I used to believe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. When I attended recertification classes, I rarely took notes. I never went to big industry events because I felt they were a waste of time. If a vendor tried to teach me something about pest control, I would politely brush them aside because I felt there was nothing I could learn from them. But on Feb. 1, 2017, Dr. Austin Frishman, BCE-Emeritus, changed my mind forever.
That was the day I gave my first-ever presentation at the equally first-ever Pest Management Professional (PMP) Growth Summit. My excitement quickly turned into panic, however, when I saw Doc in the front row, pen in hand, getting ready to take notes on my speech.
I bombed harder than the Hindenburg at a fireworks show. (Editor’s Note: No, he did not.) Afterward, sweating, nauseated and embarrassed, I slumped into the first chair I could find.
Doc strolled up to me and congratulated me on my talk. I shook my head and told him we both knew I stunk it up. He assured me it wasn’t that bad and in fact, he had some questions.
I took a closer look at Doc’s notepad and saw he had five pages of notes. He confided in me that the reason why he “knows so much” is because he listens and takes extensive notes on everything.
At that moment, I realized that if this PMP Hall of Famer could learn something from me, then I needed to be a better listener myself and never stop learning.
Education is a two-way street
I mentored five companies in PMP’s inaugural “Start-Up Stories” column in 2023. While I was coaching and writing about these five entrepreneurs, I took scrupulous notes and probably learned as much from them as they got out of me. As we turn the page and begin 2024, I want to introduce to you the four new companies I will be working with and writing about in PMP this year.
I am excited to see these fabulous companies grow and prosper. I promise, as I hold my Zoom meetings with them, I will have many notepads ready and will be eager to learn.
Marcus Richardson, Finally Pest Control, Fishers, Ind.
This 32-year-old father of two is married to Janicia. He started his business in 2015 after a successful career as a chemist and a three-year stint at Ecolab. While recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Richardson prayed for a career path and says God chose pest control.
Richardson currently has three technicians, covering most of the Hoosier state. His three-year goal is to hit $1 million in sales and have five full-time techs. His role models are his parents.
Zach Bernstein and Kiki Uher, Bugsy’s Pest Solutions, DeLand, Fla.
Bernstein, 30, and Uher, 32, met at a motorcycle party in 2020. On Nov. 10, 2022, they started their pest control company. Currently, this engaged couple have their first child on the way.
Bernstein, a Marine, says he chose pest control because despite not having a college degree, the industry offers him the opportunity to be successful as both an entomologist and a business owner. His role models include Uher and his father; Jared LaJaunie of LaJaunie’s Pest Control; and Maria Sorrentino of Pest Pros of Michigan.
Gabe Seymour, Pest Patrol, Portland, Ore.
After a successful career in the oil-change industry, Seymour, 30, switched gears and got into pest control. The married father of five started Pest Patrol in October 2020. In 2023, he hit the $500,000 revenue mark. Seymour says he likes the industry because it gives him a chance to help people.
His role models are his police officer father and his music teacher.
Joseph Nguyen, Habitat Pest Solutions, Ramsey, Minn.
This 32-year-old father of three started Habitat in November 2022, after gaining experience at three established companies. Nguyen’s family is from Vietnam, while his wife, Yie, is from China. He started in pest control during summers while he attended college for audio production and engineering. His role model is his father.
There you have it, folks — the four new companies I will be coaching and learning from throughout 2024. I hope you are as excited as I am to follow them on their journeys. And Doc Frishman, if you are reading this, thank you for your incredible leadership in our industry.