Too often, great business-owning families assume that family and business represent ends of a continuum from which they must choose. To paraphrase James Collins and Jerry Porras in their seminal book, “Built to Last” (Harper, 1994), family business owners are often tortured by the “tyranny of the either/or” when they should “embrace the genius of both/and” in family business.
As the central concerns of business (winning, profits, etc.) are different from the core functions of family (nurturing, traditions, etc.), it is not surprising that many people believe the success of one has to come at some expense of the other. The assumption is either we make our choices and set priorities based only on the needs of the business or we focus on the needs of the family. For example, have you ever heard someone say you have to choose between family management and professional management? The implication of such a choice is that family members cannot be professional.
The danger of the either/or approach is that owners develop policies that ultimately harm the family and the business. One large family business I knew ceased to exist because the founder decreed that theirs was a “family first” business and any family member was entitled to a senior management job — irrespective of their actual qualifications. The result was an organization overburdened by an ineffective management structure that not only was inefficient but ultimately inept. By the third generation, there was so much conflict in vision and lack of initiative from senior management that the business lost its ability to compete in the industry. Further, the family was in such disarray as a result of the stress from the declining business that many relationships were damaged beyond repair.
The opposite approach also can be a recipe for failure. Another large family business I knew developed a preference for “professional management” that became a barrier to family members even being considered for roles of leadership in the company. As more non-family executives took control of senior management, they systematically shut-out family members who aspired to careers in the business to ensure “family concerns” could in no way cloud business decisions. The result, by the fifth generation, was a distant and disaffected group of family owners who did not understand the businesses they were in and therefore did not appreciate the need to reinvest capital for future growth. Conflict among the ownership led to division on the board and paralysis in strategy that eventually forced the sale of the company.
What these two examples underscore is the need for balance — and considering the needs of both the business and the family — to ensure the optimal functioning of both. Deciding that the leadership of the business should be left either to the family or to professional managers is an artificially forced choice. Further, it divorces the interests of the business from the family and vice versa when, ideally, the two should be closely aligned. The business should be managed by the strongest possible cadre of managers who have a deep understanding and appreciation of the family’s priorities for the business.
The best family business executives understand that a well-informed and engaged shareholder group is among the greatest competitive advantages they have as a company. Likewise, the family needs to appreciate that their interests as business owners are best served when qualified leaders are at the helm, working in partnership with family leaders as appropriate.
While not a requirement for success, the involvement of qualified family members in leadership of the enterprise can help to ensure that the business has a good ongoing appreciation for the values and concerns of the family, and the family has a good “insider” appreciation of the needs and demands that are driving the business.
The parallel planning process, originally advanced by Randel Carlock and John Ward in “Strategic Planning for the Family and Business” (Palgrave, 2001), links these two powerful forces to recognize the real potential of family business. By helping both family and management create a business strategy that supports the interests of the family and the potential of the business, a powerful synergy can result.
STRATEGIC PLANNING. While it is impossible to describe all the complexities of a successful family business plan in a static diagram, Figure 1 serves to show that strategic planning between family and business, owners and management can produce mutual commitment and alignment far beyond the normal range of fiduciary responsibility. Parallel planning for the family and the business will ensure that the strategic direction of the business is aligned with the overall goals of the family. When a family has a long-range vision for itself as owners of a business that is strategically positioned to support its goals for generations to come, patient capital is more readily made available to grow and nurture the business.
The strength of the model at right lies in the application of four strategic principals:
1. Family values and business philosophy as the foundation for strategic planning. The family must first clarify the shared beliefs, experiences and legacies that unite them in their ownership and stewardship of the family enterprise. With parallel planning, these values serve as the underpinning of the business culture in which the company operates and define how the family will work to support the business’ future success.
2. Strategic thinking applied to both business and family. The opportunities that a business pursues must be appropriate to the strengths of the enterprise and in keeping with the vision of the owning family. Strategic planning ensures ongoing communication between the family and the business so that the leaders of the enterprise and the family align the family’s expectations with the needs of the business. Just as the business must proactively plan for growth, as the family expands, it also must plan for how it will continue to participate as “effective owners” and not simply leave this evolution to chance.
