Cassie Krejci: In one sentence, technical service is the interface between the field structure and the corporate structure, they are the translators.
Patrick Baldwin: Sorry, I'm late. I had to go get my uniform on for this one.
Paul Giannamore: Where did you go? You went to Baylor, Patrick?
Patrick Baldwin: Look, socks and Crocs. Socks with sandals, I did it.
Paul Giannamore: I can see that.
Patrick Baldwin: I pulled something showing you my outfit.
Paul Giannamore: You didn't deny Baylor so that's good.
Seth Garber: Fat Pat, I've been so excited about this. I've been walking around in sandals and socks the entire day.
Paul Giannamore: We had a chit-chat with Tony Sfreddo, who was on episode five. He said to Patrick, “I'll call you Pat or Fat Pat. I won't call you Patrick.” Did you catch that, Patrick?
Patrick Baldwin: No. When he called me Pat, I was quick to correct him.
Paul Giannamore: Things have gone south since that fateful moment. What's on tap for today?
Patrick Baldwin: I've got questions and you all have got answers. Cassie Krejci, the Director of Technical Services at Terminix, is joining us for a nerdy talk.
Paul Giannamore: For me, before we had this discussion, Patrick came to me some months ago and said, “I want to have Cassie on The Buzz.” I thought, “She's great. She's got an awesome personality and is fun to talk to.” I started to think to myself, “She's a PhD entomologist. This is not a technical channel. What are we going to talk about?” Was I surprised. It was one of the more enjoyable discussions we've had on The Buzz in a long time. I'm glad that she joined us.
Seth Garber: I follow her on social. She's amazing. Arguably, probably the best on social and maybe in our industry. I enjoy all the stuff she's doing. She's doing great things for the industry as a whole. I'm excited to hear what she has to say.
Paul Giannamore: Unfortunately, she is a high-ranking official, so to speak, at Terminix. We have the Terminix acquisition by Rentokil pending. Looks like it's going to be scheduled to close in the first half of October 2022. That’s the latest and greatest.
Patrick Baldwin: Can you say that?
Paul Giannamore: I did. It's pending close.
Patrick Baldwin: Does that put you at risk?
Paul Giannamore: No. It was originally towards the end of September 2022. It'll probably be the first half of October 2022 that it will close. Similar to when we interviewed Brett Ponton, Brett had some handlers. This interview needed to be scrubbed by Terminix and I clearly understand why. There's a public transaction pending. We had to remove some interesting things that she said and she was positive about the Rentokil-Terminix transaction in general. Of course, we'll get to talk about that probably sometime in November 2022 when this transaction closes. Overall, it was a delightful conversation.
Patrick Baldwin: Let's gear up, socks and sandals. Let’s step into The Boardroom with Cassie Krejci.
Paul Giannamore: Let's do this, fellas.
Patrick Baldwin: Paul, that's how I always start. Cassie knows this. She's a fan.
Cassie Krejci: I'm what you call a longtime listener and first-time caller.
Paul Giannamore: Cassie, welcome to The Boardroom Buzz.
Cassie Krejci: Thank you for having me.
Paul Giannamore: You don't strike me as one of your run-of-the-mill entomologists. When I look at you, I don't think about entomology.
Cassie Krejci: Thank you.
Paul Giannamore: Is that a weird thing to say on a podcast? Maybe it is.
Cassie Krejci: What you can't see is that I do have my socks on with my sandals. I’m kidding.
Patrick Baldwin: Tell-tale sign.
Cassie Krejci: One of the things I tell people about myself is that I'm not a socks and sandals entomologist. I'm not your normal PhD scientist. That's one cool thing about the way I do pest management.
Paul Giannamore: What did you get your PhD in?
Cassie Krejci: Entomology. All of my degrees are in entomology. I did that PhD at Rollin’s Urban and Structural Entomology Facility at Texas A&M University.
Paul Giannamore: You're a Texan.
Patrick Baldwin: I wore my A&M shirt for you. This is a good host.
Cassie Krejci: Yes. I appreciate that.
Paul Giannamore: Patrick, you did go to A&M. I'm thinking Baylor is down in Waco. Is there a rivalry between these two schools? Is that how this works?
Patrick Baldwin: Baylor would like to think so.
Cassie Krejci: I was going to say they wish.
Patrick Baldwin: It's like a Chihuahua. Once every twenty years, they get up and nip your heel. Cassie is our first Aggie guest on the podcast. This is a big deal. Cassie and I met at A&M. Back in your repping days, you were at Polyguard. Is that right?
Cassie Krejci: Yeah. When I left my PhD, I did a postdoc for a short period of time. I got pulled out of my postdoc to go work for Polyguard, which is a venture capital out of Dallas. I've always lived in the Bryan College Station area. It was easy, of course, to go back to Texas A&M and say, “We're going to talk about termite barriers at the Texas A&M conference. Patrick, I'm thinking back, that was probably 2015-ish.
Patrick Baldwin: Did I have more hair back then?
Paul Giannamore: No, you did not.
Patrick Baldwin: I was in denial back then. We had a booth set up next to each other at A&M, at the CEU thing. It was cool.
Cassie Krejci: The beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Paul Giannamore: You guys know each other. You're Texans, A&M, and all this stuff. I don't know anything about entomology at all. Cassie, you've joined the team over at Terminix. In order to frame out this discussion that we're going to have, I want to know, how do you end up saying, “I'm going to get a degree in entomology.” I see you've got a lot of pretty cool-looking photographs of bugs on the wall. You're into this, I can see that. Take me back, how did you get into this?
Cassie Krejci: I'll stay a while. I went to Texas A&M to be a veterinarian like every kid in Texas, it’s like, “You're going to be a veterinarian. When you grow up, you're going to go to Texas A&M.” I started in biomedical science. I remember my first week of school, I was sitting in a biology lab and there was a girl. We were going around saying our names, where we were from, and what our majors were. She said, “I'm an entomologist.” I looked at her and I thought, “Why would your parents pay for you to be an entomologist? That's underwater basket weaving to me. That's not a real degree. What are you going to do with that?”
Two years later, I took a veterinary entomology class and I was like, “This is pretty cool.” I got into it and I double Majored. By the time it got time for me to graduate, I said, “Let's try our hand at research.” I got a Master's degree at Tarleton State University working on dairy cattle and controlling flies with human health aspects related to the research. I then went back to Texas A&M for my PhD in entomology as well. I worked not just on the control of vectors in confined animal facilities but my day job, if you will, was contracted research in Rollin’s center under Roger Gould and Robert Puckett at Texas A&M. Ed Vargo came in around the end of that.
I got great exposure to professional pest management. I always say it made me a well-rounded entomologist. You saw the medical, urban, and veterinary sides of why we do pest management. It was a good experience. I ultimately decided that entomology was cool. Aside from that, if I did a PhD, I wouldn't have to work weekends as a veterinarian on call. Ultimately, it turned into a career. You have to promise not to tell Terminix this but they don't have to pay me. I love this job. I would do it for free. That's been the ultimate path to happiness for me.
Patrick Baldwin: That's on the record now. You just said. They're going to learn about this.
Paul Giannamore: You said, “That's cool. I don't have to work on the weekends. I'm going to get this PhD.” Did you specialize in a particular insect?
Cassie Krejci: For those of you reading, there's a bunch of insects on the wall behind me. If you watch me on TikTok or anything, you'll see them there too. I treat those pictures up there like a taxidermy wall. Every time I master an insect, I invest in a print and hang it on my wall, meaning I've mastered the insect and mastered the control of that insect. You have a house fly up there, a Formosan termite, a bedbug, a biting midge, and a Darkling beetle. Those are all insects that I've spent quite a bit of time on.
Paul Giannamore: Did you know any of those insects personally, the ones that are on the wall, or no?
Cassie Krejci: On an individual level?
Paul Giannamore: Yeah. Are these the actual insects that you studied?
Patrick Baldwin: Right before you killed them.
Paul Giannamore: You sound like a taxidermist. I felt like that might be like, “That's Harry up there, the midge.”
