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09 November 2021

Up, up and away! Seven ways to scale your pest control business

BUSINESS | PPC105 NOVEMBER 2021

Our industry is full of ambitious small and medium-size businesses delivering fantastic quality, problem-solving pest control that protects public health. But when is the right time to scale up?

Michael Taylor, CEO of BPCA member company Contego Environmental Services, looks at some of the fundamentals of scaling a business regardless of whether you have one employee or one hundred.

seven ways to scale your pest control business PPC magazine feature article

The pest control market in the UK is currently highly buoyant, fast-moving and constantly evolving. As an industry (and certainly as BPCA members), we all have real ambition to drive standards in training and service delivery, to safeguard the environment and protect public health.

In my opinion, now is a great time to push forward with opportunities presented in all market sectors.

Are you ready to scale your business?

Disclaimer: there’s risk. It’s hard work. It’s competitive. It’s frustrating and often worrying.

But of course, there are many upsides: freedom, the potential to generate more money than available from a 9-5, and even an asset to sell when the time comes.

I’ve heard many owners say, ‘business is great, we’re all really busy’. That’s amazing, but when everyone’s ‘really busy’, who’s focusing on growth, improvements and identifying opportunities?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re too busy to grow. But if your life depended on it, you’d make it happen. So why not just get on with it now?

1. Start with the end goal

Fundamentally, your vision and the clarity of your end goal will determine your business success.

A boxing match is 12, 3-minute rounds with one goal in mind: to win. There are multiple ways to get there, and you may even get knocked down a couple of times on the way. Business is very much the same.

Think big. Or small. At the end of the day, it’s your goal and your ambition.

If you love the idea of a lifestyle business with three staff members, where you pick up the slack when it’s busy – then that’s fantastic. But, if you dream of more, then absolutely go for it.

I’m a big thinker, and even at the start of the business (when I was 18), I talked about running a national bird and pest control business. And we pulled it off. I got there by having a clear vision of that big goal.

Of course, your goals can and will evolve. And this is where reflection, reassessment and reevaluation come in.

Not sure where you want to get to? Here are a few suggestions:

The final sale price of your business
A million-pound exit in 15 years at retirement or a million-pound business in 5 years so you can move on to another sector.

Your dream lifestyle costs per annum
Holidays, school fees, cars, food and house, etc, then come to a figure that becomes your goal.

120k net profit
This might allow for dividends, tax and investments to fund your dream life. You don’t necessarily need to go big to achieve that.

Being small with limited overheads could be the right way forward as scaling any business requires significant investment in overheads, systems and processes.

More staff to cover more areas
Ten staff. One-hundred staff! Where do you want to expand to?

We all think differently, but you should always work to a plan and have your exit strategy in mind.

PPC magazine There are multiple ways to get there and you may even get knocked down a couple of time

2. Invest in yourself

If you just run your business day-to-day, you’ll likely never achieve full market value at exit.

Investing in yourself is a great place to start. That can be specific courses, mastermind style groups or one-to-one mentoring.

Your mentors don’t need to be from the industry. I’d say it is a benefit if they weren’t. Look outward at ‘what good looks like’ in similar sectors and implement what you see working.

Understand the numbers. If you’re not confident at understanding a balance sheet, taking apart a profit and loss calculation, or running a cash flow forecast, start here.

Everything in business revolves around the basic numbers.

Business podcasts and social media channels are great ways to reach out and learn from others.

Exploring business opportunities and sharing ideas will help you grow and develop as a business leader.

Give yourself time to work on the business each day. You’ll be amazed at the progress you can make when you give yourself one hour per day to work on planning and implementing ideas and processes.

Reading, Googling, planning with a notebook and creating task lists will keep you on track and accountable.

3. Foundations of growth; know your market

Understanding your market, your niche and the opportunities for growth within. Set your plan and your targets.

There are many niche service areas to explore, so be aware of geographical positioning, seasonality specialist service training and potential market-specific requirements such as courses or approved industry body status.

Many companies consider providing primarily domestic or commercial services. There are a few things to consider here, so let’s start with how these customers buy our services:

Domestic customers

The need and demand for instant response are high, and cost vs reaction time is less critical.

“I have a wasp nest and I need it sorted in the next ten minutes.”

