4 ways to combat the higher costs of doing business


January 11, 2023

Jerry Schappert

Jerry Schappert, ACE

It seems that each season brings with it a different set of challenges for pest management professionals (PMPs). Unusually wet summers, harsh and dry winters, too much work, too little work, and on and on. For the most part, we’ve dealt with these cyclical issues at least a time or two in our operations and learned how to handle them better next time.

However, one of the more serious predicaments happening right now is something we haven’t seen in more than four decades: record inflation and the skyrocketing costs that go with it. I was just a boy the last time this nation endured such an economy, so I remember very little of it. Dare I say, most PMPs reading this column are in the same boat — and perhaps a bit frustrated with seeing their profit margins shrink as they pay more money just to stay afloat.

As I see it, PMPs must do four things to weather this storm:

1. If you haven’t already, raise your prices. I know it’s not what you want to hear because you’re almost certain that’s not what your clients want to hear. But think of it this way: You are providing them with a service they value. If the high costs drive you out, who’s going to take care of them the way you do? Also, as crass as it sounds, they truly are expecting it at this time because prices for everything else have gone up, too. It probably is the most acceptable time to raise prices.

2. Batten down the hatches. Are you an impulse buyer like me? Do you tend to buy equipment you don’t need? Do you have stock that sits on your shelves and is hardly ever used? Get judicious with your purchases. Think them through and buy only the products and equipment you know will bring you a return. The same goes with personnel. If you’re heavy on payroll and things aren’t making financial sense, it may be better to hold off on a new hire for a while and/or to “trim some fat.” These are tough words, for sure, but these are tough times.

3. Waste not, want not. Wasted product and damaged equipment are the silent killers of any business. While a $7 tube of bait rolling around the truck bed before was somewhat tolerable, just think of it now as seven $1 bills getting soaked, rolled around, contaminated and then, months later, finally being discarded without ever having been used. Talk to your team, shore up those tool trainers, and double up those truck inspections if you must. That’s your hard-earned money being wasted, and now you’ll have to replace items at whatever their new, inflated prices happen to be.

4. Don’t panic. Despite all the doom and gloom, opportunities are out there. Sure, you’ve got to hold that rope just a bit tighter, but there’s no better time to get ahead. Stay the course with a well-thought-out strategy and a strong team, and let your competitors do the flailing about. Have a plan, work your plan, and you’ll get through this.

The Pest Cemetery Crew

“Because of inflation, a lot of folks are doing their own pest control in our area. They only call the pros when they can’t handle their situations. We have been fightinh hard to get more sales in our flooded market.”
— Paul Napier, Manager, All Gone Termite and Pest Control, Cincinnati, Ohio

“We trimmed our fleet and got rid of the older trucks that saw the shop more than the road. We now order most of our chemicals during seasonal sales to reap the savings. Going almost completely paperless helps, too. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
— Joey Lea, VP, Donnie’s Total Pride Pest Control, Port St. Joe, Fla.

“We’ve been grinding it out and providing top-tier service to grow our business.”
— Scott Ballard, Owner, Ballard Pest Management, Opelika, Ala.

“We’re growing the business by providing premium service for a premium price. We’re also buying materials when they are on sale.”
— Bill Richter, Owner, 1 STOP Pest Control, Cincinnati, Ohio

About the Author

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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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