How to Start a Pest Control Business: Tips from an Industry Expert
Starting a pest control business is no easy task. It’s a strict industry with a lot of complexities. Luckily, James McGowan, from ZAP Pest Control, has over 15 years of experience. He shares his insight on the topic below.
At some point in time, everyone will have a pest or wildlife problem. Maybe you want to be the person who will save them from their misery; maybe you love the satisfaction of eradicating roaches from the planet; or perhaps you’re passionate about problem-solving biology and chemicals. If you think you’re ready to combat roaches, mice, birds, ants and other pests, then it’s time you start your pest control business!
Pest control veteran and expert, James McGowan from ZAP Pest Control, has over 15 years of experience. He’s here to walk you through what you need to start up a pest control business.
What you’ll learn in this article:
- Should you start a pest control business? Learn from the pros before you start.
- Get your training and education complete to operate according to local laws.
- Learn the back end of starting a pest control business: insurance, business name, location, incorporate, and banking.
- Buy or lease your vehicle and understand the best equipment to use.
- Get a Client Relationship Management software to record important chemical tracking, notes, and customer information.
- Choose the best pest market to tackle.
- Figure out what PPE uniform basics you need for your chemical use.
- Start your marketing off right with your value proposition, position, and website.
1. Should You Start a Pest Control Business?
First things first: if you’re brand spankin’ new to pest control, then you should hold off on starting a business. James says, “you really need a firm understanding of front and back end of how this industry works.” It’s best to learn from someone else before you take this beast of a business on.
Pest control is much more complicated than other industries. You must fully understand the front end (business operations, marketing, customer service) and the back end (regulations, chemicals, biology, wildlife and pests, strategies, and processes).
Newbies will face an incredibly steep learning curve. Even a year of training at a pest control business can be incredibly useful.
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2. Training and Education
Pest control is highly regulated, and these regulation standards vary depending on where you live.
There are local and federal regulations for chemical use. You will also have to report to federal and local environmental regulatory bodies. As a result, you do need education and experience to pursue this business.
Pest control professionals must have a license or certificate to begin working. To get a license you need to take approved courses to study chemicals, labels, pests, equipment, and legislation. Licensing is a fairly lengthy process–most programs require an apprenticeship program and an exam.
From there on in, you’ll have to renew your license nearly every five years, take regular education courses, and submit all of your training records to the appropriate governing agencies or bodies in your city.
If you’re thinking of skipping this step, don’t. You need a license to purchase and use most pest control chemicals. You also need a license to register your business with your local government.
Next up you’ll want to do some research and educate yourself on local and federal environmental regulations, as they vary between location. This will also help you make informed decisions on which chemicals you’d like to use. For example, some pest control providers choose to use environmentally friendly chemicals, equipment, and application strategies.
Studying and researching chemicals is especially important because you will learn more about the chemicals you should avoid or might misapply. Misapplied chemicals could result in industry-wide chemical bans, so do your due diligence!
3. Pest Control Business Basics
Once you’ve learned the technical ropes, you’ll need to get your business off the ground. That means pest control business or liability insurance; business name, location, and incorporation; and accounting and banking.
Pest control business owners have a lot of liability on their hands. They deal with chemicals, heavy-duty equipment, and homes and businesses, all while remaining compliant with environmental and industry standards. There‘s a lot of risk involved.
Invest in a solid business insurance plan to protect and separate yourself from your business. You’ll have to do a bunch of paperwork (you could do this on your own, or with the help or an attorney) and submit your business to the IRS.
Pest control service providers usually are required to get insurance by law––so don’t overlook this crucial step.
Business Name, Location, and Incorporation
You need a business name. Make sure that you choose something professional and long lasting. You’ll use your business name to incorporate and register your business.
Choose a good name that you’re happy to use on your logos, vehicle decals, uniform badges, invoices and quotes, email domain, and website domain. For example, avoid using an unprofessional name like Roach Blasterz Ltd and email like [email protected]
Register your business with your local government by establishing as an LLC. Do some research and figure out what steps you need to take to register your business. It could take six weeks (or longer) to get your business service registration complete.
