Growing Pains: Keep Your Cool & Watch Your Mouth


August 1, 2012

Bill Cosby once hosted a TV show called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” My wife and I watched the show religiously. Mr. Cosby and the show’s producers would get kids into situations that often led them to saying the “darndest” things. In the pest control industry, you are constantly talking to clients and it’s easy to slip up and say something you’ll regret.

Sometimes it can be as cute and funny as one of the rugrats on “Kids” and other times it will get you kicked out of a customer’s home. Stressful jobs can shorten a fuse and make it unexpectedly easy to snap at a client or make a poor word choice.

Recently I was at a client’s home providing a follow up service for carpenter ants treatment. I was working through my tenth straight hour in 96-degree heat (102 degrees in her un-air-conditioned house). I was tired, hot and sweating up a storm when I noticed she still had firewood on her porch.

During my Initial visit a month earlier, I asked her and her husband to remove the firewood because it was full of powder post beetles. When I sat down with my client at the end of the 10-hour treatment, I mentioned the wood. The customer told me she had been too busy to move it. I suggested perhaps she was too lazy to move it. (What?!) In my
brain it sounded witty. Luckily for me, this particular client laughed it off.

Most pest control business owners and managers could write volumes on things their technicians have said or done that
created trouble for the company. For example, we once hired a tech that flipped off a motorist on his first day of training. I remember another tech that called one of my dad’s clients a “deadbeat” to his face for not paying his bill. The all-time best though comes courtesy of yours truly.

When I was 19 I was running a route for Mid Central Pest Control. I remember the day clearly. I had just finished listening to the Cubs beat the Reds on my work truck radio when I pulled up to a yellow jacket job. It was hot out and the yellow jackets were buzzing around ferociously under the customer’s railroad ties. I told her I’d take care of the problem and asked her to keep her two children (ages 3 and 4) inside while I worked.

Photo: Schopen Pest SolutionsI walked up to the railroad tie with my bulb duster and shot Drione dust into the hole. At least that was my intention. The duster clogged up on me and just enough Drione came out to drive the yellow jackets nuts. I remember turning to run and seeing two additional problems; both children.

They were so close to me that I knocked them over. I remember droped my bulb duster and grabbed a kid under each arm. I could feel the yellow jackets bouncing off of my back and head but miraculously I didn’t get stung and neither did my two passengers. The mother ran up to me and helped get the kids inside while I plopped down in a kitchen chair and started shaking. As my client was getting me some water the little girl asked, “Mom, what is a son-of-a-b****?” The
mortified mother looked at her daughter and asked where she’d heard such a thing. My fate was sealed as her little finger swung towards me. Thank goodness the little boy didn’t have any of my angry words up his sleeve.

When you are trying so desperately hard to grow your business, it is incredibly important to keep your composure at all times and always watch your “Ps and Qs.” The only four-letter word I want my clients to remember is P-E-T-E.

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


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