Prepping for Prime Time

How to gear up before the busy season

As summer approaches, pest control companies across the nation are gearing up for the busiest season of the year. While some companies are plotting out their summer game plan, preparing for growth and training the troops, others are going about their business and hoping everything will fall into place when the busy season hits. If you fall into the second category, you may be cruising for a bruising.

“Taking the time now to prepare for the busy season will put you ahead of the game before phones start ringing off the hook,” says Melissa Krische, Manager of Operational Effectiveness with Batzner Services, a pest control company serving Wisconsin and Illinois. “If pest management companies hit the snooze button on advanced planning and preparation, they may miss a few things that could be critical to operational success.”

Here are a few things you can do to get your company’s operations in order before business booms this summer:

Spring into Action
For the majority of pest control companies, business is slower in the winter and spring months—which makes this the perfect time for planning. “Similar to how baseball teams attend spring training before Opening Day, we have found that the winter and spring months are better utilized preparing our operations to better serve our clients,” Krische emphasizes.

To prepare for the busy season, she says pest control companies should take a look at their progress and identify what could be enhanced. “Look at the prior year with a magnifying glass to identify what went well and what could be modified,” she says.

Before the busy season hits, consider doing the following:

• Pinpoint ways to attract new clients
• Improve administrative processes
• Re-examine your products, vehicles and equipment
• Set sales and production goals for employees
• Train employees on seasonal work procedures
• Identify ways to improve customer service
• Balance the route technician’s value and reshuffle for efficiency
• Review client pricing and scheduling with the office staff

Now Hiring
As pest control companies prep for the summer season, many are planning for major growth—which means they’ll probably need more manpower. “When it comes to growth, we try to look at it as a three-year trend,” Krische says. “We plan for a certain percentage of growth and we look back to see how closely we came to meeting that growth over the last three years. Of course, we always try to grow at a similar or higher rate each year. And we ask ourselves, ‘Can we even hit this goal this year? If so, how many more people do we need to hire to reach this goal?’”

Once you set realistic growth goals, how do you determine how many new employees you need? “Unfortunately, there’s no simple equation or magic potion,” Krische says. “You just have to look at what the numbers are telling you.”

For example, when you compare your company’s previous year’s sales numbers with your current service capacity (the total available number of stops per employee each month), you’ll start to notice some trends. “First, look at your numbers for the last few years to see where you have grown geographically,” Krische explains. “Break the areas down by city or zip code to see new customer trends.”

Also consider the number of new contracts your company has sold as well as the number of calls received in your office. “Our residential sales team sells contracts over the phone, so we have seen a direct correlation between the increase of sales and number of calls,” Krische adds.

At the beginning of each year, take time to closely examine each technician’s route value and number of stops. “This will help identify if certain route areas need additional staff members based on the value of the route and available time to complete scheduled work,” Krische explains. Then, you’ll need to adjust accordingly to a production average that will allow for potential growth during the busy season.

Overtime can also be an indicator that it’s time to make some adjustments. For example, if you notice a technician in a particular territory is working long hours, it may be time to post the “Now Hiring” sign.

Once you consider all of these trends in coordination with your projected growth, you’ll have a better idea of how many new hires you require. “We look at our sales projections to see if we are able to accommodate the anticipated number of new service appointments,” Krische explains. “If the number of current technicians cannot meet the anticipated growth, we will hire new employees to meet the anticipated sales projections.”

The Early Bird Catches the Worm
When it comes to prepping for the busy season, the key is to hire new technicians before you actually need them. “What we’ve found is when we’re trying to plan for growth, it’s easier to hire the additional employees before we even have the new customers,” Krische says. “There are only so many people out there who are excited about working in pest control. If you hire them now, you may not need them for another two months—but it’s a lot easier to hire them now and find work for them later. So you need to hire them on the front-end to plan for that growth.”

To top it off, new technicians will require at least three weeks to a month of training. If you wait to hire additional technicians during the busy season, you’ll be scrambling to serve new customers as your technicians complete their training. Which brings us to our next point…

Team Training
With summer just around the corner, now is the time for employees to brush up on their training. “For service technicians, ongoing training is important to be able to develop their critical thinking skills,” Krische explains. “Whether it is new hire training or seasonal training, on the job training as well as classroom will be essential for their success.”

It’s also critical to provide proper training for your service and sales representatives. “They represent your company in the field so it is in each company’s best interest to invest in training,” Krische says. “For our service team, we will train on understanding product labels, service protocols, documentation, safety and customer communication.”

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” If you want to set your business up for success this summer season, start prepping now.