William “Bill” Welsh, VP of Sales and region manager for Rose Pest Solutions and Gui Bergeron, CEO of Frontline Pest Control discussed how they’ve adapted their businesses this year to adjust for the challenges and opportunities brought by Covid-19.
A 33-year industry veteran, Bill has continuously served in various advocacy roles, including the State Public Affairs Representative (SPAR) of the National Pest Management Association and in multiple stints as Michigan’s Pest Management Association president.
Gui has been instrumental in leading Frontline Pest Control in effectively serving its 24,000 residential customers throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee. As a result, Frontline is now the 67th largest pest control company in the nation.
Now, let’s dive into what Bill and Gui had to say about how the pandemic has influenced their pest control professional business strategy for 2020.
Pest Control is Essential
According to both professionals, one of the most rewarding things to come out of COVID-19 was the acknowledgement that the industry is essential. When states began to shut down in the spring in order to stop the spread of the virus, pest control businesses were allowed to remain open because they were deemed necessary for everyday life.
Gui went so far as to call it a “Big discovery” that those outside of the industry agreed with what insiders have always known — pest control is essential. This recognition made technicians and customer service reps at both companies proud to continue serving customers through the tough times.
There’s nothing like a real-time disaster to truly test a business continuity plan and prove why it’s critical for every pest control company to have one. In the case of COVID-19, the crisis helped Rose Pest Solutions determine if it had the right controls in place to be able to continue to service clients during the pandemic.
According to Bill, the company quickly learned that while they could remain open as an essential business, state testing centers were closed. As a result, new employees hired by the company to handle the uptick in business couldn’t complete the certification process needed to get them on the road. Expiring certifications also fell into limbo.
In developing its business continuity plan, company management had never imagined a scenario in which testing centers wouldn’t be available. “There are things that will pop up that you never thought of,” Bill said, “But now we’re better prepared going forward.”
Nurture Important Relationships
Gui said that Frontline Pest Control ran into the same problem with testing. Compounding the issue for both companies was the fact that they serve clients in multiple states — each with their own certification rules, varying pandemic responses, and lack of initial guidance on what to do when testing centers were closed.
Both leaders stressed the need to initiate and nurture good relationships with the following entities, which helped them work through the red tape:
- Regulatory agencies that oversee the industry
- State legislative and executive branches of government that can make change
- Federal, state, and local advocacy groups that lend louder voices in support of industry needs
Knowing who to contact and having a relationship with them is important during ordinary times, but it’s extra important in an emergency situation.
Even so, Bill said it still took almost two months of making daily phone calls to his various contacts just to get an executive order that extended expiring certifications. Without his cultivated network, it likely would have taken much longer.
COVID-19 revealed just how obsolete the paper-based testing and certification process is. Gui hopes state Departments of Agriculture and local governments understand the lost productivity created by the testing log jam and finally see the need to move the process online.
Gui envisions a future where both certification and recertification are “Nimbler, so that pest control companies can operate more efficiently,” whether there’s a crisis or not.
Remote Workforce Challenges
As essential workers, pest control employees have been stressed by the pandemic. Gui and Bill shared some of the creative ways their companies eased staff anxiety and kept them focused on customer service and safety.
Frontline Pest Control began thinking outside the box when it came to employee training and communication. It streamlined online educational material and adopted Slack, a business collaboration tool, to facilitate communication among team members whose in-person contact was limited.
As for Rose Pest Solutions, Bill recommended “Making sure leaders are out front.” To accomplish this, the company created several five to 10-minute CEO videos where leaders talked directly to employees, provided updates, discussed safety protocols, and solicited staff comments. Seeing the face of the company in these videos “Has had a positive impact on our people,” Bill noted.
Prior to COVID-19, both companies were already taking advantage of technology to increase productivity and accountability. This proved critical during the pandemic, especially as office staff began working remotely and customer demand increased. Here’s a peek at some of the tools that made a real difference:
- GPS: To route techs to service areas near their homes, reducing “windshield” time
- Inventory tools: To allow techs to proactively order supplies, reducing daily pickups to once weekly and letting office managers easily monitor inventory
- E-tickets: To assign service calls, confirm their completion, and issue invoices
Bill stated that Rose Pest Solutions “Found tremendous value in having a partner like Slingshot at a time when sales were increasing.” The service they received meant no customer calls were missed or left waiting on hold.
More on Pest Control Business Strategies for 2020
Rose Pest Solutions and Frontline Pest Control are proving that industry members can meet the challenges and opportunities presented by COVID-19 and thrive. Want to take a page out of their playbook for your business? Register and watch the full version of How Leading PMPs Are Redefining Strategies This Year.
Our special thanks go to PMP magazine for hosting the webinar and to Bill and Gui for sharing their experiences.