Feature articles

04 January 2018

The January I started out in pest control - Asa's story

Asa Goldschmied, Founder and Director of Proton Environmental, started out in the pest management industry five years ago now. He looks back at what it was like to change careers and his first tricky January in the business.  

The in-laws have been sent packing… the Quality Street’s empty… the bins are full… and Christmas is well and truly over.

For most, it’s a bittersweet mixture of relief and gloom. But whatever the festive period is for you, January is the universal leveller. I don’t know if it’s just me, but this always makes the start of the year a lean time for pest control too.

Asa Goldschmied from Proton Environmental

I remember the first January after I decided to go it alone and set up my own business. It was almost unbearable. Work was at a trickle… I spent more time doing my old job to make ends meet than out doing pest control… and every day I was wondering what possessed me to get into pest control in the first place.

A few years down the line now, January is still hard but no longer a month to dread. And looking back I am very pleased I made the leap and got into pest control as a career. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

But the memory of those early days is still with me. And I always find myself at this time of year thinking back to that question, why choose pest control?

For me, I was in limbo in my working life… not really happy anymore in my previous career but also not sure whether I could face starting something entirely new. As so often, it was around Christmas-time that I had a bit of breathing space to take stock and think about a new career.

An interest in biology, animals and nature programmes 

I was also quite handy from my time in construction. But I’d always really been interested in biology and animals, whether that was watching nature programmes or spending hours in a field with an airgun!

So I started looking around for what I could do that might somehow incorporate all three. Not only that, but it had to be able to pay the bills before too long.

Pest Control had crossed my mind before, but for some reason, I had the impression that it was a pretty nasty job that you wouldn’t get into if you had the choice.

That said, I thought I should have a proper look before I ruled it out. Needless to say, I was surprised by what I found.

Learning pest control and meeting BPCA

Asa doing some proofing work

I was lucky enough to find that the founder and head PCO of Ratatak – Chris Tunmore – was the father of a friend of mine. He introduced me to the trade and became a bit of a mentor-figure, helping me out when I needed advice on a tricky mouse job or how to outsmart the fox!

I also found BPCA and all the advice and information they offer. After a few of their online courses and some sessions in the field with Chris, I suddenly found myself at university. Well, sort of...

… I had enrolled to do the BPCA/RSPH Level 2 Award in Pest Management, a 1-week residential course which was then hosted at Warwick University by BPCA. I was taught by such luminaries of pest control as Clive Boase, Richard Moseley and the BPCA’s own Kevin Higgins (who went on to help immeasurably with advice and support in the following years and does so to this day). 

Aged 38, it was very strange to be staying on a student campus, albeit briefly.

During the training, my eyes were opened to the range and diversity of Pest Control. The course was intense and structured to cover a lot of topics over the 5-day course, a huge amount of information had to be absorbed, and there was a difficult exam at the end - it was by no means a formality and I was proud of my pass!

It seemed that most of the other attendees had some experience of the industry, whether privately or through local councils, and so the constant question in my mind during the course was, “could I go out on my own in this industry from scratch after this course?” – I asked Richard Moseley at the end of one of his lectures and he assured me that, with the support of the BPCA, I could.

He was right, and in the first few years, I leaned on them heavily. There was always somebody there who could give me the help I needed, on everything from practical field advice to the subtleties of dealing with customers and managing expectations as a pest controller.

But like every new graduate full of enthusiasm, the most important thing was to come down to earth and learn one fundamental thing quickly: it might be easy to get started, but it’s hard to get good!

Asa working down a drain

New challenges and infuriating mysteries

Since then, I have been round the houses and back a few times. Although like anything, it ends up quite routine most of the time, someone once joked that every job in pest control is the exception to rule… and you know what, they’re right.

You simply cannot ever be sure of what you’ll find. The next surprise, new challenge, or infuriating mystery is always just around the corner. From rats on farms and bird strikes at airfields, to an escaped pet snake and ‘catching’ phantom beasties behind the walls… it feels like I’ve seen a lot. But in truth, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s out there. 

So if you’re reading this stuck in the January blues, wondering about a career in pest control or worried if work will pick up, or anything else at all… hang on in there! Because as day follows night, pests will appear and the phone will always ring.

Thinking about starting out in pest control or setting up your own pest management business? Take a look at the BPCA Probationary Scheme or learn more about the Level 2 Award in Pest Management. Alternatively, give our team a call on 01332 294 288 and the BPCA Staff team will be happy to help.

Asa-GoldschmiedAsa Goldschmied
Proton Environmental

4 December 2018  |  BPCA Bulletin

Source: Online