Lloyd Merritt Smigel is “Humble Servant” for Care Management Consultants in Oceanside, Calif. Here’s a look at how he got his start in the pest management industry and what he thinks are the industry’s biggest opportunities and obstacles.
Years in pest management: Pushing 40.
Industry mentors: 1999 Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Famer Norm Ehmann and Truly David Nolen.
Biggest industry achievements to date: Becoming a partner in two pest management companies.
As a child, were you fascinated by or fearful of pests? I was fearful of bugs and blood. The Army put me in medics and then I went into pest control. Go figure.
When and why did you first “fall” for this business? I sold Truly Nolen uniforms and we became friends. He convinced me to come work for him, and kept me challenged and well paid.
What are the industry’s three biggest opportunities?
1. Expansion into new markets, products and services. That’s the good news. The bad news is many companies have a ready-fire-aim technique. They enter new ventures when they’ve yet to make headway in their local market with primary services. Additionally, they have little experience in sales management and training — and that should be corrected before they move on to greener pastures.
2. The creation of a legacy with your family business. I’ve been working with family pest control companies for nearly four decades. Few family companies work on succession planning until they have to, which can make it difficult to get back on track. I am currently working with a family business in which the father wants to turn it over to his family (he has many relatives), but there’s too much fighting and not enough teamwork. I’ve been there for almost two years, though, and they’re really coming together. They realize if they don’t get the recommendation, the owner will sell it rather than put up with the fighting. It’s been a rough road, but the next generation realizes this is no longer an entitlement. They must prove they can do it, not to the father, but to someone else who understands the industry.
3. The chance to earn a decent living serving the community. The more an employee can earn and grow, the more the company will earn and grow. Train to earn and promote, and make opportunities for as many of your employees as possible. Many successful companies involve themselves in community projects. When you give to and help others, it always comes back to you. Employees also feel as though they’re contributing. One company I know has an unusual way of dealing with this: The owner meets each year with a different employee and helps select a charity for the year. That’s impressive!
What are the three biggest obstacles facing the industry?
1. Fear of change. It’s more comfortable and easier to do things the way you’ve always done them, but if the competition changes and is more up-to-date and efficient, and gets better results than you do, eventually you will lose. Bringing in an outside perspective is always helpful.
2. Poor people skills. Companies that have high turnover, lawsuits and complaints generally have profit and growth problems. The good employees who want to grow and profit along with the company will leave soon. The bad employees will stay. After all, they can’t get a job anywhere else. Having ongoing performance appraisals — letting the employees know you appreciate them by showing you care about their success — is helpful. But there has to be mutual accountability; management also must be held accountable.
3. Poor training. I hear again and again in the industry that there needs to be more certifiable and verifiable training. Several large, successful companies are spending 4 percent to 7 percent of their budget on training. Compare that to an average company that spends less than 2 percent. Few companies have testing, and prefer to use a couple ridealongs with a senior employee as a stand-in for training. As a former national training director for Truly Nolen, I was responsible for 50 offices at the time. In my consulting career, I have shared many of Truly’s successful training techniques with many companies. However, too many companies don’t want to put their money into training — and the repercussions are much more expensive than the training would have been.
Jerry Mix served as editor and publisher of PMP for more than 20 years and is a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005). You can reach him at email@example.com.