In 1979, 16 years before the Sentricon® system launched, college undergraduate Billy Tesh was listening to an entomology lecture at North Carolina State University. That day, Tesh learned an invaluable lesson: The only constant in entomology is that insects are always evolving.
So, too, should pest management professionals.
Twenty-five years have passed since Sentricon was first made commercially available. Since then, how have Sentricon and the Certified Sentricon Specialists® (CSS) who use it evolved? We asked three CSSs — an initial adopter, a third-generation pest control operator and a fourth-generation business owner — to reflect on how their companies have grown, changed and adapted to new challenges.
Innovators and innovations
What were you doing 25 years ago? Drew Mannino of Amco Ranger Termite & Pest Solutions was midway through high school and considering entering the family pest management business. Kurt Scherzinger of Scherzinger Pest Control was an eighth-grader with no plans to aid his family operation — instead, he’d set his sights on the financial industry. And CSS Billy Tesh of Pest Management Systems, Inc., was already installing precommercial in-ground bait stations with the Sentricon® system.
While they span different backgrounds and generations, each of these CSSs now share a common drive to improve their communities by eliminating invasive pests through creativity, innovation and resilience. In their mission, each has benefited from the constantly evolving components of Sentricon.
“We’ve been able to do impossible things with Recruit AG FlexPack,” Scherzinger said. “We used it to treat the basement of a building that traveled underneath a nearby street that was otherwise inaccessible. You couldn’t treat it any other way — imagine coring through the road, through the yellow line in the middle of the street.
“We also used Recruit AG FlexPack to treat mud tunnels found in the pump room of a parking garage that was four stories underground. Again, Recruit AG FlexPack was our one-stop solution.”
For Mannino, Always Active™ technology revolutionized Amco Ranger since launch. “Since the beginning, Always Active has been the most important innovation of the Sentricon system to me. It solves problems and makes sense to customers. A product that’s working 24 hours a day, all year long? That’s how termite control should be,” Mannino said.
Tesh agrees that both Always Active and Recruit® AG FlexPack® play an important role in the evolution of the Sentricon® system. “The attractiveness of Always Active to termites is incredible. And the modern advancements made with Recruit AG FlexPack have allowed us to treat impossible situations — nightmare properties — that others have given up on,” Tesh said.
A changing business model
Innovation doesn’t stop with a product. Mannino, Scherzinger and Tesh have each adapted their business models and customer mindsets to continuously achieve total colony elimination and homeowner satisfaction.
“We started out with Sentricon being the solution for hard-to-control termite situations,” Tesh said. “But very quickly, it ended up being a system we could use preventatively to solve termite problems in a unique way without harming the environment, impacting the homeowner or causing damage to the structure.”
All three CSSs have paid similar attention to changing customer needs, at times providing services even before homeowners knew they needed them.
“It’s the trend to offer preventative services now, but we’ve been offering preventative services for almost 20 years,” Scherzinger said. “I mean, this thing is awesome. We tell homeowners we can use in-ground bait stations as a monitor outside of the home instead of using the home as a monitor. When we tell our customers that they can have 20 monitors to protect their property before the property becomes infested, they see the value — fast.”
“I grew up in this business,” Mannino said. “Which helps me understand how homeowners have evolved. People are busier now. They value convenience now more than ever, and they’re usually a lot further along in the buying process before we speak with them.”
Mannino said that instead of trying to change customer mindsets, resourceful CSSs should meet homeowners where they are. “These days, we have to provide more flexible scheduling, conduct more sales over the phone or by text, and rapidly implement new technologies. That’s how we can continue to meet customer needs,” he said.
Looking forward with pride
While an important part of innovation is looking back on the successes of the past, Tesh, Mannino and Scherzinger agree: In the pest management industry, the future is where exciting opportunities lie.
“I’m excited to continue to grow our retention rates,” Scherzinger said. “We’ve implemented some interesting retention strategies, such as moving to a monthly billing program where the upfront investment is lower, which incentivizes homeowners to renew their protection on a monthly basis, rather than paying a one-time yearly fee. We’ve also experimented with bundling and have found success there.”
“The technology we use to implement the Sentricon system is where I’m most interested in growing,” Mannino said. “Technology isn’t easy — personally, I don’t like it much. But with new servicing technologies and installation technologies, we’ll be able to communicate with homeowners in new ways and get in front of more people in less time.”
“Looking forward, I’m excited to provide employees with the work environment, tools and education they need to aid homeowners,” Tesh said. “I’m more effective at helping our employees now than I was 25 years ago, and going forward, I’m excited to do an even better job than before.”
Where do we go from here?
It’s clear that for each CSS, evolution isn’t just a business strategy — it’s a lifestyle, a constant practice and a mantra. To be a CSS, you have to adapt, change and grow alongside a termite baiting system that is constantly doing the same: the Sentricon® system.
“If you’re in the termite business, you’d better be ready,” Tesh remarked. “You have to be prepared to get into the dirt and lay with them in order to understand and control them. Why do we do this? Because it’s our job to constantly seek new ways to protect the lives and investments of millions of homeowners in every way we can.”
Forty-one years later, it seems Tesh took that entomology lesson to heart: To treat a pest, you have to evolve right by their side.
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