When I was at PestWorld in San Diego, Calif., last October, I was sitting with some pest control friends, talking about our businesses. (Remember how we used to sit around with friends? Those were the days.) Each of us discussed the things we felt might be holding back our companies: marketing, hiring, software issues, etc.
When it was my turn, I mentioned that I was the culprit; I was unintentionally holding back my company.
Someone asked, incredulous, “How can Pete Schopen be hindering Schopen Pest Solutions?”
“Schopen Pest Solutions has outgrown Pete Schopen,” I replied.
What I meant was that I couldn’t possibly continue to run Schopen Pest Solutions by myself anymore. I had a $2 million company — closer to $3 million by the end of 2020, hopefully — but I didn’t have a VP, general manager or even a branch manager. I have a great office manager, but her duties aren’t defined. Because I hadn’t promoted anyone in 14 years, I was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. I was losing direction and traction. My company was bursting at the seams, and I was trying to hold it all together by myself.
My peers told me what I already knew: I had to promote someone and train him or her to be a manager. I knew they were right, but I was scared. I was scared of picking the wrong person. I was scared of not having time to train the person properly. I was scared of not having a training game plan in place. I was scared to negotiate a salary. I was scared of upsetting my team. I was scared to hand over my “baby” to someone.
Seven months later, I was still in need of a nudge. As of May, I was still:
- Visiting with each tech every day, counting their money and checking their paperwork.
- Handling all accounts payable.
- Taking a large number of sales calls.
- Providing thank-you letters to all new clients who agreed to quarterly services.
- Managing payroll.
- Handling all the marketing, including social media.
- Meeting with upset clients and training techs for quality control.
- Conducting termite inspections.
- Creating commercial sales quotes.
- Working with my banker to apply for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
- Managing health insurance and other human resources needs for my employees.
- Jumping on a route if a tech called in sick.
- Rerouting routes if I noticed too much “windshield time” for my techs.
- Monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Helping employees with any entomology questions they might have when dealing with clients.
- Negotiating new truck purchases.
- Learning and implementing proper coronavirus protocols.
MAKING THE LEAP
I have several great techs and office staff working for me. Four or five in particular have really helped the company grow. I made up my mind that by the end of 2020, I was going to try and hire a sales manager, general manager and maybe an operations manager. But until I had all of that sorted out, I desperately needed a branch manager to help me work with my techs and take away some of my day-to-day responsibilities.
The person I chose is Chris Baumann. I had previously worked with Chris on the McHenry Baseball Association board of directors. He had been in management at Panera at the time, but was looking for a change. About two years ago, I hired Chris as a technician, and he has been awesome. Not only does he have his work life in order and going in the right direction, he also has an amazing family life with his wife, Jessica, and children Bennet, Sarina and Jake. I think it is important that if you are going to hire someone to run your business, he or she should have his or her home life in order, too.
Simply put, Chris has shown a passion for pest control. I told him I couldn’t possibly promote him unless he got licensed in Illinois or Wisconsin; he got licensed in both. He told me once that he loves pest control because “you learn something every day.” He added, “solving pest issues is a lot like solving puzzles, and that helps keep the job interesting.”
Chris does have one glaring weakness: He refuses to work with snakes. But that makes two of us.
So after nearly 14-and-a-half years, I have finally found my first branch manager. By the time you read this, Chris will be in the middle of his three-month training program with me. My goal is to have him up and running my techs by Nov. 1. He also will take some of the sales calls off my hands, as well as termite inspections, KPIs, running routes for a sick tech and doing the lion’s share of the thank-you letters.
My youngest son, Caleb, is going to be a senior in high school this year. My wife and I would love to start traveling after he graduates. Once Chris is effectively handling the techs, I will start the search for a general manager. After that person is trained and in place, I might start taking some Saturdays off.
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.