3. A shared future vision that guides both the family and the business. A shared vision considers how family expectations will be balanced against business needs in setting the vision for the future. Balancing the capabilities of the business and the priorities of the family, the parallel planning process helps to set a sustainable vision for the future of the business and the family. Further, the process examines how family ownership of the enterprise will provide a strategic advantage to help the business bring this vision to life.
4. Formulating long-term plans to guide both the family and the business provides both the means to achieve success and the metrics to evaluate accomplishment of goals. The parallel planning process requires a commitment to have ongoing conversations, to document decisions and to measure outcomes to determine if goals are being met. While this may seem like a lot of work, it becomes second nature over time, and the process itself contributes to strengthening both the business and the family.
Developing a family business continuity plan that is simultaneously focused on critical factors of success for both the family and the business requires more than just an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for a given organization in a particular industry. It answers the essential question of why does our family own this business and why should we continue to own this business? The answer may include the legacy of the founder, but must go far beyond the genesis of the enterprise to the mutual responsibility of accepting ownership. When family values are clarified and can be identified in the values of ownership they produce actionable business values that result in both psychological and financial returns.
The need to choose between “business-first” and “family-first” becomes irrelevant with the realization that assuring the success of the business now supports the continued well being of the family for generations to come. Formulating a business strategy that supports the current and future welfare of the family assures management and shareholder alignment for generations — such that these will survive economic downturns, create innovation and develop an enterprising family that succeeds in life. In the end, winning strategies must provide for winning families and winning businesses.
Otis Baskin, Ph.D., is a consultant with The Family Business Consulting Group, a leading management consulting firm serving the unique needs of multi-generational family businesses worldwide. Learn more at www.thefbcg.com.
The importance of training has grown significantly in the last 20 years as pest control companies have discovered the value of developing a more qualified workforce, resulting in higher customer retention. Therefore, companies across the country are spending significant resources upgrading or establishing training programs for their employees. This change in attitude means training is no longer looked upon as an expenditure, like the phone bill or insurance premiums, but rather as an investment.
Our company has gone full throttle on employee training, adding numerous ongoing continuing education programs and online training for remote learners all over the country. From our Florida roots, Truly Nolen has expanded across the country and now operates corporate branches in Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and Utah, including two corporate Learning Centers in Orlando and Tucson. We’ve also added many franchise offices around North America, including Canada. Often recognized for our non-traditional marketing techniques such as our world-renowned mouse cars, our company takes training seriously. Emblazoned on our Training Department’s Mission Statement is the phrase “Training is an investment, not an expense,” and at Truly Nolen, we walk the walk.
IN THE FIELD. Our introductory training program for new employees places a strong emphasis on helping employees (or “partners”) handle real-world pest management situations and not merely classroom theories. New employees, including sales representatives, service professionals and administrative staff, learn in the classroom, the field and online, about important topics such as proper chemical usage, safety, basic entomology and pest identification, adding to the knowledge that will allow them to work with the customer as a partner in the pest management process. So, our classroom training supplements field training and e-training, and vice versa.
These programs have helped bring consistency and direction to our training efforts. We believe all companies should emphasize people in their training and recognize these partners as internal customers because the company is only as good as they are. Encourage your partners not to limit themselves in just one area but gain a wide variety of experiences. By learning all the roles in a branch, partners get the best teaching, and when it comes to training, new partners need to set their goals, communicate with their manager, find a mentor to work with and, above all, make a commitment to get the job done.
That commitment to getting the job done is not only carried by technicians in the field but also by our management team. In fact, one of the reasons for the success of our training program is that a reliable “trust factor” has developed between technicians and trainers. Partners can feel good about what they’ve learned, and it is understood that the company cares about their professional development and wants them to succeed.
