Bridging the Gap Between Departments
Helping your operations and administrative teams understand their unique roles
Just as any sports team must understand that distinct roles can coalesce into a winning combination, helping operations and administration understand unique roles can rack up the wins.
But building a team in the pest management industry is no easy task—and we’re not just talking about hiring. With distinct roles and distant operations, ensuring that the field and the office are on the same page can be complex. Things like remote work and multistate operations only complicate the matter.
For Todd Leyse, owner and president of Adams Pest Control in Medina, Minnesota, the sports analogy was a natural one. He grew up and continues going to sporting events and coaching youth sports. But when his father announced plans to retire, he wanted to scale the company—and that meant he would need to put a team in place to do so.
“I don’t have to do everything as long as I have people around me who can do the things that I’m not well-suited for. When my dad announced he was going to retire, I had about a year to figure out how to replace him. You have to take the time to think about what your team needs and how to complement your strengths or cover up for your weaknesses as a leader.”
Building the right team is just the first step to ensuring that company culture permeates throughout every position, and that there are smooth handoffs between operations and administration.
That is more challenging at a place like Plunkett’s Pest Control, which operates in 20 states from the Canadian border to Mexico. While the company services both residential and commercial accounts, the bulk of its work is in servicing large, audited accounts that support the food chain.
Aly Silva Mulgrew, president of Plunkett’s, works to instill an “understanding and appreciation for the role each party plays and create defined processes when handoffs occur.”
Take collections, for instance. “We all share the goal and responsibility of collecting, but we’ve found it works best to ensure each knows their roles. It is up to the technician to make sure we have the right contact and the right information on file to ask, ‘Are you receiving our service summaries?’ If you’re not getting those, you’re not getting invoices.” With that information verified, the collections role is handed off to administration. “That delineation of roles and responsibilities has been very helpful,” she said.
The same is true at Rove Pest Control, which is based in Minnesota, but has branches as far away as Arizona. “Across organizations, everyone has the same shared values that they apply differently to their particular roles,” said Rob Greer, Rove’s chief operating officer. “That provides a lot of opportunity for alignment across the business but gives a depth of vision into their own roles and responsibilities.”
We're always looking at WAYS TO MAKE OURSELVES FEEL LIKE A TEAM, even though we're across 20 states. It's something we have to put real effort toward. It's harder than if we were under one roof.
-Aly Silva Mulgrew, President, Plunkett's Pest Control
All on the Same Page
Ensuring a smooth handoff and workflow between the field and the office starts at the interview process, Greer said.
“The first interview is typically more task-oriented: ‘Can you do the job?’ The second interview, though, is more about a team and values fit, with a lot of experiential questions,” he said.
That isn’t just about finding out more about the potential hire, though. “When they’re done with that interview, they understand some of the pieces that we value,” Greer said. A 13-module training session, completed during the first two weeks on the job, deepens that understanding, he said.
At Plunkett’s, administrative staff works primarily out of three locations, while field technicians may not ever set foot in an office. The company newsletter is a useful tool for profiling team members, including highlighting new faces. “One of the initiatives is profiling someone on the administrative team every month, what is their role, who are they,” Mulgrew said. “These are their pets, their interests and what they like to do in their free time. The more we are able to see each other as real people, the more we’re likely to be kind.”
Leadership visits the regions at the beginning of each year to celebrate what the region has accomplished as well as milestone anniversaries and sales records. Having leadership present helps build “a sense of connection,” Mulgrew said. Actively encouraging employees to share things like hunting explorations, vacations and other life milestones “helps us to feel smaller, even though we are quite large,” she said. “We’re always looking at ways to make ourselves feel like a team, even though we’re across 20 states. It’s something we have to put real effort toward. It’s harder than if we were under one roof.”
Knowing minor details about employees’ lives can help build empathy, an important skill at Rove as well, which helps each employee understand “the longer vision,” Greer said. It may mean taking time to ask more questions of an unhappy customer, for instance, “to help them identify their needs and put together the solution that’s going to work best.”
With the right people in place, a solid company mission that is understood by everyone and consideration of fellow employees, there still are misses, Mulgrew said. “This is always something we can do better, making sure that communication is broadly shared and more importantly, understood.”
The right tools—and a culture that encourages or requires use of them—can help. At Plunkett’s, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) not only tracks metrics that showcase how the company is doing on shared goals, but it also helps convey notes between those in the field and those in the office.
“Our ERP system contains all the notes of every interaction that our customer service representative has,” Mulgrew said. “We train our CSRs to make sure that they’re including useful and pertinent information. If the client is particular around knowing the time that we’re arriving, a note to set the exact time is included. Before we had this ERP system, we had technicians call to ask questions about clients and accounts. Once we had the ERP, our call volume dropped. When we looked into it, we found that the technicians were no longer needing to call in; the information was there for them.”
Adams also uses a software tool, a customer relationship management system, which catalogs every interaction between the CSR and the customer. But Leyse takes it a step further, building in accountability.
“A lot of companies communicate between employees via phone calls, texts and emails and there is no accountability to that and very little log in within the CRM,” Leyse said. “Every request that gets created must be closed out. If it wasn’t closed out by the assigned deadline, we can escalate that request to that person’s boss. If somebody assigns a task to the technician in the field, it will escalate to their manager automatically. It allows us to not drop the ball or not drop the ball as frequently.”
In the sports world, a dropped ball can lead to a turnover—one that allows the opponent to score and potentially causes a loss.
In pest management, it can lead to a different kind of turnover—a lost account.
Neither is an optimal outcome. Ensuring that all employees are helping to advance the ball, all while playing their own part and supporting others, can lead to a win.