Cassie Krejci: One last glamour shot before you go. These are all prints from Alex Wilde. He's a photographer and entomologist at the University of Texas and takes some beautiful prints.
Patrick Baldwin: We both gave Alex Wild money. You did it through the front door. We did it through the back door. If you don't know, there are not a lot of good macro insect pictures so you go scrubbing online. You end up with a Baylor intern. She writes a blog, she posts a picture, and she got this pretty ant picture somewhere online and she used it on your commercial website. A lawyer then sends a letter and then you send money to Alex or you do it the right way as Cassie did.
Cassie Krejci: You go to his website.
Paul Giannamore: Did Alex start as a swimsuit photographer and it didn't work out for him and he was relegated to photographing insects? How did that work?
Cassie Krejci: I don't know Alex's history. He teaches classes on photography though, I do know that. They are well respected. Macro photography is not an easy topic to master.
Patrick Baldwin: Alex, your photography is wonderful, and your attorneys are not. Thank you. Cassie, you went from manufacturing rep, Polyguard and MGK. Did I miss something in there? Is there more?
Cassie Krejci: I've done about 3.5 or 4 years for each one of those organizations, Polyguard in Dallas and MGK in Minneapolis. It’s always based out of Texas. I came to Terminix around January 1st, 2022. I've been a technical specialist in every role. Terminix is my first foray specifically into the service side of pest management. I enjoyed making the products. Now, I took everything from technical services and applied those leadership aspects and teaching aspects to what we do at Terminix.
Paul Giannamore: Me being a non-technical guy, why does a company like Terminix need an entomologist? I look at the chemicals and I see the labels. It seems pretty easy, just spray this stuff around. What is it you do?
Cassie Krejci: I always argue that technical service is not just entomologists, we are pest management specialists. Those can be specialized in wildlife and rodent behavior. Entomology is the bulk of what we do but there are all kinds of people that are talented in the technical services aspect. In one sentence, technical service is the interface between the field structure and the corporate structure. They are the translators.
Whether you are working with marketing, IT, sales, or your leadership team, technical services tends to be the group that sits in and says, “Yes, this is functional in the field or a field team. This is how we need to train in order to meet the goals of the organization.” A translator is a good way to describe technical services. We're translating highly technical information down to the field and applicable information up to a leadership team.
Paul Giannamore: Do folks like you get new pesticides? A company like Terminix says, “We're going to get a deal on X, Y, and Z. Cassie, can you take a look at this and make sure it does what they say it's going to do?”
Cassie Krejci: That's a good example. We do look at different formulations, different pesticides, and different insecticides. Coming from my background in manufacturing, I have a keen look at the way that we use products in pest management. I always say that it's not necessarily about the way that product may show up on a line item. It's not about the cost of a product. It's more about the indirect ways that it can support our business, maybe that is reduced callbacks or, more importantly, safety for the technician or sustainability for the environment. I weigh all of those factors into material decisions for our organization and our technicians.
My manufacturing partners, I always tell them, “It's not how good the steak dinner is, it's how good the product works for the goals we have.” There are a lot of different roles that we play. A lot of days, it feels like we're jumping between different organizations, maybe that's marketing and how we can proofread scripts before they get sent out for commercials or show up on the Facebook newsfeed. Those all go through technical services for approval from the scientific side of things. Training, compliance, safety, and anything related to the science of pest control will go through technical services.
Patrick Baldwin: How many chemicals and products does Terminix have access to?
Cassie Krejci: With respect to insecticides and pesticides, not including equipment, we're hitting about 400.
Patrick Baldwin: How much does cost or expense play into what you say, “This is now a product you can put in your arsenal.”
Cassie Krejci: I tend to tell people that I don't know how much things cost and I like it that way. As a scientist, I like to make the decision on how well it's going to fit into that standard operating procedure and what benefit it's going to bring to the organization. The costs don't play a role in that. However, I have a great relationship with Terminix procurement and they keep me in bounds of what I'm allowed to spend. It's like taking your dad to the mall or something, “You can get what you want but don't go crazy.”
Patrick Baldwin: Help me understand this. For every new product that comes on the market, they have these fancy graphs of why their new product is the best thing since sliced bread. You look at the next product and you're like, “They said it. They presented their data in a different way.” All these different studies can come out and think, “Why am I not using this product? I don't have to be a genius to see the results.” How do you sift through all that information, a barrage that comes at you and says, “At the end of the day, this product is what needs to be used.”
Cassie Krejci: It's having a firm understanding of what the formulation is. Paul, you probably will recognize this but I'm almost a minor in statistics. I tell people, “Give me your raw data.” If you're willing to lift up the skirt on your raw data and let me see what that study said and not manipulated data on a sell sheet, we can have a frank conversation about how well that product is performing. If you give me the statistical results of how well the knockdown was or what the residual was and its specific conditions that happen about 1 every 10 applications, it's going to take a little bit more to convince me that that's better than sliced bread.
Part of technical service is understanding your tools and being able to have raw conversations. Especially coming from manufacturing, I give manufacturers a good benefit of the doubt. 99.9% of the time, if a product fails, it's going to be an application error. There's so much work that goes into insecticides, pesticides, and rodenticides that rarely is it a formulation failure, it's more of an application failure. In those relationships, I like to look at more forward-facing conversations.
The tools that are on the market are great and we can utilize them now but what are Terminix and Rentokil going to look like in ten years? How do we begin developing solutions that will fit different EPA restrictions or different environmental considerations along with our service innovation in the next 5 to 10 years and how do we work towards that?
Patrick Baldwin: You come from the manufacturing side and now you’ve got whatever budget at Terminix to dig into the data if they give it to you. What are some tips that you could give me like a smaller operation to decide on the chemical? Do I still need to talk to my buddies, “What works for you?”
Cassie Krejci: People do rely on sharing information and those are great conversations to have but it's important to me to put the material in your hands. Everything that someone asked me to use, I try to apply it in a situation. Maybe it's my own house. My husband, Ryan, is allergic to fire ants and I have to keep fire ants well controlled. As you know, in Texas, that's not an easy feat. I do have a pile of fire ants out on the other side of the pasture that I don't treat in case a new fire product comes out.
I always test the product myself. At Terminix, I have a team of seven technical managers that work with me to test them in all different situations. Maybe we need to test a new drain product, for example. I don't have any drains in this house that meet the requirements of a drain product so they will put it out in the field or we'll utilize it with our field teams. My biggest piece of advice is the data is there and manufacturers are welcome to share it. You should question it. More importantly, put it in your hands and see if it increases your efficiency and see if it increases your efficacy. That's how I would make decisions.
Patrick Baldwin: Is there a rule of thumb where, at this revenue, you should have a dedicated technical service person on your staff?
Cassie Krejci: Whenever you begin losing efficiencies because your service manager is stuck on difficult accounts, he or she is not able to perform duties because they are dealing with training or having to identify issues that are more difficult to solve. To me, technical specialists are the white glove customer support that you can put in front of a customer and say, “I brought in my specialist.”
It's not the face that you see every day on service but maybe it is a commercial customer who says, “Do you have somebody that's specialized in this particular topic?” That's when you bring in that specialist. If you're going to start developing a technical specialist, we have plenty of service managers who have graduated if you will at Terminix into quality roles and technical roles. It's important to look at how you can foster that individual so that they never stop growing.
Maybe take them out of the day-to-day field task and say, “I'm going to provide you the leadership that you need, the mentoring that you need, and the opportunities to grow every year in this space.” Meaning that are you going to earn an ACE certificate or a BCE certificate? Are you going to get PCQI certified? Are you going to start teaching others more often? Will you stand up at a conference and share your knowledge and grow that individual into somebody recognizable within the organization but also to your customer base?
Patrick Baldwin: With your statistics background, can you take that technical specialist and quantify a return on investment for that position?
