As I sit to write this I know there are literally thousands who have experienced what I’m about to say. Good people, great techs and aspiring owner operators who put everything on the line to make their dream of a successful pest control business a reality. Sadly, I also know that the majority of them have succumbed to the the pitfalls, traps and general dog eat dog environment of the business world and they are no more. I wish it were different but it’s not. I wish they all made it but statistics say most failed.
I’m also convinced that if you polled these good folks and asked what was their top three disappointments in their run for a flourishing business, they would no doubt include the betrayal of friends, neighbors and even loved ones in that list.
Now, & this is important! It’s not that the friends or loved ones meant ill will or purposely set out to destroy you. In fact, in most cases I’d say they were completely oblivious to what they’ve done. Unaware that they set you back, caused untold damage of self doubt, shook your fragile wall of confidence to its very foundation. Never the less, it was done, and, if you’re like me, even decades later you still wonder what the hell happened. How’d it go so wrong?
The following is the 2nd most disappointing Hall of Fame episode of my career. To see the first click here.
Soon after I moved to Florida, (1990) I was at the local recreational center signing up for a volley ball league. Competition has always been a passion for me and volleyball is something I’ve always been good at. Looking back some 30 years now it was a serendipitous moment because I met a great guy that I recruited for my team and lo and behold…. he’s my senior tech of my company to this day. We didn’t know what to name our team and he suggested ‘Blue Sky’ which was the name of an outdoor scrub league we both were on…. This however was the big leagues & looking at my team I knew we wouldn’t be winning anytime soon…..These were serious players. I came up with the name ‘Grace Under Pressure.’
Fast forward a bit and our team was doing pretty decent. Our rag tag squad gelled fairly well and we won a couple ‘season’ championships but never the the grand trophy. We were never ‘Tournament Champs.’ That was the crem dela crem. My business mirrored that outcome much the same. I was so small back then and new to my area. No one knew who I was and no one wanted to give me a chance. Trust was a hard thing to come by. Just like my volleyball team there was always something missing, a cog if you will that would solidify me to push us over the edge. It was frustrating because there it was, all out in front of me but I could never cash in.
Enter The Doctor
The league was a very hot commodity back then and the waiting list was long if a new team wanted to get in. New players? HA! you’d be sitting on the side lines for a long time before you’d ever bump a ball in a game. It was small town for sure but this league was HUGE in our neck of the woods and to get in you better know somebody or be an extra special player….
My wife was still working double shifts as a nurse to support our company/family/house/bills/everything else and she told me of a new Doctor in town who said he was looking for a a way to stay in shape. She of course told him about my team and he all but begged her for a chance to try out. I of course scoffed-most of the Doctors I’d seen (and she sold a lot of them my service– were over weight or not athletic at at all)– I was very reluctant. He did try out and to keep this short… this unassuming Puerto Rican man showed up at an open try out and just “wowed” us all. He could spike the ball left or right it didn’t matter and his sets were just spot on almost every time. He was the one piece we were missing and to say the least he was a great athlete both psychically and mentally. He & I would talk for hours about the team and the adjustments he suggested were always extremely beneficial. Talk about NICE–you talk about NICE?, this guy was and is just the salt of the earth. Just a GREAT guy. If this were a volleyball blog I’d go on and on. Suffice to say, we became fast and true friends and this man is genuinely a good friend to this day. I’ll end the volleyball side of the story by saying over the next few years we won season championships, tournament league champs twice and some hard fought county wide (charity tourneys) trophy’s. All coveted and all a big deal in our little sphere.
Besides that he invited me to his home for many many parties with BIG heavy hitter friends he’s made in his circle of friends and by this time he had hired me for his pest control service and consequentially, I was picking up huge residential accounts. It was a win win. (for me)
Ok–another fast forward cause I’m trying to keep your attention. My star player rose through the $$$ world very quickly–he also became a star referral source… and the friends he consistently exposed me to were big and bigger time as things moved on but all the while nothing changed him… he was always as down to earth as you could get. He got a mansion, I was there, new office, you know who he called. Although I couldn’t reciprocate (how do you refer a neurologists?) and although our volleyball league died out our friendship flourished. He’d always try to be there for our service days and if he couldn’t, there was always a call afterwards where he’d thank me for my service and then a lengthy discussion about what else? Volleyball.
Enter Camponotus floridanus
For those of you who don’t know – the Florida carpenter ant ain’t much of an opponent. At least now a days. However in the 90’s it was a bit of problem as were all ants because we didn’t have the tools or products available as we do now. Back then it was a bit more difficult. Moisture had always and still is key but baits and sprays were very ineffective. Access was key to control and my friend who now lived in a very eccentric type structure had a bad case of them and access was not readily available. His new home (a mansion) was built in sections and these carpenter ants had just plain taken over. It didn’t seem to matter what I sprayed or did I just couldn’t get rid of them. I tried everything including coming out at midnight with a flashlight to follow the trails (carpenter ants are mostly nocturnal)—nothing. Check the attic–I did,, climb trees? I scaled em all, cleaned gutters knocked on neighbors doors (that was interesting) and I couldn’t stop the daily hoards of 30-50 or 100 dead ants from showing up…this went on for months.
In my defense the homes landscape was heavily treed and set up almost like a pentagon. 35 foot hallways led to different sections of the home with the hub a grand entry complete with indoor trees and a small pond. It was complex but I had tackled bigger and worse before. This one though–I just couldn’t figure out.
Long Story Short AGAIN
In the end, my dear friend met me for a routine visit one day and walking up I immediately saw drill marks in the the front attached slabs. He and his wife decided my service wasn’t enough for them and they hired a new company to not only take care of the carpenter ants but also treat the home for termites. That job was also something I pitched and it was like seeing $4200 just slip though my fingers…..back then….well even today…..that hurt. I was devastated and hurt beyond what I can describe. All the effort, all the time and money I spent in trying to rid him of his problem…Poof…gone in an instant and there was nothing I could do.
He knew I knew it right a way. He tried valiantly to to tell me what a great service I had provided but in the end he just couldn’t bear his wife’s complaining anymore. He was of course….. right…..I couldn’t get rid of the ants and he had to do what he had to do.
He of course said this would not affect our great friendship but we both knew that was not the case. As I walked away carpenter ants dotted the sidewalk and getting in my truck I slowly pulled away…..
I have never been back to his home, never was invited to a party again and never found out if he ever got rid of the ants that plagued his family.
A year or so later I saw him at the funeral for his youngest child — such a sad story– he hugged me, told me he missed me and went on and on about how we should start the league again and had nothing but wonderful things to say about me, my service and the great lengths I went to in my service. We rekindled a lost relationship but just for a short time. He was devastated with the loss of a loved one and I was rudely awakened to the fact that life is short– it wasn’t all about me or my business.
This 2nd greatest disappointment was in myself and my lack of ability to make it right but I learned from my friend. LIFE or BUSINESS is not fair, not timely nor by any script you can come up with…. life and business is at best…. Grace under pressure.