The pest management industry looks nothing like it did when, in 1939, the Rev. David Dodd, Sr., a retired Methodist minister in Monroe, bought some equipment from a cash-strapped traveler and started what’s now Carolina Pest Management.
Seventy-five years later, many industry chemicals are environmentally friendly. More women are joining the ranks of technicians. And David Dodd Sr.’s great-granddaughters, company President Kristin Dodd-Tarleton and Vice President Sarah Dodd, are now in charge of the family business.
Here’s what hasn’t changed: People hate pests, and they’re willing to pay someone experienced to get rid of them.
That’s one reason the 36-employee company didn’t have to lay off a single person during the downturn. Here are other keys to its success:
‘Wait six months’: Companies are always releasing new pest-management products at steep prices, Dodd-Tarleton said. That’s because they’re patented, and the company, which spent millions on testing, wants to recoup the cost of the research quickly .
But when investing in a new product would require an outlay of thousands of dollars (a single container of Termiticidecould cost hundreds of dollars, for example), Carolina Pest Management has found it often pays to wait.
Dodd-Tarleton’s rule of thumb: Give it six months. See how it fares in the marketplace and what other pest companies say about it. Then decide.
“(The new products) all sound great and wonderful and are supposedly the thing that’s going to solve all our problems,” Dodd-Tarleton said. “But I haven’t seen that one yet.”
Take advantage of state-funded testing: Dodd-Tarleton, a former president of the North Carolina Pest Management Association – the first woman to hold the title – said the trade association has been invaluable to their family business.
The statewide organization has a long-standing relationship with N.C. State University, whose graduate students in the entomology department regularly research insects and products used to get rid of them. The department even has a house in Raleigh it uses to conduct tests and studies, Dodd-Tarleton said.
Once or twice a year, the grad students present their findings, and pest management companies from South Carolina and Virginia also make the trip. It’s a great way to hear about groundbreaking research and findings before they go public, Dodd-Tarleton said.
Make your customer comfortable: Dodd-Tarleton said she currently has two female technicians and lets them work flexible schedules. Having women in pest-management goes a long way toward building rapport with clients, as it’s often women who request an evaluation.
Dodd-Tarleton also realizes how important it is to remember the reason the clients are reaching out to you in the first place. If they have a problem with roaches, rats and other pests why would they want to see pictures of those bugs all over your homepage?
That’s why the Carolina Pest Management homepage has a photo of a mother, father and toddler on a picnic blanket in a landscaped yard, outside a khaki-colored wooden home. Superimposed on the photo is the phrase “Protecting the homes & families of the Carolinas since 1939” and an offer for a free home inspection.
“I’m not scared of insects, but I’ve heard from enough people over the years that don’t like them,” Dodd-Tarleton said.
So to have a spider pop out at the viewer or have animated ants crawling up the homepage, like some pest-control companies do?
“It may be cool to people in the industry, but that’s not what (our customer) wants to see.”