Jeff Stafford’s introduction to pest control came courtesy of his stepdad, Jim Gentry, at the ripe old age of 8.
“Jim was the fumigation manager for Dewey Pest Control, and he would take me to work with him and have me help him remove all of the tape on rooftop vents to release the gas and aerate for a commodity fume done for stored food pests,” recalls Stafford, president of Vista, Calif.-based Innovative Pest Solutions. “The day after my 18th birthday, I walked into Dewey Pest Control’s office in Burbank and filled out an application for my first job.”
Before starting his first company, New Solutions Environmental Services, in 1994 at age 27, Stafford worked for a few others, including for his mentor Bob Keith, who still offers guidance today.
Still, Stafford admits, becoming his own boss was like taking a crash course in business. “After doubling in size each year from 1997 to 1999, it became too difficult to manage cash flow, so I sold the company as a last resort.”
He had developed a solid bird control division, and negotiated with the buyers to retain it. “I built Bird Solutions into a nationally recognized company,” Stafford points out. “But I missed the relationship aspect of the general pest control industry, as well as the recurring revenue.”
BUILDING ON BED BUGS
When Stafford started Innovative Pest Solutions, growth was slow for the first few years. But in 2011, he decided to develop a focus on quality bed bug service.
“I knew the key to finding a niche market was to define yourself by becoming great at it,” he explains. “Based on my previous experience with heat and being one of the first licensed companies to use the technology to control termites, I knew we already were ahead of the rest of the industry — but with one missing piece of the puzzle: We needed a great bed bug K9 program. Thanks to Pepe Peruyero and his company, J and K Canine, we put together a solid K9 program and this is where our current growth trend started.”
When the pandemic hit a few years later, Innovative Pest Solutions’ general pest and bed bug services slowed significantly — but the bird division kept the company afloat. It also helped, Stafford says, that they began to perform disinfection services. “It organically created a janitorial division that has been profitable since the first month,” he notes.
Stafford says two new initiatives have him excited about even more growth in 2023 and beyond.
First, Innovative Pest Solutions’ canine expert, Robert Gregorio, is expanding the program beyond bed bug inspections.
“Based on what is happening in California with the exploding rodent populations and new restrictions on baits, we brought on two rat canine dogs,” Stafford says. “They are unbelievably accurate at patterning and finding points of entry into structures, as well as locating burrows we never would have found in thick shrubbery. We also plan to acquire our first termite dog this fall.”
Second, Stafford and Miguel Garcia, an industry veteran who became an Innovative Pest Solutions partner in 2017, are teaming up with Dave Conner, formerly of Conner Pest Management, to open a new company in the Dallas, Texas, market. Their wives — Kathie Stafford, Annette Garcia and Judy Conner, respectively — also are partners in this venture.
“All three families feel very strongly that together, we can make a substantial impact in the Texas pest management market,” Stafford says. “The name Innovative Pest Solutions has meaning: We are always looking for new and innovative methods to improve our services. Our goals continue to be always on the cutting-edge and a service leader.”
INNOVATIVE PEST SOLUTIONS
Headquarters: Vista, Calif.
2021 revenue: $7.5 million
Projected 2022 revenue: $9.3 million
Projected increase: 24 percent
Jeff Stafford’s business tips:
- Never stop being a student of the industry.
- Set your ego aside and hire people who are smarter than you.
- Find a niche and become great at it.