Pest control primer for 2018

It’s a complement to lawn care, but before adding pest control, put a licensing, training and sales strategy in place.

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You’re in the field caring for a client’s property when the homeowner calls you aside and asks you about spiders and crickets. They’re heading indoors, and is there anything you can do about that? You could suggest a local pest control company – but what if you could provide the service in-house, handle the client’s problem and create a better overall home environment for the customer?

Being that one-stop shop is a reason why Elkhorn Lawn Care in Omaha, Nebraska, decided to add a pest control division about three years ago. Kray Lukehart, fertilizer technician, says lawn care and pest control go hand-in-hand, and selling pest services was a natural segue for the firm.

“We don’t want our customers to go anywhere else,” he says.

Of course, there’s more involved to the pest control business than simply marketing and selling it. You need specific licensing, training and safety knowledge. It’s not just an add-on, it’s a business in and of itself. That’s why Elkhorn waited until fairly recently to get into it. And, then, the business grew slowly until there were personnel to support doing more of the service, Lukehart says.

In Florida, three years of training at a pest control business – much like an apprenticeship – is required before licensing is ever a possibility, says Robert Burgess, president, Ameripest Lawn and Pest Services, Palm Bay, Florida. “Then, you take a state test to be a certified operator,” he explains. “Anyone who puts down fertilizer has to take a state test, as well, because we have issues with water and leaching – the state is very concerned about it.”

So, is getting into the pest control business a wise move for your company? Do you hire in the expertise, sub out the service or partner with a local firm and send referrals their direction? That all depends on your capacity, investment, time, and desire to market and sell the service.

Setting parameters.

Burgess’ key focus throughout his career has been pest control. His business offers lawn care as well, but that came after he honed his expertise in the structural pest control industry. Elkhorn Lawn Care, on the other hand, is first and foremost a lawn service, and a client demand for pest control led to creating an in-house division so the business could handle its customers’ needs.

Elkhorn technicians do not go into homes. The service is focused on integrated pest management (IPM) and perimeter spraying. “For customers with spider and cricket concerns, we spray the perimeter of their homes four times per year,” Lukehart says. “When Japanese Beetle season comes in June and July, we offer a tree-spraying service using a power gun that reaches out about 35 feet, so it can spray the trees and get a residual effect,” he adds.

Wait until you can truly manage a service and deliver results before rolling it out.

“We do the pest control for some lawn care companies, so they do not have to be concerned about it – they can focus on their expertise, and bring us in to handle the pest control,” Burgess says.

“We got into pest control in the first place because our customers were demanding it – why go somewhere else?” Kray Lukehart, fertilizer technician, Elkhorn Lawn Care
Cross-selling the service.

Safety and training are key concerns for companies that provide pest control services, Lukehart says. Aside from wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), there are safety codes and regulations (varying by state) that technicians must comply with – or put the company and clients at risk. “Safety is huge – you have to know the safety protocols,” he says.

That ranges from proper mixing and application to protecting the environment.

At Elkhorn, Lukehart says in-field training is critical for identifying pests on properties and explaining how to treat them. At the same time, this rolls into education for clients, helping them understand potential pest problems on their properties, he says. “When me and my colleague are out doing fertilizer applications, we take notes where there are diseases or if there is a Japanese beetle problem, and at the end of the day, we call our customers and sell other services,” he says of promoting the pest control side of the business – in a helpful way.

It’s never a hard sell, he says.

“We talk to them about what we offer, and we can provide free estimates,” Lukehart says. The company uses an online tool that allows them to pull up the property, measure its square footage, and provide an estimate based on those numbers. This way, they can let clients know what the service might cost as they are discussing the issue.

Customers appreciate the one-stop shop aspect of working with a company that can handle their fertilization and pest control. It’s one less call – one less provider to deal with, and they already have a relationship, so they can trust that Elkhorn is looking out for their property’s best interests, Lukehart says.

“We got into pest control in the first place because our customers were demanding it – why go somewhere else?” Lukehart says. Now with him, a certified operator and a trained and licensed colleague prepared to service accounts, the company has more capacity to expand the service, he says.

Pest control and lawn care feed each other. Burgess says, “We are always cross-selling.”

April 2018
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