PMP learns humbling lesson at pest conference


May 31, 2017

handThe echo of the lecturer’s voice was still resonating through the banquet hall, and I could already feel my face turning red. I know my body, and I knew that first, I would feel my ears burning and then the sensation would move down to my face, making me look like someone holding his breath too long.

Seconds before this announcement, I was living on Cloud 9. Moments before this critical assessment of my abilities to chew gum and walk at the same time, I was beaming with pride. Now I was free-falling toward Earth without a parachute, feeling the eyes of 120 convention attendees on my red face.

Perhaps some context is in order. Approximately 8 billion people are on our little blue planet. Most of us are racing the good race, trying to carve out our little niche. Normally, when you try hard, work hard and work with urgency, you will be a success.

Unfortunately, with success comes a sense of confidence, self-assurance and cockiness. Sometimes we can get away with being cocky. If you can back it up, it ain’t bragging, right?

Schopen Pest Solutions has been on a wonderful ride so far in 2017. We are shattering records. This recent success is a continuation of a phenomenal 2016. Needless to say, I’ve been patting myself on the back a lot lately.

Well, you can get away with strutting your tail feathers sometimes, but other times, God steps in and humbles us. This is what happened to me.

Setting the scene

Recently, my employees and I attended a pest conference. It’s always well represented, and we usually have some pretty good speakers. This year’s convention was no different. We had a great group of presenters, and the information was well received.

One of the speakers was energetic and very passionate about pest management. I was totally enjoying his presentation. During his speech, he asked one of my techs to stand up. He extolled praises on my tech for being in full uniform, saying how professional he and all of my guys looked. I was beaming!

As he was praising my techs, he noticed the name of our company and stopped to shout, “Schopen Pest Solutions! Pete Schopen!”

I figured he must be a fan of Start-up Diaries. I was incredibly proud. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face with a hundred Brillo Pads.

Little did I know that less than 300 seconds later, the smile would be blown off my face like a two-ton hydrogen bomb.

Our flamboyant presenter asked us a question about baseboard spraying. I raised my hand — the only person to do so — to verify that yes, in some instances, we do spray baseboards.

He blasted me with a two-barreled verbal shotgun: “Moron!”

I could literally hear all 120 convention-goers’ necks creaking as they slowly swiveled their heads in my direction. I felt like one of Chef Ramsey’s contestants who just burned the scallops for the third time.

As I stumbled and stuttered my way through a retort, he cut me off and turned around to continue his presentation.

My humiliation was complete. I wanted to find the darkest corner of the room and suck on my thumb while in fetal position.

But as I drove home that night, I reflected on how quickly life can change. One minute I’m “Caddyshack”; the next minute I’m “Caddyshack II.”

The situation reminded me that we can lose everything in a heartbeat. All of the hard work we put in can be taken away by one misapplication of a pesticide or one wrong turn in a truck or one confrontation at a conference.

As I was driving, I lectured myself that no matter how good of a day, month or year we might be having, I will always try to work with urgency to lower the odds of a fall. And, since all empires eventually do crumble, I will always humble myself before God and my peers in case I do stumble. Call it the stumble, crumble, humble philosophy.

And the biggest lesson I learned? I’ll think twice before raising my hand during a seminar.

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.

Leave A Comment

  1. Sorry Mr. Presenter but a Technician is not a Moron when making the occasional application of product under a baseboard. Yes, if that’s all you mindlessly do is spray baseboards, you might be considered less than proficient at your trade. But sprays targeted under baseboards can be very effective against carpet beetles (after first vacuuming) and of course ants often trail under baseboards.

  2. I checked some labels–it’s apparently not illegal to spray a properly-labeled insecticide onto a baseboard. And a good thing, too, because in my own house I had a trail of OHA on a baseboard, so I applied a little carry-back gift for them. Perhaps more context is in order so this story can inform us all and make more sense.