Can you imagine what these words would mean to you? After YEARS of work, sweat and toil, to reach this ultimate benchmark that eludes so many??? Man, that would be so great and for so many they would have reached a life’s long dream. It would be the pinnacle of a great and long career and something you’d only have expected after 10- 15 – 20 or more years. After all, an achievement of such magnitude doesn’t come quickly, right? Not so fast…or maybe…hey hang on and fasten your seatbelt!!
The following contribution to the pestcemetery blog is from Jason Gibbons owner of Men in Black Pest control Services. Follow the link or find them on Facebook. Jason posted his story in the group page of pestcemetery Facebook group but not for what you might think are the normal reasons. Sure he’s proud of what he’s accomplished and has every right to gleam with pride. However, Jason’s motivation for writing this was to show YOU, the owner still not at this level-for whatever reason- THAT IT IS POSSIBLE!!!! That no matter where you are, you can achieve more and reach goals and benchmarks that others only dream of… the aspect that most struck me and that will no doubt have an impact on you I’m sure is…HONESTY! When you read the “no holds barred” account of the rise of this company, well, you’ll be amazed, inspired and in no uncertain terms be challenged. Challenged to up your game.
If you’re tired of the fluff articles that tell you how to make a million and all you see in the words written are blah blah blah… that won’t be in this writing. That won’t be what you’ll feel in the words and emotions expressed… This is real world stuff, this is no holds barred and,,, it is in my opinion, a glimpse into what it really takes to reach that pinnacle and hit that benchmark that seems to be the industry standard. No matter your advantages-nor your disadvantages. I can add nothing more.
So, rather than writing anymore about this in my words, Jason has agreed to share this story, his story, in his own words, enjoy.
My daughter Lauren, called me up and told me she had something to tell me, she was super excited! Me…Im sick in bed with a nasty cold. She comes in and holds my hand and says “are you ready?” I said “Yep!” Then she gives me the news…heard from the accountant and sure enough…we broke it!
I would have jumped up and down with her in the excitement..but I was afraid the boogers would just start doing the whole Chinese yo yo thing, and I didn’t want to dampen the mood…
While I may be newer to pestcemetery on Facebook, Im not new to the industry. Well…I probably am compared to a lot of you, but in my shorter time in the industry, Ive become very familiar with a lot of you from PCT and PMP (as well as your videos) and read your articles like a kid with a new library card.
If you want to read further, I want to tell you what got us here, not to brag, but to let a lot of those I see here who are going out on their own, what they are facing. Hopefully, some of this information will help you avoid the pitfalls we faced, and answer a lot of the questions people ask.
I started the business in June of 2011. We are now just 4 1/2 years out and we cracked it, for those just starting out on your own..yes..it can be done, but be prepared. Its not an easy journey.
I think the first thing to do is to answer the question most of my customers have asked me for the last few years. “How did you get into pest control? Why would you choose this for a living?” You all know the look they give when they ask that…
I’m willing to bet, not one of us as kids ever said “Im going to grow up and be a pest control guy!” Me on the other hand, I answer the exact same way every single time…. “Hell…what do you mean? I’ve got the BEST job in the world!” Then comes the perplexed look from the customer…
I let them hang for a minute, then, without missing a beat, deliver my famous “I get to drive around, talk to people (which I love) and kill things all day long…and get paid for it! What more could anyone ask for?!”
Now, you have to understand, Im 6’2 270 lbs and can be quite intimidating, all while giving off a great big smile with a Baby Huey sort of personality. But, when I start talking, I take control of a room, and people listen, not because of my size, but because I make it a point to know everything I can about our industry and the problems we face every day.
As for a new customer, I try to put their minds at ease. I explain to them that the pest control industry of today isn’t the same as 50 years ago when “Billybob” (sorry if this is your real name…not because I’m making fun of you, but because it really is and your parents would do that to you) would come in and spray a can of God knows what, that came from God knows where and you would just have to trust him with your life because (as he wipes his hands on his pants and a hankie over his face to get the DDT off of him after his treatment) he said “Its completely safe for you and your family.”
I start by telling them that to do pest control today (and to actually be damn good at what you do) you have to become at the very least, an amateur entomologist. No, I do not have my ACE yet, and I’m not an entomologist, but to be fair, I’ve been working on building the business. I will get both of those in the near future. I can however boast that I have read through Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations 3x and been through most of the Mallis once. I am amazed how many PCOs have never heard of Truman’s (the Mini Bible) and Mallis (The unabridged pest control Bible.)