Finally, it’s best to get a business address to incorporate and register. Purchasing or renting a P.O. box will help you maintain some privacy and make you look like a larger, more professional business.
Get an Accountant and a Commercial Bank Account
Folks who rush into starting a business easily miss this crucial step. A commercial bank account will help keep your business’ finances separate from your personal finances and assets. It’s required if you decide to incorporate, and it helps keep your bookkeeping clean and tidy.
A separate account is especially important for monitoring business cash flow so you can pay overhead costs, yourself, and your employees.
It will also will help you understand how much money to allocate to business growth decisions, such as hiring staff, advertising spend, marketing, and new equipment purchases.
Finally, you might think that you can do all of your bookkeeping on your own, but having an accountant do it for you will be worthwhile. It will save you time and trouble, not to mention auditing and hair-pulling.
4. Pest Control Vehicle and Equipment
When it comes to getting the right vehicle, the one thing that matters most is that your truck, van, or trailer can lock down.
Choose a vehicle that works with your financing needs (leasing, buying, capital investment, or used). James prefers using a leased vehicle that you can buy out at the end of the lease. It’s the easiest to declare, and is the most affordable in terms of amortization.
James McGowan, ZAP Pest Control
The old martial arts proverb says it best: "if you can’t do it without the tools, then the tools won’t make a difference."
Pest Extermination Equipment
At the end of the day, James says that it doesn’t matter what equipment you have. Everyone has access to the same chemicals and equipment because it’s government regulated.
He says, “there’s a handful of things you could buy, but the old martial arts proverb says it best: ‘if you can’t do it without the tools, then the tools won’t make a difference’.”
James strongly believes that there are tons of tools, chemicals, and equipment on the market that don’t help you do your job better. It’s all about your knowledge and your strategy. “Once you understand pests and what you have to do to remove them, then you will know what tool will help you do the job best,” James explains.
James recommends that you start out minimal with the equipment and chemical basics and work your way up. This helps you ensure that you’re making a good investment.
5. Get a CRM (Client Relationship Management Software)
You need to track a ton of information all the time:
- Client contact information
- Client notes
- Chemical tracking
- Chemical use
- Team tracking
The list goes on longer than that! James explains, “recording pest control chemical use is paramount for reporting to environmental and government bodies.Plus, If you make it complicated, your employees aren’t going to track things. The easier you make recording this information at the time of application, the better.”
It’s highly regulated, so you must track usage, record weather and wind, time of application, application method, and who applied it. If you get reported by another pest control service provider or consumer, the regulatory body will want to know the details. You better be able to have proof if someone asks.
Keeping all this information on file in a tidy, organized, and searchable way using pen and paper is impossible. A pest control CRM will help with you all of that and more (if you find a good one 😉).
James McGowan, ZAP Pest Control
Recording pest control chemical use is paramount for reporting to environmental and government bodies.Plus, If you make it complicated, your employees aren’t going to track things. The easier you make recording this information at the time of application, the better.”
6. Choose Your Market
Rather than choosing your services, you should choose your market. It’ll help you narrow down your service offerings while remaining competitive (even against nation-wide pest control companies).
Create your business model based your pest control types:
- Occasional pests (year round pests such as ants, wasps, beetles, sow bugs, centipedes, silverfish)
- Seasonal pests (such as ladybugs, boxelder beetles, spiders)
- Invasive pests (such as cockroaches, bedbugs, and carpenter/invasive ants that are not considered a nuisance)
- Wildlife (such as pigeons, skunks, sparrows, groundhogs)
James recommends you choose a pest type based on your expertise. Service clients who need that service, whether they’re residential, commercial, or industrial. You can expand your market once you get a good hold on your pest control method strategy.
Doing so will help you perfect your service offerings and business strategy. You’ll become the local expert, and you’ll be able to push out service providers who spray and pray, or do a mediocre job.
