Setting Your Company up to Succeed
SHERYL S. JACKSON
There is no guaranteed formula to create a successful business. Each business has its own values, mission, goals, challenges and personality. These disparate factors mean that starting or refreshing a business requires time and effort to ensure the business plan reflects the owner’s vision and provides a road map that leads to a success.
"Know your vision," said Curtis Rand, vice president of operations at Rose Pest Solutions, which operates as Rose Pest Solutions in Illinois and Wisconsin and as Franklin Pest Solutions in Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. Defining vision first is important because it drives all other aspects of the business plan, he explained. "If earning money is your only goal, your plan will be different than if your vision is to serve others and build relationships," he said.
The next step is to define the type of services and market segment you want to focus on. "Do you want to be a residential pest control company or commercial or a combination of both?" asked Rand. "Answers to this question will allow you to target business you want rather than chase all types of business." Focusing on market segments and geographic areas ensures you can hire the people, obtain training and certifications that may be specific to those markets, he added.
When identifying the markets you want to reach immediately, don’t limit yourself to "now," said Jeffrey King, president of The Pest Rangers. "A good business plan is well thought out and identifies customers today as well as down the road," he said. Eliminate tunnel vision by thinking bigger and establishing plans to add business as you grow if your vision is to expand. "When we started our business in 2008, we focused on residential, but planned to enter the heavy commercial market, which includes warehouses and manufacturing facilities, after five years," he said. "Two years later, we entered the public/private housing market."
The advantage of building a business plan that looks beyond a year or two is the opportunity to create a strategy to build a technical staff, skills and certifications, equipment and sales department to support new business in a different market. "Entering new segments requires training, credentials and employees to support a new type of client," said King. "It is important to recognize that not all service staff who enjoy residential work will want to work in a food processing plant. Planning ahead allows time to find the right employees."
Review Your Plan Regularly
Along with a strategic roadmap, a business plan also should include quantifiable goals and identify the metrics that will be used to measure progress toward those goals, says Stacy O’Reilly, president, Plunkett’s Pest Control. Reviewing the plan on a regular basis, understanding what is happening with the metrics and making decisions to adjust are necessary, she said. "Talk to employees and listen to what they say is working or not working well as you review," she suggested.
Plunkett’s Pest Control has a small sales staff and relies on service technicians to generate new business. "When reviewing our sales metrics, we realized that technician sales were slowing down, so we restructured compensation to better reward technician sales and invested in the tools technicians need to develop professional service proposals quickly in the field," said O’Reilly. "Now, 70% of new contracts each year come from our service technicians."
Who is involved in creating, reviewing or adjusting a business plan varies from company to company. While most experts agree that the vision for the company cannot be set by a committee and should be limited to the owner or the owner with feedback from a few key leaders, most companies seek feedback from employees. Whether this is via an informal system or a formal committee structure, information from different perspectives can provide insight into improving the plan.
"I recommend that the business plan be reviewed quarterly to track the progress and possibly alter some aspects. It is best to not completely change a strategy or plan throughout the year unless major issues are presented," said Rand. "All of the individuals involved in developing the original business plan must be involved in the review, so that there continues to be unity of thought and direction," he added.
"When we wanted to diversify our business mix and find more customers for termite services, we knew it would require education because customers in the north don’t think about termites as they do in the south," said Rand. "One of our technicians suggested that we include a termite site inspection in service calls at no charge because every house has areas conducive to termite infestation, such as wood decks," he said. Now, technicians complete a termite inspection checklist that is emailed to customers to show where they are vulnerable and educate them about termite protection programs available. The change has resulted in customers signing up for termite protection programs, he said.
Don't Overlook These Items
"People are the key factor in determining the potential success of a business plan. Vehicles, marketing and technology are important, but without people, nothing will be successful," said Rand. "Establish specific, detailed and thorough training programs for the people involved." Even if you are a one-person business, spend time attending state licensing seminars, industry specific training sessions and seminars for the industry segment you are targeting, he suggested. "If your target is residential, then focus more of your efforts on learning the purchasing habits of consumers and what they desire in a service provider."
"One part of the business planning process that is most often overlooked is an exit plan," said King. "Our business is not like a retail store that can close the doors one day because customers come in only when they need to buy something." Because customers are subscription-based, with routine service scheduled over a six or 12-month period, a pest control company is obligated to fulfill that commitment, he added. "Your customer base is an asset that can be sold to another company, in fact, we’ve acquired a couple of businesses over the years because the owner wanted to retire or leave the business, but did not have an exit plan," he said. "Think about how you want to leave the business—to family members, partners, an employee—and how you want to be compensated. While it may not be an item in your initial plan, it is something that needs to be addressed in revised plans as you grow."
Resources to Build a Business Plan
While consultants can provide added insight into development of a business plan, there are many other, often free, resources available to pest control company owners.
"Check with your local chamber of commerce, small business association or local universities that have small business incubator centers to see what resources they have," suggested Jeffrey King, president of The Pest Rangers.
"Peer companies in your market will most likely be more than happy to answer questions and help you to grow your company," said Curtis Rand, vice president of operations at Rose Pest Solutions. "This industry is a family and the majority of companies are more than happy to work with peer companies and assist in their development and growth. A healthy and growing industry helps all organizations."
NPMA resources include:
NPMA’s Mentor Match program is a unique online networking and career development tool. Your mentor or mentee can be in the same city or on the other side of the world. Go to my.npmapestworld.org/mentoring.
Business resources that include a small business toolbox, budgeting and business plan development tools, training resources and more. Go to www.npmapestworld.org/smallbusiness.