feature for easy servicing of the glueboard."

Racioppe added, "We also offer an enhanced version of this trap – the Genus Orbit Jet Proof – that is designed to withstand wet conditions, making it well suited for wash-down areas of food plants and other challenging locations." Other products in the company’s line include:

Genus Spectra features 2 x 36 watt UVa output for fast catch, along with a contemporary design and versatile placement options.

Genus Spectra Compact, designed to fit into tight spaces, is available with standard bulbs or sleeved bulbs for enhanced safety.

Genus Eclipse features a 30-watt black light blue UVa for powerful insect attraction, while still being discrete, providing effective fly control in sensitive public areas.

Genus Fli, featuring 2 x 15 watt UVa output, is a value-priced alternative for PMPs interested in providing effective fly control to price-sensitive customers.

To learn more about any of the insect light traps in the company’s line, visit www.b-onena.com, or contact Racioppe at 314/567-4101 or 314/504-6158.