PMP Growth Summit: Schopen shares lessons learned

By |  March 31, 2017

The president of Schopen Pest Solutions reflects upon what makes a company successful.

Photo: Marty Whitford

Photo: Marty Whitford

Pete Schopen, the “Start-up Diaries” columnist for Pest Management Professional (PMP), started his keynote presentation to PMP Growth Summit attendees with a confession: “I wanted to be Bob Costas, not Bobby Corrigan.”

The juxtaposition of the famed sportscaster and the famed rodent expert is not lost on Schopen, who resisted following in his dad’s footsteps as a pest management professional (PMP) as long as he could. After a successful stint in sports broadcasting, the loss of his father-in-law from a heart attack just hours after the birth of his and his wife Tami’s first child, Trey, made Schopen re-evaluate what’s most important in life.

“I only know how to broadcast a college football game and kill a cockroach,” he quipped to attendees, noting that the latter skill would let him spend more time with his family.

Give 110 percent

In part thanks to authoring PMP’s “Start-up Diaries” column, Schopen receives inquires daily from others new to the business, asking for advice. “My No. 1 suggestion for getting new customers is to picture your competition getting them, and to do whatever it takes to not let that happen.”

Unlike, say, getting an estimate on a kitchen remodel, a potential customer calls because they’re upset, he explained. “In fact, distraught customers are the best because they’ll listen, understand, and — once you take care of their problem and show that you care about them — they are often customers for life.”

To spark a similar sense of urgency among his employees, Schopen said he’s a fan of setting goals. “For example, I told them if we could double our December sales from 2015 to 2016, I’d take them to a swanky dinner in Chicago. In December, we ended up tripling sales. They looked at it as a game.”

Schopen said it’s important to ask every customer, “Did I meet all your needs today?” If they say yes, he has instructed his technicians to reply with “If you don’t mind going to Home Advisor and giving us a five-star review …” It’s what has helped the company stay No. 1 in’s Chicagoland market, he said.

Celebrate the victories

When Schopen decided to expand his one-man operation, he knew he “wanted to be the cool boss, with the Foosball tables and projection TV.” But he didn’t have a lot of money to spare. Instead, he made sure morale was built upon the little things, such as:

  • Monthly breakfast training sessions.
  • New (or nearly new) trucks for every new technician.
  • Cell phones, including for secretaries and programmers.
  • New uniforms every six months.
  • Top-of-the-line flashlights and flashlight holders.
  • New hand sprayers and power sprayers.
  • End-of-year bonuses comprising one to two paychecks.

For all these perks, Schopen expects knowledgeable, dedicated employees in return. “Look, my strength is in sales,” he said. “I’m not so good with paperwork or technology. I’m the guy who almost blew three of his fingers off trying to fix a car battery. I hire smart because I do stupid things.”

Building his business this way has led to Schopen being able to build an 8,000-sq.-ft. facility they’re moving into later this year, complete with a locker room and industry media library.

He wrapped up his presentation with lessons he learned from his mentor and father, Pete Sr.:

  • Listen to and trust your employees.
  • Enjoy what you’re doing.
  • Have a passion for your career.
  • Be honest.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Be positive.
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1 Comment on "PMP Growth Summit: Schopen shares lessons learned"

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  1. If there was one PMP that I could say “I hang on his every word” it is Pete Schopen. He is without a doubt my favorite PMP Magazine Columnist and I go straight to his first when I receive my magazine. There is so much great advice there, every new PMP should stop – read – meditate on the sage advice Schopen freely and generously gives.

    Thank you Pete for all your contributions to the industry.