The Ghost of Pest Control Owners Passed- Part 3

As you are now standing alone, the dense fog thickens so that nothing is visible except the heavy droplets suspended in the air that surrounds you. Your mind is just as cloudy as you try to make sense of this strange and surreal odyssey. Should you feel sorry for these owners who should be on top of the world but had such monumental problems? Is this what you want to aspire to? Could you avoid these trappings or do they happen to everyone?

The air is uncomfortably hot and feels like steam against your skin as it mixes with the thick mist. In the distance a church bell tolls and at that moment a dark shadowy figure comes into view. With no apparent motion the visage comes closer but never into focus. You realize this is your third ghost and for a long time it stands as you do, motionless. Unlike your first and second ghost, this presence speaks not a word yet you sense that this spirit knows your very thoughts, fears and shortcomings even better than you do. As if conversing with yourself you seem to know the answers to your many questions before you can even complete the thought. The answers are all the same no matter how you phrase the questions and you in no way want to accept the end result. This one way exchange escalates to a fury but with no outward emotion from your ghost, you cease in frustration.

The church bell rings for the 12th time….

Suddenly you feel a sense of Deja vu and a wave of fear sweeps across your body. Your sure you’ve faced this terror many times before but as if in the haze of a dream you’re in slow motion, terrified by something you can’t see but unable to move or escape.

Without a word the spirit raises his arm and his long black robe unfurls like a pirate ships sail being raised. His long bony finger points to a large dark door that has appeared in the fog. It’s another business and for the first time in this odyssey you feel uneasy peering into the life of another owner. Apprehensive of what you will find, your feet move as if in thick wet cement and you walk through the door.

A Heavy Load

Unlike your first two experiences this is not a fancy office but simply a home. The decor is modest and although clean, it’s obvious the home is lived in. The first room you come to has a baby sleeping snuggly in his crib and the father, the owner you’re visiting, is exhausted and collapsed in the rocking chair just beside him. The baby has a bad case of colic and is only relieved when being held. The devoted Dad spends endless hours each night pacing the room cradling the little one and gets very little sleep & this has been going on for 9 months.

In the next room a small boy lays asleep dreaming of his day at school tomorrow when he will present his science project that sits in the corner. The goal of the work was to create an obstacle course on a large poster board where a marble would go from the top to the bottom in the slowest amount of time but never stop. Over the past week this owner spent hours tweaking this project when he had so many other things he could be doing. Their marble takes a full 23 seconds to run its course and he had such a great time working together with his son he wouldn’t trade it for a thing. The young lad sees his Dad as the smartest person on earth and one day, wants to grow up and be just like him.

Moving to the master bedroom you see a woman getting ready for another 12 hour days worth of work. Her eyes are tired and she applies her make up to cover the wear and tear. For now and the foreseeable future she’s the bread winner of the home but she dreams of a better time when her husbands customer list will match his skill and knowledge of the trade. She’s his biggest supporter and even the number one salesman most of the time. She’s perfected the art of doing her job while always bringing the conversation around to…. “Who does your pest control?” she says with her big and irresistible smile. She has a killer closure rate. Never complaining, she works 6 days a week, does the books and all the things the demanding job of a ‘housewife’ requires. She’s even donned a pest control uniform and serviced his accounts for an entire week once while he was laid up and unable to work. Perhaps her best contribution is that she is forever reassuring her man that someday he will make it big, he will be a successful company owner. But even she has days of doubts when the bills are due and and the numbers just aren’t there. She’s learned to hide her fears well but even he knows, no amount of blush can conceal her insecurity.

