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Where are you in the business owner life cycle?

|  October 20, 2020
Setting up office cubicles at Schopen Pest Solutions this summer are, from left, Leeza Trainor, Jason Chaples and George Cochran. PHOTO: PETE SCHOPEN

Setting up office cubicles at Schopen Pest Solutions this summer are, from left, Leeza Trainor, Jason Chaples and George Cochran. PHOTO: PETE SCHOPEN

Like most owners of small to midsized pest control companies, I wear many hats. When I first started Schopen Pest Solutions, I was the sales team, billing department, scheduler, route tech, mechanic, janitor, etc. As the company grew, I hired technicians and schedulers so I could focus more on advertising, marketing, payroll, accounts payable/receivable, training, etc.

But recently, I’ve noticed I have been transitioning into yet another phase. I bought a building, and have since handed over many of my tasks to my employees such as my billing director, office manager and newly trained branch manager.

This got me to thinking: A bed bug has many life stages. How many instars, or stages, are there in growing a successful business?

I theorize that I am entering “Stage 3,” but I really don’t know how many stages there are in growing a business. I just know that in 2020, my roles within my company have changed drastically. I still help with the phones, sales and payroll. But otherwise, my existence is solely to track key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensure my employees have the tools they need to succeed.

I sat down recently and thought about where I have been as an owner and where I see myself within my organization five years from now. After some online research to validate where I was going with this — with no fanfare whatsoever — here are “Pete Schopen’s Six Stages of Business Growth”:

1. START-UP. Obviously, there has to be a genesis, a beginning. For me, it was in the fall of 2005. I knew I needed a change of pace, so I started working on creating Schopen Pest Solutions. Fast forward to April 2006, when I incorporated in the Land of Lincoln, got my Wisconsin and Illinois business licenses and earned my Wisconsin applicators license.

GRAPHIC: PMP STAFF; HEADSHOT: PETE SCHOPEN

GRAPHIC: PMP STAFF; HEADSHOT: PETE SCHOPEN

2. GROWTH. It took me three years and one bad back injury to realize I wanted to hire people. There are some really good pest pros out there who would rather stay as one-person operations. God bless them. Once I did hire people, I knew I had made the right choice for me. We’ve been growing at an average of 25 percent every year since I started.

3. SELF-SUSTAINABILITY. After 10 years of hiring employees, I have pretty much removed myself from the day-to-day operations. I keep track of stats, money, problem clients, etc. But, for the most part, I let my staff sell, set up jobs, set up follow-up services and convince clients to go quarterly. If my wife Tami (the Queen) and I went away for a month, the company would be humming along just as it is today.

4. EXPONENTIAL GROWTH. In the very near future, I will be hiring a general manager. This person will run my company. At that point, I will be focusing on acquisitions, branding, services being provided, opening up new territories/branches, company policies, meeting with my department heads and maybe franchising. All I want to focus on is growth.

5. SUCCESSION/RETIREMENT. At some point, I want to retire. The question is whether I want to sell the company or keep it. Either way, I’d want to remove myself completely. In my column last month, I mentioned that Tami and I would love to drive around the country and meet with start-up companies to help them grow their businesses. If and when we get to that point, I’d let my employees run the show and just send me a paycheck each month.

6. DECLINE. Unfortunately, this is always a possibility for anyone. A bad manager or complacent owner can sabotage any company. A good owner will have the pulse of his or her company even when he or she is not around. If my company ever started to trend downward, I would postpone Stages 4 and 5, and make the necessary changes to get us back to double-digit growth.

Whether there are six stages or 76 stages in your professional journey, at some point you, as an owner, are going to need to relinquish your stranglehold on your company. Hire smart people and put them in the driver’s seat. If you don’t, you are going to stall your business.

Remember, though, relinquishing your role within your company is very different from staying away. Grow with your company, but don’t disappear.


SCHOPEN is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at pete@schopenpest.com or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpestInstagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.

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