The webinar series “COVID-19 Proofing Your Business” was designed to help pest management professionals (PMPs) carry on as states issued stay-at-home mandates during the coronavirus pandemic.
Donnie Shelton, CEO of digital marketing solutions company Coalmarch, and Dan Gordon, CPA, managing partner of accounting firm PCO Bookkeepers, partnered to present four weekly sessions that included expert advice, tips from fellow PMPs, and business and marketing guidance. Marisa Palmieri served as moderator. The free webinars currently are available at Coalmarch.com/covid-19.
“How COVID-19 Impacts Your Business” kicked off the series March 27, not long after pest control was deemed an essential service by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It examined how the pandemic affects several areas of a small business: leadership, people, marketing, finances and sales.
“This is the Super Bowl of leadership right now, and it’s time to win,” Gordon said as he predicted that pest control would fare better than other industries.
Shelton offered marketing recommendations that included basing decisions on numbers and not emotion; using branding and messaging to capitalize on increased online traffic; and leveraging social media to highlight your local business.
Gordon stressed the importance of knowing your cost-per-sale and cost-per-lead numbers, and advised “cash is king” at a time like this.
Shelton recommended getting serious about protecting staff, and letting go of any fears about employees working from home. “You can operate in this new environment,” Shelton said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was the subject of the April 3 webinar. Gordon discussed the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), and broke down the details of this non-recourse loan, of which a large portion does not need to be paid back if companies use it to keep workers employed. He also explained the requirements needed to qualify for a PPP loan and how to reduce the amount of the loan to be forgiven.
Shelton discussed consumer fears regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and showed the results of a consumer survey. He advised PMPs who provide residential pest control to emphasize health and safety to address consumer fears. Shelton then focused on actions Google has taken because of the pandemic, explaining what’s new with Google Reviews, as well as Google Ads credits and restrictions. “We’re going to get through this a lot better than most industries,” Gordon predicted.
The April 10 webinar examined “Increasing Revenue Streams” and featured two guests: Hank Hirsch, president of RK Environmental Services in Westwood, N.J., and Trent Ragar, owner of Natural State Pest Control in Lowell, Ark. Hirsch shared details of his company’s new virucide protection services, including choosing the product and equipment he uses, obtaining and training staff, marketing and pricing the service, and obtaining insurance.
Three weeks into the launch, Hirsch said he services 180 locations on a set frequency. “We are hopeful this is going to be something we are able to maintain as an ongoing line of business … because there are a lot of benefits to doing these applications besides combatting COVID-19,” Hirsch said. His clients love the service, he added, and believes it is ideal for homeowners, too.
Ragar started his career in lawn care, but after selling his successful business, he went from nearly $4 million in revenue to zero overnight. He turned to pest control, and after launching his new company, he went from zero to $2 million in revenue in four years. It wasn’t always easy, however. He explained growth was due to consistent branding; positive customer reviews; people (“Treat your people like rock stars,” he advised); customer service (“Just be easy to do business with,” he stressed); and flexibility, as changing something that isn’t working is key.
Ragar said he viewed the coronavirus pandemic as a blessing that “woke us up.” His company has since created videos to get the word out, changed its motto, and positioned itself as a community resource. It also turned to Zoom to connect with staff. “Natural State is a wonderful example of a company that went back to the drawing board when their initial plan didn’t work,” Shelton said.
The last webinar in the series, “The Right Infrastructure to Crisis-proof Your Business for the Long-term,” was held April 17. Shelton advised PMPs to continue their marketing efforts while it makes sense, and advised getting in tune with your marketing numbers, such as cost per lead and cost per sale. He said going forward, health and safety is an ideal marketing message. He recommended clearly communicating that your business is open, you are keeping customers safe, and you are taking care of customers’ families and homes.
Shelton also offered tips on how to test your emergency plan before it’s needed. “Validate that what you have works,” he said.
Gordon discussed the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and what to do if you missed out on funding. He mentioned other options, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Main Street Loan Program. In addition, Gordon explained how PMPs who received funding should proceed and work with their banks.
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19