People skills are essential in making any training program a success. Companies should strive to have their partners feel a sense of accomplishment when undergoing training and let them prove themselves. The diversity in the subjects offered will allow them to see the whole picture and that usually stimulates interest in wanting to learn more. In our company’s case, while the initial portion of our orientation program is spent in the field, there is a long-term commitment that extends into the classroom. Each branch office has a field trainer from whom technicians can further their pest control knowledge through step-by-step, hands-on training.
In a “partner-friendly” pest control industry environment, the emphasis should clearly be on giving technicians, sales representatives and administrative staff the information they need to succeed. It is our company’s philosophy that front-line personnel often are the drivers of the business and that investing in their success is suitable for both them and the company.
Svenheim is an Associate Certified Entomologist and the director of E-Learning for Truly Nolen Pest Control.
When Judy Shelton, owner of Conn Pest Control in Flagstaff, Ariz., hired technician DJ Menotti in February 2017, she was supportive of the fact that he was a veteran and serving in the Air Force Reserve. She did not anticipate, however, that he would be deployed to Kuwait later that year. Nonetheless, Shelton and her entire office pitched in to cover Menotti’s service route during his nearly seven-month deployment. “We just figured it out,” Shelton said, “I have no regrets. None.”
And as a result of her “figuring it out,” Shelton received two awards recognizing her efforts relating to Menotti’s employment.
THE BACKGROUND. Menotti, who answered an online ad for employment at Conn Pest Control, had already been deployed three times. Consequently, he did not anticipate a fourth deployment (and neither did Shelton). “I’ve hired veterans before, but not ones that were in the Reserve,” Shelton said. This factor presented “a learning curve” and required ongoing scheduling adjustments because Air Force Reservists participate in ongoing training, occurring one weekend each month as well as two additional weeks per year.
Shelton said she hired Menotti because he met certain employment criteria, he possessed the customer service and critical thinking skills required for the job, and she felt that he had an aptitude for learning the pest control business. Of course, upon hiring any new technician, including Menotti, the company invests time and energy in training, testing and licensing.
Because of Menotti’s relatively short tenure and that his new technician training was in full swing, Menotti was reluctant to tell Shelton he was getting deployed again, she says. But despite the news, Menotti didn’t have to worry. The team at Conn Pest Control was ready to pitch in.
A TEAM EFFORT. An employee’s deplyment is tough for employers “for a number of reasons. When you hold a position for a (deployed service member), he basically continues to accrue any sick time, vacation time and pay raises that he would have received or earned if he had been here,” Shelton said.
Menotti was deployed to Kuwait on Dec. 31, 2017. During the time Menotti was in Kuwait, the whole Conn Pest Control team helped in keeping Menotti’s route going, with five technicians covering six pest routes. “My other team members here just kicked in. It wasn’t just me,” Shelton said.
“It’s more than worth it as an employer” to hire a veteran or someone active in the Reserve because “overall it’s a good thing to do,” to support the troops, Shelton said. Plus, she said that “I was fortunate because I have a team that understood what we were doing here.” The team “just made it work,” and as a result Menotti was very appreciative, she said. Menotti also knew that he had a job waiting for him upon his return.
Menotti returned home and to work in mid-July 2018. Shelton said Menotti is a valuable, long-term employee because of his skills, work ethic and integrity. “He was definitely worth the investment,” she said.
PATRIOTIC RECOGNITION. Although Shelton says her efforts in hiring Menotti as a veteran and reservist as just “a good thing to do,” Menotti and the Department of Defense had a different perspective. They viewed her support as honorable and patriotic and thanks to Menotti’s nomination, Shelton received a Patriot Award in June 2017 for hiring him as a member of the Air Force Reserve.
She received a second Patriot Award in August 2018 because she held Menotti’s job for him. This second award fostered more publicity and “there was more of a ceremony,” Shelton said. Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans attended the event, which made front-page news of the Arizona Daily Sun on Aug. 3, 2018.
