The professional pest control market in the United States is estimated to reach around $10 billion in “service revenue” in 2020, which is almost 9% higher than last year, and on track to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6% over the next five years starting in 2021.
Of course, the big jump in 2020 has been because of COVID-19 and Americans paying more attention to their homes and wanting to “keep them clean”, which includes keeping pests, termites, and viruses out.
But one company in Southern California has been disrupting the entire industry in a positive way and helped not only change the laws and regulations (in relation to COVID-19) for other companies but have even helped to introduce new “green” products to the forefront for consumers to select and incorporated modern cloud-based scheduling in a way the industry has not been using yet.
Isaac Camacho, who is the Director at Accurate Termite and Pest Control, which was also named Southern California’s top termite/pest company the last few years, has been leading the charge since the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States to allow his State of California and others to allow pest control professionals to allow large-scale disinfections in community spaces. His company has also been leading the way in making consumers aware and educated on why green products should be used and how strains of COVID have been rampant in rodents, and why every home should be sprayed.
We sat down exclusively with Isaac to learn more about the industry and how it has been changing in the year 2020.
Why is termite and pest control needed now more than ever before?
Not only has the pandemic been disruptive to all of us, but COVID-19 has been disruptive to pests as well, particularly rodents. Across the country there are increased reports of rodent activity in residential areas due mainly to two factors. First, we are not producing anywhere near the same amount of waste and scraps in large gathering spaces such as shopping centers, movies, and restaurants as before. The sudden decrease in waste produced in mass-gathering establishments was immediately disruptive to the pests and rodents that relied on that supply of garbage for food and shelter. Second, we are spending more time at home and creating more waste and food scraps at home than before. These factors combined are forcing pests and rodents to migrate in large numbers towards residential areas. Taking preventative measures to protect homes now is vital to avoid a sudden influx of pests and rodents in individual homes.
What has your company done to disrupt the termite and pest control industry and market in your region?
We have incorporated modern cloud-based scheduling and communicating in a way the industry has yet to adopt.
Our residential and professional real estate clients love our easy to use scheduling tool. Customers can see the available appointment times arranged by the inspector closest to them and make an appointment in about 30 seconds. It is more transparent than anything else offered in the industry. The tool allows customers to see a picture and biography of the inspector coming to their home. Unlike the only other comparable platform, ours does not require customers to provide personal information to view the availability calendar.
Aside from this, we do many projects involving condominium complexes and have made innovations specifically for that unique customer base. For every homeowner’s association (HOA) client, we create a dedicated web page where each condo resident can make an appointment for service within an allotted timeframe for their specific HOA. Our competitors rely on posting paper sign-up requests or asking all residents to provide access simultaneously. You can imagine what an impossible task that would be in a 100+ condo complex. Residents love our system because they can choose the appointment time that best fits them; it provides transparency to property management and is much more accurate and convenient than paper sign-ups. Our participation rate in condo complexes is continually 20% greater than the industry average. We are the only company that employs dedicated project managers for complex projects that require condo residents to move out for multiple days at a time, like community-wide fumigations (aka tenting). Not only do these project managers oversee the technical aspects of executing a successful HOA fumigation, but they also handle all of the compliance and disclosure requirements associated with the project to ensure the board is protected from liability. Additionally, we create a dedicated web portal for each HOA fumigation, where residents can view all pertinent information, sign documentation, and interact with their dedicated project managers. Our innovative approach to complex fumigation projects has gotten the company awards and recognition from HOA specific trade organizations nationwide and by the worldwide manufacturer of the most trusted fumigant, Vikane Gas.
The tools have introduced levels of transparency, efficiency, and convenience that were not available before.
What should individuals keep in mind when hiring a pest/termite company such as yours?
Consumers should beware when companies lean on exaggerated claims of their products’ safety, health, and environmental security. There is no such thing as “secret sauce” when it comes to pest control products. Mass-use pest control products are rigorously tested for immediate and potential long term adverse effects on people, animals, and the environment. Manufacturers must disclose and file the chemical makeup and formula for products before consumers can use them. For that reason, there is no company with a super-secret recipe for pest control.
