When I started Schopen Pest Solutions in 2006, it was not uncommon for me to work a 16-hour day. By my fourth year in business, it was the norm.
When I hired my first two technicians during my fifth year in business, I didn’t hesitate to make them work 12-hour shifts. I figured if I could do it, then they could do it. The problem with that thinking is that no one will ever want to work at growing a business the way the owner does. The blood, the sweat, the tears, the fears are all things owners go through. For your employees, they will enjoy working for you until the job stops being fun and starts becoming … well, a job.
During that fifth year of Schopen Pest Solutions, I finally had saved enough money to take my family on a vacation to Disney World. I didn’t have any office staff yet, it was just my two techs. I was still accepting sales calls, and still routing the routes from my hotel on my laptop at night. During our first day in Florida, my cell phone was ringing non-stop. I was hammering my two employees with initial after initial.
Finally, around 5 p.m. Central time, while my two young kids were on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, one of my guys called me and reminded me in no uncertain terms that “I have a life, too, Pete” and “I wish I could take my family to Disney World, too!”
No, I didn’t fire him. Instead, I realized three important things that day:
- I would never truly be able to enjoy a vacation unless I stopped working during my time off.
- I should quit expecting my employees to work in the same manner that I work. I should push them and challenge them, but they should not have to put in Pete Schopen-level hours.
- There have to be rewards for your employees, especially if they are willing to go the extra mile for the company. It’s hard to motivate people without a carrot at the end of the stick.
So, what’s the carrot? Is it fewer hours and more pay? Is it health insurance? Is it more vacation time? Is it empowerment? Even today, I don’t have a formalized game plan in place on how to provide benefits to my employees. It just sort of evolved. I consider it a work in progress.
As my company continues to grow, I’ve been able to institute a new benefit each year. The very first benefit I gave my technicians was supplying them with smartphones. My first two guys had to use their own phones during their first year. Since then I have:
- Switched employee pay to hourly instead of commission, per their request.
- Given an automatic pay raise at the end of the first year.
- Started buying additional swag for employees, such as company-branded coats.
- Instituted 40 hours of vacation time after one year.
- Paid year-end-bonuses for the first time.
- Moved out of my home office and into new digs.
- Raised training wages from $12 per hour to $15.
- Started paying 10 percent commission for “upselling,” in addition to hourly pay.
- Doubled the year-end bonuses.
- Started offering substantial pay raises for every license earned through the Illinois Department of Public Health or the state of Wisconsin.
- Started paying for the renewal fees on technician licenses.
- Increased vacation time earned to 80 hours after three years, and 120 hours after seven years.
- Started offering health insurance.
- Started offering subsidiary insurance like Aflac and Liberty. It’s paid by employees, but administered by Schopen Pest Solutions.
- Started offering LegalShield, because four employees wanted it and paid for it. Schopen Pest Solutions administers the program.
- Instituted paid holidays.
- Started offering paid days to attend pest control conferences, including those offered by the Wisconsin Pest Control Association, Illinois Pest Control Association and the Greater Chicago Pest Management Association, as well as “Meeting of the Minds” and Paul Bello workshops.
- Started allowing licensed techs to take vehicles home at night.
- Instituted Schopen Pest Solutions’ Awards Night (“The Schopies”).
- Started keeping track of key performance indicators (KPIs), and rewarding employees for high marks.
Year 14 (2020)
- Switched to annual paid time off (PTO) vs. vacation days. First-year PTO is set at seven days. We will add one day every year.
Some of the aforementioned benefits are outlined and explained in our Basic Core Policy Handbook. The handbook is a work in progress — as I type this, it’s 34 pages long. In the future, I would love to offer a 401(k) plan and some group outings to “warm” destinations.
Last December, I took my family to Florida again; this time it was Universal Studios. I’m pleased to report that not one employee called me. Things are always improving at Schopen Pest Solutions!
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.