Ray Meyers, president of RJM Contracting, Lake Mary, Fla., is not unlike a lot of leaders in the pest control industry. While his contributions are numerous and have been critical to the industry’s success, he’s not one to draw attention to himself, but rather he is content to be one of the industry’s ultimate behind-the-scenes contributors. As an independent contractor who works with product manufacturers, he’s become an invaluable resource, helping to bridge the gap between lab research and in-the-field practicality.
“Even though Ray wouldn’t tell you, and he may never agree, he’s had the greatest impact of anyone on research and development for the modern pest management industry,” according to Paul Hardy, owner of J. Paul Hardy Consulting and longtime senior technical services director at Orkin.
As Bob Cartwright, technical manager, Eastern U.S., Syngenta, explains, the depth and breadth of knowledge that Meyers, a former PCO, brings to the table, is invaluable. “He’s helped Syngenta and other chemical manufacturers bring products to market. Having had his own pest control business he understands what ... customers want, but he sees the research side of it too. He is really unique in having the ability to bridge that gap.”
In a career that spans five decades, Meyers has helped advance the pest control industry whether it’s working with manufacturers, training technicians, or the many other ways he’s served as a solutions provider. “Some would probably say I’m an educator, but I don’t think of myself as an educator,” he says. “I share what I did that was successful and present it in a way that somebody else can repeat it and possibly have a good outcome, too.”
In His Blood
Meyers is a second-generation PCO. His dad, Ray Meyers, Sr., owned several pest control companies, including American Pest Control, a large business in Orlando.
“Ray started his career, like many of us working in pest control, from the ground up. So, he’s ‘been there’ and ‘done that,’” said Hardy.
Paul Deets, who retired from Univar Solutions after a 40-plus-year career in pest management, said, “To appreciate working with Ray and his success in the pest management industry, it is very helpful to have known his parents first. In many, very positive ways, Ray is a ‘chip off the ol’ block.”
Deets added, “His dad had quite an entrepreneurial spirit. In the early years of the industry, I watched Ray Sr. build multiple pest control businesses in Florida, sell them, and then do it again. His dad taught him the decisions that had to be made regarding effective pest control; the products to use; calibration rates; dilution rates; and overall application rates for a specific targeted pest.”
Meyers started working for his dad’s lawn care company (which had 15 to 20 routes) when he was a kid. “I’d go down and wash trucks, do office stuff or clean up,” he recalled.
He got more serious about work when his dad started to pay him. “It was about 1967 and I was making around $1.65 an hour.” One of the technicians would pick him up from high school to finish the day’s remaining service calls. “All the service techs liked me, because they’d get some fresh blood on the truck,” said Meyers. When the route was complete, he’d “ride the truck back to the office with the technician, then ride home with my dad.”
After graduating from North Carolina State University in 1970, Ray Jr., began working full-time for his dad. In 1978, Ray Sr., decided to expand his lawn service company to include general pest control. “We decided we needed some pest control training, so my dad, a couple service technicians and I got in the car and drove north to the Purdue Pest Management Conference,” recalls Meyers. After about three days they decided, “That’s plenty of training. We’re just going into business. I’m not sure how much we actually learned while we were there, but man, we decided that we definitely belong in the South!” Meyers said, reacting to the cold Indiana weather they experienced during the conference.
Years later, Meyers’ career evolved from attending the Purdue conference to learn about pest management to speaking at the conference.
Construction Interest Pays Off
Had it not been for his father being in the pest control industry, Meyers said it’s doubtful he would have followed the same career path.
“You know, I always had an interest in insects and things, but I’m not sure I would have gone into pest control. I really thought I had more of an aptitude for construction,” explained Meyers. “If I had it all to do over again, I probably would have gone into construction. I don’t mean to be boring, but I sit around and look at construction magazines.”
His construction interests range from commercial to residential, especially slabs and crawlspace-type construction, “the kind that most pest control guys are dealing with to treat for termites.”
