Dynamic Duo: Steve Butcher & Casey Atkins
Steve Butcher and Casey Atkins aren’t your typical boss-employee duo; they’re also great mates who have known each other since they were kids. Syngenta finds out what makes this pair from Riverside Pest Management in Deniliquin such a powerful team.
Steve: I’ve lived in Deni my whole life, except when I was away for four years doing fumigation work in Queensland. Working for other people became very stale and tired, so I came back to Deni and went out on my own. To be honest, I thought running my own pest management business would be a lot easier than what it is. When I left my job to be my own boss, I thought it would be a day here, a day there, but it’s not that simple. The best thing about it is being able to make my own choices. If I want to try something different or do things in a new way, I don’t have to run it by anyone. It’s a family owned and operated business, and we’ve got a really great team … along with our two termite detection dogs.
Case started with us about four or five years ago. I’ve known her forever; she was a couple of years above me in my brother’s year at school. Our business was advertising for a trainee. Case sent me a message asking whether she was wasting her time if she applied, and we went from there.
Case is very good at what she does. During the week, I’d say 30 per cent of the time we’d work together, often on Shire contract jobs. If she comes across something she doesn’t yet know, she’ll come to work the next day having researched it. It’s good to know she has that interest in her work – that if she doesn’t know something, she’ll go and learn about it. I don’t do that as much, so we’re a little bit different. I often send her photos and ask, “what do you think this is?”. Her answer will be completely different to what I think, and she’ll give me a reason why. She’s usually right.
Working in a small town where we grew up, most people here know one of us as kids. It’s great to have that advantage, though we struggle a bit when we have to do a job for an old school teacher!
We’re not too serious either. Casey brings a bit of attitude to the team! But we’re pretty good friends and similar in many ways: we’re both easy going, love our loud country music, our beer, camping. In between jobs in the car, we don’t talk shop; we’re having laughs. We’re absolute idiots!
I think having a female technician on the team is really good. I find they’re very thorough, and Case gets along with the client really well. I’ve worked with a few female techs and they’re the same. Case is passionate about what she does. She’ll work 10 to 12 hours days all week, then front up again on Saturday.
I try not to be her ‘boss’. If there any decisions she needs to make, she can make them. I let Case have her own opinion, so it’s not a typical employer-employee relationship. We’re more just mates who go to work together.
Casey: I’ve always been a country girl. Being an outdoors person, as a kid I played with bugs and all that sort of stuff. But I never thought about being a pest control operator.
I left school early, and I was working at a service station when I heard Steve had a trainee position opening. I enquired, but he actually hounded me so much that I couldn’t say no! I wasn’t real keen to start with, but then I thought, “why not?” I like to work outdoors, and I’d rather be out on a job than inside sitting in an office all day. So I said to him, “all right, I’ll do it.”
Starting a new career with Steve has been easy. I already knew him, so we got along well. It’s just always worked. Initially I had to do an trainee course to get certified – mostly on the job training and some theory which I did online. Steve and Jess (Steve’s wife, who owns Riverside Pest Management alongside Steve) have been fantastic with it all. If any training courses or anything comes up, he’ll always said to me, “do you want to do this course?”
We have a good working relationship. A lot of our work is contracted by the Shire, and we do heritage building work, putting things in place to protect them from termites. A rewarding job for us is when someone else has had a go at something, hasn’t been able to solve the problem, and we can get in and sort that out.
No one is harder on myself than me. If I don’t know something, I research and study it. Being a female working in a male-dominated trade is not for the faint hearted, but I am pretty passionate about what I do. If people think I’m not capable because I am female, I’m determined to prove them wrong. Working on construction sites where I am generally the only female could be intimidating, but I know I belong on that site just as much as the bloke standing next to me. And I am respected for that.
As a boss, Steve’s easy to talk to. Nothing is a problem. It makes life so much easier when you can just talk about anything. He’s a larrikin and he was a good kid at school; now he’s a great mate and we have a lot of common – fishing, camping, all that sort of stuff. I joke that he’s a pain in the arse, but if I have a question or any issue, he’s good at explaining the answer. Every time he gets a new idea or comes up with some grand plan, he always puts it to me and asks my thoughts.
Honestly, I reckon working with someone I’ve known for so long has made a difference. I can be myself around him and he knows what I like. I think it makes it a lot easier, especially in this kind of work. Really, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
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Find Steve and Casey at Riverside Pest Management in Deniliquin.
Story first seen in Professional Pest Manager Magazine 2020.