Sooner or later, you're going to have to deal with me—no matter how new your facility, no matter how clean you keep it, no matter where you are located. You can use bug spray by the case. You can close your eyes and hope they just go away: but in the end, we'll meet. I am the destroyer of bugs.
Dealing with pests around the house is different than dealing with them at your place of business. The homeowner has the luxury of deciding his particular comfort level when it comes to multi legged invaders. Some people see a couple of ants in the kitchen and shrug them off as a fact of life. Others see an ant crossing the driveway 100 feet from the house and call the National Guard. Business owners don’t share the same luxury. An inch-long cockroach standing guard at your lobby entrance isn’t the best way to start a relationship with a potential tenant.
Of course, you have the option of dealing with our little friends personally; but there are a few things you should understand. Rule No. 1 (for those of you who missed last month’s column on rodent control): Potential liability, not personal knowledge, is the first consideration in deciding whether you are going to solve the problem on your own.
In many states, it is illegal to use pesticides labeled for residential use in a commercial setting. In counties and states with less stringent statutes on such matters, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have a stack of regulations that cost the lives of thousands of innocent trees to print.
I’m not telling you to toss the Raid and Black Flag into the dumpster, but if you don’t already have a pest-control company on your rolodex, it’s time to look at the big picture. A pest-control service means one less thing for you to handle. Once you find the right company for the job, the problems become the company’s, not yours.
Equally important, much of the liability resulting from pest-control measures becomes the company’s as well. Of course, there is the new entry in the accounts-payable column, but the benefits almost always outweigh the costs. The revenue you lost from those two renters who saw the rodent droppings in their units would have covered the cost of a regular pest-control service.
How to Find a Pest-Control Company
For most people searching for a service, the first impulse is to go to the good old Yellow Pages (or whatever they call those big books with all the phone numbers and information on what to do in case of your most prevalent disaster). Resist the urge. Your first inquiry should be to other businesspeople. This is a good time to put those networking skills into action.
Your best bet is to contact the local Chamber of Commerce or similar network of local business interests. If you choose the phone book, check out the Better Business Bureau issue. If you end up using other phone books or advertising sources, ignore any company that goes by AAAAAAA Pest or AAAAaron Exterminators. Actually, they may be totally competent pest-control providers, but we should all do our part to discourage this lame marketing strategy. (Please God, don’t let there be any AAAAAAA Self Storage Centers out there).
If nothing else, look for companies that use the same basic advertising tools you do. If you share similar marketing strategies, chances are you share similar business philosophies, creating a greater likelihood of a mutually beneficial working relationship.
What to Look for in a Pest-Control Company
Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A smaller company is more likely able to tailor a program to your specific needs. Larger companies tend to have a “one size fits all” philosophy, particularly when it comes to commercial accounts. Do, however, keep in mind that some of the big pest-control brand names have independently owned and operated franchises that are worth a look.
Older isn’t necessarily wiser. Newer companies tend to emphasize customer service as a major selling point. Wordof- mouth is everything to newer businesses, and they want your mouth to say nice things about them. When dealing with a company with a shorter track record, checking references is a must. When considering any pest-control company, check insurance and licensing documentation diligently.
Is the person selling you the work the same person who will be performing it? That’s a big plus. Too many pest services use salespeople who have never spent a day in the field doing actual pest control. If you are inquiring about a regular service and have to go through a sales rep, insist on meeting the person who will actually perform the work before making any deals.
Price isn’t everything. In the pest-control business, the adage, “You get what you pay for” rings true. If a company’s main selling point is its low rates, it is probably just that—a low-rate company.
Any service agreement you are offered should be in plain English, short and to the point, and should contain no tiny letters or Latin words. Lack of a written service agreement is no deal-breaker. Personally, when I offer a potential customer an agreement, it is in the form of a handshake.
Does the company emphasize Integrated Pest Management (IPM)? IPM is the use of a broad variety of techniques and strategies to control pests, as opposed to plain old chemical warfare. IPM might consist of such measures as trapping, baiting, exclusion, landscape modification and the use of moderated amounts of pesticides. IPM is the weapon of choice for today’s pest-control professional.
Last but not least, trust your instincts. Gut feelings are almost always a parameter in a good business decision.
Ken Berquist is a field representative at R&D Pest Services in San Diego. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.