Thomas: -And… Kathra: Kathra Kathra, thanks. Sorry, had to double check on that. Kathra and Lee. Lee: Yes. Thomas: Thomas, Bulwark Exterminating. We just want to follow up with you; we’d like to kind of, you know, get some feedback from you guys on the service we provided the other day and get your story, actually, as well, on the scorpions because your main concern was scorpions. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: And interestingly enough, of course you’ve got a little one, so most parents are really concerned about their kids around scorpions. Kathra: Exactly, and that was my biggest fear for her, her being in that stage where she’s crawling around on the floor, and not far from where she usually sits, we found a scorpion, so we definitely knew we had to do something. Thomas: Fortunately for you guys, the scorpion that you showed me was not a bark scorpion, the Arizona bark scorpion, which is the most deadly. So, there should be some relief, anyways, Kathra: I was very thankful to hear that news because I was prepared to put glass jars under her crib and, I mean, you know, I was prepared to do whatever it took to keep her safe, so to know that they weren’t the most deadly was a relief. Thomas: Yeah, yeah, which is also odd, as well, because the desert hairy’s actually don’t come indoors that often. They actually make holes out in the desert and they live in the holes and so I would assume that they were coming in because the season’s changing and they probably were looking for food or what not and came up close to the house, felt the ventilation coming out of the house. I don’t know if you’ve seen that before, but you have a J-rail on the bottom of your house so the moisture from your house actually escapes, and scorpions are built to last, but they sense the moisture and so feeling that moisture and that water, which is something they need… Kathra: Right. Thomas: It’s hard to find in the desert, that desert hairy probably just walked right up into that, the house. They can actually fit through a width the size of a credit card, so… Kathra: Wow. Thomas: Yeah, it’s pretty...There are treatments, there are treatments you can do where you can seal the bottom of your house, but the house is supposed to breathe… Kathra: Right. Thomas: … so in your situation, especially since the desert hairy’s are not bark scorpions, not something I would recommend. It’s costly and again, your house is built to breathe, it’s supposed to breathe. Does that make sense? Lee: Yeah. Thomas: So, bark scorpions will take a lot longer to get rid of. And again because of the way they’re built and because they walk on their toes, the surrounding neighborhood, especially if there is a problem, I don’t know, did you go to the website, scorpionreport.org? Lee: Yeah, we did. Thomas: What did you find on the website when you… Lee: They didn’t have any on this area when we typed in our address, um… Thomas: Okay. Lee: But, I put mine in that I had found one. *Laughs* Thomas: I bet. Perfect. Lee: So now if somebody has… Kathra: I have a question. We know we have the desert hairy. Can more than one species of scorpion be in the same proximity? Thomas: Same area? Kathra: Yeah. Thomas: Yeah, yeah, they’ll … we haven’t tested whether they’ll actually fight each other or not. But, there’s nothing to say that a desert hairy is going to make its territory and a bark scorpion isn’t going to enter it, no. You could have both. Kathra: Okay. Thomas: But, the report is given, it’s fairly new. Scorpionreport.org. is built so that you guys can report on it and we add our information to it, as well. If we don’t have services in your area, we haven’t had calls in your area then it may show nothing right now. Especially because your house, it’s probably fairly new. How old is your house? Lee: Um, I think its five years old. Thomas: Five years old? Kathra: Yeah. Thomas: Okay. Well, five years, if the area was bad with scorpions, you probably would know. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: So, you guys are good. Lee: Yeah, good, good. Kathra: Phew. Thomas: So, and you feel a lot better now? Lee: Yeah. Thomas: So, yeah, but again, if there ever is a problem with the service or if you ever see any bugs, you call us back up and we have a forty-eight hour guarantee that we will make room in our schedule to come back out within the next forty hours to service your house, no extra charge, if you’re on a regular monthly or bi-monthly service. Now, he recommended one or another when he was done. Did he put you on a monthly or bi-monthly, do you remember? Thomas: Yeah. Kathra: I think we did bi-monthly, but I’m not sure. Lee: Yeah. Kathra: He recommended monthly though. I’m not sure what we did. Thomas: Again, in your case, I think bi-monthly would be fine. It’s not a, you know, if it’s bad enough, I mean, if you were seeing three or four a month… Kathra: Oh yeah. Thomas: Then you’d want to be on a monthly service. Lee: Yeah. We didn’t see… Thomas: Your brother referred you, right? Lee: Yes. Thomas: How did that work out? Lee: He was extremely pleased with what you guys did for him… Kathra: Oh yeah. Lee: I think his problem was a little more severe than ours so again, he has three kids and doesn’t want to take any chances of, you know, getting them bit… Kathra: Right. Lee: Or stung. Um, so he was very pleased and he wouldn’t have referred you guys to me if he didn’t think you guys could do, you know, what he promised, so that’s good. Thomas: Yeah. That’s excellent. We make sure everything we use inside the home is on a caution level, and I know that’s a chemical term, a pesticide term, but when you think of warning labels, you have your caution, your warning, and your danger label. Caution is the lowest of the three. Your toothpaste, if you pull out your toothpaste, is actually a warning label. Lee: Hmm. Thomas: So, we’re using things in the caution label, your toothpaste is a warning label. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: Your Ajax could even be a danger label. Kathra: Right. Thomas: I don’t remember on the Ajax or not, but your detergents, your chloride or, chlorine, sorry… Lee: Sure, sure. Thomas: …is going to be much more toxic than the stuff we use. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: In addition to that, we try to use products that are outside the home the same way. So, we actually try to put the safety of our technicians first… Lee: Yeah. Thomas: …thinking that these are the guys that are using it all day. Kathra: Right. Thomas: If they’re okay, if we can feel confident that we’re not going to affect them on a long-term basis in any shape or form, then we feel more comfortable having it in the home for other people. Kathra: Right. Thomas: And having a little one, I’m sure that’s a concern. Lee: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, and we also have dogs, as well, so we have two little Teacup Yorkies and they’re always sniffing around everywhere, so we want to make sure they don’t get sick. And they were just fine, you know? Thomas: Yeah, that’s actually, the sniffing around part of it, that’s actually one of the reasons that dogs get bitten by black widows a lot in the area. I don’t know if you guys have ever seen black widows in the area. Your brother had some black widows. Kathra: We did, too. Thomas: Did you have some black widows? Yeah, black widows are really, they stay back. They don’t really go out and hunt. You know, scorpions goes out and hunt, black widows will stay back and so they’re in their webs and there’s not that many encounters with people with black widows because, you know, they’re more reclusive. But, your dogs will run around, and they’ll sniff in and around the edges, and they’ll get right up there, and the fleshy part of their nose is the part they’ll stick right up into the black widow’s nest, and that’s where they get bit, so there’s probably a lot more, and they typically don’t diagnose dogs, but there’s probably a lot more dogs getting bit by black widows in Arizona than getting stung by scorpions. Kathra: Wow. Thomas: The dogs, that’s a fun… Lee: Well, and I also have questions like what are some common things that people can do, um, besides having you guys come out and spray, but are there things around the house that you can do like seal up vents or if there’s any holes, like behind my refrigerator where the water line comes in, the plastic cover that goes in the back is kind of lose, and yeah, one time I replaced the filter and I noticed that when it pulled away, I mean, I can see inside the drywall, so, I mean, there’s a crawl space in there, and should we try to seal that up? Do they ever come in through the walls and down through electrical outlets if they’re loose or holes, you know, or… Thomas: Right, that’s a great question. So, what can you, as a home owner, to seal up these gaps and holes in the wall? You can, sure enough. I mean, you can take some caulking if you wanted around those and seal those up. The products that we put into your walls, we actually aim for those because, just what you said, there’s space around there, there’s gaps around there, and the moisture points under your sinks is where they’re going to come in. They’re going to be looking for water. So, we aim for those areas and put the product back into the wall with the little duster. You probably saw them go into the wall when he said he was checking the outlets. Kathra: Right. Thomas: He’s going into the wall with product and putting them back behind the wall. Lee: Okay. Thomas: As far as the electrical outlets, that’s a primary entry point. Lee: Uh huh. Thomas: Because if you think of the studs in your house… Lee: Yeah. Thomas: Like, they built it; they drill holes all the way through your house with studs, right? Kathra: Right. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: And then they put the electrical wire all the way through your house. The rest of the wall is pretty much filled with your insulation. So, those bugs aren’t going to be moving around a whole lot typically, you know, up and down, but research has found actually at the University of Arizona ,they’ve researched it and they found that bugs will travel along those wires. Kathra: Wires, yeah. Thomas: So, the product when we come into the house, that’s why we target that area. Lee: Okay. Thomas: It’s because we want the bugs to come across the product and die off. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: So we’re hitting their highways and… Lee: Yeah. Thomas: ..and their more frequent areas. And the nice thing about it, too, is again since you have a little girl, we’re putting the product where the bugs are and where the bugs live instead of where you live. Lee: Yeah. Kathra: Right. Thomas: And then once we flush out the house in that initial service, as long as we’re maintaining the barrier around that exterior wall… Lee: Yeah, and keeping them out. Thomas: …the bulwark; yeah, the word bulwark actually means barrier, so as long as we keep the bulwark up… Lee: *Laughs* Thomas: …those bugs won’t come back in the house. Lee: Nice. Thomas: And the products typically last for thirty to sixty days, so effective, really effective for the first thirty days. Arizona heat kind of gets to them so they’re less effective for the last portion of those thirty days, but the products we use, according to the EPA, don’t last much longer than that. They’re not allowed to. They put regulations on products that leach into the soil and things like that. Lee and Kathra: Yeah. Thomas: So that’s why regular service is required so that we keep them flushed out of the house. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: We don’t want them ever to want to come back in the house. Kathra: Right. Lee: Well, we noticed that, I mean, if you live in Phoenix or in the desert, you’re going to see bugs from time to time, you know, and you see them, and you go ugh, and you take care of them, but when you get a scorpion in your house, I mean, it changes everything that you do. You’re paranoid about putting on your shoes, you have to get up in the night to check the baby and you’re wondering, am I going to step on one. I mean, it alters your entire… Kathra: It’s amazing how that little bug, or whatever you want to call it… Lee: Yeah. Kathra: …can change everything about your life. Lee: It’s horrible. Kathra: It’s cleared out. Lee: Yeah, so it is not fun and you’re worried all the time, you’re always looking around, you’re not comfortable, you’re not relaxed, I mean, you should be relaxed in your home. You’ve got that thing running around and you see one on the floor and it’s… Kathra: I know a lot of people are probably like us where we wait until we actually see one and then we panic. Thomas: Yeah. Kathra: And then we actually know now that we need to have the service, but really people should probably just have the service and then… Lee: Yeah, not worry about it. Kathra: …not have to worry. And take a chance, especially when you have a baby. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: Right. Kathra: I mean, if it was just us, maybe it wouldn’t be such a, you know, but… Lee: Yeah, it still would be bad because it really, I mean, you check your bed sheets, you don’t know where they are. Are they in your clothes? Are they going to bite you and sting you, or whatever? So, we’re glad to have you guys come over and help us with it. Kathra: Yeah, absolutely. Thomas: Yeah, honestly, I had three different homes in the valley and the most recent one we moved into, it was the only home I’ve seen scorpions in. Lee: Yeah. Thomas: And so on my level and on my wife’s level, I can relate, and when we moved in, we were seeing three to four a month… Lee: Yeah, scary. Thomas: Inside our house. Kathra: Oh, man. Thomas: And we got the service, we got done, here I am, you know, an employee of the company, so I’m like, you know, let’s see how it works. And after, we saw a few, again your earlier question, they actually come out of your wall, they can be there for a while, they still live in the area, you know, you can find regions where there are scorpions… Kathra: Right. Thomas: That’s why, again, scorpionreport.org will let you know if you have scorpions around you. But, the, having the service, going from three to four a month down to like one or two every odd month to every sixth month after that, because I couldn’t see any. And it was like a year and a half before we saw another one inside the house. Lee: Right. Kathra: Yeah. I think you just panic when you see them, there’s such a stigma about them and they’re just so creepy looking. Thomas: Yeah. Lee: They’re upsetting. And you don’t know as your sitting down, is there one on the cushion? Kathra: Yeah. Lee: I mean, you don’t want those in your house. Kathra: We actually found one in between our couch. Lee: Yeah. Kathra: And we reach down there because she drops her toys all the time and we reach our hands down there, and when I found the scorpion, I’m like, okay, so I took all the couches out and we vacuumed and shampooed, and we found a dead one, but we reach our hands down there between the couch cushions all the time. Thomas: In between the couch cushion. Kathra: Yeah, it was on the floor, but she drops her toys down our sectional and I reach down there all the time and grab her toys out. Lee: Yeah. Kathra: It was pretty freaky to know that that thing was down there. Lee and Thomas: Yeah. Thomas: And lucky for you guys, you don’t have the deadly, the poisonous, toxic ones, and with the desert hairy’s, it’s typically about as bad as a bee sting. So, unless there’s an allergic reaction, then you’re not going to see as much. Oh, speaking of the dogs… Kathra: Yeah, there’s our other baby. Thomas: There’s your other baby. She’s even got a little heart collar and everything. Kathra: Yeah. Lee: She doesn’t like scorpions, either. Kathra: She has clothes, you know. Thomas: Oh, does she really? Kathra: No, she just needs a jacket when she’s outside when it’s really cold because she’s so little. Thomas: Cold, it doesn’t get cold in Arizona. What are you talking about? Kathra: *Laughs* When you’re three pounds, it is. Thomas: *Laughs* That’s fun. Lee: Again, we can’t thank you guys enough for coming out and taking care of this problem. It’s been a big weight off our shoulders and we’ve seen the results and uh, we’re very happy with what you guys did and thank you. Thomas: You’re welcome.
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.”