Bob Kunst, Fischer Environmental Services

By |  September 10, 2013
Barbara and Bob Kunst enjoying the view.

Barbara and Bob Kunst enjoying the view.

How did you get into the pest management industry?

In January 1974, I needed a job, any job; but by the end of my first week with Orkin in Atlanta, I was hooked. Soon after starting at Orkin, I met Taft Pierce and began receiving management assignments all over: Athens and Atlanta, Ga.; and Hallandale, Miami and Orlando, Fla. Then I was promoted to a Florida district manager overseeing Orlando, Kissimmee, Winter Haven, Cocoa Beach, South Daytona, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

Eventually, I knew it was time for a change. I went to work for Eddie Martin and Joe Nuncio at Terminix Service Co. in Metairie, La. Then in 1987, I bought Fischer Environmental Services from its original owner, Ernie Fischer, who called the company Fischer Pest Control. The environmental services part came from my desire to move into the green movement in 1995.

What was the value of the company when you purchased it?

We achieved $396,000 in fiscal year 1987.

What is Fischer’s revenue today?

About $9.2 million.

How would you describe your operations?

We’re a bread-and-butter business. We do about 49 percent in pest control and 48 percent in wood-destroying insect work. The other 3 percent is lawn care, which we do because our customers ask for it. We perform all of our services in Southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, but we also do certain types of commercial work in Alabama and Tennessee. In some areas, we send traveling pest control crews to large commercial and multifamily accounts instead of setting up brick-and-mortar locations.

Other than running your company, what else are you doing these days?

I enjoy public speaking about pest control subjects, mostly technical and managerial topics. I’ve spoken in 27 states and 15 foreign countries. I also lecture at the Louisiana State University Summer Institute, which is a six-week advanced training program for pest management professionals (PMPs). I also enjoy doing expert witness work for our attorney friends. I’ve been involved in more than 100 cases, and preparing for a deposition or for cross-examination keeps your mind sharp. Most of my work is in Louisiana, but I’ve done work in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Florida, California and Tennessee.

You’ve been a proponent of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). How would you describe its value to the industry?

The NPMA is the best thing a PMP can join to level the playing field between the national and regional companies and the small, local companies. NPMA supplies all the information and networking needed to stay on the cutting edge in the technical field, as well as comprehensive management and sales programs. There’s nothing better to help you and your company succeed.

You were president of the then National Pest Control Association (NPCA) from 1995-96. What happened that year?

A lot. Harvey Gold was fired in August 1995, and our search committee found Rob Lederer and hired him at the 1995 convention in Orlando, Fla. We rewrote the constitution and by-laws to open the membership for more involvement and revitalize the association. I set up a special committee to push for joint state membership. We had five joint states when my term began. By meeting every month and traveling to all state meetings, we ended the year with 31 joint states. The entire executive board (now committee) met more times and traveled to more places than ever happened before that year. We increased from 1,646 to 3,740 members that year.

Besides the regional meetings we set up, we established the Leadership Development Summer Institute in the summer of 1996 and founded the Communications Committee, which eventually became the Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA).
Financially, we were broke. We developed a plan for staff to implement that consisted of a large series of educational meetings to bring in money, members and change, and to diversify our income stream. Before, we only had three meetings a year, and we were 68 percent dues dependent. That had to change.

Lastly, we developed the energy that created the climate to allow us to have the largest and most financially successful annual convention to date. We increased attendance by more than 60 percent, and made the most profit up until then.

What are the three most important obstacles facing the industry?

  1. Gadgets for gadgets’ sake. The acquisitions occurring create a syndrome in which the rich get richer. The size of many companies allows them to purchase more capital-intensive devices that make it easier for them to stand out from the smaller PMPs. This prevents the less-capitalized companies from getting and keeping customers. The issue is: Does this technology help the customer, or does it just look good? The industry has never formally run controlled tests to determine what equipment makes a difference in termite inspections or commercial inspections. I mean, how much better is your eye plus a moisture meter than your eye? If no industrywide studies have been conducted, how does the industry know what’s best to use?
  2. More political involvement is needed. The political landscape is difficult, and we expect it to become more so. Yet attendance at the NPMA’s National Legislative Day remains consistent annually. We need involvement from more PMPs.
  3. Electronic labeling won’t benefit the industry, and it’s upon us.

What are the three best opportunities for the industry?

  1. Market growth. Our market acceptance and size is improving, thanks to PPMA.
  2. Professional reputation. Our professionalism has improved a lot, thanks in large part to NPMA’s QualityPro program.
  3. Technical tools. Our risks from toxins are almost nonexistent. Our industry has traveled a long way since I used ground beef and arsenic for rodent control and sprayed diazinon mixed with kerosene for cockroach control. pmp

At A Glance: Bob Kunst

Title: President
Years in pest management: 39 years
Industry mentors:

  • Taft Pierce, senior vice president of Orkin who ran the Southeast region. He provided me many opportunities I’d never have had otherwise. He liked me and always was confident of my work and decisions. He also would call and speak to me every week to give me insightful ideas and suggestions.
  • Paul Adams was a true gentleman and open with advice about business, most particularly the benefits of the NPMA. He suggested I run for president of the Louisiana Pest Management Association. He helped nominate me for a board of directors position at NPMA, then pushed and motivated me to run for an officer position, including president. In those days, to become president, you had to run a minimum of four times to get through the positions of secretary, treasurer, vice president project development council and president-elect.
  • Norman Cooper is probably the most intelligent pest control businessman I’ve met. He ‘s also a true friend who has worked with me on my most difficult business and personal problems.

Top three industry achievements to date:

  • President of NPMA, 1995-96
  • Pest Control Hall of Famer, inducted 2010
  • Louisiana Structural Pest Control Commissioner. I’ve been appointed three times. Every four years, the PMPs of Louisiana vote for whom they want, and that choice is sent to the agriculture commissioner, who makes a recommendation to the governor. In the last election, I received 74% of the vote. I’ve never received less than 57%.

Jerry Mix was editor/publisher of PMP until his retirement in 2004. Contact Mix, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005), at jnmix@aol.com

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