Cassie Krejci: You could. It has to do with what your KPIs are as an organization. Technical specialists, whenever I set goals for my team, don't revolve around specific percent routes completed because we don't run routes. It doesn't revolve around your number of stops or what that return on investment is. It's more about your objectives, your OKRs, and your ability to support those KPIs. I see it as a tiered system for technical teams and quality teams that what you're doing provides a return on what the organization has a goal of. We want all of our technicians to get versed in commercial pest control. For example, pretend I work for Fat Pat’s pest control.
Paul Giannamore: Fat Pat’s, I love it.
Cassie Krejci: It's going to be our case study for the day.
Paul Giannamore: Could you say that again, Cas? Which pest control company was that again?
Cassie Krejci: Fat Pat's, first phone book and in my heart.
Patrick Baldwin: It's got a tagline. Paul, did you put her up to this?
Paul Giannamore: I did not.
Patrick Baldwin: Have you all been talking? I gave you a milk bottle and cookies and this is what I get? Fat jokes?
Paul Giannamore: Cassie, did you see the YouTube short Fat Pat’s pest control?
Cassie Krejci: I did. That's what hooked me.
Paul Giannamore: That was fantastic, the way they did that. Google penalized us for that because it was some fat-shaming thing. It got forced down but we're keeping it up.
Cassie Krejci: No kidding. I commented on LinkedIn and I said, “Brilliant editing,” because it was brilliant as long as Patrick feels like he's part of the joke.
Paul Giannamore: He's been going to the gym all the time. He's watching what he eats. What was the example one more time so I can hear you?
Cassie Krejci: Fat Pet’s pest control. In 2022 Fat Pat’s pest control has a set of goals and one of them is that they want to expand their footprint. They want to own not just maybe one house in the neighborhood but they want to own 10 houses in that neighborhood and that's going to be their goal. How do non-revenue-generating people meet that goal? How do they support that goal?
From the perspective of technical services, you're generally not the person knocking on doors or hanging flyers. Technical service is the team that says, “I'm going to give you the information you need to talk to the neighbors and say, ‘I'm doing mosquito services over here. Here's how supplemental mosquito treatments in this neighborhood can support overall mosquito control. Here's what mosquitoes do as far as vectoring different pathogens of disease.’”
They would support the materials and support the conversation and then maybe develop a case study and say, “I'm going to run a field study in this neighborhood and show you what ten houses doing mosquito control does for the population versus one house in this neighborhood.” They put the science in the hands of sales and they put the science in the hands of the applicator if that's your goal. Maybe an OKR for that goal of owning the neighborhood is that your technical specialists perform case studies in five different neighborhoods to support mosquito sales for 2023.
Paul Giannamore: I think back through all the transactions that I've done over the years and it's a small number of firms that have entomologists on staff. If I think about American Pest, which is now an Anticimex platform business. Jay Nixon was an entomologist. Dr. Richard Kramer used to work with Jay Nixon. He and his son, Josh, started Innovative. A lot of these guys focused on these big government contracts. There were almost requirements that they had this technological firepower, so to speak, on staff. When you think about a privately held pest control business, we don't think about technical services as much as we think about pure entomological knowledge. When does that come into play or does it?
Cassie Krejci: Your ability to communicate is far more important than entomological knowledge when it comes to technical services. All the guys that you mentioned are great and wonderful entomologists. Communicating at a commercial level, especially government contracts or large commercial contracts, that's important. From a consumer perspective, and that's where I've placed myself in social media, my whole goal is to communicate with the consumer so that they can understand why pest management is important.
I tell my team and anybody that I've hired that not everybody needs to be an entomologist. We got that covered. You don't need everyone to understand all the different parts of that bedbug up there or why they host seek the way they do. They just need to understand what causes bedbugs, a little bit about how you're going to get rid of them, and what they can do to support that endeavor. From a technical services perspective, it's more about communicating with the customer and the why behind the service. That is far more important than your entomological depth of knowledge. Communication is key, the translation if you will.
Paul Giannamore: That makes me feel much better because I don't know anything about entomology. Patrick, I see those gears turning over there.
Patrick Baldwin: I was going to ask you to translate what Cassie said to see if you could be a technical specialist now.
Paul Giannamore: I see how she's tried to position herself in the industry. She does do these TikTok videos and she's active. You're popping up at meetings all the time. You're into that stuff. I can see how communicating a technical subject to your average consumer is where you've built your niche. I love it. You've done a fantastic job doing that, Cassie.
Cassie Krejci: Thanks.
Paul Giannamore: You were doing this stuff way before you joined Terminix. Did the corporate folks over at Terminix look at you and say, “She's doing a great job communicating this stuff to the general public. We want to bring her on to focus on that.” It’s out of curiosity.
Cassie Krejci: That almost didn't come up at all in our initial conversations. I will say that Terminix has been the first organization that I've worked for that said, “Cassie, you are doing a great job. We want to be the name behind you.” Instead of me producing content and a brand putting it out, they said, “Cassie, we want you to be the face of Terminix. We want you to be the person that people look at as the source of influence and authority on pest management for Terminix.” That's been an incredible honor. I work for a ton of lawyers at Terminix who are like, “Be careful.”
Our industry specifically has become so adverse because of the stigma behind pest control and using chemicals. In reality, there's no adversity to pest management. We're doing an essential service. That confidence in the information that you're sharing is key to success on social media or in any communications with your customer at that level or even in any type of marketing. Confidence in the material, understanding it, and understanding why you're doing the things you do as part of pest management is important. Terminix was like, “Be careful.” They were also like, “We're going to stand behind you and let you do what you do.” That's been a great honor.
Paul Giannamore: I'm surprised you don't have any handlers over there to make sure you don't go off the rails.
Cassie Krejci: I offered. I said, “Does anybody want in on this?” They said, “Do your thing.”
Patrick Baldwin: They're not in the room watching you? That happens. In one of your videos, you put out one about encapsulated solutions like CS. I had no clue. I've been doing this for a while. You're like, “They're not all created equal.” Your videos might be for consumers but I learned a lot. I had to go back and watch that one. I was like, “This is cool.”
Cassie Krejci: That one I created specifically for technicians. A lot of times, people are like, “I forgot what's in this tank.” Whether it's in a bottle or tank, by knowing foundational information about your tools, you can go, “That is a suspension concentrate. That is probably an ITR.” Basic knowledge. I always tell people the way I explain things on TikTok or on social media or to a technician in a room is exactly how I learned them. I didn't wake up with this knowledge of formulation, chemistry, and all those different insects. I had to explain them to myself. I take those little tricks if you will and I've applied them to the teaching side of technical services. That's awesome.
Patrick Baldwin: You dumbed it down so I can understand. Thanks, Cassie. Are there things that you see that scare you like improper chemical use, misapplication, or safety issues? Also, things that, as owners, would need to focus on to make sure that, out in the field, they're not going to put us in a bunch of trouble or get someone hurt or killed.
Cassie Krejci: Across the board, you're going to see it with any size company. Technicians feel more confident in their safety and their application the more informed they are. With information comes confidence. The more that you can train and allow someone to learn what to do if there's a mistake made, a spill, or a misapplication. A chemical trespass happens all the time. What to do and who to call?
My tagline for technical services at Terminix is The Approachable Expert, meaning I want you to know who I am and everybody on the Terminix technical services team because I want you to call me. We're not the police. We want to help you solve problems whether that is at someone's house or a mistake was made. Call us and we'll help you through it. Another important role of technical services is the support when things don't go exactly as planned.
Patrick Baldwin: I'll ask you a real informal survey, not specific to Terminix. What will be the most frequent call you get?
Cassie Krejci: It is different between residential and commercial. One of my favorites is, “Can you help me fix my computer?” Technical services is misunderstood as IT.
Paul Giannamore: I love that.
Cassie Krejci: If we're excusing all of those calls, I'm like, “Maybe.” We turn it off and turn it on. We deal with a lot of questions about rodent control in commercial. Probably one of our biggest areas where we spend time on the commercial side of things is, how can I get better rodent control? We're always striving to get better.
