There’s something about a person who’s “career” is in pest control. Specifically a tech. I’m often asked how I became a bug guy or hear stories of others and not one has ever been ‘born’ into it or knew from an early age that this is what he or she had such a passion for. Sure there are the family companies but I have two boys (men now) both who worked for me. Dad the bug man is all they knew growing up but now… One is an accomplished pilot & the other will one day no doubt be singing before large crowds. I see virtually the same thing with so many of my peers. So how do you explain all the great technicians we have in our industry? The real pros, dedicated people who seem like they could handle any situation and want to do absolutely nothing else with their lives? The answer is very simple, &, it may astound you.
Ask a kid, any kid “what do they want to be when they grow up?” & I’ll almost guarantee you not one will say a pest control professional. Or in kid language, a bug man. Oh sure, children are fascinated by bugs and will watch them for hours on the sidewalk or stare in amazement at the ladybug that lands on their shirt. And as happens so often when I’m performing service the little crumb crunchers will grab the closest available toy and pretend it’s ‘their’ spray wand as they follow the “bugman” through the house. But do many of these tikes grow up to be the spray guy they thought was so cool?
No, the classic answer to this time tested question is they want to be a policeman, fireman or a Doctor. And who can blame them? These are noble professions held in high esteem even by our youngest of citizens. But a bug man?, ehh, not so much.
Fast forward a few years and there is another category of people who glom onto the pest control industry but rarely is it for very long. Young adults just out of high school and entering the work force quite often fill out an application for employment at their local pest control firm. Is it the glamor of the job they seek, the excitement & glory of the kill or the prestige of the position? Hardly, and from what I gather from most who stop by my shop; they thought the job would be much higher paying and they’d get a free truck to take home every night. Some still take the gig but it’s very few who stick with it very long. They often bail once they get a taste of how hard it can be or maybe end up on the other side of a tongue lashing that disgruntled customers so often give in our profession. (something about bugs can really bring out the ugly in people)
Then there are the folks who are just a bit more advanced in age. Maybe had a pretty good job for a few years and for whatever reason they’re back out in the job market. These people are somewhat proven, have stable lives and truly seem to be looking for career and not a mere paycheck to fill the gap until something better comes along. They think they’ll like the job because so often the quote I hear is, “bugs always fascinated me.” Then I think, maybe this was one of those little kids that use to follow me around. When these people take the position it truly seems like a 50/50 shot that they’ll last. The pest control world may not be what they thought it was and really, the starting pay isn’t very good almost anywhere in the industry. It seems like a majority of them jump ship pretty quickly and they seem torn, perhaps still looking for that perfect fit and most likely still second guessing whether or not they should have left their previous job.
Then there are the seniors among us. Believe it or not many retired individuals (mostly men) give a pest control route a shot. I’m always ready to listen to an older person who expresses interest in tech work. They have a built in trustworthiness and most possess a thing called common sense. It’s something I’ve only heard of-not sure exactly what it is 😉 Unfortunately many don’t truly understand the rigors of the work or they just want to do part time, a kind of per diem schedule which is mostly in their favor. Plus, they can be a bit rigid in their ways & it’s very hard to reprimand a senior. I did that once & I still feel bad about to this day.
Now I could list more categories of people, different situations, backgrounds etc. But the truth is there is no shortage of people who’ve given pest control work a whirl. I have tons of customers who tell me they once worked for a bug company. But why didn’t they stay? Why doesn’t the challenge of the route thrill them as it does so many of us? People complain all the time about their “cubicle blues” and their non exciting job. I can think of very few occupations that allow a person to see the things that I have seen. The back stages of huge concert halls the towering roof tops of skyscrapers. Only on TV would most see the inside of a jail or the underbelly of a ship. The filth of a hoarders home or the 25 room mansion. Basically, anywhere a pest can go is the office of the pest control tech, so what’s not to like? Well, I’ve built up this article with a long list things but the answer to my question is much much shorter.
When a man or a woman makes the decision to aim that bug truck across town and give that next account everything they have. When they struggle with the heavy work load and the not so equal income because it’s not just a paycheck-’it’s THER route with THEIR name attached to it. When they beam with pride at excluding a rat or polishing off a german roach infestation that no one else could manage. When while explaining biologies or how chemicals work & they’re asked “don’t you have to go to college to be able to do this?” They smile and know it was from their own late night noses in a book and constant on the job training that put them to this level. When they get that ever illusive letter to the branch praising their work & thanking the company for sending out such a worker. When their boundless curiosity won’t let them rest until they’ve solved a mystery or determined an all but invisible root cause. When with their shoulders back and their head held high they reply to the often asked question- “what do you do for a living?”
When unequivocally they exclaim. “I’m a bugman!”
That’s when you know that you didn’t choose pest control, pest control chose you.