The Heart Of The Operation

In the next room a screen saver is the only light that dimly illuminates the room where ownership dreams live, albeit at this time, as only a flicker. There’s an old time rolodex filled with cards of people who promised they’d call but never have. A stack of pending contracts lay neatly by the phone as that days target follow ups. Each has multiple sticky notes attached with scribbled excuses or dates of when our owner was told he could expect an answer to his service. With each passing date, the likelihood of a favorable outcome dims and most of the stack now represents the frustrations of failed sales attempts. He has come to hate that stack. On the wall above his desk is a hand made paper sales and production sheet pinned over the previous months. Whole weeks are filled with zeros or such paltry numbers that would have gotten him fired at any of his previous jobs. A calendar next to it reminds him that another year is slipping away but serves a more important function in that he pins it over his embarrassing tracking charts when anyone comes to visit and wants to see the brain center of his (eh-emm) budding business. On top of his desk is two index card boxes that hold the key to his future. Marked ‘odd’ and ‘even’ every client is assigned a day and placed in the appropriate box. The boxes aren’t even 1/2 full and he dreads the even months as he has way less customers to fill its days and it’s always a bigger burden to meet that months bills.

Another wall boasts of a much happier time in his career and is filled with plaques of achievement. He is proud of that wall but all those awards came with the main benefit going to that companies owner and not him. He’s long since spent any commisions that came with the few sales plaques he has and his tech awards demonstrating his mastery of his trade don’t pay the bills.

Through the window sits a small truck like a trusted friend waiting in the dim morning light. He’s outfitted it with what was expensive but not the latest and greatest tools. Unable to afford tall ladders he’s stood on the roof of his truck to reach bees nests, he’s risked getting stuck on the most god awful roads to get to a possible sale only to be stood up or turned away. Countless peanut butter sandwich’s have been consumed in his apartment on wheels and he’s even learned just where to tap the dash to get better reception for his favorite radio station. It’ll need new tires soon, an expense he’s forced to put off and he hopes that clicking noise when he makes a right turn will soon go away on its own.

Beyond the truck is a small wooden shed where his supplies are stored. Forced to be a miser he throws nothing away. He makes his own glue boards and has an entire box of reused snap traps. He does his best to recycle old sprayer springs and parts in the hopes he can repair them and squeeze out just a little more life in them. Cans of aerosols with only a shot or two left stand at the ready lined up neatly in a row waiting to be used in a pinch. There’s a big new box of granular bait that sits near the door. He bought it not knowing the price and now embarrassed, he’ll sheepishly try and return it tomorrow. The empty shelves are all labeled and clean, ready to be stocked but he can’t afford the supply.

Back inside you find the owner just out of the shower dreary eyed with a towel around his waist. On the mirror is taped one of the many motivational sayings he has placed around the house. “Selling is like shaving…if you don’t do it everyday, you’re a bum.”
Seemingly in a stupor, razor in hand, he’s leaned over the sink with his face squarely towards the mirror. He doesn’t seem to notice that the steam has completely fogged the glass. You can see he’s deep in thought and instinctively you know what he’s thinking.

When will all this hard work pay off? Am I just a failure? Why can’t I just catch a break? I can’t keep going this way, who’s gonna trust me for a big job when I can’t even sell the little ones? I’m just a fraud, I can’t call myself a pest control company, I have nothing, people can see right through me. I’ll never amount to anything, I’ll never be a success…..

Just then with smiling baby in hand his wife pokes her head in the door and joyfully says. “You got the Klamansky termite job, they left a message on the machine.” At that moment the young boy bounds in and blurts out with pride, “Daddy when I win first place today with my project I want to put my prize on your trophy wall- I’ll be just like you.” The owner is suddenly not so dispirited and even cracks a smile. He’s reminded of why he’s doing this, and he realizes that even though the light at the end of the tunnel is still afar off. It’s certainly bright right where he is.

He decides to approach this day just as it is, brand new and full of opportunity. He turns to the mirror, slowly wipes the fog away revealing the image that’s been there all along and that face,,,,,,,,, is yours.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
This entry was posted in The Business Of Pest Control and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Eric Kroon

    Holy WOW Docman!

    What a great story, which happens to be our story!!! You could have added the time we pest control owners have for our kids baseball games and dance classes, never having to bug the boss to let us go home early.(what is a vacation though?)

    Being a small business owner definitely has its up and down moments, but I would not trade it for anything.

