It is said that the pest control industry is bulletproof. OK, I’ll buy that, having lived through it both as an owner and as an employee.
We have witnessed natural disasters, national financial collapse, major regulatory changes, different political leaders, chemical scares, bad press, drought, rain, and yes, even pandemics. Yet our industry seems to plug along. In fact, it almost seems to thrive. When some of my friends in other industries were scrambling to replace a paycheck during times described, I never did — and not many that I know in this profession did either. Sure, work slowed down a bit, but it has never stopped. The forecast for growth, while stunted, always moves forward.
That said, even during the good times, one thing has only tread water, hardly growing or advancing at all: Employee retention.
Although I had no idea at the time, I entered the industry through a revolving door — and that door just keeps spinning as folks walk in and out almost simultaneously.
It’s something I accepted early on, but could never understand. Why would anyone leave this job? This is an everyday adventure, a never-ending thrill ride. Come any given Monday, Route No. 3 was down a tech; Route No. 9 needs coverage; Chrissy has left the building.
CUSTOMERS NOTICE, TOO
One of the Top 3 complaints I’ve heard from customers for more than 35 years now is, “They always send a new guy.” Customers hate it, owners hate it, coworkers hate it, so why? Why haven’t we done anything about this?
Is it just the nature of the beast? Are we so content that we live through all the issues other industries struggle with, that we just accept turnover as a natural occurrence, an ever-present nuisance? Or, have we not truly looked at this as an industry and decided to tackle it once and for all?
I guess we are at the point where you are nodding your head in agreement, and are expecting me to give you the silver-bullet answer. But I don’t think I can deliver. I’m not sure anyone can.
At least we know where to go to get the greatest insight: the employees. Those we entrust to carry our good name forward, those who are on the front lines and have to live through the daily deluge of the ups and downs of the route. The people we send out who represent us, our company. They are the only ones by which the paying customers see and judge us all.
Revolving door? It hasn’t changed. But it’s your door. You installed it, and if you share in this problem, you’re the one keeping it greased.
Take the time to listen to those you’ve entrusted. In many ways, they are yelling at the tops of their lungs, they most likely love the job, and they most likely want to take their eye off the door.
Tips from the Pest Cemetery crew
“Don’t confuse — or replace — leadership with management. They are not the same thing.”
— Jay Lee, Captain, Pirate Pest Control, Rio Rancho, N.M.
“Profit sharing allows techs to take ownership of their routes, and rewards them when their routes produce: ‘Treat me like an owner, and I’ll act like one.’”
— Eric Palmer, Owner, Southwest Exterminators, St. George, Utah
“Let employees share in the prosperity, and receive continuing education opportunities.”
— Dominic White, ACE, Service Manager, Preventive Pest Control, Albuquerque, N.M.
“Ideally, the company should take health and safety seriously through insurance programs, training and the best personal protective equipment available.”
— Mike Hilden, Commercial Pest Control Technician, Orkin, Traverse City, Mich.
“There needs to be a work/personal life balance. Employees should be appreciated and valued, and there should be opportunities for personal development.”
— Christopher Lazo, Regional Operations Manager, RK Environmental Services, Westwood, N.J.
SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.