PMP learns the importance of license recertification


January 23, 2017

Photo: ©

Photo: ©

I have this recurring dream/nightmare: I’m working in radio again (my first profession), and I’m preparing to go on air live without my sportscast. All I have is a Teletype of yesterday’s stories.

Panicking, knowing that I’m going to be fired, I start reading random news and sports from my smartphone. This is interesting, because there weren’t cell phones when I started in radio. The only problem is, I can’t look for stories and read stories at the same time. The segment ends up being a disaster on the level of the Hindenburg.

I wake up feeling embarrassed and with a sick knot in my stomach. As I emerge from my sleepy fog, I realize it is just a bad dream — but I still feel as if I’ve thrown away my whole career.

I have this dream a lot. I don’t know why. Obviously, I’m not in radio anymore. But the dream still hits home like a sledgehammer, leaving me sad and humiliated. It resonates with me because I like to think I am very organized. But clearly, in my dream, I am not prepared and that bothers me. Maybe the dream keeps me humble, reminding me “chance favors the prepared mind.”

I thought about that dream recently because I did something — or to be accurate, I forgot to do something that is crucial for any pest management professional (PMP): I failed to recertify my license.

Scrambling for certification

In Illinois, PMPs have to attend nine hours of recertification classes, approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health. It’s actually quite reasonable, and the Greater Chicago Pest Management Alliance (GCPMA) and the Illinois Pest Control Association (IPCA) do a great job lining up dates and speakers. Because of my hectic work schedule, I just forgot to do it. By Nov. 1, I only had three of my nine hours. To make matters worse, the GCPMA and the IPCA were not scheduled to have any more classes in 2016.

I called the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) and tried to sweet-talk my way through getting an extension. The man in charge told me that wasn’t going to happen. I then asked him how large my fine would be, to which he replied $75. Phew, that’s not so bad, I thought.

Then he reminded me that the fine was for missing the Nov. 30 deadline. If I didn’t have my license renewed by Dec. 31, he would shut my company down. Oops, this is really bad!

Unfortunately, Schopen Pest Solutions only has one licensed technician: me. Without my license, the company would not be allowed to work in Illinois. Over the past few years, I have encouraged my techs to get their licenses, but so far, only two gents have gone out and gotten their Wisconsin licenses. While this is nice for our Wisconsin work, it doesn’t help me out in Illinois.

I hung up the phone with IDPH dude and collapsed into my chair. In approximately 60 days, my little bug empire could be in serious trouble. What upset me most was that I put my employees’ jobs at risk. They rely on me to make the right decisions and keep Schopen Pest Solutions viable and strong. Instead, in a completely boneheaded move, I put 10 people’s livelihoods in limbo.

I went on the IDPH website and found that Terminix was hosting an event in early November for its techs, worth three credit hours. I called up Danville, Ill., Branch Manager Eric Thomas and joined their workshop. He was a gracious host and the presentation was wonderful.

I then signed up for the Iowa Pest Management Association’s (IPMA’s) Fall Conference. The state of Illinois was able to give me four credit hours for the Iowa gathering. Dr. Don Lewis at Iowa State hosted the event, and it was top-notch. I met a number of great PMPs at the convention, including Jeff Cochran at Bosch Pest Control.

By the end of November, I had my license renewed. Schopen Pest Solutions was back in good standing again with The Powers That Be in Illinois.

The truly embarrassing part of this whole story is that I’m on the board of directors of the IPCA. If I had just attended (or worked) either the Spring or Fall Illinois Conference, I would have been covered.

To fix the glaring problem of not having enough licensed techs, I am making all my technicians take the Structural Pest Control test in March. To help prepare them, we are studying as a group at the end of each month during our regularly scheduled meetings. I’m also allowing them to remain on the clock and study at the office anytime they have a short day. To further sweeten the pot, my employees will get higher raises if they are licensed vs. unlicensed.

I’m having another nightmare now. In this dream, it is Feb. 2 and I’m vacationing in Florida with my wife. We are sunbathing on the beach when my phone rings. It’s Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) Publisher and Editorial Director Marty Whitford reminding me I am his keynote speaker at 8 a.m. for the PMP Growth Summit. It’s 7:45 a.m. I look down at my notepad that magically appears, and there is nothing written on it.

I wake up in a cold sweat and look at my phone. It’s only a dream, and it’s only Dec. 5. Phew, I’ve still got time. I’ve still got time…

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


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