5 questions with Dan Gordon and Donnie Shelton
November 4, 2020
November 4, 2020
Pest Management Professional interviewed its own financial columnist, Dan Gordon, CPA, owner of both PCO Bookkeepers and PCO M&A Specialists, Newton, N.J.; and Donnie Shelton, who is both CEO of pest control marketing firm Coalmarch and owner of Triangle Pest Control, Holly Springs, N.C. The pair have teamed up for a new, industry-focused podcast, “PMP Industry Insiders.”
1. Let’s go back to earlier in the year, when you two launched your webinar series, titled “State of the Industry: Driving Growth for Your Business in 2020.” How did that come about?
Shelton: When the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders were starting up, our Triangle Pest Control employees were asking a lot of questions. Meanwhile, I was thinking through all the ways things could go wrong — and there was a lot to think about.
I also had buddies asking me about what advice the Coalmarch team had. We decided to send an email to our customer base about “what you can do right now to prepare.” We advised such things as keep your credit lines down and keep your cash flow as open as you can.
Well, we never had such a high open rate. It was in the 80 percent range! People were emailing us comments like “Thanks so much, we don’t know what’s going on from one day to the next.”
That’s when it hit me: There’s a lot of confusion for pest management professionals (PMPs) in these uncertain times. So the next week, we sent another email. The open rate was high again, with more questions: “Can I still grow my business this year?” “How can I weather this storm?” I called up Dan.
Gordon: We’ve known each other about 15 years. We’ve been each other’s clients. Donnie thought that, with his marketing and my financial expertise, we could really help educate PMPs to protect their businesses, and even grow.
2. What was the impetus from transitioning from the webinar format to the podcast format?
Shelton: With the webinar format, at first we held one every week, and then went monthly. But we’ve had a pretty consistent audience. This fall, we thought, why not continue to talk to folks in a podcast format? That way, they could listen to any episode, anytime, and we could expand the expertise with guests. Plus, our webinar series was very focused on doing business during the pandemic. We see the podcast as more long-term, exploring all avenues of building a pest control business.
3. How do you find your interview topics and sources?
Shelton: We have a standing weekly meeting, where we review some ideas and do some brainstorming. We start with topics, and then discuss who might be a good fit.
Gordon: It’s gotten to be something of a friendly competition about who comes up with the best subjects, and who lands what industry leader for the next episode.
4. Is podcasting a new technology for you both, or have you had previous experience with the process?
Gordon: We’re rolling out a whole new platform in November. I even got a new microphone!
Shelton: We have definitely learned along the way. Dan brings a ton of knowledge — but, uh, technology is not his strong suit.
Gordon: People still like me for other reasons.
5. Any final thoughts?
Shelton: At the end of the day, pest control is like nearly any home service industry: The goal is to generate leads and grow. We want to help PMPs by interviewing people who are driving the future of the industry when it comes to operations, finance, marketing, sales, customer experience, and team-building.
Gordon: Right now, we have seven episodes under our belts, with more to come. Check it out at Podcast.pmpindustryinsider.com. We’ve been telling everyone that if there’s a certain topic you’d like to see us tackle, or someone you want us to have as a guest — even yourself — we’re always open to new ideas.
WHERE TO FIND THE PODCAST
“PMP Industry Insiders” is available on several platforms, including Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Episodes already available for download include:
- Tim Mulrooney, William Blair: Impressions of an Investment Analyst
- Kendall Hines & Erik Alburg, Lawnbot: AI & the Future of Pest & Lawn
- Tom Gibbons, F&W Pest Control: Family Ties: Challenges to Scaling a Family Business
- Burns Blackwell, Terminix-Triad: Scaling Through Innovation: The Secret to Growth Efficiency
- Howard Bright, Anti-Pesto: Digital Business Transformation
- Erin Richardson, All-American Pest Control: Building Your A-Team
DAN GORDON, CPA
YEARS IN PEST CONTROL: 32
CAREER: After working two years as a tax accountant at Deloitte after college, Gordon was ready for a change. It was 1988, and his high school buddy had founded Budget Pest Control Service just six months before. The friend was in need of a partner who was good at finances. (Author’s Note: Donnie Shelton was sitting in on the interview as Gordon recalled his industry origins, and doubled over in laughter when he heard the company name: “BUDGET? Are you kidding me? Why not P&L Pest Control? Balance Sheet Exterminating?” Gordon ignored him and continued on with his story.) Not long after, Gordon says his friend “answered a newspaper ad to move to Denmark and dig tunnels.” Gordon reports that the friend is still in Denmark’s tunnel industry today, and loves it.
But his friend’s departure meant that in May 1989, Gordon the certified public accountant was flying solo as Gordon the owner of a pest management firm, after less than a year in the field. Putting his shoulder to the grindstone, he built up the business to the point that by 1996, it was attractive enough for Viking Termite and Pest Control — now an Anticimex firm — to come knocking. Gordon stayed on four years as CFO of the acquiring company.
When Gordon left Viking in 2000, it was to become a partner in the startup financial services firm Wealth Depot LLC. In 2004, he also co-founded Turf Books, PCO Bookkeepers and PCO M&A Specialists. He is a managing partner in all four firms today, and has been a Pest Management Professional columnist since 2013.
YEARS IN PEST CONTROL: 14
CAREER: The U.S. Air Force Reserve pilot and software engineer “had zero background in pest control” when he bought a one-man operation called Mike’s Pest Control in July 2006. Shelton just knew he wanted to go into business for himself, and after researching businesses that could be both recession-proof and profitable, homed in on professional pest management.
“I signed the papers in the dining room of a Wendy’s restaurant,” Shelton recalls. “The owner was 81 years old, and had exactly 23 accounts paying him $25 a month.”
Shelton paid $11,000 for the company, and planned to have the owner stay on for six months to show him the ropes.
“But after a couple months, he said ‘You’ve got this,’” Shelton says. Today, the renamed and rebranded Triangle Pest Control serves 22 cities throughout North Carolina.
By 2012, however, Shelton was frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of a digital marketing agency in the market that understood the needs of pest control and lawn management firms. He purchased a local agency, Coalmarch, that had potential in specializing in these markets — and built it into an industry powerhouse. A published author on industry marketing, Shelton created the Grow! Inbound Marketing System. This led to Sprowt, Coalmarch’s proprietary software program that uses the Grow! system, and Forgely, an app-based team management solution.