6. Pest Control

Killing Bugs as a Career

This is an unusual one for me to put here as it is my old business.  If you are going to do well, you need to follow the advice I give here.  You can do  decent, and some people do fairly well.  You will not be making the big bucks the guy who took up underwater welding is making.  OTOH, you can be up and running much faster.  The best part is that this is an easy industry to break into, and whomever hires you will provide nearly complete training at virtually no cost, you will actually get paid in training.

About the Job

While the job will tag you with the moniker “Bug Man” the work is serious.  Pests include insects, vermin, spiders, and even birds.  They run from being a nuisance to causing major damage.  Infested food must be thrown out.  Roaches and rodents carry disease.  Termites destroy homes.  They have to be controlled and eliminated.  As the person who does this, you have one of the very few if not only jobs where you are required to kill on a daily basis.

Most of the work is done on a “route” basis.  Homeowners and businesses use the service on a preventative basis.  The serviceman arrives, checks if there are any areas that need special attention, inspects, and treats as needed.  You might see 5-15 sites per day, spending 20 minutes to several hours at each.  This is both “outside” and “off-site” work.  Minimal time will be spent at your own office, mostly to complete paperwork, get training, and stock up on needed items.

Who Does Well?

One of my best employees once told me I needed “to quit hiring these damn kids!”  He was right, too many people out there have a very lazy attitude.  BPB life is not about being “lazy,” even with how it seems I put things.  You cannot go into this job expecting to have everything laid out for you and easy.  This job does not start at 8 and end at 5 with a nice lunch.  You will be go-go-go all day long.  You have to figure out things on your own.  None of this is hard for a person of average of above IQ.  It is a problem for people who do not know how to think for themselves.  What are some qualities you will need?

  • Even in these days of GPS, you need to be able to read a map and find things.
  • You need to be able to read semi-technical instructions and labels
  • Situational awareness and safety conscious are big as your products are designed to kill
  • Unsafe drivers need not apply, ditto anyone with any kind of misdemeanor or worse conviction
  • Self-starter!  In the morning you get the day’s work.  No boss telling you to keep up the pace

How to do Well

Owners of pest control companies are one of the largest groups of what we can call “hidden millionaires” in the USA.  When Pest Control Companies recruit talent, they call their businesses “recession proof.”  They are not, though they are “recession resistant.”  Bugs still show up, good or bad economy.  But why do so many millionaires get made?  How do you get a piece of the action?

The millionaires get made because the costs are not excessive and it is a “recurring revenue” business model.  Last thing first.  A properly set up business will have about $15,000 in revenue per serviceman.  40% goes to labor, leaving $9,000.  A truck is the next biggest cost.  Then your materials, insurance, and smaller items like uniforms.  Of that $15K, $3,500 might fall to profit.  It is not all that hard to have just one more route at a time.  See where it adds up?

Most Service STINKS

Remember what I said earlier about hiring those “damn kids?”  The reason is they give awful service.  Show up late in sneakers not work shoes.  No good people skills.  Think they can go home after 7 hours.  The stories are too many, lets just say the bottom 1/3 are always on the edge of being fired or leaving.  With good common sense and decent people skills you can go far.  But you do not want to go far with the majors.  They will chew you up, work you to death, and spit you out.

Service in the USA is so bad these days that the majors live in a state of near constant turnover.  The good techs have to pick up the slack for the bad.  Boom times grind people up.  Bad times, winter is slow, can mean someone gets laid off and the rest have to pick up the slack.  Some guys do have a decent career with the majors, but they are workers, not BPBs.

 A Realistic Plan

I have met people who do well in pest control.  I met one who did so well the company he started as a “retirement” business got to the point he needed to look for a partner to take on.  Another who does it half-time to fill in the bumps and humps of other contract work.  The key is indeed to work for yourself, the BPB dream, or work for a place so small that you are a virtual partner.  You have to build the skills first.

  1.  Apply with the national companies, Terminix and Orkin.  For all their faults, they hire a lot of people and the training is (usually) there.  Take it all seriously.  Ask questions.  Learn.  Most important, GET THEM TO SPONSOR YOU FOR LICENSURE!  All states require some kind of license.  Sometimes, you need a “sponsor” who has trained you.  Most times, it is just easier to get them to do it.
  2. Learn the business!  Take the magazine subscriptions, they are free.  Pay attention in training.  Show some interest and your manager will probably show you “extra” things.
  3. Decide if you stay or go.  As I said, some people do OK at the majors.  I don’t suggest it, but if you get a sweet situation, stay.  Otherwise, find your state’s requirements for your own business.  Do them off season and quiet.  Then leave.  DO NOT TRY TO STEAL CUSTOMERS!  It is wrong and may get you sued.
  4. Build your business.  Decide what kind of service you will offer.  Get equipped.  Independents to well when they have fancy “toys” the big boys will not buy.  Find a hole in what the big boys offer for service and fill it.
  5. Build your customer base!


That is about it.  You could do this as your main business, but it might be better to do it as part of a “home service” gig.  Get 200 customers that buy $750-1500 per year from you.  Do that math!