Almost every kid says at one time or another… “I want to be a (fill in the blank) when I grow up.” It’s invariably a fireman, doctor, teacher or some other laudable career but I have yet to hear “I want to be a bug man” from any youngster. Not even my own kids are thrilled with the idea but they do have a knack for the job. I don’t think anybody seeks the career of pest control so much as I believe the career finds them. I am one of these people that pest control found and I share this story for those who are also in the industry that may be curious and to those just visiting my blog that may be considering a job or even starting their own business. Hopefully for all of you it will provide some insight and just maybe my story will help you advance in your endeavors.
I was 22 and by now I had done everything from building dog houses to window washing but early in 1984 I found myself as a short order cook for a semi classy sandwich shoppe. I hated it and I made the worst sandwich’s known to man but the money was good and despite my lack of bread artistry the lines outside the doors never ceased. At one point I told the mgt. I was going to quit unless I got a huge raise thinking they would let me go and release me from this hell. Much to my surprise I got the raise and if I had a car I’m sure they’d have given me my own parking spot. Now I was really stuck and hated it even more because I felt trapped in a 12 x20 kitchen with the ungodly heat of the ovens sapping my body 8 hours a day. My only glimpse of the outside world was the front window but that was always filled with hungry unsuspecting people. I wanted out but how could I leave now?
By summer I had perfected my sandwich making but now it was hotter than ever both inside and out and I was desperate to leave but there were no jobs out there that paid as well. One day while commiserating with my girl friend (now wife) the phone rang and it was a friend of mine who worked for Terminix. He said there was a position coming available and it paid $11.00 an hour. That’s all I needed to hear and I was at the branch office the next day. I remember walking into this busy office with phones ringing, technicians coming in one door and out the other and everyone seemed so professional and doing such important things. I wasn’t at all sure of what a pest control guy did but I knew I wanted to be part of this profession. I was hired on the spot and I left my sandwich making career forever in my past. (almost)
A lot happened since then and I learned so much but fast forward to 1990 and my wife & I moved to Florida on the promise of a major career advancement for me from a very large company. It only took a week after uprooting from a very comfortable life in Baltimore to find out that not everybody in the business world tells the truth. My promised position (if it ever existed) was gone and instead of a company car I was handed the keys to a ratty old pickup and told to run a route. Devastated to say the least I now had to make ends meet on 1/2 the salary and twice the work I had planned for. It didn’t take long for my wife and I to decide we needed to go out on our own.
I was certified in Maryland but had to wait at least one year to take my Florida test to be able to run my own business and it couldn’t come fast enough. In the mean time I bought into a franchise pest control outfit just to get away from the evil corporate giant that all but ruined my career. It was great at first but it came with no customers, little support and let’s just say we operated in the gray areas of Florida law in many ways. When the time came I took and passed my tests in 3 categories but instead of getting away from this ramshackle franchise I was convinced to stay with the position of area mgr. and promise of good things to come. I guess I helped them with one gray area (you have to have certified operators) but I’ll be damned if another promise wasn’t worth the paper it was written on and it seemed the only people making money was them, from me!
In 1993 I had had enough and struck out truly on my own. I remember distinctly the first months grand total for the work I did. $193.00 and that was all- if it wasn’t for our faith in God and my wife working double shifts during these dark times we never would have made it. Each month got better however and in this sleepy little town where only the slick salesman made the big bucks or someone in the good ol boy network make it big, I was dead set on making a name for myself. Since I was neither of these things it proved to be slow and there were a lot of peanut butter sandwich’s along the way. (I told you I ‘almost’ put that career behind me) I tried everything to increase my company and even set up a booth at a flea market with termites in a fish tank eating a little cardboard house I made. For all I lack in sales skills I knew I made up in my service and although I took the long way around my wife & I had finally built a very decent sized route. In 2003 I was able to buy out a small company which is one of the best things I’ve ever done, we did that again in 07 and although we’re not the biggest in town still-I’m sure we’re the talk of many an office and a force to be reckoned with.
There is of course hundreds of stories in between the lines and I’m sorry I made this such a long article. Maybe some day I’ll have them all finally written down or you can come by the house and I can tell you a few. Just call before you come, that way I’ll be sure to have a sandwich all made up and waiting for you.