    Keep the stories coming please.

    Eric Kroon
    PestKil Inc.

  • Amen! Actually it is quite a bit of my own so I figured there were many more owner/operators out there with much the same paths. & you’re right…I wouldn’t trade it now for anything either.
    Thanks for the comment.

  • northfield office

    Also my story. I went to work as always, was given a job to do and told to come back when is over. Ok…I was with them for five years, my cancelations were minimal (moved away or death…no cancelations from work quality), I was cocky because I was appreciated by customers and it made me feel “important,”…but alas, I’m back from the job and told “you’re fired because you told a customer you hate your boss!” (they even put it on the termination report…). So I go home and feel like the biggest loser…fired…how the ef I’ll pay my bills…then my ex-wife challenges me: “if you’re so good (which I am…) why don’t you open your own thing?” Insurance and advertising money, equipment and supplies…she knows nothing about that so she just talks so I slappped her with “why don’t you open your own thing, you got the cash, I got the skills.” She..does it hahahahha. She can’t fire me as I am the only tech she has so I have 100% job security here. In the mean-time I figured out what mice hate and what do you know…my customers don’t have mice even though they tell me they tried this company and that…Where the mice went? 🙂 Mice get outta Dodge quick after my magic…I also became a soccer coach for rascals aged 8-10 and I have more headaches with them not learning the European system of either winning or making a show of the defeat than I have with pest control. On the side, I fight my former employers’ lawyers but is ok, every dime they spend on lawyers is one dime less for advertising their business. With Rose Pest I was overworked and underpaid, with Red Raspberries Pest I am overworked and underpaid but at least I am relaxed and I have a life outside the pest control clothes. The budget for advertising is minimal but who cares…all my jobs come from rich women telling their rich women friends how good I am and how their mice grew wings and flew away to St. Peter (that’s what I tell customers even though I have no freaking idea where mice go after I hit someone’s basement and attic…maybe to the neighbors? 🙂 It feels so good to get calls @ 0600 hrs. from someone who starts with “hi george, my girlfriend told me you make mice fly away” hahahahha.
    My only misson now is to grow this company for my 8 years old son so he will never have to work for bastards like Rose Pest Solutions and be like his dad, a serf, for 5 years, then fired just like that! As for working for the ex-wife…I teach her son soccer so she better keep me happy or I’ll teach him nothing! (2 weeks ago Rose Pest fired someone else I knew there, so he called me all pissed off and guess what? Yeap…he has his own thing now, making more than he ever did with Rose Pest…and we share techniques and results of our treatments and don’t fight for customers as I leave his town alone while he lives mine alone. Hard to believe but he gives me jobs in my area while I give him all the bedbug jobs I get since I don’t do bedbugs…It was after talking with this guy that I finally found the ultimate solution for mice. Rose still depends on Contrac Blox…but hey, that’s what you get for firing people just like that after they gave you the best they had for 5, respectively 8 years of their lives, thinking finally they found a company they will retire from…What Rose thought…that we will stop being pest control techs and go into plumbing or something just becuse we were fired? Wrong guess Rose Pest… We are here to stay and grow and make mice fly away…and fight Rose’s lawyers just for kicks, but nothing good comes without a good fight and it is an honor to fight the ones who fired you.
    Note to Rose Pest: this guy you fired on Oct 5…if you could only see how relaxed and almost-happy he is now…he is like someone released from prison…if you could only see him…or me…your techs will NEVER be so relaxed like your ex-employees…so keep firing them, I need more people to consult with to find the final solution for ants as well. I will, and you will read about it in the paper and wish we were still wearing your uniform. Now I have to do something for the Sunday soccer game…my team sucks so I need to at least work on their motivation…I’ll have the paretns wear red (we “red thunder” and bring US flags at the game then I’ll tell my team the opposing rascals play for North Korea. The other team’s parents and coaches will be offended but what do I care? I make mice fly away and I motivate losers into thinking they play for the country…what a beautiful, priceless feeling…

  • Eric Kroon

    Howdy Northfield,
    Nice to see you posting on this blog. It sounds
    like you may have been really screwed by your old company, but you
    really need to let the bitterness and hate go my friend!
    I have
    found that the best “revenge” against your old company is for you to be
    successful. It does not help things to keep dwelling in the past!