The bottom line is that we are putting poison in, and around peoples homes and families. They MUST trust that you know your stuff! You cannot hand them a damn carpet beetle in a baggie and tell them its bedbugs because you didn’t do your homework (and yes..I cant tell you how many times I’ve run into this!)
With that out of the way…back to our story.
I got into pest control like most…by accident. We had a guy at the house, small company, who would come out and spray once a month for us because of sac spiders. Vicious little bastards. Almost cost me a visit from DCFS due to one biting my daughter over an eye one day, and under the other the next. Sent her to school looking like Chavez after a fight…you all know what I’m talking about.
Well, I wasn’t doing much. I have 6 kids, ran a successful resale business out of the house that didn’t require all my time, as well as day trading. I did fine, made a good income and the wife did too. I got into a trade that I couldn’t pass up. Was the chance of a lifetime with the market crash…so I let it go. Day trading was over. Became an investor. Paid off nicely by the way…but left tons of time on my hands.
Our pest control guy (who owned his own family business) came over and was bitching that one of his guys wasn’t showing up and that he needed someone. Well, the youngest of 6 just went to Kindergarten and I had nothing to do during the day..I said hell, I can do that. Teach me. I’ve got some time to kill all day.
I signed on with him…get this… $9 an hour + $10 a day for gas using my own car…and…the prick reported my $10 a day in gas as income. LOL! Im sure most of you are shaking your heads. Yes, I was an independent contractor. What the hell did I know?
I didn’t know any better, I was just looking for a time filler.
Now, picture this, because we all know this guy. Late 40’s, early 50’s, has a pest control route that daddy built for him, stuck in his ways. Only wanted to go out from 8am – 3 pm doing calls, stopped in the middle of the day for his margarita (or 3) taking care of his long time customers, baseboard spraying, doing restaurants for $35 each and hitting 10 a day. Then…going home. Jobs over. You know one of him…don’t lie, and to be honest, some people want that and thats ok.
He trained me for two weeks to be a baseboard jockey. Gave me some Tempo and some P.I., a bit of Advion roach and ant bait, some Termidor and Contrac. That was my arsenal. He mostly did small restaurants, D&Ds, Subway and such…cheap..didn’t want to pay for pest control, but pitched a bitch when they got over run!
Aside from the little restaurants and such, he had some 6-18 unit apartment buildings he had on quarterly service. Most in shady parts of Chicago. When he took me through these, the treatments consisted of: Baseboard to all units (didn’t matter that George the roach was sitting on the table smoking a cigar laughing his ass off at me) tiny bit of bait on the hinges of cupboards, and a bag of contrac pellets behind the stove and fridge. Yeah…that’s how I learned and I thought we were doing good stuff.
Well, the first 6 months was non eventful to say the least. I took him at his word that he was an “expert” in the field and listened to every word like most of us have, that is until, I started reading labels…something I wasn’t taught.
My turning point came the day I walked into one of these “quarterly services” in an 18 unit southside Chicago apartment building, which by the way, he gave me an hour and a half on the schedule to do. I went through like he had taught me, and everything was fine, until I got to the 3rd floor apartment. A little kid answered the door, couldn’t have been more than 10.
I get into the apartment and start doing my thing like he had taught me. The roaches in this place were some of the worst I had ever seen and would see throughout my career in this business. They were everywhere. You could smell them as soon as the kid opened the door. I hate that smell.
The kid let me in. I started my bb spray like I had been taught and went throughout the unit. “Always go right and you’ll never go wrong,” spray spray spray…bait bait bait…get out. Your job is done. But…I ran into a problem. I got into one of the 2 bedrooms once I was done with the “dangerous kitchen” (for those of you who remember the late great Frank Zappa…I was there!) In that bedroom was a mattress, a little black and white TV and a Nintendo. The kid who answered the door was playing the Nintendo, absorbed in his game. I looked on the mattress, and there was a kid, no more than 2 on a hot, muggy Chicago afternoon sleeping. No air in the place, just a fan in that bedroom.
