This spring, I was asked to be one of three guest speakers on a webinar hosted by Pest Management Professional and sponsored by Slingshot, a WorkWave company. The webinar was titled “What Your Managers Wish You Knew: How to Direct Your Team for Growth.” I titled my part of the webinar “Five Things That Scare the Heck Out of Me Financially While Running a Pest Control Company.” While I have a helluva lot more than five, here are the ones I focused on:
1. EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
As I have written before in this column, if you keep your employees happy, you won’t need to train new people to replace them. To recap, Schopen Pest Solutions gives employees paid holidays, increases the amount of personal time off each year, promotes from within, awards annual raises, and offers additional pay increases for certifications.
That said, health insurance is the great white whale of benefits. Currently, we shell out nearly $144,000 per year — and it is going up exponentially each year.
2. COMPANY CULTURE
How does company culture affect my bottom line? Without culture, there is chaos. If there’s chaos, you will have people rowing the boat in opposite directions and nothing will get accomplished. If employees are confused or upset because of a lack of direction, clients will cancel their programs because they in turn are confused and upset. Company culture offers direction and my favorite word, consistency.
Schopen Pest Solutions created its company culture by engaging employees and showing respect through personal treatment. We have birthday parties, Taco Tuesdays, chili cook-offs and end-of-the-year-awards. We engage our staff through various side-projects, such as planning our 15-year anniversary. We challenge them by keeping track of our key performance indicators (KPIs) and giving them incentivized goals.
Most importantly, we have a Vision Statement, a Mission Statement and a list of Core Values. These give us direction and keep us focused.
3. OVERTIME COSTS
I always had a hard time reducing overtime vs. the need to hire people. It gets mighty cold in Northern Illinois in the winter, and having too many unproductive techs can be a bad thing. But during the summer, we get crushed with calls and need an abundance of workers.
Recently, we solved this issue (I think?) by overhiring, and then putting a winter game plan in place.
Overhiring means our techs get one day off during the week. We also make sure we have a person on standby, whom we call the “rover,” each day in case someone calls in sick. But even if no one calls off, the rover doesn’t just sit around.
We created a process by which he or she has several tasks to accomplish.
When we slow down in November, for example, we have a system of verifiable training in place so every technician will be able to finish reading the Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations during our winter “diapause.” Our service technicians also are required to help make follow-up calls to seasonal clients.
By overhiring, we are reducing overtime costs. By having a winter process in place, we are keeping everyone busy and sharpening their industry skillsets.
4. SALES STRATEGY
Speaking of “processes,” the sales process is very important at Schopen Pest Solutions. We hired a company to handle our search engine optimization (SEO), and it drives a ton of traffic to our website. But we also use Thumbtack, Yelp and Home Advisor. We don’t stop trying to reach the potential client until he or she either says “yes” or “the restraining order is with the judge.”
I require my inside salespeople to make at least eight touches, a combination of phone calls, texts and emails, on all prospective clients. Studies have shown that reaching out to clients continuously, even up to a month later, can increase sales by 7 percent.
5. WORKERS COMPENSATION
Thankfully, our workers compensation insurance is coming down $35,000 this year. We have been injury-free for more than two years (knocks wood), and we are finally getting rewarded for it. In addition, we:
- Host an annual presentation on harassment in the workplace, conducted by our human resources provider.
- Created a safety manual.
- Provide classes on ladder safety, and watch ladder safety videos throughout the year.
- Focus on providing nothing but high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE).
Just a few final words of wisdom on this particular topic: When you have a workers’ comp audit, make sure the auditor doesn’t count overtime wages against you. You have a tech making $20 per hour, and his overtime wages are $30 per hour? You do not have to pay at the $30 rate, only the $20 rate.