    When
    I was with my former company, I was involved with lawsuits and ex
    employee right to work cases. The only time we won, and I felt like we
    should have prosecuted and won the case, is when an ex employee goes
    after their old customers, which is in fact stealing from your old
    company.

    I have found that in my 17 years of pest control
    experience that the only time a company is willing to spend the money
    for lawyers is when the ex employee steals their customers. I do not
    know if this is your case and I hope not, but welcome to the family of
    self employed pest control operators! Remember that life is to short for
    not letting those bad feelings go.

    Eric Kroon
    PestKil Inc.

    P.S When are you gonna tell us your mouse secret?

  • Words of wisdom. Thank you

  • northfield office

    Mr. Kroon hi there. When are you gonna have a profile on linkedin? It beats faceboo and twiteer every day…Ok, here we go: “stealing customers” means going for them directly. Taking an ad with your name on it in a publication in the county where one worked for someone else is advertising, not stealing. Rose Pest’s non-compete said “one can’t work in pest control for himself or anyone else for two years in cook and lake counties” which I found idiotic as they didn’t bring me in pest control nor will they kick me out of it. Rose is upset that I continue to do pest control in both counties but guess what? I do whatever I like and right now I like pest control. Sure, life’s too short to fight imbeciles but then again, I won’t let anyone tell me what to do,and where, especially someone who fired me! Rose’s game was torture by legal means as they knew none of ex-employees have any money for lawyers 🙂 but I don’t need any to prove their non-compete is insane. I did (it took 8 months) yet Rose now goes for about $700 in a counterclaim! They think that keeping me in Court will convince me to get out of pest control or out of lake or cook county. Tough luck…I am not going anywhere. I might not be American but that’s not a reason to try to walk all over me via lawyers because it won’t work…See? Is not hate, is self-defense, and Rose spends money not to “protect their customers” but to deny the public one more option in pest control because they think they own the counties. They don’t own jack and I keep telling them that but I guess they only hear what their expensive lawyers tell them. I am not living in the past, I want to let it go but how? Today I was in Court. Tomorrow, again, I have to be in Court. How do you let go of the past if the past doesn’t want to let go of you? Unless Red Raspberries Pest closes down, or unless the two year period runs out, Rose will not stop harrassing me nor will I stop providing exceptional service to anyone in Lake and Cook county, and deal with Rose’s lawyers as well, just to stay sharp hahahahaha. Wait til Red Raspberries’ new ads hit Northbrook…oh, that should raise their blood some more 🙂 Orkin, Terminix, Anderson, Clark, Smithereen,, none of them have a problem with me…only Rose Pest, because I used to work for them. Sorry…I got bills to pay so I will let me employer advertise with my name in capital letters if she wants,( which she does 🙂 and that’s capitalism at its best: let the public decide who they want and may the best company win. Non-competes are for protecting one’s business secrets not for kicking competition out of the area. And having such a great name like mine…and such skils like mine…and not advertising them is a sin. I am not a sinner so Northbrook and Deerfield…here comes some more Red Raspberries Pest’s ads 🙂 If Rose pisses me off I might go into termite and bed bug business as well…they should be happy I stick to ants and mice. (what infuriated Rose was Red Raspberries Pest taking an ad in Kenilworth 1 month after they fired me…Kenilworth…the hometown of Dolds, owners of Rose :). They saw that as an insult to their gloriouss name but hey…this is America and one could work wherever he pleases, last time I checked.)

  • PestKil

    Northfield,

    I am in Florida which is a “right to work” state, so at least the times that I have been involved, that except on the occasions that the ex employees solicited their old company customers, the ex companies could not do anything about the non-compete ” as you have the right to earn a living in your chosen profession” to paraphrase the judges.