I went about my business like I thought I should, like I was taught I should, and started my bb spraying. As I got to the other side of that mattress, I saw the worst thing Ive seen in my life. Now, please remember, I live in Chicago, Ive seen gang bangers shot in the street. I looked down and saw 5 roaches, sitting on that babies face, eating the dead skin off of his lips while the older boy just sat there playing his game. This was normal for them. The rich and famous always want to know what the worst thing I’ve ever seen in this business is…this is it. With 6 kids, all that went through my head that day was that this could be mine. How the hell is this normal?
As I stated above, I had an hour and a half to do this building. He was charging them $125 quarterly on it. I had already burned through over an hour on the rest of the 17 units. I stopped. I spent another hour on that unit. I ignored his calls asking where I was. I did a full clean out (had no idea what that was till I read my labels) on that apartment the best I could with the tools I had. After seeing that and my heart tearing to pieces, I couldn’t let it go.
When people look at me, and talk to me casually hearing the southside Chicago accent, they automatically assume that I’m a big dummy…until I really start talking. I have a degree in business and have run 3 successful businesses, as well as having been in management most of my life, we’re talking 18. I’m far from that dummy.
After going through this unit and seeing that kid, this was a turning point for me. I started researching as much as I could. I was reading the labels and doing what I was supposed to do as opposed to just doing the “way I was taught.” It was at this point I picked up a copy of Truman’s. One of the BEST pest control references Ive come across. Like I said, “condensed Bible.” I started teaching myself “real pest control.”
After about a year (and yes..I was still going off schedule) treating these buildings the way they SHOULD be treated (clean-out and such) I approached the owner. I told him flat out. “You have a gold mine here and are not doing anything with it, give me some slack, and I’ll have us both sipping fruity drinks in 5 years and we wont worry about the company.” Well, he was receptive. Hell, he was so receptive that he gave me a whopping $1 whole raise an hour!! hell yeah!! I was making $10 an hour!! Oh yeah, plus $10 a day for gas that he took $5 of when I had a short day, even though thats not what we agreed to…
I think I may have mentioned above that I have a business degree right? Well, I put it to work! I started using all the free advertising I knew about . I would put up ads on Craigslist, Angie’s list, YP you name it. Everywhere I couldn’t find his business listing I would get my name and phone number out to!
The result? $50k in sales my second year with him! This was on top of running his piddly restaurant calls all day. Not only would I get the customers, I would schedule them, do the job and bring him the check the next day. Seriously, I was hardly trying. By that time, I had realized…even Bad pest control companies make money. Hell, I was working for one!
This continued all the way through 2010, then, s$%t happened. About November 20th or so, I got to the point that I couldn’t move my right elbow. Went to the doc, severe tendinitis. Doc said PT and no work until it was gone. Now… remember…I was independent. No workman’s comp.
Called this guy every few days after PT. Gave him status updates and when it looked like I would be able to hit it again. Doc said about 6 weeks…that’s what ended up happening. It was around Dec 20, 2010 that I got a phone call from the guy I was working for. Told me that he “needed to get a few things from my car.” I thought everything was fine and said ” Sure, come on over!”
When he got to my house, he made it a point to tell me how much he appreciated the $50k in business I had gotten him that year, and even gave me a $50 Christmas bonus! Then, we went to my car. “This is mine, this is mine, this is mine, this is mine.” Then he left.
Well, Momma said I was kinda slow, but it only took me a minute to realize that was the last time I was going to be working for him again…
January, after Christmas, I decided that if this guy could make money, and I could get HIM $50k in business, why the hell couldn’t I do it on my own? I started working on my pest control license, business license and everything else I needed.
I had $7000 in cash and decided to give it a shot!
Now…before we go any further, I want to make something clear. I didn’t need the money. I didn’t need the job. Hell, I had a financial consultant who wanted to hire me starting at $50k + commission after I had shown him some of my trades. I love macro economics!
Why the hell would I turn that down? Simple. Again, comes down to 6 kids. While I was on Craigslist building this guys business for nothing, I was looking around. I saw a paralegal job that caught my eye since my oldest daughter wanted to become a lawyer. I clicked it.
Required: Bachelors Degree. Pay: $12 an hour. Are you f^%ing kidding me??
I took $5000 and put it down on a 2011 Ford Focus. The $2000 I had left I used for a sprayer, chemicals, business cards, receipts, a crappy website (which is still the same today as it was the day we started because we don’t have time to mess with it) and some pens.