They tend to be relatively easy to attract using social media channels, including local groups, small paid adverts in local magazines, Google Ads, etc.

They provide instant cash flow as domestic customers typically pay at the point of service delivery and can be a useful marketing tool via word-of-mouth recommendations.

Commercial customers

It’s usually a ‘thing we need’ and therefore an ongoing service. If the client has very few issues, then it’s almost an unseen service.

They are slower to acquire and often take multiple conversations to build rapport and trust. The benefit is a long-term recurring revenue client.

Seasonal customers

Be aware of seasonal trends, especially when scaling up to cover workloads.

Falconry bird control is a great example of this. Everyone needs coverage in the breeding season and forgets that gulls exist from September to March when suddenly they’re causing issues again.

How do reoccurring customers vs recurring customers grow value in the business?

Contract customers are a regular revenue stream. You build up routes and route density.

Reoccurring revenue, where a customer calls once a year or maybe every second year, has very little value in a sales process when you come to exit.

4. Systems and process

I love ‘process’. It’s the only thing that helps me understand why something’s gone wrong and ultimately how to stop it from happening again.

I’m a huge fan of technology and systematisation. Work-based apps, tracking, and customer access make everyone’s lives easier.

We’re here to provide customer care. Our technicians are often the first point of contact, and we should be making their lives easier with clear job notes and easy reporting.

Make sure your staff have what they require to do the job correctly. The quickest way to demotivate a team is not to give them the correct tools for the job.

Explore your strengths and weaknesses, look at your service offering, your brand position and address them each based on your proposition.

Does running a small business equate to being weak? Or, since we run a small business based locally that can be onsite within 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, surely that means we are strong?

There aren’t any rules here. Your brand and voice create your proposition.

Set the rules. It’s easy to get frustrated with staff for doing something ‘silly’, but without clear guidance and rules, whose fault is it? To be clear: it’s you!

It’s the fundamental foundation of business. It doesn’t matter the sector, the niche, the product or service; it’s all down to you as the key person in the business. Everyone’s mistakes are all your fault.

Processes drive success. Clarity of vision drives the team.

Before you decide to move forward and grow, you must ensure you’re ready to take responsibility.

Learn to look at it from above like a helicopter, see the root cause and then how you can improve the process. When you do, you create clarity for everyone.

Don’t focus on what went wrong. Focus on how to prevent it from happening again.

I love process pull quote PPC magazine

5. Create a clear value proposition

Think about where you add value to your offering. What makes you different?

Know your value proposition and your positioning. It’s difficult to articulate differences between service providers without these being in place.

Being able to express your value proposition helps them quickly understand what you’re all about and gives confidence in your company.

Look at Coca-Cola as an example. The brand invites people to create a positive reality by thinking of Coke as happiness in the bottle.

The unique selling proposition is the main reason why Coca-Cola has been around for a long time now, since 1886. Coca-Cola doesn’t sell beverages; it sells happiness in a bottle.

Think of it as your reason for being, what makes you different, your ‘elevator pitch’ – the one line that explains it all.

6. Be agile and work smart

Being a smaller business is a huge advantage in any market. You can think of an idea, explore it and implement it the same day across multiple technicians or locations.

Likewise, no company can scale when all the policies, processes and systems exist only in the mind of the founder or key team members.

Work smart with clarity, keep open channels of communication with your team and listen.

Don’t be afraid to try something and fail. For every nine failures, you might have a huge success. This is your growth.

7. Culture and values

You set your culture. Be clear and open with your goals and ambitions.

Invest in your team, their training and give clear guidance on ‘what good looks like’. Do this for every department and document everything.

Recruiting is crucial. Don’t hold back and always employ the right person for the job (that doesn’t always mean the most qualified).

It’s the old adage of skill vs will; you can teach skill, but it’s very difficult to drive willingness.

For me, willingness to learn and attitude wins every time.

Create a culture that knows the importance of outstanding customer service. No matter your size, scale or level of experience, delivering outstanding service wins out every time.

If you focus on only one thing, make it your customer.

Ready to grow, but something’s holding you back?

BPCA is incredibly passionate about member companies getting to where they want to be. If you want to talk through your ideas, get in touch today.

membership@bpca.org.uk

Source: PPC105

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