How to win in the COVID-19 arena


April 10, 2020

Dr. Faith Oi and Kemp Anderson

Editor’s Note: The following is Part II of a special series from Pest Management Professional Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Faith Oi, a faculty member and director of Pest Management University at the University of Florida, and Kemp Anderson, principal of Kemp Anderson Consulting. The series is appearing on a number of industry platforms, including For our continuing coverage of this series, click here.

On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech that would become known as “The Man in the Arena.” It was an inspirational and impassioned message that drew huge applause 110 years ago, and feels particularly relevant today.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

We are in the “arena” now with COVID-19; and President Roosevelt was rallying against cynics who looked down at men who were trying to make the world a better place.

Now is the time for us to rally as an industry. To fiercely hold on to valued employees, customers and secure the future of your business. Most of us will make mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop us from gathering credible information and making informed changes that will help us weather this storm.

As an essential service, our industry should try to accommodate our customers and keep them in service. Wherever possible, flexibility with both service rates and frequency are critical to our businesses and customers. Examples of offering flexibility to your customers might include:

  • Allowing customers to defer or pause existing service.
  • Adjusting their service frequency.
  • Allowing customers to pay in installments. For example, if you service quarterly at $100/quarter, allow the customer to start paying $33.33/month.
  • Accepting credit cards as an alternate form of payment.
  • Bartering relevant services.


The Harvard Business Review studied marketing successes and failures of companies that navigated recessions from the 1970s onward. It identified patterns in consumer behavior, and company strategies that either propel or undermined company performance. Regardless of which demographic group consumers belong to, consumers prioritize consumption by sorting products and services into four categories:

  1. Essentials: purchases or services that are necessary for survival or perceived as central to well-being.
  2. Treats: purchases or services that consumers considered justifiable.
  3. Postponables: purchases or services that can be reasonably put off.
  4. Expendables: purchases or services perceived as unnecessary or unjustifiable.

Our industry prides itself on being somewhat recession-proof. But now is the time for our industry to embrace, learn, understand and promote what being essential means to and for our employees, customers, businesses and industry. Everyone in every pest control company should be able to communicate with any consumer, but especially the customer base, what an essential service is and why pest control has that designation. Can every employee in your company simply and clearly explain this? Dr. Faith Oi provided our idea of why the pest control industry is an essential service in Part I of this series.

Here’s a game plan to help keep you going:

  1. Stay the course. Our industry is going to weather this storm.
  2. Offer customers service flexibility and different payment options.
  3. Make sure your employees have the safety equipment and knowledge they need.
  4. Training for employees and communication for customers should be your daily focus.
  5. Keep combing through good information and sharing detailed communication to both your employees and customers.

Remember, the credit belongs to those in the arena, day in and day out.


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