I used every single free site I could get my hands on to promote our business. Craigslist, YP, Manta, you name it. Then…I went out knocking on doors. (And mind you…I didn’t take EVEN ONE customer of the other guys with me. Bad JuJu.)
Now, remember, I had only 1 job to base my job prices at. I didn’t have any of the Big O or the Big T to go off of. Hell, I would go do jobs for s%^t, not realizing it was nothing, and instead of doing it wrong like I was taught, I did it right! I wouldn’t lock people into a contract or service agreement, we didn’t have any and I had no clue what they were. No BS.
My first year out, I did $150k in sales. I was working 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day. No joke. I would take any job within 40 miles of my house. I would do it, do it right and never bring up any sort of contract. People loved it. “Wait, you’re going to get rid of my bugs, give me a 3 month warranty and you’re not going to lock me into anything?” Nope. That $150k was ALL 1 time deals. However, to be fair, quite a few of them called back, or we called them back for a fall treatment. If they wanted it, cool…if not..we would call them again in the spring.
Now, by September of 2011 (my daughter loves to argue with me about this) I realized I couldn’t do this myself anymore. I was running out of a day planner, I was answering the phone 24/7 selling the jobs, doing the jobs and trying to run the whole business. I couldn’t do it. I took my AMAZING then 18 year old daughter Lauren and threw her into the pest control industry…like it or not! She’s still pissed at me for sending her away to Ball State in her junior year of high school to what she calls “boarding school” when it was in fact a school for smart kids. She got to skip a year at DePaul because of it!
By the time I “threw her into it” (and I really did, no joke) she had heard me say on the phone “we cant guarantee carpenter ants, bed bugs are nothing more than walking mosquitoes, they’re just a pain in the ass to get rid of” that she (like it or not) was ready to handle those phones.
I’m going to tell you flat out, the first year, even at that $150k we didn’t make any money. Why? Because the only thing I knew was pricing from the guy down the street and because we rocked it so hard I had to bring in other guys as independents, friends I knew needed money and wanted to keep on as talent. As you can guess, we DIDN’T pay them $9 an hour + gas…
It took us about a year and a half to really start making money. We stopped taking all the BS jobs where people didn’t want to pay us what we were worth. I’m NOT saying its a bad thing to take the jobs as you get them as some will disagree STRONGLY with. We all have our bills to pay and I paid them.
2012-2013 was a really hard year. We were growing out of control. Why? Simple. Because I cared about our customers. I wanted to sincerely get rid of their pest problems and would take as much time as I needed to get that done. By this time, I had 3-4 independent contractors (my friends who needed money) working for us. Lauren was on the phones from 6am -11pm and going to school at DePaul.
I was putting LOADS of pressure on this kid, thinking she’s just like me, she can handle it. Sometime in 2013, the stress got to me. This thing was growing out of control. I wasn’t ready for this. Who knew that a pest control company that actually cared about its customers would be in such high demand? My daughter was going nuts, I was working 12-14 hour days and we were on track to do over $300k that second year out? Long story short…something had to give..and it did.
In October 2013, my wife (partner) of 13 years, left me. I don’t blame her. We still have a great relationship today, but to be honest, she took a backseat to the business. While I was looking out for the kids and them having a job, as well as having something of their own to make sure they weren’t one of these kids with $60k in college debt with nothing but a $12 an hour job to look forward to…she got lost in the shuffle. This is real life stuff…pay attention here!
2014 – Even with my head in the clouds due to the split, we still managed to pull off a monster year. I have triplet daughters who began working for us this year. Yes, triplets. They are amazing, get over it. No there were no drugs or fertility clinics, just tried for a boy and thats what happened. FML. But I love them! My oldest daughter Lauren was out of college and rocking the office and whipping the other 3 into shape! She took total control of everything and she’s been totally amazing! 2014 we did about $550k – $600k if my memory serves me correctly. At 45 ya never know…I might be slipping!
On a totally separate side note, in 2014, after the wife left, I may have fired my oldest daughter Lauren 3-4x, possibly once when I came home totally drunk and telling her to fix the clog in the sink. I’m not sure why I would expect her to know plumbing…but hell! Little s^%t knew everything else! No…seriously, she’s amazing and I was a total wreck. Full responsibility..this guy..right here!
