When Dr. Phil “Doc” Nichols retired as technical and training director of Orlando, Fla.-based Massey Services nine years ago, he had no inclination to continue with pest control beyond the occasional consulting gig as president and owner of PDN Pest Management Consulting — such as he did with Safer Home Services in 2014, for example. But then in 2020, family came calling.
1. What is the “elevator pitch” version of your industry career?
I earned my doctorate at Mississippi State University in 1975, with a minor in wildlife management. After circulating my resume, I went to work with Mighty National Exterminators in Miami, Fla. I also worked at Truly Nolen Pest Control and was a partner in Lawn Master and Sears. After Sears was sold, I joined (former Sears owner and Class of 2017 Pest Management Professional Hall of Famer) Chuck Steinmetz as the staff entomologist and director of termite and pest control for his new venture, Middletown Lawn & Pest Control from 2002 to 2009, when it was sold to Massey Services. I stayed with Massey until I retired in August 2012. I guess you might also say I helped introduce Termidor to the U.S. market in 2000.
2. What brought you out of retirement?
My wife’s brother, Ed Mattox, owns Mattox Services in Aberdeen, Miss. It was established in 1945 as a feed mill, and Ed had some success expanding the family firm into the landscaping and lawn care business. But customers were starting to ask for pest control, so he asked me to help implement a pest control business to keep the momentum going. That is how a feed mill in an eastern Mississippi town with a population of 5,000 came to have two pest control technicians and an entomologist with a Ph.D. on board!
3. In a rural community such as this, aren’t there a lot of do-it-yourselfers?
The business currently is about 90 percent residential. Although it’s still a farming town and there are those who like to use do-it-yourself methods, an increasing number prefer to call a trusted local professional to come and get the job done.
4. With such a small pool of potential customers, what is your future growth strategy?
Before we started, the nearest pest control firm was 45 miles away. They couldn’t respond quickly to a service call, whereas we can. Our reputation is building so much, we’re starting to expand to the next town over, which has 12,000 people.
5. How did Mattox Services get through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic this year and last?
We rolled out sanitation service to schools, churches, daycare centers and other venues that we knew would appreciate the service, even after the pandemic was behind us. I’ve always said this industry is recession-proof, and COVID-19 is a prime example of that.