Preparing to operate in the COVID-19 era



June 5, 2020

Editor’s Note: The following is Part V 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.

One of the most common frustrations in implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program is when customers do not cooperate in key areas such as sanitation and exclusion. Often our customers’ lack of cooperation is because they truly do not understand that pests are pests because of human behavior. We humans cause pest problems. Recall that IPM also is integrated people management.

The pattern of lack of understanding and cooperation continues with COVID-19. Not understanding the factors that spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are dire. As an essential service, it is important that members of the pest management industry protect themselves as well as their families, customers and community from increasing the risk of a second wave of the virus.


Estimates put vaccine development at about 18 to 24 months away. Until then, operating in the era of COVID-19 will require innovation, discipline, diligence and vigilance. These are all qualities that this industry knows well, because we are resilient. Tactics that can be immediately employed include:

  • Take care of your employees. We have covered this topic in detail in previous articles.
  • It’s a good time to hire. There are millions of good people out of work. If you are hiring, this is a good time to find talent or level up.
  • Build your information technology (IT) capacity. IT will be key to survival for businesses and families. The digital divide is real. Not everyone can afford new computers, routers, web cameras, and the like. Please keep that in mind, and donate usable and cleaned IT tools (phones, computers, tablets and so on) to your favorite local charity.
  • Data is the new currency. Data and information will support your innovation. Rely on credible sources — such as trade journals, primary literature, podcasts, etc. — as a foundation going forward.
  • Know what other industries are doing. Global consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company offer excellent guidance.
  • Earn customer loyalty. Loyalty is directly correlated to customer retention.

Four factors to consider for the mid- to long-term as you lead your company toward the “new normal,” as governments around the world resume activity, include:

  1. Rethink social contracts. In times of crisis, government plays an essential and expanded role, protecting people and organizing the response. This power shift transforms long-held expectations about the roles of individuals and all institutions. The pest control industry is not immune, and we need to consider changes in our businesses with both customers and employees regarding social interaction around safety and commerce.
  2. Define the future of work and consumption. The pandemic has propelled new technology across all aspects of life, from e-commerce to remote-working and learning tools. New working and shopping practices probably will become a permanent fixture of the new normal. For pest management professionals, the ability to treat residential and commercial structures in a non-invasive manner, including touch-free transactions, and embracing technology at every opportunity, will be critical to drive business.
  3. Mobilize resources at speed and scale. Around the world as COVID-19 gained momentum, several governments, including the U.S., invested in new tools to map transmission and rolled out huge economic-stimulus plans. Likewise, many companies in many industries and/or sectors have mobilized resources and redirected them to continue growth, while others have not been so fortunate. The pest control industry is not immune. We as an industry need to listen to good sources and lead our businesses in the right direction with personal protective equipment (PPE), IT, new service protocols and so on.
  4. Move from globalization to regionalization. COVID-19 has exposed the world’s risky dependence on vulnerable components in global supply chains. We could see a massive restructuring as production and sourcing move closer to end users and companies localize or regionalize their supply chains.

The science suggests a second wave of COVID-19 is coming. When and to what degree may be anyone’s guess. However, as industry leaders we have more control than we may believe. From a robust IT infrastructure in which you invest, PPE for all team members, supply chain awareness, financial oversight, and simply listening to and meeting customer and competitive demands, we can drive our businesses through a second, third or even more waves of this virus.


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