2015…this was our year. We were projecting $750k – $800k. Now mind you. We still had ZERO contracts or service agreements. We had raised our prices, people worked all the time, we still had independent contractors. 5 out of my 6 kids worked for us, my oldest son came back from school in California and became a tech, the daughters worked the office. We were still running by the seat of our pants. That’s it, no better way to put it. We had no employee manual, no training manual (but in our defense, there was no training for 2 weeks and let them go. Even our ICs had to ride along for AT LEAST 6 Months before we let them on their own…show me another company who does that!) We had the bare requirements that the Illinois Department of Public Health required us to have. Well…aside from training our techs. I like to think that we have the best training available for them!
I was getting really nervous with that $1 million approaching quickly. I picked up a bunch of books to see what we were in for since I still wasn’t here and didn’t know anything except what the guy down the street had taught me, and what I went out on my own and learned.
One of the books I picked up was “Bug People To Business People.” I read it when it got here in about an hour. I sat at my desk thinking about everything I had just read, and then went back through it again for another hour with a highlighter. I then showed it to Lauren and told her to go home and read it and talk to me about it the next day. She came in the next morning and immediately said exactly what I was thinking when I gave it to her to read: “Dad, thats us….wow!”
I agreed. I looked at her and told her we need to call this guy.
I called the number in the book and the girl was very polite saying they weren’t sure that Lloyd was taking on any new work. I asked her to please have Lloyd call me.
A few hours later, I got a call. It was Lloyd. He explained to me that he was almost 70 and that he was retiring and that he wasn’t taking on anymore customers. I told him flat out: “Lloyd, your book is about us. This has become our Bible. We need you. I have 5 out of 6 kids working for our company and I need you. Without knowing it…you wrote this book about us. We’re on the verge of exploding, or imploding….the choice is yours…”
Lloyd was out to see us in less than a month.
When I first met this cantankerous old bastard, I’m like great…Ive been had. He’s nothing but another salesman making money…oh..and the old prick charges an arm and a leg!!
He interviewed all of our guys. He interviewed all of my girls without me. He watched our day to day operations quietly…well, his sense of humor sucks and he can’t keep it in…but he tried like hell!
After 4 days, him and I (and my Mastiff Hooch, who Lloyd likes better than me) sat at the table and he gave us the path to where we are now. We didn’t implode. We EXPLODED! I had to sell one of the triplets into slavery for a year to pay the old goat, but she’s back now and not too angry about it seeing where we are.
Now, if Lloyd were on FB, I would tag him in this…but to be honest, I was really surprised to learn he even knew how to text….FB is probably a long way off for him.
Basically what we got for paying Lloyd to bless us with his company was not only his knowledge of owning and selling 3 pest control companies, but also every single pest control company he’s helped. Now…we all meet down in Texas 2-3 times a year to go over where we are and help each other. Kind of like you’re doing here Jerry Schappert, but on a more personal, structured level. We all know, even here, that pest control is a tight lipped business. No one likes to give their “secrets.” In Texas, its no holds barred.
Today, only a year and a half later, we have surpassed that million mark we were afraid of, we now have trucks, employees, a safety manual, an employee handbook, inventory control, training AND SERVICE AGREEMENTS!!.
I know this may not sound like it, but trust me, I didn’t sit here for the last 4 hours writing this to pump Lloyd and his book, especially since the old guy looks NOTHING like his picture…ok…he’s got the killer beard and the werewolf thing still going…. but back me up on this Pat VanHooser, he knows his stuff. (Pat is the business partner of Discovery Retreat)
I probably should have sold this as a book and charged like he does or at least charged for pumping his book!
At any rate. If any of you are just starting out and are small, we’ve been there, it sucks. If you’ve read anything about the Discovery Retreat in Texas…go! I’ll see you there.
If you cant afford to go, hit me up. You’ll see I’ve mentioned my daughter Lauren here about a dozen times. She’s 23, a firecracker, beautiful short (sorry honey) blonde girl who you would never guess has a PCO license…but she does. She’s going to be taking over the business once I get Bobby Corrigan to let me come out and do rats with him!! But in the mean time, I’m more than happy to give any smaller companies who are just starting out a hand when I can!
We’re all in this together. Gotta pay it forward!
By the way…remember that $50 “Christmas Bonus” I got for the $50k in sales? I still have that check….