There’s no better example of pest management professionals (PMPs) protecting property than termite control work. Each year, these pests are responsible for structural damage that costs property owners billions of dollars, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Termite control work also is lucrative, as property owners rarely opt for do-it-yourself solutions.
“Termite work is extremely rewarding because we’re protecting property,” says Tom Sieminski, president of Team Pest Control in Sayville, N.Y. “People need to have a professional solve this problem, and that makes me feel like a knight in shining armor.”
Of the PMPs who responded to Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) 2020 Termite Management Survey, 95 percent expect termite jobs to increase this year. For Tom Korkames, owner of Protech Termite & Pest Service in Bristow, Okla., termite management has been a lucrative — and significant — segment of his business. But weather, the housing market, and the effectiveness of control solutions all have an impact on termite management work.
“For the past 12 years, termite work either goes up or down,” he explains. “We have years where we cannot keep up, and we have very slow years, depending on termite activity.”
Jeff Annis, chairman of Advanced Services in Martinez, Calif., predicts termite renewal revenue will rise in 2020 because of his company’s work in new construction over recent years.
“The real estate marketplace is fairly vibrant in our market, so resales of existing homes will create some opportunities,” he adds.
Jimmy Arnold, owner and president of Peachtree Services, Brunswick, Ga., also expects 2020 to be another good year: “As long as the economy stays strong and housing prices stay up, we anticipate the real estate market to be a driving force for termite revenue increases.”
Arnold says termite swarms help boost business, too. Warmer fall weather and a decent amount of rain resulted in more termite swarms than usual in the fall in the southeast, where his company is located.
Swarmless, yet successful
PMPs who cannot rely on swarms for more business — and only 21 percent of the PMPs who answered our survey said they gained more than 25 percent of their new termite jobs due to swarms — have other options.
Sieminski advises collecting renewals early in the year, such as February or March.
“In the northeast, residential work is slim,” he says. “Why not send your renewals out then so money can flow at a traditionally slow time?”
According to survey respondents, the majority of termite control work comes from existing residential structures. While 63 percent of those asked said they generate more than half of their termite management revenue this way, new home building elicited the same response from only 3 percent, existing commercial structures from 7 percent and new commercial building from 2 percent.
Arnold says termite work is satisfying because it resolves a problem for customers. It also is lucrative, as termite control is his company’s largest revenue category.
“The margins on termite work are generally much higher than other services,” he says.
PMPs who offer termite management services consider it a money maker when the work is priced appropriately. But “don’t race others to the bottom of the price scale,” advises Annis. “I have seen many who tried to compete on prices over my past 44 years as a business owner, and those people come and go. The people who represent high value and high quality seem to make it.”
Unlike the weather and new home construction, PMPs can control pricing, and it is key to maintaining a lucrative termite management business.
“We need to receive appropriate payment for the services you deliver,” Annis says. “Our technicians are well paid and have many great benefits compared to other companies, and that increases our costs and our prices at the same time.”
Promote knowledge, expertise
Advanced Services employs four associates with Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) designations, several staff members who are state certified, and dozens of other well trained and experienced technicians and staff members.
“Our customers love us because of the higher-than-average quality of our team members,” Annis says. “If someone does not want to pay the price of having a true professional do the work, there are 65+ run-of-the-mill companies they can choose from. In the end, the quality of your customers will be determined by the quality of your services and the appropriateness of your pricing structure.”
Training your general pest control technicians to look for termite damage during inspections also can be profitable. Training is especially critical, however, when it comes to proper species identification.
Referrals are a great way to build a termite control business, so be sure to maintain good relationships with your existing customers. And when treating a residence for termites, call on the neighbors. Let them know you are available in case they develop termite problems of their own.
“Teaching customers about termite biology and available strategies provides a wonderful opportunity to solve control problems and spotlights our knowledge, care and professionalism to our customers,” Sieminski says.
In his eyes, the process includes being a teacher first as you explain termite biology and control strategies, acting as a psychologist next as you offer empathy for their termite troubles, and moving into sales mode last by providing pricing and warranty information.
Thorough inspections are critical to providing quality termite work. Look for structural damage, shelter tubes and frass. Seek out evidence of swarmers, such as shed wings. Inspections should include all areas of the structure, including the garage, attic, basement and/or crawlspace. Areas adjacent to the property, such as landscaping, sheds and wood piles should be checked as well. Moisture meters, infrared cameras, optical borescopes and methane detectors are just a few of the tools that ensure inspections are thorough.
Document the conditions of the structure you inspect because a historical record of previous damage — or more important, no damage at all — will facilitate the detection of new infestations. Accurate records also are needed when offering warranties on work performed.
“Conduct proper inspections, create documentation and graphs, and maintain good files and history for each account,” Arnold says. “With today’s technology, there is no reason all of these cannot be accomplished.”
Spray foam insulation makes termite inspections more of a challenge. That’s because termites are capable of penetrating spray foam insulation, and when that happens, termites and the damage they cause become more difficult to detect. Be sure existing customers understand that if they install spray foam insulation, they may void their warranties.
Annual inspections will help PMPs stay on top of any termite issues that may arise, Annis says.
“The customer and the company both win with a thorough annual inspection done by a well-trained and properly supported technician,” he adds. “Nobody wins if termites get into the structure and damage takes place.”