Don’t quake in your boots when there’s a new sheriff in town

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November 9, 2021

photo: BrAt_PiKaChU/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: BrAt_PiKaChU/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

According to Old West lore, one of the most powerful phrases to hear was “There’s a new sheriff in town.” Not only did it strike fear in the outlaws who had perhaps become comfortable with the way things were, but it also meant changes for everyone else in town.

Overnight, things quickly changed, as the townspeople walked on tiptoes trying to feel out their new leader. Sometimes the changes were good, and sometimes they were a disaster. Regardless, the town was now under the control of someone new.

A similar phenomenon happens to pest management professionals (PMPs) who service commercial accounts. A new boss may take over because the business was sold, your contact changed jobs, or any number of other reasons.

How do you approach this change in owners or management? The easy answer is make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Signed service agreements and up-to-date paperwork that clearly state what your service does and does not cover is all good theoretically, right?

This exact scenario recently happened me. And I can tell you, it’s just a theory.

LEADERSHIP CHANGE

When I purchased a small firm, one of its diamonds in the rough was a sweet little commercial account. Everything was in place — signed agreement and updated paperwork — but it didn’t amount to much when a new sheriff came in with both guns blazing.

I got about a month-and-a-half of service in and quickly established myself as one of the good guys. But one day, I found myself unceremoniously kicked out of town, told never to return.

When the new owner came in, I tried to do everything in my power to keep the account. I met personally with him, and stayed pleasant and non-confrontational with phone calls and emails. Basically, I felt like I was “reselling” myself to a client I already had, but knew I wasn’t going to be the winning bidder.

But this situation is hardly unique. With new leadership often comes new ideas of how things are going to run. This can include wholesale changes of vendors and service providers.

GET READY

The key is, when you first find out a change is coming, even if it’s way ahead of time, open up the channels of communication. You can’t (re)establish yourself if you do not communicate in some form or another.

Is your service lacking in any area? Maybe your exterior bait stations are a mess? Perhaps some old glue boards need an update? You should have been on top of these issues anyway, but let’s face it, things happen. What clients were blind to before may suddenly become a reason you get the boot. It won’t always work out, but the sooner you take action, the better.

Now back to my original story: I did all I could to save my account, but the new sheriff wasn’t having it. Fast-forward to a year later: My month-and-a-half of killer service was all the “townspeople” could talk about when the new pest control provider’s contract was up. The town formed their own posse, determined to get their man.

In the end I went from being the outlaw to the hero, and I’m back in the saddle again.


Tips from the Pest Cemetery crew

“Usually, the seller sells our services for us. Happy existing customers will refer you to new customers. It usually helps that you already know the property and its history.”
— Joey Lea, Co-owner, Donnie’s Total Pride Pest Control, Port Saint Joe, Fla.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Ask the sellers if they would kindly introduce you — in person — to the buyers.”
— Brett Dietrick, Owner, Mosquito Squad of Greater Salt Lake City, Woods Cross, Utah

“Build a relationship with the employees/staff of the prior ownership. They will relay to the new owners the quality of services and whether to change or maintain companies.”
— Aaron Gleeson, Owner, New River Pest Control, Radford, Va.

About the Author

SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at bugdoctor@embarqmail.com.

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