The pest control industry is going strong, as PestWorld 2021’s reportedly high turnout of more than 3,500 attendees shows. Pest management professionals (PMPs) know how to play the hand they’ve been dealt, and are optimistic company revenue will continue to grow.
“We have had decent growth over the past few years and know that you need to invest in the company in order for it to continue to grow,” says Kurt Scherzinger, ACE, president of Scherzinger Termite & Pest Control, Cincinnati, Ohio. “If you put off the purchase of items you need, there’s no telling what the costs will look like in the future — and whether they will cost more because of the deferred maintenance.”
As reflected in Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) 2022 State of the Industry report (see the November 2021 issue), 91 percent of the PMPs who answered the exclusive survey on which the report was based projected revenue will be up in 2022. And at a time when product shortages and higher prices have affected everything from food to toys, 83 percent of those asked predict their materials and equipment budgets will be up.
INVEST IN PRODUCTS, EQUIPMENT
For many PMPs, business has been strong throughout the global pandemic. And when business is strong, budgets increase so they can invest in the products and equipment used to serve new and existing customers.
“We have continued to make large purchases and have been operating much as we did pre-COVID-19,” says Jeff King, president, The Pest Rangers, Hanover Township, Pa. “The demand for services has been high, and items like vehicles and equipment need to be kept on hand to fulfill that demand.”
Jermane Vail launched G.O.E Pest Control and Handyman Services, a one-man operation in Youngstown, Ohio, just as the pandemic hit. The handyman aspect of the business really took off, but lately wildlife work has been keeping him busy.
“I’m not sure if the pandemic-related lockdowns had an effect on wildlife or if people were just noticing what had been in their yards or attics for years,” he says. “I normally handle trapping the same way, so there were a few items I stocked up on because I didn’t want to turn down clients if all my items were in use.”
Like many pest control owners who are starting out, Vail works out of his truck and does not have warehouse space. “I usually keep just enough bait on hand. If I outgrow that situation, it will be a good problem to have, but I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to keep up with supply and demand. Obviously, I will keep an eye on my go-to products, in case my suppliers start reporting a shortage.”
For BHB Pest Elimination Owner Michael Broder, who serves customers throughout New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, his budget remained constant throughout the pandemic, but then went up due to higher prices on many of the products the company uses.
“We put off our own increases for customers as long as we could, but by August we had to adjust our rates,” he says. “Fortunately, our customers understood, and we had very little resistance.”
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DEALS
Broder recently moved his company’s headquarters from New York City to Wallington, N.J., after buying a building there. The property’s size makes it possible for him to now take advantage of purchasing strategies manufacturers and distributors make available, such as bundle-and-save and early-order programs.
“We now have storage space to take advantage of bulk purchases,” he says. “This was just not possible in our New York City office.”
Scherzinger Termite & Pest Control’s VP of Procurement & Marketing, Eric Scherzinger, says the company has forged strategic partnerships with manufacturers because of the volume of products it uses. He takes full advantage of any rebates, sales, and early-order programs suppliers offer.
“On top of that, I spend a good deal of time forecasting what we will use over the next year based on projected growth,” he says. “While product and equipment costs should be a lower part of the budget if done correctly, we stock up when items are on sale. It only makes sense to use this purchasing power to maximize our return on investment.”
Doug Foster, president of Burt’s Termite & Pest Control in Columbus, Ind., says he, too, is taking advantage of any deals available.
“I have paid much more attention to special sales, rebates and seasonal sales by manufacturers and distributors than I ever have in the past,” he adds.
Companies large and small can take advantage of deals on products and equipment. Scott Sutton, Chief Growth Officer of Threshold Brands, the multi-brand franchisor behind Pestmaster, says,
“As we continue our rapid growth, we remain focused on the supply chain and opportunities to gain efficiencies of scale through vendor consolidation and bulk purchasing opportunities.”
INVEST IN PEOPLE
PMPs are investing in their employees as well. Foster says his company’s biggest budget item this year is for technicians and office staff.
“Everyone has received raises and multiple bonuses throughout the year, and we have conducted more training and personal development with our staff than ever before,” he adds. “Our people have stuck with us through COVID-19 and other ups and downs, so we feel very strongly about this type of investment.”
Of course, PMPs can’t serve customers without competent and reliable workers. Making an investment in people goes a long way in attracting and retaining employees. Scott Steckel, strategic development director, Plunkett’s Pest Control, Columbus, Ohio, and president of the National Pest Management Association, offers a solution to the high employee turnover that has affected so many service companies since the start of the pandemic.
Because proper training is time-consuming and employee turnover is rising, Steckel suggests hiring two workers for every one that you need. You’re probably going to have somebody bow out within the first six to 12 months, he says, so you won’t be as overstaffed as you think.
“It’s tough to swallow, right? You’re doubling your spend on hiring and training, but I promise you it will pay dividends,” Steckel adds. “Otherwise, you won’t have enough workers, and you will have to pull back on your sales. You will feel immense pain if you can’t provide service.”
WORK WITH DISTRIBUTORS, MANUFACTURERS
Desiree Straubinger, BCE, VP of Technical, Certus, Orlando, Fla., says the company has not experienced many issues obtaining the products and equipment it purchases. “The manufacturers we partner with have been amazing in making sure we have what we need to provide excellent service to our customers,” she adds. “When the few supply issues we experienced have occurred, we were able to pivot quickly to find an equivalent solution temporarily.”
PMPs may avoid service disruptions if they are willing to work with manufacturers and suppliers.
King says so far, The Pest Rangers has been able to stick with the same products and equipment its technicians rely on and trust. “We have been fortunate to have a large inventory going into the pandemic and have managed to keep our stock,” he says. “If supplies tighten, we would rely on the recommendations of our suppliers to pair us with comparable manufacturers.”
Eric Scherzinger agrees, and says he has backup products lined up in case the products the company typically purchases are not available. “Although we work very closely with manufacturers and keep asking them about the supply status of their products, we are always open to trying new products,” he says. “We value our relationships with product representatives and the support they give us, and that weighs on our decision when purchasing products.”
After nearly two years of working during a pandemic, Straubinger says Certus has not had to make many adjustments. No matter what, the company strives to use the right products for the job in order to provide the best possible service to its customers.
“Our manufacturers are carefully chosen, and have proven to be true partners. They make sure we can maintain our current standard of excellence in service,” she says. “If anything, we have added new programs to streamline our service and make it easier for our specialists to complete the work in compliance with state and local regulations.”
Although a pandemic wasn’t in the cards when pest control company owners set their budgets two years ago, planning ahead helps ensure you’re ready for just about anything.
Steckel recommends PMPs start planning in November and December for the busy season of the next year, instead of waiting until January or February. “Give yourself about four months of lead time on what your plan is,” he adds. “If you wait until February or March to start planning, you may run across product shortages.”
Broder remains optimistic for the year ahead. “We already are seeing an end-of-the-pandemic attitude from our customers,” he says. “I feel the investments we made during the pandemic will set us up for great growth, in both our urban and suburban markets.”