A few years back, I found myself at an account that was a very large and impressive mansion. Still, it was a routine service, nothing special. My mind started drifting in awe of this place, and wondering just how does one go about attaining so much in life?
Later that day, I was still so curious that I decided to conduct a web search. The mansion owner was quite famous. He accrued a huge fortune, but much to my dismay, it appeared it all came at the expense of thousands of hard-working people across the nation. His “magic sauce” was cutting labor costs to the bare bones by eliminating as many jobs as he could. He left the rest of the depleted workforce barren, as if they were a lone tree that was spared, but now having to do what it took the whole forest to accomplish.
Not long after, I, too, fell to his axe: He found a cheaper vendor, and my service was cut out in a cold, callous way.
THANKFULLY, NOT THE NORM
After posing “How do you lower labor costs” to industry peers, I was thankful to see respondents focusing on employee retention, not cuts. While labor costs are a major concern, the strategies for lowering them overwhelmingly included adding benefits for the employee. The thought is, if you make the job more secure and enjoyable for employees, they’re going to repay you in loyalty, thus maximizing profits and negating the need to hire and train replacements.
Now, as diverse as we are across this industry, I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all strategy: What may work in a big city probably won’t fly in rural areas, and in area demographics, small firm vs. large firm all can play a huge role in our approaches. Below, our “crew” gives you some great jumping-off points. But if I could impart just one thought to help you in your quest to lower your labor costs, it would be this:
When viewed from an ivory tower, a forest looks all the same; no distinguishing parts. Widespread decisions are too easy to make. When viewed from the trees, one can’t take in all the many differences and choices of where to trim. Only when you take in both views will you appreciate their great importance, and realize every tree in your forest has grown with you and makes your forest complete.
Tips from the Pest Cemetery crew
“I feel that lowering labor costs is a red herring. Labor is our most important resource. My company can’t survive without good employees who feel valued and have job security. I invest a ton of money and time in training them. We find ways for them to be better at their jobs through efficiency improvements in routing, making sales easier for them, and getting rid of unnecessary things that only get in their way. I can save costs elsewhere.”
— Patrick Helms, Operations Manager and Technical Director, The Mosquito Authority of Charlotte and The Pest Authority of Charlotte, Charlotte, N.C.
“The biggest potential savings in labor costs can’t come at the jobsite. Quality takes time. Instead, focus on things like route optimization and intelligent scheduling. These can cut down drive time substantially, and there’s definitely some money savings there.”
— Chad Flemming, Co-Owner, Aegis Pest Control Solutions, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia
“Automation and digitalization of monitoring and routine mundane work may increase costs initially, but they can substantially bring down the cost of labor in the long run. It can help you reach a wider area — and also make work more interesting for those on your team.”
— Raja Mahendran, International Pest Business Consultant, Sydney, Australia
“I lowered labor costs by converting all customers to perimeter-only, with interior spot treatments as needed. We were able to decrease windshield time and increase our average number of stops, thus creating more-profitable routes.”
— Chad Moreschi, Owner, Natural Resources Pest Control, Miami, Fla.
SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at email@example.com.