Thirty years ago a motorcycle accident, coupled with his interest in entomology, kickstarted a successful career in pest control for Randy Jahnke, PCT’s 2014 Commercial Technician of the Year. Jahnke is a technical specialist for Alternative Pest Solutions (APS), Beaver Dam, Wis., a city located in the south central part of the state. Throughout the years, the 58-year-old Wisconsin native has exhibited exceptional talents, attitudes, a work ethic and philosophy that have helped him achieve this industry accolade.
If you were to talk to Jahnke about this award, you’d soon learn that he is modest and most appreciative of the recognition. “I think it’s a great honor that I was nominated and selected. I was surprised because I’ve never really been recognized like this before,” he said. “I just do the best job I can on each call. I believe if you can’t do a job correctly, you shouldn’t do it at all.
“To me each account that I treat, whether it’s small, medium or large-sized, is a major account. It deserves my best and my most careful efforts. Randy Kalk, owner of APS, puts no constraints on how much time I need to spend on each job to get it done right. That’s not true of some of the other companies that I’ve worked for in the past and I greatly appreciate that.”
How did this veteran pest control professional get into this industry in the first place? Back in 1984, he had returned to Beaver Dam after a six-year stint with the U.S. Marine Corps and started a job with a local company that manufactured stoves. All went well until he was hit by a car while returning home from work one day on his motorcycle. The serious injuries he incurred sent him to the hospital where he spent the next three months in intensive care. “When I finally was able to work again, my doctors told me I’d never be able to work at a similar manufacturing job again, so I began to think about a career change,” he recalled. “I’d been interested in bugs since I was a kid so I interviewed for a job with Orkin.”
Nothing came of that interview but he did go to work for Eron Pest Control in Appleton, Wis., where he credits his supervisor, Tom Lang, as being a role model. “He was an exceptionally good teacher and manager, something I strive to be each day on the job.”
From there he worked for several other Wisconsin pest control companies, including Wil-Kil Pest Control, as well as Industrial Pest Management, a company both he and fellow Wil-Kil employee Randy Kalk started as partners. After growing that company for several years, they sold it to Terminix, where Jahnke became a supervisor and Kalk a manager. After five years there, Kalk and Dan Koehane, his new partner, formed their present company, Alternative Pest Solutions, and persuaded Jahnke to join them as a technical specialist. He’s also their representative on the Food Protection Alliance — an international organization advocating advanced technology, professional expertise and high-quality service to better safeguard the nation’s food supply.
“We’re so pleased that he’s been part of our team for the last nine years,” said Kalk. “APS uses an organic approach to pest management by concentrating on inspection, prevention, mechanical trapping and low-toxicity,” he said. “Randy, who is very knowledgeable and fully committed to excellence, always uses a non-chemical approach first to control pests. A large portion of our organic philosophy involves Randy using trapping, glueboards and pheromone lures to attract insects and other pests. And when chemicals are necessary he uses the most target-specific plant oil and boric acid-based pesticides that have the least detrimental effects on the environment.”
When synthetic pesticides are necessary, Jahnke uses only the minimum amount to get the required knockdown or control. By using pesticides in this cautious manner he keeps human and environmental exposure at a minimum while controlling pests to his clients’ satisfaction, according to Kalk.
The company’s partners also are impressed with Jahnke’s willingness to better educate himself about pest management. “He has participated in many seminars, learning more about such important subjects as stored product pests, cockroaches and rodent control,” Kalk said.
“We always call on Randy’s vast knowledge and experience when bringing new technicians into the organization. He’s a great teacher who helps orient them to our industry’s techniques and philosophies. In doing so he emphasizes good control, maximum safety and customer satisfaction.”
Jahnke also understands just how a breakdown in sanitation can lead to a big pest problem. “He does a great job communicating structural and sanitation concerns to his clients and works closely with their staffs to prevent pest problems. He’s meticulous in his record keeping, giving detailed reports of his findings and concerns and keeping maps of pest control devices up to date. And he makes sure his clients are fully prepared for audits,” said Kalk.
Jahnke’s clients hold him in high regard, too.
D.J. Godfrey of Dairyland Seeds, a Kewaskum, Wis., company that breeds and produces agricultural seeds such as corn, soybean and alfalfa, said, “Randy’s got excellent customer service skills and is a pleasure to work with. After we used several different pest control companies and had many different technicians treating our premises, we had contracted with APS and soon had the benefit of Randy’s talents and expertise. We believe he is the best technician in the business.”
Rod Eisenhauer of Purina Animal Nutrition, Mauston and Spencer, Wis., concurs. His company, he said, had pest issues and one of them had gotten completely out of control. “I invited APS to audit one of our plants a day after our current pest control company serviced us.
“What APS found was astonishing. Nearly 80 percent of the live traps didn’t function and over half of the bait stations had been ignored. I retained APS as our new pest control provider and Randy worked at our plant twice a week initially. He was catching between 10 to 20 mice each service call and as he continued to service that plant, the mouse population decreased steadily. He worked with our crew to forge a close working team relationship that resulted in great success.
“The results were so good at our first plant that within three months I contracted with APS for our second plant, which also had a breeding population of mice. Randy proceeded to go after them with the same determination that we had seen at the first plant and today, Randy continues to service our second plant — and there are no pests at either of our Wisconsin locations. We’ve become a highly satisfied customer of APS, mainly because of Randy’s commitment to getting the job done right.”
“Good news travels fast,” said Kalk, “and Rod has recommended our company to several of his counterparts in the industry and mentioned Randy, in particular, because he is 100 percent satisfied with the work Randy has done.”
Said Kalk, “To many of our clients, Randy is APS. Their recommendations, because of his expertise, knowledge and work ethic, have allowed us to expand our client base. He has been instrumental in growing our company.”
The author is a PCT contributing writer who can be contacted at email@example.com.