He’s been able to meld his interest in construction with his passion for pest control, leading to a specialization in termite work. He was interested in teaching technicians “what a footer actually looks like.” He wanted to know “how to go about accessing critical areas, treat a footer and be certain of where the materials go.”
Meyers added, “I had a little talent at understanding construction methods, and I was able to share that knowledge with some PMPs, so it helped them with difficult termite treatments,” said Meyers.
But it’s not just the construction part of pest control that Meyers found to his liking. “I enjoy some aspects of the work more than others. I kind of like the whole process; however, I found inspections to be incredibly interesting and rewarding.”
In the end, Meyers’ greatest reward in working in the pest management industry is simply to be helpful.
“When I go to a person’s home — let’s just use a lady who has ants in her home, as an example. She’s been dealing with the ant problem for a long time and tried some remedies on her own, but the ants are still there,” explained Meyers. “My satisfaction comes from being able to go in there, assess the situation, make a thorough inspection and figure out where the ants are coming from or what the circumstances are surrounding the infestation, then fix it. That’s very rewarding.”
Meyers understands the importance of addressing peoples’ emotions, which often accompany pest problems.
“People either have a lot of fear, shame, animosity or whatever you want to call it, with regards to insects. There are a lot of feelings associated with having an infestation of ants or any other pest,” Meyers added. “Maybe a friend comes over, they see ants all over the kitchen and the homeowner is embarrassed. There’s also the potential for economic damage or aesthetic issues with infestations.
“It’s heartwarming when you’re able to help someone that’s having that kind of problem; otherwise, the issue may not have been solved,” he says. “I take it kind of personally and I think people appreciate that. I enjoy it because of the rewards. You get rid of the bugs and everybody is happy.”
Success as a Distributor Rep
Meyers’ pest control path shifted to distribution in the 1980s, first as a sales representative for Southern Mill Creek Products and later for Cypress Sales & Marketing. At the time, termites were the industry’s bread and butter, so Meyers’ construction knowledge came in handy.
“Termites became my focus as a pest control distributor salesman around the early 1980s in Norfolk, Va., because there was a lot of difficulty in the industry at the time controlling termites due to ineffective control materials and lack of technical knowledge,” explained Meyers. “Some of it had to do with techniques for termite work. A lot of it had to do with construction. Because I had a pretty good understanding of construction, I understood how to treat for termites. I was pretty good at putting those two things together — pest control and construction — and I solved a lot of termite issues PMPs were having.”
In the mid 90s, foaming was a new methodology for applying termiticides in which Meyers made significant contributions. “We used foam to reach areas of houses and buildings that, prior to that, weren’t accessible,” said Meyers. This demonstrated to technicians how to use foaming for treating with contact termiticides. “I think foaming as a method of treatment is something very useful to the industry that I have helped with.”
Whether termite control or general pest control, there’s one consistent thread throughout Meyers’ career: the satisfaction he receives from pursuing and achieving his goals. “I’ve worked for large pest control companies, owned a pest control business and I’ve been a consultant,” said Meyers. “Of all the things I’ve done in the industry, I really enjoy managing a portion of a business, being in charge of a company, division or branch, or being able to lead a team toward success.
“I think it’s about accomplishing a goal — succeeding at something. I just enjoy that sort of thing. I like being challenged. I like succeeding. And I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do that. I enjoy being in charge, being successful in growing a business, making money, as well as having satisfied customers. There’s a lot of pleasure in all of that.”
A Consulting Business is Born
In 1998, after having worked in the pest control industry in so many capacities, the natural progression for Meyers was to launch his own consulting business. RJM Contracting was founded in 1998, as a resource for providing real-world, in-field testing of products, services and equipment.
“I don’t do lab work. I conduct field research for large industry manufacturers. If they have a new compound, they want to know if it’s effective. I try it out in the field. That’s the sort of research I do,” said Meyers.
