Recently, I was on Facebook (I know, don’t judge me) and I came across one of those feel-good videos that people love to post there. In this particular clip, a 19-year-old man was overwhelmed when his co-workers pitched in to buy him a car so he wouldn’t have to walk eight miles to work anymore. As I was watching this hard-working young man hug his peers, I pondered my good fortune. Wiping a tear from my eye, I said a quick prayer thanking God for my beautiful wife, my two healthy kids, this column, my company, etc. So, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, here is my list of the things I am thankful for in my life.
- God’s blessings. Being a good Lutheran, I try to always remember that everything I have is through the Grace of God and God alone. Did I put in the hard work? Yes, but God gave me the ability to do so, provided the clients, kept me healthy, etc.
- My wife. Without Tami’s support, I wouldn’t have my company. She has been a trooper. She has also run the billing department for the past five years.
- Marty Whitford and North Coast Media. I always try to put a quip about Marty in my column, but he is the reason you and I can connect through these pages. I gave up writing the diaries a few years ago, but Marty encouraged me — with the help of some guys named Brutus and Guido — to start up again. It has been tons of fun picking up my quill and writing these again.
- My new building. We moved into our new headquarters in October, and I bawled (judge me if you must). Anyone who has started a business knows that the business really is your child. Moving into our new building, which we bought and renovated, was like watching my son go off to college. For me, it legitimized Schopen Pest Solutions.
- My employees. George, Eric Jr., Chris, Ryan, Jeff, Eric Sr., Randy, Mike, Enrique, Laura and Phil are unbelievable. Without them, I wouldn’t have Schopen Pest Solutions. They show up to work on time. They don’t call in sick. Everyone has a good time teasing and poking fun at each other. A colleague whom I respect, Josh Alpert of Green Earth Pest Control, recently blogged about how he is “indebted” to his employees: “We as owners are no better than our employees, in many cases the employees are more valuable than the owner. I treat my employees exactly how I expected to be treated as an employee.” I feel this way, too.
- My distribution rep. My first year in business, I was 14 days late paying a chemical supplier a bill of $167. The rep called me and told me I was cut off. When you are a start-up business and you can’t get pesticides, that is a problem. Bill Dyra, a rep for another distributor, gave me a small line of credit and helped me stay afloat. He has been an invaluable source of information ever since. He is everything you would want in a rep: quick, thoughtful, funny and insightful. Thanks, Bill!
- Climate change. I’m actually not a big believer in manmade climate change, but I do believe Mother Nature shakes things up every century or two. In Illinois, we have had two remarkably warm winters that caused the rodent population to explode. Needless to say, we are selling mouse initials quicker than Marvel Comics flips movies. Skunk and raccoon populations are also very high, leading to yards being infested by fleas. We did more flea work this past summer than in the previous 10 summers combined.
- Brown marmorated stink bugs. Ten years ago, we didn’t have Halyomorpha halys in Illinois. Now, they are our third-highest autumn revenue generator, trailing only boxelder bugs and mice.
- Gas prices. When I started my business nearly 12 years ago, gas prices were at $2.40 per gallon — which is exactly where they are now. We did have a spike in June 2008, when gas hit $4 per gallon. But otherwise, gas prices have been pretty accommodating for service industry professionals. Can you imagine how hard it would have been for any of us to grow our businesses if gas prices stayed at $4?
- You, the faithful reader. I wouldn’t have my little section in this great magazine if it wasn’t for all of you following my career. I have met so many wonderful people because of this column, and next year I’ll be meeting even more of you. Over the years, I’ve shared meals with PMPs in Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Washington and Iowa. Everyone has been incredibly friendly and willing to share their success stories. I’ve also received emails from folks as far away as Kenya and England. It is humbling and exciting, and I hope I can continue to meet as many of my peers as possible. Oh, and by the way, if we have any pest management brethren in the Bahamas who want me to speak at an event, call me.
I could write a list of additional things to be thankful for that would rival a Stephen King novel in length, but I only get these two pages. Thanks again for reading my column, and good luck to all as we finish out the year.
Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.
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