Who would have imagined that when Bird Doctor Nationwide was born 16 years ago from our parent company, Bug Doctor Inc., we’d be providing bird control service throughout the continental U.S., the Caribbean and, more recently, proposing bids in Canada and the Middle East? Two years ago, based on our increasing geographic service footprint, we legally changed our name from Bird Doctor to Bird Doctor Nationwide. We should have changed it to Bird Doctor Worldwide.
It began with a bagel…
It started when we received a call from a bagel shop in Ridgewood, N.J. The shop was a general pest management account, but it had developed a bird problem.
During inspection, I noticed pigeons were sitting on top of an exterior window air conditioner and defecating on the windows and ground near the bagel shop’s entrance. Keep in mind that we’d never performed bird control up to this point.
I proposed to clean and sanitize the droppings. Our next step was installing bird spikes on top of the air conditioner. Our client accepted our proposal. We were officially in the bird business.
Later that year, we put our first Bird Doctor truck on the road as an experiment. Our Bug Doctor Termite and Pest Control division was growing, and I was feeling adventurous. I believed, based on the work coming in as a result of the advertising on the Bug Doctor vehicles, we could pick up some bird work with our new rolling Bird Doctor billboard.
Within a few years of starting our Bird Doctor Division, we were awarded a bird job that was almost six figures. The job consisted of installing bird netting to a large portion of the underside of New York City’s Joe DiMaggio highway, in conjunction with Donald Trump’s West Side high-rise project and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. At the same time, we were awarded another large bird job at the Weehawkin, N.J. water tower. It felt as if we’d won the lottery. It opened my eyes to the amount of bird work out there for the taking.
Much of the bird remediation work we’ve retained is for some of the most prestigious venues and landmarks in the U.S. We’ve performed bird control services at airports, arenas, casinos, courthouses, embassies, highways, historical buildings and monuments, hospitals, hotels, oil refineries, skyscrapers, stadiums, and tunnels.
Our Bird Doctor Nationwide division also recently bird-proofed the famous Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle (a major N.Y.C. traffic intersection) and we just submitted proposals for four more historical monuments. We’re equally proud to have recently submitted proposals for bird work at the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon.
Bug Doctor Termite and Pest Control and Bird Doctor Nationwide have also been providing service to the New York Yankees for more than 14 years. In 2009, we were awarded the job of bird-proofing the new Yankee Stadium, in which we installed approximately 25 miles (137,280 ft.) of stainless steel bird spike. This was a defining moment for the company. We actually had tractor trailers and box trucks delivering products to our corporate office. We also installed a considerable amount of flat track and bird netting.
While we have installed many large-scale bird deterrent jobs, this was the biggest by far. Bird Doctor Nationwide had nine full-time employees work for 49 days to complete this in time for the 2009 Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. When I sat there on opening day with my wife, Donna, and our sons, I was so proud of our company’s accomplishments.
Yet another turning point for our company arrived thanks to an existing account we have in New York — the inspection of two palaces and a historical museum in the Middle East. We currently service the New York residence for the King and Queen of Qatar. All of these proposals are pending approval. Somebody has to do the work, so it might as well be us.
A new niche
Since entering into this fascinating niche business, I’ve learned how research and development has revolutionized and expanded the bird industry with an influx of new products and methodologies. Researchers, manufacturers and distributors have recognized this business segment is growing exponentially. Not only do we see more pest management companies getting involved in bird control, but we’re seeing painting companies, window washers, awning installers and others joining the ranks.
Twenty-five years ago, if a client asked whether there was anything we could do to alleviate a bird problem, our response would have been “not really.” Obviously, that has changed dramatically in the years since.
Bird Doctor Nationwide has performed a considerable amount of bird proofing for embassies, bridges, courthouses, oil refineries, and other high-security locations. With this, our staff undergoes strict scrutiny by Homeland Security and other regulators. To work at these locations requires Transportation Worker Identification Credentialing (TWIC) and Secure Worker Access Consortium (SWAC) credentialing. SWAC cards help to ensure that any contracted personnel and subcontracted labor that access our nation’s critical infrastructure (bridges and tunnels) are known, safe and threat-free. Applications are made through the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Our Bird Doctor Nationwide and Bug Doctor divisions were just awarded two separate contracts for a major bridge project. The certifications and credentialing are extensive, but the stakes are even greater. To register a team of our employees can cost us thousands of dollars for all needed certifications. Besides being TWIC- and SWAC-certified, we are required to be certified for scaffolding, lifts and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. When it comes to large jobs with the Port Authority and other agencies, we are required to have additional safety training with their staff prior to beginning work. All this is factored into each of our proposals.
