The pestie: a Jack of all trades
Working in pest control requires the wearing of a lot of different hats. One professional who knows this all too well is Justin Herbert. As the owner of Sydney-based pest control business Pestige Solutions, Mr Herbert juggles a variety of tasks in any given week: managing cash flow, training staff, trouble-shooting pest problems, improving customer service, getting up to speed on the latest innovations.
Of course, it helps that pest management is in his blood. Mr Herbert is proud to be a third-generation pest professional, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, uncle and cousins. He got his first taste as a 16-year-old in the school holidays while helping his dad out by drilling 12 mm holes with a large Kango drill. After finishing year 12, he decided to move into pest control on a full-time basis. “I first got into pest control because it was better than what I was doing when I first left school, and it also paid a whole lot better,” said Mr Herbert. “I thought, ‘killing spiders and cockroaches – it can’t be that hard!’”
Twenty-four years on, Mr Herbert now runs Pestige Solutions alongside his wife, Alison. With five service utilities operating on the road, Mr Herbert looks after on-road servicing, training staff and quoting customers while his wife manages the admin side of the business. Mr Herbert not only wears different hats, but looks for the same multitasking ability in his staff, as he believes a successful pest manager must be competent in different fields.
“When carrying out a service, they need to be prompt, have good customer service and be knowledgeable about the pests and the services to be carried out. They also have to be problem solvers, presentable, and willing to think outside the box,” explained Mr Herbert. “Finding the right person can sometimes be difficult within this industry. The biggest challenge is finding the right staff – finding them, training them and then keeping them.”
According to Mr Herbert, teamwork and simply putting in the hard yards is crucial to Pestige Solutions’ success. His team has tackled all manner of pest problems, from keeping rodents at bay in train tunnels beneath the Sydney metro with support from Talon – “setting up the job was very time-consuming; maintaining the job is much easier, and the scenes we see in the middle of the night are spectacular,” – to solving complex termite infestations and eradicating pest problems for people in need.
Going the extra mile can be personally rewarding and good for business. “An elderly man rang us who had no money but had a really bad rodent infestation,” said Mr Herbert. “Over a few visits, I solved the rodent issue and didn’t charge him. He was very grateful and told his friends. Now every year we get homemade mince pies delivered to our office at Christmas.”
The challenges Mr Herbert and his wife face in running the business are also varied. When they first started out in 2005, Justin completed a TAFE course in small business management to equip him for the task. To those eager to strike out on their own, he recommends doing the same to give them the tools needed to tackle ever-changing business challenges.
“The problems we had when we started our business, when it was just the two of us, are quite different to the issues we face now. At the start there were lots of teething problems and the challenge of building up a clientele. Now, it’s about setting individual targets, company targets and the need to work out all your percentages, right down to each gram of gel you might use on a cockroach job,” he said.
Mr Herbert isn’t complaining though. He enjoys both running his own business and solving pest problems, even if it requires being a Jack of all trades. “The pests keep us on our toes and we are learning new things every day,” he said. “That’s why I love this job.”