PMP interviews seven professionals about their journey so far, and what’s next in 2018.
What do a pest management firm owner, an industry federation president, two industry association executives, an industry product manufacturer, a pest researcher, and the 2017 National Pest Management Association Woman of Excellence winner have in common? They’re all profiled in our December issue. They’re all successful women in their respective fields, and they’ve all graciously shared insights about how they got here. In addition, they also offer advice to other women in professional pest management.
Every woman profiled for our series this year noted that the industry has changed — for the better — since they began 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. As Mary Vongas, pictured on our cover, notes, “Change means a possibility of innovation, advancement and growth. If you are flexible, plan your path, and work toward managing change, you can get your organization moving in a growth direction.”
Moving up and branching out
After only nine years in the pest management industry, Dr. Cisse Spragins took the leap and launched her own successful manufacturing firm.
Drive and determination are what propelled Dr. Cisse Spragins from part-time researcher at Bell Labs to founder of Rockwell Labs Ltd in less than a decade.
“Working directly for Bell’s founder, Malcolm Stack [PMP Hall of Fame Class of 2004], was a great learning opportunity,” she says. “Ultimately, though, I felt compelled to start my own business — really to prove to myself that I could do it more than anything else.”
Dr. Spragins’ career in pest management began in 1989, when she landed a job in Bell Labs’ chemistry lab while working on her Ph.D. in physics after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She stayed at the company full-time because she enjoyed her work — product development and testing — and liked the company. Dr. Spragins was named research and development manager in 1991 and technical director in 1992. By 1995, she was appointed director of international business development and responsible for setting up and running the company’s office in England.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working at Bell, which was still a very entrepreneurial environment at the time. I was able to be involved, to some extent, in almost all aspects of the business,” she says. But it was time for her to strike out on her own. In 1998, she used money she saved over the years to launch Rockwell Labs.
“I really liked the pest management industry, but I didn’t want to compete with Bell at that time,” Dr. Spragins says.
So she started her company with insect bait stations, insect baits, and lures and traps. Currently, Rockwell Labs’ core competencies are in insect baits, bio sanitation, insecticide dusts and botanical insecticides.
At Bell, she learned what it takes to build a successful company. Dr. Spragins says good products are key to long-term success, but the ability to deliver on the basics day in and day out is just as important. Providing on-time and complete shipping, offering good customer service and support, and generally doing what you say you are going to do all make a difference.
“Doing things right every day, year-in and year-out, is a major component of building a great company. I learned that while at Bell, and we do our best to apply it at Rockwell Labs,” she says.
“Starting and running a business can be exhilarating, depressing, terrifying and everything in between,” Dr. Spragins concludes. “But I don’t for one minute regret doing it.”
You can reach Managing Editor Diane Sofranec at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-706-3793.