With everything that’s happened in the past few months, it’s easy to lose track of the good news. Pest control is essential and the entrepreneurial spirit of owners across the country is keeping many businesses on track. Businesses are even starting up. In March, as coronavirus was beginning to change lives in the U.S., Kevin Pass, longtime owner of Action Pest Control out of Evansville, Indiana, made his return to the pest management industry with the opening of Pass Pest Control. Kevin’s previous QualityPro accredited company grew to $12.6M, so we reached out to Kevin for his insights into starting and growing a business from the ground up.
Pass has set aggressive goals for his company. Pass Pest is focused on the residential service market in Evansville, Henderson and Owensboro, Indiana, and has set a goal of becoming a $6M operation in five years. When pushed on his $6M ambition, Pass paraphrased Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched the first time.”
A lesson here is to set ambitious goals and back them up with manageable short-term expectations and a willingness to adjust when the situation changes. Pass Pest’s initial specialization is in residential services because of the comparative speed and ease of onboarding residential contracts early in a business’ lifecycle. This is not an approach Pass recommends to everyone, rather he advises, “I would start with a very good business plan, and then you have to decide what you want to be.”
Salient advice is to be fully aware of the circumstances around a new business, the resources available, and the personnel needed to accomplish goals. Specific types of service require specific technicians and sales staff, and specific training to make sure their skills are sharp and updated to match the market. Acquiring contracts means marketing services and finding the right placements and the right audiences. Putting in good, early work to have all the pieces in place is important for building a foundation for continuous, sustained growth later in the business’ lifecycle, and for absorbing risk as market conditions change. There are a lot of pieces that need to fit together for a new business to thrive. Fortunately there are resources available to give businesses a leg-up.
Pass’ final suggestion for a resource more companies should use early in their lifecycle is mentorship. Learning from the mistakes and successes of others who have built growing companies is invaluable. QualityPro, the pest management industry’s accreditation program, is based on the idea that the industry as a whole benefits when we make it as easy as possible for businesses to be professional and follow proven templates for success. Pass recommends, “Drive two hours out of your market and find somebody who has a nice business, and ask if they’ll let you ride along with their technicians or their sales people, spend a day in their office,” says Pass. See how other businesses are handling their market and resources, and take away ideas for how to handle yours.
Starting a business is the first step, but the majority of time will be spent growing and sustaining that growth for the duration. Having a solid business plan, continually marketing and targeting, and finding the right personnel are still equally important moving forward—but in later stages, the focus will be less on creating these things and more on checking in to make sure the plan is being followed and is scaling well.
The greatest tools Pass sees as far as helping Pass Pest to grow are aggressive marketing and acquisitions, but he cautions against growth through acquisition before a company is ready. Nailing down the processes and internal stability of an existing business is crucial before taking on an entire new company’s existing baggage. “If you don’t do the due diligence,” says Pass, “you’re going to get burned.” Taking on a new business without the infrastructure already in place to handle it is a recipe for lost customers.
One of the best ways Pass knows to shore up a business’ infrastructure is through pursuing accreditation with QualityPro. It’s something he’s planning to pursue once Pass Pest gets its feet under it and hires on administrative staff to commit time to the process. In the meantime, Pass has intentionally designed his business plan to be in compliance with the QualityPro standards and best practices so that when he pursues accreditation he will satisfy the standards almost immediately. For owners who have not owned businesses before, we recommend applying for accreditation immediately to gain access to the template forms and policies that can help your business get off on the right foot.
Either way, Pass feels that “QualityPro is extremely valuable to individual companies but also to our industry. It helps improve and protect our image.” One of the most damaging things to a company’s growth is what Pass calls “Baseboard Jockeys”—the symbol of unprofessionalism and arbitrary spraying. A company interested in growing and acquiring new customers will quickly find that impressing customers through standardization of customer experience, professionalism and responsiveness is a great way to keep customers returning. One of the great values he sees in QualityPro is the capacity for the program to raise the image of the industry as a whole and individual companies in specific. The resources made available to businesses streamline and professionalize internal operations—Pass mentioned he’d gone in search of a standard employment application only to find out later that QualityPro offers one to applied companies. QualityPro constitutes a powerful resource with continuous applications toward improving and growing a business over time.
Even in these uncertain times, Pass and his customers are excited for the future. With a solid foundation built from industry standards and a strong business plan, the majority of the pieces are in place. We look forward to supporting Pass and all the other companies starting up this season. If you are looking for standards, resources or a mentor, QualityPro is here to help.
QualityPro is administered by the Foundation for Professional Pest Management, an independent organization that has been developing good business practices and standards since 2004. Designed specifically for pest management companies in the U.S. and Canada, we are proud to certify over 500 of the best companies in the pest management industry. QualityPro is endorsed by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). For more information, contact us at QualityPro@pestworld.org.
BY GRIFFIN VOLTMANN, CERTIFICATION MANAGER, QUALITYPRO