How to optimize your office

By |  October 26, 2016

Pest management work is done in the field, but profits are made in the office.

Photo: ©istock.com/Ali Kerem Yücel

Photo: ©istock.com/Ali Kerem Yücel

After working with several hundred pest management professionals (PMPs) nationwide, I’ve observed very successful companies as well as companies in need of improvement. It’s abundantly clear that profitability starts with effectively handling the administrative functions in the office.

The owner of a growing company not only has to be an expert in pest management, but also an expert in business management. He or she must be able to manage people, a growing customer list and the detailed information that flows in and out of the firm.

Let’s focus on how to manage the information and back-office work in an organized manner to allow the growth that interests many owners.
 

A relationship business

Pest management is not a high-margin business. Rather, it is a moderate margin business, where you generate high profits from customers who use your service on a scheduled, recurring basis. In other words, you don’t hit a home run with each customer and move on to the next, as perhaps a car salesman or real estate agent might. You foster a relationship with your customer that is ongoing, based on your ability to meet their needs in terms of quality and perceived value.

Many PMPs maintain that you lose the personal touch as you grow. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you manage your customer list correctly, and develop office procedures to manage the growth.

A pest management firm is not unlike a manufacturing business where machinery is used. The firm’s “machinery” is its customer list. As this list builds, it must be treated in a prudent manner like any other asset used in business. Therefore, the back office work in a pest management firm should focus on building, maintaining and nurturing this customer list to facilitate growth.

Each customer on this list should be serviced properly in terms of fieldwork. But it is just as easy to lose a customer because of poor office work — overbilling, incorrect scheduling, not returning phone calls in a timely manner, etc. — as it is to lose a customer for poor field service.
 

Capitalize on trends

If we continue the machinery comparison, we know that a well-tuned, well-maintained machine produces at a more efficient level, allowing greater output. A well-maintained customer list would also produce more output by showing key statistics about a customer — such as dollars per hour, types of services provided to a customer, renewal dates, etc. Having this type of information at your fingertips allows you to determine whether other services might be appropriate for a customer, or whether a particular customer might be a candidate for a price increase.

By manipulating your customer information, you can spot certain trends. For example, one firm with which I’ve worked was able to capitalize on an outbreak of cicada killer wasps (Crabronidae) that were tearing apart customer lawns with their nesting habits. The PMP noticed he was receiving calls from this particular neighborhood, and was able to contact his other customers in the area to offer additional service to control the outbreak.

By querying his customer list and formulating a quick letter, this PMP was able to generate several thousand dollars in new business. The entire process took only a few minutes. The fact that his customer list was well maintained allowed him to capitalize on this situation with almost no effort.
 

Managing information

As your company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage this list. With the information age well underway, it’s much easier to manage with your computer and the software programs available in the industry. However, without clear procedures and input protocol, the data becomes a mess. It’s essential that the following is accurate:

  • Customer information, such as name, address, phone, email, etc.
  • Financial information, including amount charged for service, customer payments, accounts receivable and dollars charged for services.
  • Service information, such as time and date of services, materials applied, technician who performed the service, areas treated, customer recommendations, etc.

One of the best ways to manage information is to use a checklist. The checklist approach allows you to see what needs to be done, and to complete those tasks in an appropriate timeframe. Without an organized approach to office work, we have no priorities in completing the work that needs to be done. A prime example of this is the office worker who has so many piles on their desk, and so many projects in process, that nothing is ever completed. Nothing is accomplished because there are no set priorities and no clear-cut method to finish projects.

Take a look at my example of a checklist that is used on a daily basis to enter customer information into the computer. A checklist can be developed to aid in the management of any project or group of tasks.

As a pest management firm grows, managing pests becomes only a part of the overall job. Effective people management, prudent customer list management, and office management that provides clean, accurate information becomes paramount to the success of your firm. As these functions become more difficult because of volume, management tools like checklists become an extremely effective technique for accomplishing your objectives.

Contributor Dan Gordon, owner of PCO Bookkeepers, can be reached at info@pcobookkeepers.com.

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