A PATRIOTIC HERITAGE. Interestingly, Judy Shelton was born in Washington, D.C., and is part of the third generation in her family to be born in the capital city. Shelton recalls, “My mom grew up roller skating on the sidewalks around the White House,” and her brother, father, and both of her grandfathers were in the military and fought in wars. One of her grandfathers, George W. Sartain, was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in action while serving in the U.S. Army in World War I and saving the lives of three wounded soldiers in France.
Her hiring of DJ Menotti was a natural decision. “That is my part: to support the veterans because I can’t do what they do. And, I’m grateful,” Shelton said.The author is an Ohio-based freelance writer.
All photos by Andrew Greess
Each week, our pest control equipment repair facility sees scores of equipment problems. The amazing thing we notice is that so many of these problems are completely preventable. Each one costs our clients time and money.
For pest management firm owners/operators, a little attention to some of these issues will make your day go much more smoothly. For supervisors/managers of larger companies, some of these issues are training opportunities that you can share with your staff.
We frequently categorize and share these issues with our clients to identify training and improvement opportunities. Here are some of the things our pest control equipment repair shop sees regularly…and how you can prevent these issues from happening at your firm.
1. Not Enough Time or Money.
Like so many things in life, we seem not to have the time or money to do it right, but we somehow find the time and money to do it over and over.
Don’t check the filter. Dirty and clogged filters are the cause of half of spray equipment problems. Technicians should be checking filters on power and manual sprayers regularly.
Don’t inspect equipment before driving off. Our shop repairs a lot of equipment, mainly backpacks and compressed air sprayers, because equipment comes loose and bounces around the vehicle. We have seen spray guns that have bounced out of vehicles (usually trailers) and were dragged down the road.
Don’t recalibrate sprayers. Just because you calibrated it last year, doesn’t mean you are still putting down the same amount of chemical.
Ignore warning signs. Lots of equipment have warning signs that there is or will be a problem. Too many technicians ignore these signals. Some examples: sprayer hard to pump, small leak, hose blemishes, etc.
Don’t clean/replace spray tips. Spray tips wear out at about 10 percent a year. That means each year a tip puts out 10 percent more product. It is much cheaper to replace the tip.
Don’t do preventive maintenance (PM). No one likes doing PM. It isn’t fun, it doesn’t put money in your pocket now and it takes time. Your equipment will be down for repairs. But it is better that you determine when this occurs.
2. Insufficient Training.
Don’t assume technicians know how to use your equipment and don’t assume that because you trained Johnny five years ago, he is still doing what you want him to do.
Don’t anticipate problems. A lot of equipment problems could have been prevented with just a bit of anticipation and awareness. If a technician sees a piece of equipment or component starting to show signs of wear, it is common sense to assume this will get worse and cause a problem. You know what they say about common sense.
Don’t report problems. Too many technicians will live with problems rather than report or deal with them. A couple of truths in pest control equipment:
- Small problems ALWAYS become big problems.
- Big problems ALWAYS cost more and take more time to fix.
- Big problems ALWAYS occur when you can least afford them.
Don’t understand how equipment works. Technicians don’t always understand how equipment works, which can make finding and diagnosing equipment problems more difficult. Here are some examples:
- A technician points to a pump and says “my motor isn’t working.”
- A technician finds a crack in power sprayer filter. To “solve” the problem, technician puts a piece of duct tape on the crack on the inside of the filter. Duct tape is not the way to fix a filter, but had the technician understood that the pump sucks water through the filter, he would have put the tape on the outside of the filter.
Use wrong or incorrect product in equipment. We have seen strange things. One technician put a couple gallons of bird gel in a power sprayer thinking he would save application time. There was no way to get it out. The tank had to be replaced. Another technician put bleach in his compressed air sprayer. The brass wand was not long for this world.
Only use PPE when applying chemicals. The law requires we use PPE when applying chemicals. Common sense requires we use it whenever we are exposed to chemicals. We often see technicians ignoring PPE when not spraying. Examples are carrying a leaking spray gun into a shop for repairs, unrolling leaking hose to show shop mechanics where to make repairs, etc.
