Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pest Control Days

It's been a while since I carried the old B&G, but looking back it's been a long and interesting career with some fantastic mentors who I met along the way.

It all started one random day at a time in my life when I was just looking for a job to get me by when I found a job posting for Steve's Bug Off. I remember thinking to myself how hard could it be to carry a metal can around and spray the baseboards of a house? So off I went to for an interview, I walked into a world that I would find I loved, and got the job.

I quickly found that pest control was not at all what I thought, there was a lot to learn, and Steve's was the place to be if you were looking to learn about bugs. Steve's Bug Off was the home of the famous Insectarium, a museum that housed all kinds of exotic bugs. School children would come from miles around to tour the museum, and I found it just as interested as the kids did!

Steve's also held weekly training classes for other pest control technicians to come to and get their licensing credits and we were required to attend these classes. Entomologists, manufacturer reps, distributor reps, all would come in to teach us about the most current products and techniques to control insects.

Aside from this I was partnered with one of my first mentors, John. He taught me a ton about the nuts and bolts of pest control, but he also taught me about the little things. I remember two things as I write this entry. One was to always grab a big handful of napkins when you are at your lunch spot and keep them in your van. The other was to go to lunch during an off time, like 12:15. The idea behind this was that folks usually go to lunch on the hour or half hour, so when you go at an off time there will be less of a wait and you get in and out. John was always on the Jazz. I am very grateful to him for his mentoring.

So needless to say I stayed in the industry, read everything I could about common pests, insecticides, safety, etc, and found my way to a company called Van Waters and Rogers.

Van Waters was a pesticide products distributor. It was the biggest distributor in the world and because of that we had access to great information and cutting edge products that we would sell. I started in the warehouse and was quickly promoted to an inside sales rep. The kicker was that this position was in North Jersey which took me about 2 hours to drive to and from. I figured it was a good opportunity and I was really young, so it didn't seem like the wrong decision at the time to accept the promotion. Needless to say that after about a year the commute wore on my vehicle and my social life, so I said goodbye to one of the greatest experiences of my life. I learned about the other side of the pest control industry. I learned how to talk to people, how to multitask, how to sell. I drove a fork lift and learned how to ship and receive, but it was the contacts I made who were invaluable. I got to meet a wide array of pest control technicians and owners of exterminating companies and became good friends with lots of them, many of whom I still keep in touch with today.

So I bounced from South Jersey and went to work for my old manager from Steve's Bug Off who started his own business called Environmental Pest Services or EPS for short. Ted was another great mentor and someone who I got along with very well. I had so much respect for the fact that he went off and started his own business that became a success. He was good to me and taught me a lot. It was here where I learned that I was trusted and counted on to do a job and to represent EPS professionally. Ted gave me a lot of freedom and he knew that no news was good news. I had a commercial route that consisted of some of the biggest hospitals in Philadelphia, restaurants, nursing homes, and everything in between. He knew that if the job had to get done at 5AM then I was awake at 4AM and was there taking care of the account on time. I learned a lot about commercial accounts, how to interact with different levels of management and the language they spoke. I learned the importance of documentation and being neat in my work. Commercial work was much more different than residential, and that is what I learned at one of the best jobs I had.

So then love and marriage came along. I decided to take a gamble and use some of our Wedding money to start my own business. I said thank you to Ted and went out on my own. It was here I found that some of the connections I made back at Van Waters would pay off. Some very generous and good guys took me under their wing so to speak and subbed out some work to me. Ted, Bill and Zap, and Nick all helped out with farming work my way. Termite work, residential and commercial. I did it all. Between this and my own work I hit the ground running and was doing pretty well. On my off time I would hustle to find more work and while doing an Internet search I found a company that needed a vendor to provide just termite inspections or WDIR reports as they are called. So we signed the paperwork and they said that they would fax the work orders over. Holy smokes did they! It turned out to be a very lucrative account. Things were good, but like all small business there were ups and downs. My wife had not found a permanent teaching job yet and was working in a daycare center. We had crappy insurance, and we were pregnant with our second child. Decisions needed to be made.

With a lot of soul searching I decided to look for a permanent job and found one at the company I currently work at called NHS or Northwestern Human Services. NHS is a human services organization with close to 600 locations in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. They were looking to bring their pest control program in-house and get away from vendors. I thought that sounded interesting and applied, not knowing much about what they were looking for at the time. All they had posted was pest control tech wanted. It turned out to be one of the best jobs ever. They explained that they were looking to hire a pest control technician to report into the facilities department. What they didn't know was how to do this, they just knew they wanted to start the program. I thought this was the perfect opportunity. It was a stable job, stable pay, great benefits, all just in time for our second child being born. I set them up with all the legal mumbo jumbo they needed with insurances and getting set up with the State with BU numbers and the like and off we went. I also decided to keep my own business open for a short time and kept a few higher paying accounts that I was able to juggle on the weekend, although this didn't last very long.

Since then I continued on through the ranks of NHS, my old boss retired who ran Support Services and I was hired to replace her. I managed the pest control department which grew to 3 other guys along with the other duties of the job which entailed managing landscaping, snow removal, internal and external moves, furniture storage, courier services and housekeeping. I had a full plate. Recently I moved departments and am now managing the safety of the company. I still maintain my pest control license because you just never know and pest control will always be an industry to fall back to.

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