Support Groups: Networking Brings PMPs Together

Features - Growing Your Business

PMPs small and large are coming together via a variety of Facebook groups and face-to-face events — and all are lifted up by the sharing of knowledge.

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April 8, 2019

 

Among the characteristics that set pest management apart from many other industries is the openness and generosity of spirit in sharing ideas for success. Buoyed by the adage “A rising tide lifts all boats,” PMPs help one another out without hesitation. It’s no surprise then that many informal groups have formed through Facebook, as well as in person, as a way for industry pros to share information, ideas and insights.

Groups like these may welcome anyone in pest management or screen to include only those holding a certain title — business owners, for example. They may focus on one area of business, such as sales and marketing, or open the conversation to anything that’s on members’ minds. What all have in common is the opportunity to pick one another’s brains, learn from the experiences of others and build a network of industry friends, ready and willing to share their opinions and expertise.

We’ve profiled three of these groups on the following pages — all of which welcome new members.

Pest Cemetery: 7,600+ Members Can’t Be Wrong

Jerry Schappert was just trying to get someone — anyone — to read his blog when he started a Facebook group in 2010. For years, the owner of The Bug Doctor in Ocala, Fla., had regularly stayed up until 2 a.m. penning posts that no one was reading. Although he didn’t know much about Facebook back then, he decided to give it a try to see if he could stir up some interest.

Today, that Facebook group, Pest Cemetery, exceeds 7,600 pest management members, and now Schappert’s blogs attract, on average, 80,000 visits. “Helping the industry, and especially small companies, has always been my passion,” he says, “but I never saw this coming.”

“This” includes not only the Facebook group but also the educational Pest Cemetery website, pestcemetery.com; a podcast called “Whistling Past the Cemetery” produced by Schappert and Bryan Baird of Baird’s Pest Control; and a live annual event appropriately dubbed Pest Cemetery Live, which Schappert created in collaboration with Paul Bello of PJB Pest Consulting & Education. Pest Cemetery also has spawned two exclusive groups — one specifically for business owners and one for owners interested in serving national accounts as part of a network of peers across the United States. One more expansion, Pest Cemetery Canada, launched in 2019. And Schappert runs a subscription site, pestcemeterypro.com, which offers instructional videos for those who feel they need additional training support.

“When I was a rookie, I wished someone would have told me not to step on the dry wall in the attic or taught me how to crawl up under a house,” says Schappert. “Once I figured these things out and learned how to build a business, I became committed to teaching others how to grow theirs. I especially like knowing I’ve helped one- and two-person companies grow to three- or four-person companies. It took me six years to break $100,000 in revenue, but I’m seeing a lot more companies reach that point a lot faster, I hope in part because of Pest Cemetery.”

It’s not just mom-and-pop operations visiting Pest Cemetery, though. Business leaders and technicians from companies of all sizes engage in the discussions, as do leading entomologists. “Our contributors include industry legends like Dini Miller, Louis Sorkin and Gerry Wegner, who are always willing to share their expertise, photos and more,” says Daniel Dye II, who is himself generous in sharing his knowledge and 40+ years of pest management expertise with the group.

“A lot of people come into the industry and learn how to apply a product, but not why they are applying that particular product,” says Dye, former training coordinator of Florida Pest. “I teach them about the biology of insects and share ID techniques.”

Schappert invites those who haven’t yet checked out Pest Cemetery: “Come to the group and give it a chance. You don’t have to say anything; you can just read and absorb the content other people share: how to approach a customer with a mean dog, how to clean a carpet stain, how to ID a certain pest — you name it. Your business will grow, your personal life will grow and your service will improve.”

Adds Dye, “Members of the group ask, ‘How did I ever get along without this group?’ It’s a community that keeps us all sharp as we learn from one another. That’s important. The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.”

U Group: Face-to-Face Education, Events and Camaraderie

Committed to sharing growth-oriented business practices, the leaders of a dozen non-competing pest control companies meet twice a year and stay in touch year-round as members of the U Group.

“We discuss all aspects of running a pest management firm, speaking freely about everything from policies to financials,” says Caleb Tennenbaum, marketing director at Arizona Pest Control and a founding member of the U Group. “Our semiannual meetings are hosted by members at their locations on a rotating basis so that we can see how various companies are run and adopt best practices that might be adaptable to our own businesses.” Notably, Arizona Pest Control has successfully followed the model of another member’s compensation plan, Tennenbaum shares.

The U Group, named for the seating arrangement that enables all members to contribute to the conversation, is an evolution of Discovery, a group formed several decades ago by Neil Parker, Bug Busters USA; Bruce Tennenbaum, Arizona Pest Control Company; Scott Phillips, Blue Chip Pest Services; and Danny Myers, Myers Pest and Termite Services (now part of Massey Services). As the next generation of business leaders was invited to join Discovery meetings, they saw an opportunity to improve on the concept.

Court Parker, chief operating officer of Bug Busters USA, explains, “Jeff Phillips and I started going to these meetings as we moved up in our fathers’ businesses, and we felt that we could pull our own group together, inviting expert speakers and supporting one another as a kind of board of directors. We hold one another accountable for making good decisions and following through on our plans, and compare notes when we’re having issues others in the group have experienced. Best of all, we try new things and share what works and what doesn’t.”

The U Group’s three-day semiannual meetings include a tour of the hosting company on day 1, educational sessions and trend updates by sponsors on day 2, and a roundtable discussion where any business topic or challenge can be brought to the floor on day 3. Communication continues between meetings, as members feel free to reach out to the group with issues and experiences. “We are always helping one another out,” Tennenbaum says.

Looking to expand to 20 member companies, the U Group invites leaders of midsized pest management businesses (20 or more employees) to join, Tennenbaum adds. “We’re looking for members in non-competing markets committed to aggressively growing their businesses. Visit our website — theugroup.org — to find out more about us.”

Pest Control Marketing and Sales: Idea Exchange and Troubleshooting

The Pest Control Marketing and Sales Facebook group started two years ago, when Karen and Garret Pfitzer of Pfitzer Pest Control in Mobridge, S.D., decided to share some innovative marketing strategies they had been putting to work in their own company with fellow business owners. Today, more than 400 members exchange ideas, opinions and information related to selling and marketing their services.

“Over our past 10 years in business, we’ve worked through a lot of the struggles we faced when we were starting out, and we thought ‘Why not share ideas with other pest control company owners?’” says Karen Pfitzer. “We would have been so grateful for free advice back then — even just hearing our peers say, ‘Yes, this worked’ or ‘No, that didn’t.’ We’re really happy to be able to bring people together to share their issues and experiences.”

Pfitzer, who had a strong sales background prior to starting Pfitzer Pest Control with her husband, says she knew the science behind sales but had to adapt her approach to the unique circumstances pest management companies face. Now she posts weekly videos to provide the group with insight into various sales and marketing techniques, in addition to encouraging peer-to-peer mentorship.

“I’m not saying that we have all the answers,” she says, “but we have learned a lot about how to grow our company. And Garret and I are big proponents of masterminding. We understand the power of community — of referring to your network rather than going it alone. If you can absorb just one thing from someone else rather than having to learn it on your own, then your networking effort was worthwhile.”

Pfitzer invites company owners to join the group. “The more, the merrier,” she says.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.