Be selective with pest management add-on services

By |  September 16, 2016
Photo: ©istock.com/triloks

Photo: ©istock.com/triloks

One of my favorite movies is “Goodfellas.” I could watch it every day if my wife would let me. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when mobster Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) is trying to cook dinner for his family, deliver some guns, pick up some drugs, drop off some drugs and dodge the feds — all in one afternoon.

Every time I watch it, the scene makes me laugh and feel uncomfortable all at the same time. Here is a guy busting his butt (for illegal gains) and nothing is going right for him. He truly is burning the candle at both ends, but he’s not accomplishing anything.

When I started Schopen Pest Solutions, I never wanted to be a dog chasing his tail and never getting the reward for the effort. Don’t get me wrong.

When you start a business, you take whatever comes your way. If you have to drive two hours to get to a flea job, then you put on your big boy pants and make the commute. As my company has grown, we have become more selective on what type of services we want to do. We focus on just a handful of job “types,” and we try to do them really well.

A colleague in Atlanta called me recently, asking how many termite jobs we perform each year. I told him zero. There was a long pause and he said, “I thought there were termites up by you in Chicago.” I responded that yes, there are termites, but we choose not to service for them.

He then asked me how many bed bug jobs we treat for in an average year. Again, I told him zero. This time he laughed out loud and said, “That’s impossible. I read your column, and I know you are growing steadily.”

I explained to him that we have narrowed down what types of jobs we accept. Because we are selective, we perform great services — and our happy customers refer us to their families and friends.
 

Keeping it simple

Schopen Pest Solutions focuses on residential quarterly services for general pests. We keep it simple and don’t take on complicated jobs or perform services that require special treatments. Here is a list of services we don’t provide:

  • Restaurants. We service only a handful. Unless you specialize in restaurants, your margin for profit on them is miniscule. Plus, most restaurant owners are not loyal. Many tend to choose the lowest price over quality service.
  • Bed bugs. Is it profitable? Yes. Are there great products available to battle bed bugs? Yes. Should Schopen Pest Solutions be doing bed bug work? Probably. The reason we don’t is because our focus is on 30- to 45-minute quarterly treatments. Even our initial visits are only about 60 to 90 minutes. To do a bed bug job correctly, you need to spend an hour per room. Timewise, it just doesn’t fit our business model (yet).
  • Birds, bats and wildlife. I used to climb up 150-ft. poles for pigeon work when I was at my dad’s company, Mid Central Pest Control. I’ve netted properties for birds. I’ve trapped raccoons. I just have no interest in it anymore.
  • Termite treatment. Once again, this is something I did for Mid Central and I do not miss it. I would have to buy the equipment, the insurance and come up with warranties. No thanks.
  • Landscaping. If you ever saw me cut my yard, you would make sure that I never handle sharp objects.
  • Add-ons such as gutter cleaning and holiday lighting. To me, there is not enough money for the hassles or the carpal tunnel syndrome that my technicians and I would inevitably endure.
    Services we do provide include:
  • Quarterly pest management. We inspect and treat for general pests such as ants, spiders, centipedes, mice, etc. Our quarterlies start at $81 for senior citizens and $90 per quarter for smaller homes.
  • Exterior rodent management. We love using exterior landscape rocks for the control of rodents. We also set up these clients on a quarterly basis. We start at $45 per quarter. It offers a nice profit margin.
  • Exterior power sprays. This is for the control of wasps, boxelder bugs, Asian lady beetles, earwigs, etc. We generally charge around $75 per home, and we see a good profit margin.
  • Termite inspections. The housing market is picking up. Our prices vary depending on the size of the home, veteran discounts, senior discounts, etc. No chemicals. No equipment (besides a pen and flashlight). No brainer.
  • Carpenter bees. Log cabin homes are popular in our area, and carpenter bees are everywhere. We start at $150 for initial service, with $75 follow-ups.
  • Cockroaches. Roach jobs seem to be picking up. We do $150 for initial service with $90 follow-ups. The profit margins aren’t as good on cockroach treatments, but it is steady work.

That’s about it. By maximizing these services and perfecting them, we have been able to steadily grow our company. If you attempt to do too much, it’s like trying to hold sand in your hands: the tighter you hold on, the more sand is going to fall through your fingers.

I appreciate companies that focus just on mosquitoes or restaurants. They found their niche and they do a great job for their clients.

If you own a company or work for a business that is running around chasing every job, but your profit margin is skinnier than an Olympic marathon runner, maybe you are spreading yourself too thin. Find a segment of pest management you enjoy and work hard at it, perfecting that part of your business.

Contributor Pete Schopen is president of McHenry, Ill.-based Schopen Pest Solutions. You can reach him at 847-529-BUGS or pete@schopenpest.com.

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