Six Ways to Rewrite the Rules for Wildlife Control

The wildlife division at Breda Pest Management was born out of frustration.

“We got tired of calls coming in where the client was saying, ‘I’ve got rats getting in,’ and the only thing we had to offer was either traps or bait boxes,” recalled Matt Breda, president of the Loganville, Ga. .-based company. Squirrels and bats presented similar challenges.

Breda Pest Management was not equipped to provide exclusion services, so it could not solve client problems. “Unless you’re physically stopping those entry points by sealing them, you are kind of just kicking the can down the road,” he said.

Breda flipped this script in 2009 by launching a wildlife division, which also breaks some tried-and-true industry norms.

The result has been stellar. Today, the wildlife division generates one-third of the company’s revenue; equal to the amounts brought in by general pest (including mosquito) service and termite work, which “runs king around here,” said Breda. “In 13 years, revenue for the wildlife division is equal to the revenue in the termite division, and the termite division has been in place for 47 years.”

It also has become more lucrative than termite control. “It takes about two-and-a-half termite jobs to equal one wildlife job,” said Breda.

As well, wildlife work is helping Breda Pest Management navigate an increasingly challenging economy. “Although we’re seeing the termite part of our company slow down just a little bit, the wildlife is not slowing down. It’s growing at an incredible clip,” said Breda.

Here’s how the company rewrote its playbook for wildlife control.

NARROW THE SCOPE OF SERVICE. Most wildlife service providers control a wide range of critters. Breda Pest Management focuses on five: gray squirrels, flying squirrels, bats, rats and mice. These are the most common wildlife pests in metro Atlanta.

A narrower focus helps the company target its training and maintain profit margins. “We will get into some possum and raccoons, but with the DNR live-trapping rules here in Georgia, you have to check the live traps every 24 hours and that really hurts profit,” said Breda.

FIX ISSUES BEYOND THE OBVIOUS. Most wildlife control companies focus on sealing up the entry points where critters get in. Technicians from Breda Pest Management do this, but they also identify and seal vulnerable areas that will likely be breached in the future. Doing a partial exclusion and ignoring structural vulnerabilities doesn’t pay in the long run, said Breda.

Clients “are going to be screaming at you, and you’re going to be frustrated as a company” when the critters chew another entry point nearby to get inside, he explained. “I wouldn’t waste time and money doing partial exclusions,” he said.

MAKE IT RECURRING SERVICE. For most companies, wildlife control is a one-time service. Breda Pest Management has made it a recurring one. After the problem is solved, clients can pay an annual fee for a renewable warranty against future critter issues, similar to an annual termite renewal. An annual inspection is conducted for squirrels and bats; quarterly or triannual site visits are scheduled for mice and rats, especially if bait boxes are involved.

“The same way you would do for a termite inspection, you’re doing for a wildlife inspection,” explained Breda. Technicians point out conducive conditions to the homeowner, such as tree branches hanging over the roof and the unsealed roofline of the new sunroom. They make needed fixes and add value by identifying other pest-related issues the customer should address.

Most companies offer a one-year or five-year warranty on work performed to exclude wildlife, but they aren’t charging a renewal fee every year. “We instituted that from the beginning,” said Breda. This helps with cash flow during winter months when general pest, mosquito and termite control services are not in high demand.

EXPAND THE GUARANTEE. Most wildlife exclusion providers guarantee the spots they seal. If a critter chews a new hole, that isn’t covered. “Under the Breda warranty, if critters get back in, it doesn’t matter if they chew a brand new entry point; if you’re under our warranty, it’s covered,” said Breda.

This includes removing critters, cleaning up the mess and sealing up new holes at no extra charge. “That’s what separates us here in the Atlanta market,” he said. “We’re not in this to upcharge and nickel-and-dime the client. If you nickel-and-dime them, they’re going to leave you. But if you take care of them, the word of mouth is powerful,” said Breda.

EXPAND THE SERVICE OFFERING. Some companies only want to perform wildlife removal and exclusion. Breda has learned that you need to do more.

“You might as well plan that if you’re going to get into wildlife, you’re going to get into clean up, and if you’re going to get into clean up, you’re going to get into insulation. That’s the natural progression,” he said. Plus, why give this business to someone else?

Clients want a complete, turn-key service that addresses everything from removing and excluding the critters to disinfection and installing new blown-in borate-treated insulation, which kills insect pests and is not attractive to rodents.

Of course, this requires having all the necessary gear, materials and equipment, so plan for this eventuality, he said.

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. Not every employee is a good fit for wildlife work, so keep your eyes open for potential hires and act quickly when hiring opportunities arise. When the housing market began tanking in 2009, Breda hired employees with ladder, construction, roofing and gutter system skills, and who knew how to make exclusion look attractive. “It’s just pure luck, to be perfectly honest,” he said of the timing of those early hires.

To meet growing demand for the wildlife service, he actively seeks out people with these “special skills” and who don’t fear heights. “We have to put in a good amount of training” and special safety equipment is required, added Breda, who believes “firmly” in having two-man wildlife teams.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.

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