Minimizing the effects of inflation

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June 15, 2022

Jerry Schappert

Jerry Schappert

Inflation is a noun, which seems odd to me because the definition is: the action of inflating something or the condition of being inflated; the inflation of a balloon or the gross inflation of salaries. Sounds like a verb, an action term, but I digress.

In economics, inflation occurs when there are too many dollars in circulation all chasing the same amount of goods. Prices rise, but the value of the dollar falls. As I stated in several “Problem Solvers” columns this year, my company is busting at the seams business-wise, as are many of my colleagues. Money doesn’t seem to be a problem. The issue is, that same money isn’t buying nearly what it did just a short few years ago.

It is said that inflation is an invisible tax. It certainly is out of our control to do much about. However, we all see the rising prices at the pump, and the increasing costs of the products and equipment we buy. In other words, that invisibility has been removed. The question becomes: What can we do in our businesses to help our dollar regain a little strength?

ROUTING

At my company, we started with the obvious: tightening our routes. While this can be done manually, we decided to upgrade our software, which automatically puts stops in proper order and blocks out excessive travel times. Less windshield time means more time adding revenue. There are several other features in our software that have cut administrative duties down in my office quite significantly. We had been looking at hiring another office person, but that need has been taken care of — giving us more time to focus on other parts of the business.

PURCHASING

We used to use the knee-jerk method for purchasing: We ran out of something; I placed a phone call. Regardless of price, I bought it because I had to replenish stock. In reality, if I had just looked around and planned ahead, I might have seen that product was on sale last week or was eligible for rebates if I ordered a certain amount. Today, I have systems in place where I can see the daily use of our products. I separated the bulk of my inventory so my techs can only grab what’s there. Then, I replenish that shelf as needed and can easily see way ahead of time what will be needed and when. Yes, I know our new software can do this, too, but baby steps: It’s a lot to learn.

PRICING

Of course, the elephant in the room is to raise prices, which can be dicey. On one hand, customers almost expect it because everything else is going up, too. Still, if your service isn’t quite up to par, then perhaps that gets them to question whether the added expense is worth it. My advice is to not approach this so quickly, or at least until you’re certain the value of what you bring matches or exceeds any increase. Don’t ignore pesky little things like a technician who is constantly late or an increase in re-service calls. While everybody could put up with these little things before, they suddenly become more important once you announce an increase in price.

Invisible or not, inflation is real and it’s affecting us all. While we have very little power over it, we can take steps to minimize its effect on our businesses. You know, by taking action — and that definitely is a verb you can live with.


The Pest Cemetery Crew

“It’s not affecting us because we forecasted inflation last year. We raised prices last year, so we are well ahead of the game.”
— Brad Ulanowski, Owner, Termite King Pest Control, Haslet, Texas

“We work closely with our distributors and made major advance purchases. What we purchased in December is already a $10,000 ‘savings.’ For example, we have nine pallets of exterior bait stations.”
— Brett Lieberman, Owner, My Pest Pros, Fairfax, Va.

“Inflation is forcing me to pay more attention to what I should have been doing all along: raising prices, giving raises and looking for ways to be more efficient.”
— Doug Foster, Owner, Bert’s Termite & Pest Control, Columbus, Ind.

“Inflation is just another uncontrollable line item that has to be managed.”
— Stephen Kohler, President, Control Pest Management, Sanford, Fla.

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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