We find ourselves constantly looking at architectural plans, CAD drawings, construction plans and specifications as part of the bird bid process. The plans and specifications come in both print and digital formats.
Tom Greve, our director of national sales, brought in a project manager from a large construction company to give our sales staff training in reading architectural plans. This was extremely helpful, as many of our large projects work off architectural plans.
We’ve also become well versed in industry jargon, such as the term “takeoffs” for projects. Takeoffs are the exact measurements from the architectural plans in relation to the necessary amount of installed bird deterrents. When we receive plans they’re typically a set of specifications that describe the type of bird deterrent system will be installed and a summary of the job. This includes detailed specifications of the labor, materials and supervision we’ll provide. It also identifies how the bird deterrent will adhere to the building structure and specifies about which bird types are being excluded (sparrows, starlings, pigeons).
Quality assurance (QA) specification submittals typically include product data information, samples of product, product handling, project conditions and warranty. Two common examples of the last include “Bird netting shall carry a 10-year warranty against ultraviolet breakdown” or “The installation shall carry a 2-year guarantee.”
Study the business
My advice to those considering adding bird service to their company’s offerings is to get educated about what you want to do before you begin. Many years ago I made the commitment to learn everything I could about this segment. I read whatever I could get my hands on about bird control. I contacted distributors, manufacturers and even competitors, to speak with them and learn as much as possible. Like anything else in life, if you devote the time and effort, you can become an expert on any subject.
I’ve also made it a priority to ensure we’re continually providing a positive client experience. Selling bird control and pest control to large upscale clients is one thing, but keeping their business is another.
We work with architects, project managers, engineers, property managers and owners of buildings to customize bird control programs that are both effective and aesthetically pleasing. Because our standards are high, we expect our entire staff to provide excellent customer service, from the first inspection to the last day of the install. If a job does not meet our standards, we’ll redo it or the inadequate portion of it. At the conclusion of all our installations, our Bird Doctor Nationwide customer service representatives contact our clients ensuring satisfaction. We pride ourselves on a job well done, and that is what propels our business forward.
Many competitors wonder where we get our bird leads. A big part of our business comes from cold calling on accounts we’ve noticed have bird issues. Some of the largest bird jobs we’ve performed came from cold calls. This continues to be the norm for us.
We always tell our sales staff to “look up.” It seems that everyone on our staff is looking for buildings with birds on them. My sons will even mention to me that they saw birds on a particular building. We pay a commission to anyone on our staff who turns in a bird lead that becomes a sale.
My biggest takeaway (or should I say giveaway) to our sales staff is, “What you work on in sales is what you will sell.” So if you target pizzerias, that is what you will sell. If you target oil refineries or hotel chains, that is what you will sell.
Hiring and retaining the right employees are key requirements, too. We look for a skill set that is a little different from what our pest control division might require. Our candidates generally have a construction background, are willing and able to work at various heights, are skilled with power tools and have good communication skills to speak with all levels of clients.
Living the dream
We’ve learned so much over the years because no two bird jobs are the same. Each job has its own collection of intricate variables and requirements.
As I write this, we just received two leads, one from a major U.S. airport hub that has a bird problem and another from a general contractor — a previous customer — who’d like a quote for a famous historical church. So, I’m off to see what might be our next major bird projects.
Some people go fishing or hunting; I go birding.
It’s amazing how a guy like me had the dream to start a pest control company 22 years ago, but was nervous about leaving the very reputable pest management company I worked for at the time. While I had every intention of starting my own company, it was my wife, Donna, who gave me the push I needed to make the leap. I finally listened, and am glad I did. pmp
Aust is president and CEO of Bird Doctor Nationwide and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org