Since all pest control operators use the same products, a company’s real opportunity to differentiate itself from others is in its customer service, communication, and follow-through. Remember that you are hiring a pest control service, not just purchasing a pest control product. So if a company feels they have to exaggerate claims about the products, what does it say about how they think their service compares to others?
Lastly, consumers should consider the breadth of the scope of a pest control service provider. Believe it or not, some pest control providers are picky about the pests they are willing to control. A company may have no problem taking care of your ant and spider problem, but they may not want to help you with roaches and rodents. Not all service providers are a one-stop-shop. A pest control service provider may not be licensed or equipped to help you with structural pests that can cause thousands in property damage such as termites, carpenter ants, and other destructive pests.
What trends do you see happening in your industry during these times?
There is a trend in the industry to consolidate the market. Historically our industry is made up of mostly small owner-operated businesses spread out across the country. In recent years, a steady flow of mergers and acquisitions has consolidated market share to a handful of large pest control companies.
On and in the field, there is a trend among field technicians to collaborate and share best practices. In the past, companies operated in silos fearful that sharing best practices outside of their company would give their competition an advantage. As a generation of social media savvy professionals enter the field of pest control, more and more technicians collaborate and share best practices openly. As more information flows readily in the industry, the industry prepares and embraces for much-needed innovation across the board.
With COVID-19 here, and not looking at going away anytime soon, can you tell us what termites or pests people should be most aware of?
Except for the fact that pests are moving away from commercial dumpsters and closer to homes to find food and shelter, the animal kingdom as a whole is unphased by this pandemic. People should be on the lookout for the typical summer flare-up of pests moving from the now starved restaurants and commercial spaces to the nearest kitchen.
For the next few months, we expect that ants and rodents will be particularly troublesome followed by spiders. Watch as ants and rodents of many different species look for cooler places and water. You may see them going for any food scraps they can find on floors, counters, inside shelves, or looking for the quickest path to water in your sinks, tubs, or pools.
Termites will begin to swarm as things continue to heat up. The most notorious and aggressive termite species in the US is perhaps the Formosan termite. The Formosan termite is mostly found in bible-belt states with a plentiful combination of heat and humidity but has also been found in less humid places such as Southern California. When the temperature is at about peak heat, you can expect drywood termites to start to swarm and try to make it into your structural wood components.
It’s also worth noting for your readers that SARS-COV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a derivative of a Coronavirus (SARS) that has been infesting and plaguing the animal kingdom for decades. We know that some household animals such as cats and dogs can be infected with the new SARS strain we are dealing with, SARS-COV2. The pandemic has brought a better overall understanding of why it has always been important to maintain a healthy and sustainable balance between rodents in the outdoors and your loved ones at home.
What changes in policies within the United States as a whole would you like seen done in the years ahead?
We have plenty of regulations that mostly prevent irresponsible use of pest control products and protect people and pets from unnecessary exposure to hazardous products. However, there is still a fair amount of misrepresentation in the industry regarding pesticide safety.
I’ve spoken to competitors who somewhat aggressively use terms like “organic products” in their marketing. They rely on chemistry’s definition that any chemical containing carbon is organic. Other pest control operators use terms like “green” or “natural products” to blanketly describe all products they use, including neurotoxins. They are leaning on the fact that most pesticides are synthetic chemicals derived from or containing chemicals found in flowers. However, when consumers hear organic, green, or natural, they assume products are completely safe and do not pose health or environmental risks.
There should be a standard for transparency when describing pest control products, just like there is a standard for what can be called an organic vegetable. The right information will better empower consumers to make the best choices to suit their health and environmental concerns. Eventually, a properly informed consumer will force industry-wide improvements to make pest control better.
What does your company have planned for the rest of the year?
This year has been… interesting. We had aggressive goals for software customization for new tools we have planned to roll out but had to put it all on hold because of the pandemic’s ups and downs. If not by late 2020, we hope to get that back on track as soon as possible. We find ourselves in need of more field professionals. At our company we are personally hiring more pest control technicians, termite inspectors, pest applicators, and woodworkers. For the rest of 2020, we want to grow our field staff to support our growing customer base and demand.