On the residential side, it is more about insect ID, identifying insects in someone's house. Maybe they're not supposed to be there. Specifically, someone messaged me and said, “Can I treat this tree?” I was thankful they reached out. I said, “Do you have this license?” They said no and I said, “Let's not treat that tree.” Those are the questions that I get asked the most, “What is this and how do I fix it quickly because I'm at this house.”
Patrick Baldwin: You said, “Do you have this license?” You have at least 50 different licenses. Do you oversee more than just North America? Canada?
Cassie Krejci: My role does not. I'm in the United States. I do help when needed for franchisees in Canada and Japan and such. Most of my governance lies in the 50 states. We do have a compliance team. Due to the size of Terminix, there are multiple support functions within what we call strategic operations. I handle technical services or entomology, the pest management scientist if you will.
We have an entire compliance team. There are probably about 25 of them that oversee licenses and continuing education units for all of our technicians. As you can imagine, Terminix has over 11,400 people and most of those being technicians. It takes an entire team of people to make sure that everyone is in compliance. They also audit our branches and make sure that records are up to date. That is their role. I help them when needed. The compliance team is the expert at the state level for licenses.
Patrick Baldwin: No big deal. That's a lot. You've got a whole bunch of different rules. How can you keep it straight? Are you able to share how you watch trends and what pest pressure trends you're watching for?
Cassie Krejci: How do I keep it straight? I'll be the first to tell you that I don't. I work with some amazing people. One way that I keep it straight in my own head is that I never stop talking about it. I never stop accepting meetings or listening to what the EPA is saying or listening to our training teams are saying. Part of being that approachable expert for technical services at Terminix is I want people to come to talk to me. Tell me what you're seeing so that I can apply it in other parts of the country. Maintaining that communication is important no matter what size your organization is.
Pest trends specifically go back to that communication. It's difficult to explain how we predict what's going to happen but it's ever-evolving. Insects are cyclical if you will. Patrick, as you know, Texas is on fire. We hit our 61st day in a row over 100 degrees. Our mosquito season sucks, for lack of a better word. There's no water. There's no moisture. In 2 to 3 years, we could have another hurricane Harvey situation where there's too much water.
I try to look at pest pressure from the entomology side and balance this with what the marketing and sales team says from a historical perspective. One advantage of being in the position of Terminix, Rentokil, or Orkin is that when it comes to making predictions about how we should do pest control, there's no shortage of data. We have amazing field teams that are constantly supplying us data points that we need to make decisions.
Patrick Baldwin: Being such a large organization with over 11,000 employees, if the newest, latest, and greatest product comes on the market, do you have the ability to test it on a small scale before deploying it? Terminix is so big that you’re like, “We can never pull that off.”
Cassie Krejci: I do. I have good relationships. Part of maintaining communication with your field teams is if I know that a material or a product comes out that is fit for a certain market, I'll test it in a couple of different areas. Let’s say we're dealing with a scorpion product, the latest and greatest tool for scorpions. I'm going to pick a couple of places in the Western US and say, “Can you put this out for 30 days and tell me how it's better than what you're already using?”
If it passes the test over there, I'm pretty sold on them. I can look at the data all day long. As an individual, I don't have the ability to run all those tests. It takes great partnership with the field to say, “Tell me what you're thinking.” Due to the pure volume of those changes I have to make, I can execute it pretty quickly. From that, I rely on our manufacturing partners to help train our teams. Go into the branches and say, “This is everything you need to know about this material. For safety, this is the PPE you need to be wearing. This is the rate that technical services and your organization have agreed to use for these different services.”
A lot of times, specifically with my background, people are like, “What product? What material? What’s new? What active ingredient is on the market?” I'm like, “From a pest control perspective, we need to innovate more than just the materials we're using. We need to innovate the tools that are used to do pest control. We also need to enter made the processes. How do we get better at pest control?” I can put any tool in anybody's hands. If you don't set the trap right with the bait in the right places, it's never going to be effective. We're focused on innovating all aspects of pest control, for sure.
Paul Giannamore: This is way off the topic but since you're on, I'm going to ask it. This is one of Paul's pondering so to speak. This 2022, I've heard a lot of complaints from our brethren in the industry in the Midwest. It was a super cold spring. In the Midwest, the phones are not ringing, a lot of people are complaining, and big press pressure. Does the cold spring kill these bugs? What happens?
Cassie Krejci: From an entomological perspective, the amount of moisture matters more than the temperature. Temperature is a key indicator of pest pressure. If it's dry, you're going to have exponentially fewer insects. I tend to look at a combination of both temperature and specifically relative humidity. Precipitation and rainfall, sure. Relative humidity tells us more about cyclical insect life cycles than anything. From the entomology side of things, I try not to say anything is absolute ever. As a scientist, we know that's not true very often.
Paul Giannamore: What is it about the moisture? Is it needed for breeding? Do they like to swim around? What is it?
Cassie Krejci: Some of them do like to swim around and some of them do breed in it. For the most part, insects have open respiratory systems and ours are closed. That's one of the differences between us along with the extra couple of pairs of legs. Their water balance is incredibly important. Their ability to turn air into usable oxygen within their open circulatory system is important. The higher the moisture is, the easier that is, and they're able to reproduce a lot quicker.
Moisture does play a role in insect development where immatures are soft-bodied, meaning mosquitoes and flies. Because they don't have a hard exoskeleton, they're more likely to desiccate quicker. When there are high moisture areas like low-lying areas in a backyard, insects will develop a lot faster and flock to that area as a breeding substrate or development substrate. Water balance is the key.
Paul Giannamore: I guess it wasn't the cold spring. Maybe I have to go back and check the relative humidity.
Cassie Krejci: People tend to relate temperature and humidity to those cycles. Insects go through their own version of hibernation called diapause. They will shut down their systems for an extended period of time and wait until it warms up or wait until there's enough moisture in the environment for them to “wake up” their metabolic systems. Sometimes that's delayed a little bit based on the conditions of the environment.
Every insect has a little bit different way of doing that. Mosquitoes will overwinter as pupa. They'll get in an area on the side of a water source if you will where they can survive the winter. A lot of insects don't survive as adults through the winter, they instead survive as immatures. There are others that come into your house and spend the winter in your house because that's always comfortable.
Paul Giannamore: In conversations with Tim Mulrooney, he has this theory that, with climate change and the average global temperatures increasing, he sits down and tries to read these reports and comes back. Patrick, we've talked about this with him on The Bus before where he says, “If the climate is getting warmer, then bugs can reproduce more rapidly, and therefore a larger population of bugs.” Is global pest pressure increasing, in your mind, or will it increase in the future or not?
Cassie Krejci: First of all, Tim Mulrooney is one of my favorite guests. I like the way that he thinks and I've learned a lot from his conversations. I’ll throw that out there. In short, yeah. We're always going to deal with insects. Insects like cockroaches, for example, are around when the dinosaurs were. There's a reason that they've survived this long. Because they're what we call strategists meaning they reproduce at exponential rates in comparison to human regeneration, they are able to pass along qualities that allow them to sustain adverse conditions like insecticides, for example.
How resistance is developed is they pass those resistance qualities from one generation to another rapidly. They also pass the ability to survive lower atmospheric moisture or higher temperatures. We will always have significant pest pressure. We will never be pest free nor do I think that we should be pest free. The environment needs insects. We want to control them around our homes and on ourselves and that's the goal of pest management. There will always be insects, for sure, but how we control them will change.
Patrick Baldwin: That makes me want to ask you about termite pest pressure. Since ’08, it seems termite swarms have gone down and down. Is that credit to Termidor, Sentricon, or Advance, or is that environmental?
Cassie Krejci: We've gotten better at termite control. The consumer begins to understand the importance of a termite protection plan. I don't know if I agree that the swarms have stopped. The swarms are still happening. We're doing a better job at protecting our structures.
Patrick Baldwin: It used to be exciting. It seems like the calls have gone down over time.
Cassie Krejci: The termite market is hard. It’s where my work gets hard.