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7. Get Your Uniform in Order
You might want to keep it casual and wear everyday clothes and a mask when you’re dealing with the “toxic stuff.” But take it from a pro: being lax with your uniform isn’t a good idea. “Although the chemicals you’ll use aren’t necessarily toxic, continuous exposure to them could be dangerous. You should always wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as clothing and masks when handling chemicals.”
Chemical labels have PPE clothing regulations printed on them. James recommends going with the heaviest PPE regulation clothing recommendation on the most intense chemical you’ve got. You won’t have to constantly change your uniform, and you’ll avoid chemical exposure.
Uniform components include:
- Long pants
- Long shirt
- Chemical resistant gloves
- Chemical resistant footwear
- A respirator, shield, or goggles
- An apron, or smok
Going all out and wearing the heaviest PPE uniform all the time might seem like you’re going overboard, but it’s for your own safety. It will also show customers that you’re a professional business that takes health and safety seriously. Make sure you learn (and teach your employees) how to launder your uniforms.
Don’t forget to plaster your company name and logo on your uniform!
Since you’re in the early stages of starting your pest control business, you only need to work on a few marketing things: your value proposition, your pest control position, and your website.
If you want to get into the nitty gritty, learn all about pest control marketing here.
Your value proposition is the unique edge or offering you bring to the market. Determining the value of your service, communicating that to consumers, and figuring out how to bring all of this to the marketplace takes a bit of brainstorming and research.
For example, your value proposition could be constructed around the fact that you’re passionate about green business. So, you’re committed to exclusively using environmentally friendly chemicals, strategies, and equipment.
Another example could be that all the pest control providers in your city do not offer a guarantee, so, you offer a 100 day pest free guarantee.
The point here is to work with your passions, strengths, and any gaps in the market to determine how you can stand out from the crowd and attract more customers.
Next up, you’ll want to think about your positioning because pest control is a saturated industry. You’re competing against crooks, con-artists, decent businesses, and nationwide service providers.
Merely providing pest control services won’t make you stand out. However, positioning your services to make them look more competitive and attractive will.
Your pricing, presentation, customer service, and service packages can help you position your services within your market and give you that competitive edge.
For example, your position could be professionalism and thoroughness. So, everything you do from your uniform, to customer communication, to your pest control guarantee will revolve around customer service and satisfaction.
Or maybe you decide to take a pricing position. For example, you offer the cheapest base price with additional services for a fee and eradicate pests over a period of time that works with your clients’ budgets.
Whatever your position is, make sure you firmly believe in it, and find a way to make it clear in all of your marketing efforts to attract leads.
What Your Social Profile Should Look Like
Profiles on social media networks will include different information sections. For example, a Facebook Business page will include an entire “about” page, whereas Instagram will give you only 150 characters to tell people about your account.
The most important things to include in any social profile are your business name, business information, website link, and contact in the account profile. You can also include a work request link right on your profile in the link in your bio, or directly in your profile on some social networks, such as Facebook.
Use these social networks to post content about your services and other helpful power washing information.
Setting up a website can be one of the best ways to use the internet help you grow your pest control business. You can use your website to showcase testimonials, contact and company information, and work request forms. It helps you garner brand awareness and generate leads, so don’t skip out on getting a website!
You can purchase a custom domain on websites like GoDaddy, Squarespace, or Wix. These hosts also offer website building tools, which are handy if you’re not great with web development. Some of these domain host websites also offer a branded email package, too.
If you’re strapped for cash, a Google MyBusiness account and Facebook Business Page will be a good temporary alternative. You can provide your contact information, business hours, service area, and client reviews on these accounts.
Whether you’re getting into pest control to eradicate creepy crawlies, or just want to help folks get rid of a case of the bed bugs, this industry has huge business potential and opportunity.
What do you think? Have you started hustling a pest control business yet? What are your tips for success when starting up a business? Share them with us below!
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