Meyers continues to be a research consultant to many manufacturers in the pest control industry. He has served as a consultant to Syngenta, BASF, Bayer and DuPont (Syngenta acquired DuPont’s Insecticide Business in 2012), among others, conducting numerous experimental use permit (EUP) evaluations based on the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and good laboratory practice (GLP). He provides manufacturers the data necessary to support EPA registration and labeling.
Hardy shared just some of the R&D Meyers has worked on: “Field testing new service procedures; pesticide development; outdoor and indoor service techniques; the use of borates to treat for structure-infesting insects; flow meters; using foam for pest management; field studies of baits for all pests; modern treatment equipment and technologies, such as infrared cameras, resistor graph, x-ray, moisture meters, and acoustic emission sensors.”
According to John Paige, III, Ph.D., principal scientist, Bayer Pest Management and Public Health, “Ray’s brought a lot of technology to the industry and taught people how to use that technology. Most of the products on the market today, especially ones that have been registered in the last 10-15 years, Ray worked on through his consulting business. He’s worked directly on those products. The work he did was submitted to the EPA for registration for a lot of companies.”
Syngenta is another manufacturer that has benefited from Meyers’ experience. Syngenta’s Cartwright cited as an example Meyers’ assistance when the company was developing Optigard for drywood termites. “Ray was instrumental in that he has always been at the forefront of using detection technology and equipment and adapting it to uses in our industry,” Cartwright said. “This is a good example of us going to him knowing he can help us on some of the things we don’t know that much about, like how to use infrared and sound detection.”
Meyers says he’s enjoyed working with Paige, Cartwright and Tom Nishimura (now-retired BASF rep) and he has learned from them as well.
Giving Back as a Trainer
One constant throughout Meyers’ career is that he has always given back to the industry in the form of training others, whether it’s giving individual or small group presentations, or speaking in front of large crowds at industry events. He said it’s the one industry contribution for which he hopes he is remembered. “I hope [others] would say I tried to share what I learned and that at my presentations or training programs I was able to clearly explain what needed to be done and that they enjoyed the session.”
Conference attendees like Meyers because of his approachability, Paige said. “People love to work with him. It seems like he knows the folks in the audience and how to connect with them. Nobody hesitates to come up to him with a question. Helping people is just in his DNA.”
Meyers said he enjoys the interaction at industry conferences and the many perspectives pest management professionals bring from across the country.
Said Deets,“Ray has an engaging personality. He’s fun to be around and you can be assured there’ll be lots of laughter no matter what the task at hand may be. Ray never met a stranger.”
Added Paige,“Ray has taught untold thousands of pest control operators all over the country on every subject from how to detect termites and how to control them, and every subject in the middle.”
One thing unique about Meyers is that after finding success as a consultant, he returned to his roots, purchasing a pest control business — Pro-Line Professional Service, in DeLand, Fla., in 1998. “I kept it for nine years, then sold the pest control portion of the business,” said Meyers. “I kept the fire ant part of the business. I want to stay active. It’s kind of physical and it keeps me on the move. I think I can do the work for a long time — as long as I’m physically capable. I also have the research consulting work. That’s what I’m doing these days.”
Meyers — an avid fisherman and hunter, particularly duck hunting — continues to work for another very personal reason, “I like to get a new shotgun every year and that’s where the money is going to come from,” said Meyers.
He added, “My retirement goal will be to spend more time enjoying life, seeing the country and spending time with my grandchildren.”
Meyers said he has “put a pin in the wall” that he’ll retire around 75. “I’m in pretty good physical shape, so as long as I can get out there and keep working, I want to do it. But I don’t want to wait too long to retire. The kind of work I’m doing now, there are pretty long stretches when I’m not involved in a project. So, I might be able to pull off 30-day RV trips.”
While “headed down the road toward retirement,” Meyers remains a vibrant presence in the industry, looking forward to the day when Carol, Daisy and he can spend more time RVing throughout the country.