Patrick Baldwin: Here's the chance to clear the air. I'm going to give you three options and you're going to pick 1 of these 3. You're going to give us the entomological truth. I said the big word, the word of the day. Repellents versus non-repellents, that's 1, chemical resistance is 2, and bait version is 3. Pick one of these hot topics where all the myths come and dispel it for us.
Cassie Krejci: Let's do resistance because I could talk all day about resistance.
Patrick Baldwin: Let's do it.
Cassie Krejci: There are multiple forms of resistance that insects can develop. It's not a one size fits all type of resistance. One of which is metabolic resistance and that's mostly what we talk about whenever we're talking about insecticide resistance. Because an insect has been exposed to insecticides, it is a sub-lethal dose if you will. It's like being exposed to a virus, your body begins to develop antibodies that fight that virus off before you get sick. The same mechanism occurs in insects, they begin to fight off your insecticide mode of action before it kills them. That is metabolic resistance and that happens all the time. It's due to not rotating insecticides.
There is also cuticular resistance and that happens when the insect’s cuticle gets thicker and we can't penetrate the cuticle with the insecticide. The cuticle is the hard outer shell of an insect. A lot of times, maybe you're dealing with Fipronil where you're relying on the termite to crawl across the substrate and absorb those insecticide particles through their cuticle. You want it to be as thin as possible so we can get the particle into their nervous system. With cuticular resistance, that cuticle gets a little bit thicker, and absorption of the insecticide is reduced. You use insecticide synergists like piperonyl butoxide or MGK-264 to thin the cuticle and improve absorption.
The third type of resistance is pretty cool, it's called behavioral resistance. That's saying that insects are figuring out what you're doing. They're paying attention to the places you're treating. Meaning that if you come to someone's house and you're treating the one foot up and one foot out with a repellent insecticide every 30 days and they figured out your game three treatments ago, they're not frequenting that area. You have to change up the way that you apply insecticides to beat them at that behavioral game.
There's a species of fly called a ceiling fly. These species evolved from landing anywhere else. Over time, people would apply insecticides to the walls and they’ve gotten the habit of hanging on to the ceiling because nobody ever put insecticide up there. Even those behavioral traits are passed on through generations of insects. That sounds like a long period of time but for house flies, you can have three generations in a three-week period.
Patrick Baldwin: Those are some happy houseflies.
Cassie Krejci: Whether it's resistance to liquid insecticides, baits, or any of your tools, it's about the rotation of your formulations, rotation of your active ingredients, and always evolving the way that you're providing a service. That all ties up to arguments we have with the EPA, for example, that wants to take away tools constantly, take away the use of natural PI, or take away the use of piperonyl butoxide.
Specifically, right now, neonicotinoid is a hot topic. If we don't have those tools in our tool bag as pest management specialists, we’re unable to do an effective job. Insects will develop resistance metabolically to the active ingredients we're using and then our tool bags are empty, we don't have anything else. At that point, public health is affected.
Paul Giannamoire: You're saying that a technician who goes out and does quarterly treatments, they should be rotating on each visit with reusing, is that right?
Cassie Krejci: Not necessarily each visit but they should have a plan for the year. We have summer roaches, fall roaches, and spring roaches. That's not their name. If we did, can we rotate the bait for summer roaches with the bait for fall roaches and ultimately rotate different active ingredients to preserve our efficacy? The answer is yes. It's a bait rotation program.
Sometimes if you break it down into fall, spring, and summer, it becomes more of a cyclical rotation. Based on what program, protocol, or insect you're battling, it is important to look at all your tools and make sure you're using them evenly. I appreciate people that are like, “Insecticide A has been working for me for five years.” It's probably not working for you anymore. It probably worked great that first twelve months. If you're using it in the same account over and over and you're beginning to see less and less efficacy, it is not because that manufacturer is not making it as they used to, it's because your insects are developing resistance.
Paul Giannamoire: Cassie, I’ve sat in tens of thousands of hours of meetings over decades of pest control transactions with folks asking minute detail on every single chemical, this that, or the other. I don't recall anyone ever talking about rotating.
Cassie Krejci: That's wild.
Paul Giannamoire: Maybe I didn't pay attention or didn't know what they were talking about but I never thought about that. It's the same way you would rotate fertilizers for similar reasons.
Cassie Krejci: There are five different ways you can kill an insect or more than one way to kill a chicken. You can desiccate them, meaning you can use things like boric acid. Boric acid works in a couple of different ways but you can affect their water balance by desiccating them. You can affect their nervous system, which is the most common way. Things like pyrethroids affect nervous systems. You can affect their energy production through ATP, meaning stop the production of energy. Instead of paralyzing them, they stop moving one day.
Insect growth regulators affect their endocrine system. I call it Peter Pan syndrome. You prevent insects from ever reaching adulthood and they die because they never reach adulthood. There's more than one way to kill an insect. It's important to utilize all those tools and understand those tools before you set off on a pest management program. It's a well-balanced approach. The teams I get to work with at Terminix, I'll never take tools out of their hands. I want to put the best tools in their hands and make sure that they understand how to use them.
Paul Giannamoire: Patrick, did you guys have a protocol for rotating products?
Patrick Baldwin: We did. Bait was a big one. I mentioned the term earlier, bait aversion. I don't know if that came from the technical side or that was from the chemical side that said, “Rotate bait so you buy ours once a year.” We would rotate bait at least quarterly to every six months, we'd be on a different bait. Roach bait would be the most specific.
Cassie Krejci: That's a good example for roaches, not just rotating the bait for the active ingredient but for palatability as well. The same thing can be said for fly control as well. Flies are generally attracted to bait because of a sex pheromone or a food pheromone and it depends on what the flies are in the mood for based on whether they come to it. The same thing for roaches, if you rotate that palatability, it's like always eating that cheeseburger and wanting a steak. Sometimes you have to hit him with a different option.
Patrick Baldwin: I’m thinking of residential exterior. We would typically use granular bait. Outside of the granular bait, we would use a granular bifenthrin product. That didn't change. The granular bait did not change. Inside that, the liquid barrier, we would change that up. Usually, about once a day, we’d be on a different product.
Cassie Krejci: That's pretty good.
Patrick Baldwin: I'll take that.
Cassie Krejci: It worked for you. Your company did okay.
Patrick Baldwin: Paul, thanks for letting us nerd out. Cassie, you're the coolest nerd I know.
Cassie Krejci: Thanks. I use the term nerd as a term of endearment. I get to work with a bunch of nerds. It's fun to be in technical services because I get to see all the other parts of the business. I've learned a ton from both of you. When Boardroom Buzz started in 2020, we were all like, “What are we going to do? How are we going to communicate?” I jumped on a podcast and I started listening and felt like I understood more from the business side. Thank you both for all the work you've put into Boardroom Buzz.
Paul Giannamoire: I was shocked and astounded to find out that a woman listen to The Boardroom Buzz way back Patrick had originally talked to you. I was like, “Do women listen to this?” Apparently, they do.
Cassie Krejci: I always listen while I'm running. It makes me think about something else and that's good.
Paul Giannamoire: What I find interesting is somebody like you with such a technical background. You're a scientist. On The Boardroom Buzz, in a lot of ways, we’ve almost avoided these topics and focused on the business side of it. What made you excited about listening to this?
Cassie Krejci: I will never say that I've mastered entomology because there's always something to learn but I became proficient and then I was like, “What's next? How do I make myself better?” It was more about how I can understand the pest control business more and both of you've done a great job of that. For example, we talked a little bit about insecticide materials so there are all kinds on the market. I will never stand on the box of, “We have to do a service every 30 days because that's what this product is intended for.”
I'm going to look at you, Patrick, and I'm going to say, “What route best fits our team? What makes sense for the P&L? When do we need to be charging for these services?” Balance that with the way that we do pest control. Understanding more about the business and how I could use my talents to improve the business overall was why I started listening to The Buzz.
I also will say that in 2020, I travel about 80% of the time and went down to zero travel and I was like, “How am I going to communicate? How am I going to keep learning?” This was a resource to go, “There are still people out there.” How I started with a lot of my social media is like, “I got to communicate. I got to get this out.” It was for the better for both of us.
