For nearly two decades, the migration of retirees and other warmth-seeking Northerners to the Sun Belt was as predictable as death and taxes. New construction reached record highs and fueled a variety of industries, including pest management. Pest management companies thrived as the market expanded, seemingly without end. Many invested heavily in the pretreatment market segment.
Not Adam Seever, president of Mesa, Ariz.-based Bulwark Exterminating (#31), which serves 11 cities in the Sun Belt, Seever foresaw the housing collapse and opted to focus his energies on retaining his established customers and market share rather than relying on the influx of new-construction business he predicted would grind to a halt at any moment. He didn't believe in making investments in the pretreatment market.
“It was a gamble not chasing the new business, but I'm familiar with the dynamics of the economy, and I knew the growth couldn't continue indefinitely," said Seever, who holds a degree in finance and statistical analysis. “It worked out for us. We've managed to keep our numbers steady (around $19 million) for the past three years, and I expect to see modest growth in the coming years.”
Committed to Employees, Customers.
Seever's approach to strengthening his 12-year-old business began with the development of metrics to assess his employees’ performance. Those who scored among the top 80 percent were awarded bonuses to encourage them to continue providing top-notch service and set the pace for the rest of the team.
“Satisfied employees create satisfied customers,” Seever says, “and we all know that it's cheaper to retain an established customer than to win a new one. So I redirected a significant portion of our budget and efforts from marketing to employee satisfaction.”
Those efforts also included supplying each technician with his or her own Smart phone, equipped with an application developed exclusively for Bulwark. It enables technicians to interact with the company database from the field, minimizing the technician's need to come to the office.
“We've saved thousands of miles and a lot of our team's time, because now they need to come in only once a week. I respect their time, and they appreciate that. We've built a culture that supports and nurtures employees. They're inspired to provide great service and to smile when they visit customers,” says Seever.
While many pest management companies have either folded or sold their operations in the economic turmoil of the past three years, Bulwark stands among those that remain steady and focused on the future.
Seever added, “When you know that you're up against market challenges — that you aren t going to be able to expand through the routes that got you where you are today — you need to focus on what you can change. Don't let obstacles stifle your creativity. Invest in your people; they'll come through every time.”