    I totally agree with your stance, and what you have done and why and I guess it would come down to your state work laws (Illinois because of Cook county?). I wish you all the luck in your battle with your old company.

    Hang in there!!!!!
    Eric Kroon
    PestKil Inc.

    P.S Now how about that mice secret?

  • northfield office

    You already know the mouse secret…think about it…what is it they don’t like? Using bait or traps is reacting to an invasion while what I do is preventing an invasion. What is it mice really, really, hate? Hint: talk to old people who never had any professional pest control on their properties nor did they have any mice…someone as old then as they are now taught them something…what could it be? 🙂

  • PestKil Inc.

    Cats?

  • As a spot treatment yes.. but whole house treatment with cats is strictly off label…… 😉

  • northfield office

    Not if you label ever cat individually hahahahha. Really, I thought of cats too but you know North Shore guys…they all have…dogs! Still, I’m happy we have you to steer us clear of labeling trouble 🙂

  • northfield office

    🙂 you’re not giving up, ei? Ok, with the case, today I called Rose’s bluff. They claim to “have evidence” which they can’t since there’s is none so I complained to the judge that they refuse to obey the Discovery rules. I asked for the documents in their possestion relating to their claims and they answered “our Discovery is ongoing.” I told the judge this is bs and he agreed and gave them 21 days from today to spit out the documents or state “none.” By Nov 14, Rose Pest will have egg on their faces…all the noise they made that could not be backed up by anything…imbeciles…and I am not even a lawyer 🙂 I am sure the judge will sanction me eventually but I will win my case, despite of my language. Anyway, here’s why Discovery is important: when you go to trial you have the right to know the other parties’s cards…in other words the evidence against you should be available to you BEFORE the trial. In US surprises at trial are only allowed in movies…It goes both ways this Discovery phase…but I obeyed my Discovery so I’m clear there. They didn’t, hoping I won’t notice and just fall for the lawyerly language…you know those English words from 1800’s that who knows what they mean…so I made a Motion in plain English: “bastards, give me the freaking documents requested, you crooks” and a few morepounds of insults…It got the attention of the judge hahahahhha. (with judges is like with employers…if you don’t put something there in the Motion, or the resume, to stick out, it might be overlooked as both judges and employers are bombarded with zillions of papers. My papers always stick out 🙂 So…21 days til I’m vindecated! I could only imagine the talk between Rose and their lawyers…”what do you mean evidence? what evidence? We only wanted to scare the hell out of him not to go to no trial” hahahahahha. I love Courts as much as I love teaching mice humans rule this planet!

  • northfield office

    to add insult to injury…their lawyers have their name initials on the sleeves! These guys really thoght I’ll be impresed…ha…I should tatoo my initials on my forehead hahahaha. Really…who in 2012 wears shirst with own initials on the slevees? What is this…London 1736? Why not bring those wigs too? This is just too much…classy, expensive, styled, by the book lawyers versus some foul-mouth punk…oh, God help those lawyers losing this case to me…their firm (eipstein and Green) will surely fire them. As they should…initials on slevees? come on…

  • My first thought was exclusion, eliminating food and harborage. The he said “think old people”. That would be too much work for many of my elderly customers. My best guest is ignore the problem since they do not see the mice or droppings or a moth ball fumigation. Both would not be wise practices. I think Jerry has written about that previously.

  • northfield office

    What I meant by “think old people” was “ask old people.” Old dudes know stuff you know…they are a mine of knowledge ready to be applied to our day and time, with a little tickering to it.

  • Undoubtedly, and if it seems logical I might put it to practice. However, the only old timer non professional advice I’ve heard was mothballs and grandma used to put crushed glass in the wall voids.

  • Crushed glass is an oldie–I have folks who mix it in with the expandable spray foam to keep mice out..sounds great but must be a trick to sprinkling it while spraying the foam–I can’t use that can without making a huge mess anyway so I’m sure I’d be a disaster adding glass to the mix.