Paul Giannamoire: What do you do when you're not dealing with bugs, Cassie?
Cassie Krejci: I deal with bugs a lot. I'm always thinking about this business and it's because I enjoy it a lot. I do have two daughters, Callie and Maren. We live outside of college station. My husband, Ryan, is the COO of his company. He doesn't travel at all. He helps while I'm on the road so much. We have two horses and live on a farm. It's a nice place to come home to on the weekends after I spend more weeks on the road.
Paul Giannamoire: How much are you traveling now? Is it a lot still?
Cassie Krejci: All of the time. I'm about 80%. For example, I got home from Chicago and I’ll go film some stuff in Memphis for Terminix and then go up to the Structural Pest Control regulatory meeting in Minneapolis.
Paul Giannamoire: When you say 80% of the time, you're on the road every week.
Cassie Krejci: There's maybe one week a month that I don't travel.
Paul Giannamoire: How is that being a mom with that travel? You got your husband there who's not traveling so he takes care of the kids but it's different for a man versus a woman. Kids are like, “Mom, where are you going?” Maybe they're happy. Maybe they're like, “Mom, get out of here.”
Cassie Krejci: This stage is hard. I love that you asked that question because one of the platforms I enjoy speaking on is women in pest management and how this is a good industry. I will not lie to you and say that people don't say things like, “Who's raising your kids?” Whenever I travel as much as I do. I'm like, “Their dad. He helps, too.” It's a balance.
For the girls, it's a little harder because they're at that age but I do picture one day them being like a couple of Kennedy kids and they start going with me. We go to legislative days, for example, and they learn how to give presentations to state legislators about why insecticides are important. They begin to meet all the wonderful people in this industry. It's what makes me passionate about it. I would only be happy to share that with them.
One day, it will be a little traveling roadshow. For now, Maren wants to grow up and be an entomologist as well. I share the science of catching bugs, the things that made me fall in love with it, pinning insects, knowing names, and not being scared of bugs when they see them on the playground at school. It's going to turn into me getting to share the science with them as well.
Paul Giannamoire: You have a job that's cool for Kids that age. I remember when I was a little kid, I would do a bug collection. You pin them all to the board and you have all these different species. What kid doesn't like to go out and pick up bugs?
Patrick Baldwin: Paul, you were destined for pest control. I didn't know your pinned bugs.
Paul Giannamoire: Don't tell me you didn't collect bugs when you were a kid? You guys both did, right?
Cassie Krejci: I didn't know that was a thing until I went to college, which is the weird part. There are people that I work with that have been collecting bugs for a long time like you.
Patrick Baldwin: Paul, you've moved a lot. Where's your bug collection? It’s in Geneva?
Paul Giannamoire: No. As a kid, I always wanted to be some sort of scientist. I got into plants and bugs and then I wanted to be a physicist and all that sort of jazz. I realized that there are a lot of people from India who are better at it than me so I didn’t do it.
Cassie Krejci: I was on a call with one of my marketing teammates and he was like, “I'm going to go invest in some insects and hang them on my wall, too.” I was like, “Why would you do that? You know me.” I got him a cricket. Now, he has eight insects in a case. When I go to Memphis, I'm going to deliver them to him and say, “Don't buy insects. You know an entomologist.” For the girls, I have big shadow boxes for their rooms. On weekends, we’ll catch insects and fumble through a pinning session and they get to be proud of them and hang them on their walls. Growing little nerds.
Paul Giannamoire: That's a nerd factory over there. Cassie, we loved having you. I appreciate you popping in and chatting with us and nerding out as it were on The Boardroom Buzz.
Cassie Krejci: I'd be lying if I didn't say that it was a dream of mine to be on The Boardroom Buzz. I'm not even kidding when I say that. Thank you for having me.
Patrick Baldwin: This was awesome. Cassie, it was great seeing you. I'll see you at Pest World.
Cassie Krejci: See you at Pest World. Thank you, guys.
Paul Giannamoire: Thank you, Cassie.
Seth Garber: I love this interview with Cassie. She's unbelievable. She makes it so real. What did you think, Fat Pat?
Patrick Baldwin: She's awesome. We've broken bread together, at least she left with milk bottle cookies. We hung out and chatted. Hopefully, I'm cool enough now and she calls me friend. I like to call her friend. She's been super helpful. I wish she was a resource to more people. I was wondering, Seth, when it comes to pedagogy, she said it was how you need to train the people around you, non-technical people. What do you think? You're teaching your clients all day talking through different topics. What's the mindset you have so that people understand what you're trying to help them with?
Seth Garber: It was interesting. She made, what I would argue, entomology real. One of the biggest things that we see a disconnect from is people go through learning. Let's start at the consumer level. We talk all the time to our clients about how they should communicate with consumers. Too often, they want to over-communicate and they want to make things incredibly technical for the consumer. The consumer simply needs to hear, “This is going to work for you.”
Where Cassie nailed it was how she talked about the way that they communicate complex ideas to the technicians so those technicians can communicate them to the consumer. I found that powerful because she made a statement where she said that too many companies worry about entomologists and she's like, “You shouldn't have to worry about that. The entomologist has it.” She nailed that. Too often or not, people are making things way too complicated. The way that she talked about it to the technician makes perfect sense. Make it simple, make it so they can understand it so that they can pass that information on to the consumer and have a successful real internship. It was powerful, Patrick.
Patrick Baldwin: I'm guilty of that. As you sit there and tell me about being overly technical with things, I tend to go that way. I was thinking about how I explained our bedbug service and materials to our clients. I'm like, “Guilty as charged.” This is what CimeXa does and this is what Aprehend does and this is how it works. That was way too in the weeds. My sales were all right but they could have been better.
Seth Garber: I was talking to one of our clients and bedbugs came up. They said, “How long does it take to train a CSR team to communicate about bedbugs?” I said, “It should only take a couple of days.” You go into the house, you're cleaning the stuff up, you're going in doing whatever treatment you're going to do, and whatever follow-up schedule you have. That's what a customer needs to hear. They said, “We've been training our CSR for six months and they still can't describe a bedbug treatment.” I said, “It’s because it's too complicated.” They're doing exactly what you described. It's a simple truth. Cassie nailed it.
Patrick Baldwin: That is interesting even to think of the client level. What you want the technician to do is detailed and thorough. There should be even more or as much emphasis on how you communicate what you're doing to the client. Simplify, “You're doing ABC and not A through Z.”
Seth Garber: As you guys know, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around and listening to a lot of people and going to conferences. We hear a lot of entomologists talk about the way that they would grow their businesses. People are going to probably get mad at what I'm going to say. We constantly hear them talk about how you need these big words in front of customers because big words in front of customers make customers seem like you know what you're doing.
As we dive into these guys, what they're describing is for that small percentage of the population that's out there, that matters. If you go in a study of human psychology in people's buying the way people buy, it's a tiny little percentage. For that tiny little percentage, maybe they need that. For that tiny little percentage, you are going to get a larger sale potentially because you are going to be the smartest guy in the room or sound like the smartest guy in the room. The reality is, for the consumers, this is what they need to hear, simple, simple, simple.
Patrick Baldwin: I feel judged.
Paul Giannamore: That's one of the truest things you've ever said on the show thus far. I haven't done speaking at industry things for a long time. Those days are done for me. Back in the day, when I first got into the industry, I would show up at these different conventions and association meetings and speak at stuff. I remember some years ago sharing the stage with an old entomologist.
Seth Garber: A great guy, by the way.
Paul Giannamore: A sweetheart of a man. He was talking about entomology and then about midway through his speech, he started to wax poetic giving business advice. It was some of the worst business advice. I was cringing. I wanted to get up after him and say, “The second half of everything he said, entirely ignore it or do the opposite.” I didn't have the heart back then. Now, I would have. A great guy. Not great business advice. These entomologists are great when it comes to entomology.