3. Too Rough on Equipment.
Sometimes technicians are downright brutal with equipment.
Pressure too high. Technicians often over-pressurize manual sprayers or turn the pressure up on power sprayers. This is often unnecessary and can reduce equipment life. In the case of power sprayers, drift can occur at higher pressure.
Spray wand as pry bar. Using your manual spray wand to open gates, cabinets or otherwise push stuff out of the way is a sure way to reduce equipment life.
Careless power spray hose rollup. We have seen numerous trucks with paint damage where careless technicians did not bother to ensure the hose cleared the vehicle, damaging both the vehicle and the hose.
Power sprayer hose reels are generally pretty durable (other than o-rings). One way to beat up a reel is to carelessly roll up all the hose so it is unbalanced on one side of the reel. When the reel is rotated with too much hose on one side, the hose pushes the reel out of true and it is almost impossible to fix without expensive repairs.
4. Don’t Take Care of Equipment.
What’s the phrase? An ounce of prevention…
Freeze damage. Winter comes every year, still every year we get calls about freeze damage to pest control equipment.
Don’t clean it out. Cleaning out your equipment is one of the best ways to prevent problems. Most pest control technicians don’t bother. Aside from dirt and chemical residue, the paper liner from chemical bottle lids is a frequent visitor to sprayer tanks.
Rusted out toolbox. A very fastidious technician would wash out his toolbox each week. Problem was, he never bothered to dry it out. The bottom of the toolbox completely rusted out.
Melted backpack. A technician left his expensive Swiss backpack too close to his power sprayer engine exhaust. The backpack melted, dumped two gallons of chemical, technician had to drive to our shop to spend owner’s money on another backpack, all while missing a couple of stops.
Lost gas cap. Lost engine gas caps often mean water in the gas, which usually means an hour cleaning the carburetor.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Truck as a trash can. This one is particularly frustrating. Technicians who use vehicles, or even power spray tanks, as trash cans. The strangest things we have found in tanks: engine pull cords, beer cans and a pair of men’s underwear.
Bad attitude. Finally, the most common issue seen in our shop is technicians who don’t take responsibility for their equipment, their error or their problems. It is always someone else’s fault: the manufacturer, the guy who sold it, the mechanic who repaired it, another technician, etc.
RECOMMENDATIONS. Skill and training issues are easier to fix than bad attitude issues. Every manager out there is complaining about the tough hiring environment. Finding good people is tough and getting tougher, which may cause some of these problems to get worse. Most of the solutions to the issues listed previously are HR-related issues rather than equipment-related issues.
Train and retrain. Training is never done. Every month share an idea or training tip.
Assign responsibility and hold technicians accountable. Equipment that is shared is no one’s responsibility and quickly becomes junk. Assign a specific piece of equipment to a specific technician and hold him/her accountable for it.
Ask employees for ideas/feedback. Technicians use the equipment every day. Owners and supervisors aren’t in the field and don’t have all the answers.
Supervisor/manager/owner ride-a- longs. Periodically ride with technicians to see what their day is like and what it is like to actually use the equipment in the field.
Make it easy for customers to contact/complain. Customer complaints can be a good sign you have a problem. Make it easy for customers to complain. Ask for their feedback. Use multiple methods (e.g., phone, email, text, etc.). Remember, you would rather have them tell you of a problem than post it on social media.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Take action at the first sign of trouble. Hire slow. Fire fast.
Vehicle inspections. Conduct regular vehicle inspections. Create a checklist to make it easy. Track results. Hold technicians accountable.
Repercussions for problems, rewards for great work. If you reward a technician for having a perfect vehicle inspection or spotless equipment, you likely will get more of this. Conversely, if technicians see you don’t hold Johnny accountable for the terrible condition of his equipment, they will think it doesn’t matter and may follow suit.
Andrew Greess is president of pest control equipment website Qspray.com and author of “Stop Spraying Money Down the Drain,” a reference guide for pest management and lawn care professionals.