There is a pest control job that I’m sure no mega pest control operation would ever consider adding to their resume regardless of the profit margin. That would be hand picking nits and lice out of a clients hair.Eeeccck! In fact, I don’t know any small operations that would be too eager to start a route of nit picking either. It’s a jungle out there in the pest control world but as weird as it is, this is about the only true niche I’ve seen that would guarantee you exclusivity in your town. If you follow the link you see there is at least one man who aims to take advantage of this obscure service. In reality, there are very few category edges the small operator can take advantage of to ward off the competition, especially the large pest control companies. So how do we survive?
Dental Floss For Sharks
The key to competing and surviving against Wal-Mart is to focus your business into a niche or pocket where you can leverage your strengths in the local marketplace.
This quote comes from a man who should know, he worked for and was nicknamed ‘Bird Dog’ by Wal-Marts founder Sam Walton himself. This article would be easy to write if the Bird Dogs formula was the reason why small pest control operators have eluded being swallowed up by the mega giant firms but I think there’s more to it. If small Mom & Pops could go places and do things to provide specialty pest service that the big boy’s just couldn’t then I would understand our place. In reality, there are very few niches in pest control. The truth is that the big T, the mighty O and any other mega corp can do anything and everything that I can and usually does 15 of em before my day gets totally rocking. They also have the buying power to purchase everything from chemicals to insurance so much cheaper. They can recruit and pay all the top talent and have huge advertising budgets. Still, here I am like a tiny minnow who is to small for the sharks teeth to bite and feeding quite nicely in the same waters. The truth is if you take a look around ANY city you’ll find more Mom & Pop/Single Operator pest control companies flying across town than any big firm. This is true even in places where a large headquarters is located. It’s as if we’re just little parasites to these behemoths and as much as they swing and swat, they just can’t kill us all.
Irony At It’s Finest
Have you ever wondered where all these small companies come from? Most states have pretty strict guidelines and certain levels of experience must be met before you can even attempt to go out on your own. Most, if not all the small operators (me too) in my town have this initial experience with- you guessed it, big companies. We run their routes for them, maybe work up the ladder a bit and then for whatever reason peel off and strike out on our own. Many of us fail within a very short time but a few get past the first lonely perilous years. Now unless someone’s an entomologist or has some really rare skill or experience it is my opinion they bring nothing new to the table and offer all the same services as the big boys and that is of course where we learned our craft. So again I ask, why aren’t we extinct?
It Can’t Be Service Alone Can It?
Ace Hardware survives and even thrives right under the nose of the big blue Lowes sign with Home Depot orange not too far away- why? Lowes and Home Depot have way more products and reasons to shop in their stores than ACE. They even have those little specialty knobs, screws and fittings that Ace use to have the edge with. Research seems to attribute it all to service and yes, I’m always happy to have an ACE employee walk me to the exact isle of the product I need- but the big box guys have caught wind of that and do this too, almost too much so. Yet the little Ace store survives and busy people wander in and out all day long. So is it service?
Much like people enjoy my personal touch in my pest control service now in my small company-it was the same when I worked for the worlds largest. Am I to believe just because I’m gone that they have NO good technicians who are truly excited about their job and want to sincerely help their customers? Do I think for a moment that I have a corner on the truth about pests and how to successfully treat them? I do bird work, WDO inspections,roach,flea,bed bug,termite and big commercial work but so does every other guy in town. Where is the niche that shields me from the consuming fires of the big corporations or those on my level?
A Different View
Perhaps we’ve been looking at this wrong all these years. Since the single operator and Mom & Pops are considered the backbone of the industry and soundly out number the large firms. It just may be we’re the norm when it comes to pest control and the big box boys have got the niche instead. Perhaps their niche is to buy up, market and sell their way to mega status using millions of dollars on advertising and burning through itchy entrepreneurs by the thousands every year. I mean, can we say it’s service at all looking at it in this light? I’m not really sure to be honest with you- like i said, “I don’t always have a corner on the truth.” But I am thankful of one thing which may be the only reason we small companies are still around. At least the big boys haven’t started ‘nit picking yet.’ We might all be in trouble then!