Seth Garber: We look at this data for tons of companies that we work with and a lot of them have entomologists on staff. These are top-performing businesses. Out of all the companies that we work with on the ‘consultants side of our business nationwide, there's one that uses an entomological approach and is successful with it. They've gotten large. It's taken him 30 years. They get the top dollar of probably any company. However, the owner of the company still goes out there and meets with every single customer and they do get big dollars. The reality is, from scalability, it's impossible. Hearing Cassie talks about it, she was unbelievable about how to simplify things.
Patrick Baldwin: Seth, you cover a wide variety of topics with your clients. At what point would you make a recommendation to a client and say, “You need to add an entomologist or even a fractional entomologist to your staff.”
Seth Garber: It's an interesting question and it does come up. There are a lot of fractional entomologists out there and that's an interesting business. With a fractional entomologist, you could almost replicate what Cassie refers to. The service technicians call into their team, they can help them with decisions, and help them out. There's a good place for that. However, I have never made a recommendation to put an entomologist on staff.
One of the companies that we've modeled out, they're going to be approaching around $20 million in revenue. They're the first ones that we've ever started to establish what a research department looks like internally. The only reason that they're considering it is that they are also considering starting to develop their own product line. That's the only time that I can see deep value in it.
The reality is, if we think about it, in every single market in the country, we've got all these smart chemical reps and their job is to get us to buy products. These guys are smart. They know the products and know how they work. Most of them are on call for their clients. It's hard for me to validate it in my mind, unless you want to have one on staff, to put that as part of your growth strategy. It's difficult for me to validate that.
Patrick Baldwin: Paul, what's your experience with entomologists on staff? I even wonder if they're in the number one pole position like Dr. Kramer. When it's time to sell, what difference does that makes?
Paul Giannamore: When I think about some of the DC businesses, Tony Sfreddo’s Triple S, Innovative, Dr. Richard Kramer, and his son, Josh. When you think about American Pest with Jay Nixon, a lot of those kinds of DC-based businesses had PhD entomologist on staff who have gone through these contracts. You have a minimum of two PhD entomologists on staff per 100 employees. It’s specified in the work papers.
Here's one of the questions that I had. The Kramers have built Innovative. 25% of their business was related to the federal government. They got on the GSA schedule and he was into that. Having etymological creds was important. My question to them was, does the average consumer who might be looking for a pest control company online see Innovative Pest Control? They click on the website and now there's a picture of Dr. Kramer who has a PhD in insect science or whatever the consumer understands. A lot of people don't even know what entomology is. I would imagine if I asked my wife that, she'd probably say, “I don't know. The study of words.”
I wondered if that's something that consumers would look at and say, “You've got a bug doctor on staff, that means I'm going to get better service or they're going to be more effective.” He seemed to think that was the case. I'm not sure. I don't have enough information to dispute that. Patrick, to your point, a lot of the companies that I've worked with over the years, if they've had entomologists on staff, they were either the owners.
I can't tell you how many times I've sold a business and it's been around for four years. Ted, who's been on staff for over 33 years, went back to school, got his Master's degree, and got his PhD. He works for a pest control company. He loves to study insects. He did that because that's what he's interested in. He went got his ACE and all those credentials. I've never once had an acquirer ask me how many anthropologists are on staff, except during the case of Triple S.
Triple S was using a PhD entomologist. They needed at least two. They had one on staff. They were using one and they brought him on as a consultant. They paid him consulting fees every month to be part of that business, solely for the purpose of reviewing government contracts. The acquires needed to know that to make sure that they can maintain their bargain under the agreements. Other than that, I've never been asked.
Seth Garber: Most people don't know this but I'm pretty technical as it relates to the service side of the business. I used to balance going back and forth doing my ACE. Every time I went to go think about doing it, I kept thinking about, “Does it make the company more money or not?” The reality for me is I couldn't get to the point in my mind where I said, “This isn’t going to make our business more money.”
What I did think about was that it doesn't give me more industry credibility. I then started thinking about it. I was like, “If I did my ACE, then I would have more industry credibility.” As I took a step further, I used to go, “My job is to build a company that creates deep value and big value.” If I create more industry credibility, how does that help me build more value? I always balanced steps back and forth.
When I got into the technical stuff, I liked dealing with flies and mosquitoes. I loved it. It was like, “Does it build more value?”Paul, you brought up a good point. As you said it, it made me think a little more. The companies that do monetize are the ones that are working on government contracts. That's where I see it the most. They're working in ultra-high sensitive environments like aquariums and things like that. They're requiring it. It's an interesting thing.
Paul Giannamore: Seth, I've had these discussions with clients over the years where they've brought up the topic of entomologists and other technical people. I always go back and say, “Let's look at your call log over the last 30 days. Let's see how many calls you're answering. Before we worry about getting entomologists on staff, how many retreats do you have?” You’re doing the basic stuff because it’s what the end user cares about.
I always like to think that I could probably go out and start a one-man pest control business tomorrow provided I get licensed. If I could go out tomorrow, I could talk to Veseris, Target, or Forshaw. I could talk to these reps. I could talk to some manufacturers. I can get some demonstrations and say, “What handles 80% of general household pests? Paul, you need bifenthrin. You need this. You need Taurus.” Now I got my little kit and put together a trucker van with little training. I might be offending a lot of technical people out there when I say that. As long as I show up on time, I'm friendly with the customers, I smile, and I try hard, the majority part of the battle is already won, quite frankly.
Patrick Baldwin: Are you willing to get your hands dirty? Is that what you're telling me? You said you've never done an honest day's work in your life.
Paul Giannamore: I never said that. Joe Wilson, the owner of PermaTreat, looked at me years ago and said, “Paul, you've never done an honest day's work in your life,” meaning I never got into a crawlspace. That's true, I never did any of those things. To your technical point, Seth, doing those things like ACEs and studying entomology when you're in the pest control business has value. I always looked at it as it's better for you to have a team that has those capabilities.
Business owners that get involved in that sort of stuff, that's not what the president of a company does. Andy Ransom at Rentokil, Brett Ponton, or Jarl Dahlfors at Anticimex shouldn't be studying entomology. They have teams to do that. They need to be focusing on setting strategy and organizing the capabilities of the firm. Any minutiae owners getting into it ticks them off in the wrong direction unless it's a hobby. You were into the bugs.
Seth Garber: The entomologist that we know who runs companies today, that's what they're doing. It's their hobby. It's not their focus. I found one of the comments that Cassie made during that conversation. She said, “Don't tell Terminix but they don't have to pay me.” That's a deep level of passion. I would argue that anyone who’s going to go study insects probably don't need to get paid to do it. They probably love it.
I remember back when I was building my business, we had an infestation. It was a horrible tick infestation. I remember going back and forth to this house. I did the service myself 11 or 12 times. I remember looking at these things and we had some of the chemical reps out there looking at it and no one could solve this problem. I remember going back to my office because we had one of those old electric microscopes.
I remember looking at this thing and going, “How in the heck do I kill this thing effectively? Why can't we kill these here?” I don't know how many tens of thousands of jobs we did but it was the one time where I was like, “I wish I knew more about this insect and how I could kill this thing.” It cost us a ton of money. Ultimately, we fixed it. I could see how people could get passionate about that component. It was brilliant stuff.
Paul Giannamore: Seth, if I draw attention to an episode we did with Professor Dunning, talking about the Dunning-Kruger effect, I start to think about some of the discussions that I've had over the years with business owners in the pest control space. These guys are like, “Paul, we are not baseboard jockeys. We know our stuff.” They do. Legitimately, they know far more than a lot of people do. The question is, does it matter? When we talked to Dr. Dunning, he said that it's hard for people to assess the competence of others. You can usually tell when somebody's crummy but it's hard to separate the middle of the pack from the phenomenal experts.
I can't imagine that the average end user of pest control services can make that distinction. I know this to be the case because every single day of the week, I hear people saying, “That company, our competitor, sucks. Somebody should light that place on fire. They're miserable. I don't even know how they're still in business.” Sure enough, they got 39 trucks out in the parking lot. They're still in business because the customer doesn't have any way to judge that.
Seth Garber: It's a proven fact. We could put people on a telephone and in a couple of weeks, they can learn to answer that phone effectively. We know 100% that 75% of everyone that takes that call, they're going to become a customer. We know that fact. We also know the fact that door-to-door companies can put guys out on the street with one week of training and consumers are willing to buy from them. We know all of that.
The argument that I would make is that if I took the most technically skilled person and put them on the phone without any buyer training, are they going to be equally as effective as someone who understands consumer buying? Probably not. No way. Arguably, if we put a fairly technical person on the doors doing door-to-door, could they be more successful? I'm not sure because maybe they could have better discussions. Maybe they can identify problems more effectively. Maybe they could design more proactive solutions in front of a consumer on the spot. It's interesting thinking about the Dunning-Kruger effect. I love that.
Paul Giannamore: Fat Pat, what you got?
Patrick Baldwin: I got your results back from Dr. Dunning. Are you sitting down?
Paul Giannamore: I was on the left side of the bell curve in my examples.
Patrick Baldwin: Seth, I hope this isn't controversial. You were talking about your return on investment if you were to pursue getting an ACE and going down that technical rabbit trail. You said something about industry credibility, which I haven't thought about. Is there a value in that, going out and being credible to your competitors and your marketplace?
Seth Garber: I'm surrounded by entomologists on a pretty regular basis. We go to a lot of the conferences that are led by entomologists. Cassie brought this up. During her conversation, she said that what the certifications do is they allow you to be able to teach and be in front of your peers. She said something about that concept.
If I was sitting here as a BCE, ACE, built a successful company, running a successful consulting firm, and working with you guys, does that give me additional credibility? It probably does. Pest control universities probably would look at me a lot closer versus the fact that I know how to build these businesses. I wouldn't say that if I would have done that ACE, then sold a business, and then done these, it probably does make a difference in the industry. Does it make a difference to the customer? Probably not.
Patrick Baldwin: You qualify for the ACE, Seth. Maybe that's next in your toolbox.
Seth Garber: Do I commit to go do it? I'll be at a conference where everyone's doing the ACE. I don't think I'll be ready.
Patrick Baldwin: There's an interesting thing about you. Here's a psychology thing, Seth. You told me you're taking golf lessons. I wonder if you could commit to the ACE in the way that you commit to golf lessons.
Paul Giannamore: Why are you taking golf lessons?
Seth Garber: A good friend of all of ours gave me a good ass whooping at Topgolf. Frankly, I realize it's probably time that I stopped going on the golf course. I'm getting my ass whooped by everybody. It's probably time for me to go get golf lessons. I committed to going to golf lessons and then he and I are going to play again.
Patrick Baldwin: Does he know that it's coming?
Seth Garber: He knows. I almost would call him out here because I know he's an avid listener.
Paul Giannamore: Who is it? Call him out. Tell him he's a punk.
Seth Garber: Rusty, this is for you. I'm taking you down.
Paul Giannamore: Do you enjoy golf, Seth? I'm asking you this question because Patrick and I did an interview and I asked the same question to a former client of ours who was on The Buzz. He enjoyed golf, Patrick, but he wanted to beat himself. He plays three days a week now. Do you enjoy golf, Seth?
Seth Garber: No. Here's the thing. Like you guys and a lot of the people we work with, I'm an incredibly competitive person but I'm more competitive with myself than I am with others. The problem with golf is that I've played three times in my entire life. I never loved it. I'd rather go shoot guns. I'd rather do some of that stuff. I'd rather race cars. It's more fun for me. Now that I'm down the road from lesson number twelve and I hit the ball the first time well, I can see how people start to get addicted. I'm good at swinging a 7 iron, it's the only club I've swung. I'll let you know in a few more months.
Patrick Baldwin: Seth, I would disagree with you when it comes to you and competing. There was an early morning that we went to work out together and I remember you were trying to compete with me.
Paul Giannamore: Patrick, speaking of racing cars, did you see that Tony Tudino video that Dylan filmed?
Patrick Baldwin: Yeah, I did.
Paul Giannamore: I was curious.
Patrick Baldwin: I love it. I'm glad Dylan didn't throw up in the car.
Patrick Baldwin: Seth, my question was when you’d sign up for golf lessons, you didn't sign up for a week or two. The way that you commit to things, that's a mindset that's like, “I'm going to invest the money and do it.” You bought a whole year's worth.
Paul Giannamore: You committed to a year.
Seth Garber: Yeah. I might as well put it out there, Fat Pat. I decided that I was going to learn to play golf. I went to GOLFTEC here in Tampa, which is the training golf facility. Apparently, it's good. I bought 104 sessions up front. I was telling our boy, Fat Pat, about it. The guy called me a couple of days later and thanked me for making him the number one sales rep in the country. We'll be playing some golf. I'll probably be able to swing more than a 7 iron.
Patrick Baldwin: Will you be doing it as an ACE?
Seth Garber: It's a big question. Maybe.
Patrick Baldwin: I want you to commit right now.
Seth Garber: I can't commit to the ACE, at least not yet. Maybe in 2 or 3 weeks, I'll commit to the ACE. We’ll see.
Patrick Baldwin: Maybe you can ace your golf for now.
Seth Garber: Are you willing to do your ACE, Fat Pat?
Patrick Baldwin: No. I'm too busy right now.
Paul Giannamore: Fat Pat is still licensed to apply pesticides in the Republic of Texas. Seth, what about you? Are you keeping up with that?
Seth Garber: I let them lapse and I did it for two reasons. Number one is as part of my non-compete, I wanted my partner to know that I was committed to the non-compete. I thought that was important. The second thing is the nature of the business that I'm in. I didn't ever want my clients in the future to think that I was going to open a competitive company to them. That's why I did it. Arguably, when I go back today and get my licenses, now that I'm years down the road, maybe. I don't know what I would do with them anymore though. I think I could pass the test the first time.
Paul Giannamore: You could clearly open up a pest control company without being licensed. I can name off the top of my head scores of people that do it.
Seth Garber: It's such a painful topic to me. It's such a painful subject. Scores of people do it.
Paul Giannamore: I'm saying that they do it legitimately. You can own the company and employ people with licenses.
Patrick Baldwin: Mike Rogers did it. The reason I would not let my license lapse is that I don't think I could pass. It would take a lot of work. It’s easier to pay.
Seth Garber: I was thinking maybe San Juan would be a good location to open it up. It'd be a great location for us to build a pest control company.
Paul Giannamore: Not a whole lot of competition down here. Rentokil is on the island doing $9 million in revenue in San Juan. It’s dense here in the city. There's not a lot of competition. Terminix franchise down here.
Patrick Baldwin: Interesting. Let's do it.
Paul Giannamore: The problem is no one wants to work on this entire island. I used to not say stuff like that but now that I've been here for a while. There’s no other colony on the planet that has the level of dependency as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This is what happens when you get Joe Biden stepping in and forgiving student loans. When the population gets all these free handouts, there's no reason to do anything at all. Here we have it.
Seth Garber: That's a tough subject for me. Student loans blow my mind still.
Paul Giannamore: I want to thank Patrick for bringing Cassie on to the show. I enjoyed the discussion with her. Thank you for that.
Patrick Baldwin: That's what I do.
Seth Garber: It was great.
Patrick Baldwin: Thanks.
Paul Giannamore: For readers out there, Cassie is super friendly. As Seth mentioned, she's all over social media. She's a TikTok girl. We had to edit out the portion in which the Mexican came into my office while Cassie was talking. Let's say he was surprised to find out that she was a PhD scientist. Unfortunately, we removed that from the episode because she also is a professional and the Mexican is not.
Dylan Seals: I want to remind you right now to go ahead and subscribe to The Boardroom Buzz. We have got some incredible episodes coming up that you're not going to want to miss. Also, if you've enjoyed the podcast, please go to the Apple Podcast app and leave us a short review. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks so much again for reading and we'll see you next episode.
Brett Ponton – past episode
TikTok – Cassie Krejci
Tim Mulrooney – past episode
Professor Dunning – past episode