What you should expect from your pest management professional...and what they should expect from you.
By Chris McCloud
Pest management is rather unique in comparison to other professional services offered, because cooperation between the pest management professional (PMP) and customer is critical to the program’s success. Consider this, you are looking to select a new family doctor. Some of the main reasons people chose their doctor is because they are up to date with medical practices and procedures, they take the time to understand the root cause, treat the root cause and not just the symptoms, and most importantly they are competent and committed to your health with your best interest in mind. Just like your doctor’s goal is to protect your health, a good pest management professional’s goal is to protect their customer’s brand and reputation. Similar to selecting a doctor, it is important to have specifications when selecting a pest management professional for your business.
Criteria for Selecting a Pest Management Professional
Integrated Pest Management and Communication Skills
When selecting your PMP, it’s important to ensure that they are capable of solving any common pest problem that poses a threat to your brand. In addition to common pests, the PMP should have knowledge of:
• Advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
• Tools such as pheromone mating disruption programs
• Organic pest management requirements
• Food safety basics
• Bird management
• Third-party auditing requirements
• Regulatory issues facing your industry, such as FSMA
• The ability to solve or source solutions for any pest issue that you might face from animal trapping to commodity fumigation
• Ability to analyze and interpret quantitative and qualitative data
Having consistent, clear communication builds relationships. PMPs need to be able to explain what they do, what they find and what actions are necessary from both partners in resolving the issue.
A PMP that invests in continuing education demonstrates a commitment to delivering value to its customers. The learning curve to stay in front of the issues facing the food industry is becoming steeper. GFSI, FSMA, organic, LEED, Next Generation IPM are examples of the types of additional education required beyond basic entomology. Today, delivering a comprehensive program for food industry customers’ demands takes more than basic industry education.
Possession of Appropriate Credentials
Company credentials are an obvious non-negotiable. We all understand that a PMP is required to possess business and applicators licenses for each state they operate in. What is often overlooked are the credentials of the service specialist that will be servicing your facility. Do they have the basic applicators license? Some states are mandatory and others allow work to be performed under another employee’s license. Does the service specialist have other credentials in related areas such as food safety? Ask to see the “back of the baseball card” of the service specialists that will service your facility. Request that the minimum requirements (state applicator license) are held by the service specialist(s) who will service your business.
Advanced Technology, Electronic Data Collection and Predictive Analysis
PMPs don’t necessarily need to be at the cutting edge of technology, but they cannot be at the handle either. The good news is that each of these items can be quantified, which will allow you to make an informed decision.
1. The Consistency of Information and Accuracy: Some of you may operate thousands of locations. The ability to have site information delivered consistently, accurately and in a timely manner is an expectation that your PMP must be able deliver on.
2. Time Savings: When preparing for an audit, your PMP should have technology that enables you to capture information and the ability to access it whenever you need it. Because you have access to the information at a key stroke, the time required to prepare is significantly reduced.
3. How Technology is Used to Drive the Success of the Pest Management Program: Site data can be used for trending of pest pressures and developing practical threshold action plans. Threshold action plans support a solution oriented integrated pest management program. Trending supports strategic placement of equipment and use of pesticides and provides a more efficient program.
This item is harder to quantify during the selection process. The main question is: “How committed is the PMP to your safety and business success?” The PMP should have your best interest in mind and should be diligent in wanting to help you educate your leadership team so appropriate budgets are available to help you allocate the required funds to do the right thing. The right thing may often be to invest now to correct an issue rather than compromise food safety and risk the consequences in the future. The PMP should show enthusiasm to partner with you to develop IPM programs that fit your brand philosophy and your specific brand’s goals.
You can and should expect your PMP to want to build a relationship with not only yourself, but with at least one additional person at each location. This is not to over-step the boundaries of your relationship, but rather to protect the business. If you or the other person leave the company, it’s important that there be a contact who is committed to continuing the program.
Your PMP should help you learn the best food safety and IPM practices. They should give you information that helps you do your job better and be almost insistent about what action you can take to make your site safer. This is not about being a know-it-all, but rather, an opportunity to support you. Leaders of all companies have a trusted legal counsel who educates and guides them so they make smart decisions that protects their company. PMPs operate in much the same way as they are trusted safety advisors who educate you about areas where you are vulnerable.
Your PMP, like your doctor, should be available to answer your questions — even when they are not on premise. As your trusted food safety advisor, they should have your best interest in mind, all of the time. 24/7/365 access is an industry standard among leading PMP’s. If you are in business and can be at risk, they need to be available to support you during all times you operate.
What You Should Expect from A Pest Management Professional
The PMP’s job is to find what is hidden in plain view and bring it to your attention. To be “keen observers” as Dr. Bobby Corrigan would say. Your best PMPs are trained to see with different eyes. It might be inconvenient or annoying to have them around looking behind doors, under cabinets or lifting ceiling tiles, but know, like the Secret Service, they have one mission in mind and that is to protect you and your customers.
The PMP will help you see what is hidden — all within your control but you might not even be aware of them. They work with you to identify a problem, report it to you, and work with you to resolve the concern as efficiently as possible.
A partnership is based on mutual accountability and this is no different with a pest management partnership. As a customer you expect that the PMP is competent and has your best interest in mind. Their success in part depends on you.
Due to the interdependent nature of integrated pest management, you and your PMP are critical to the success of the program. If there isn’t direct and healthy communication, the program cannot succeed.
Allow the Pest Management Professional to Help You
Give your PMP permission to gain access to secure areas, allowing them to educate you. Encourage open communication and welcome their risk assessment. Next generation IPM programs require inspection time to check Pest Vulnerable Areas each service. Understand that pricing isn’t generated on counting equipment and dividing by “X.” Time is a variable and can be very specific to each client location. Environmental changes from one year to the next can significantly increase pest pressure. One size often doesn’t fit all.
Accountability must be owned at the highest level of an organization. What we’ve found is that it’s not that executives don’t want to do the right thing; often they don’t know what the right thing is or were not made aware of the situation. The level of support you receive — financial and otherwise — influences your ability to remediate issues. If the PMP can help you secure the level of support that you need, by all means, let them help you. That’s what true partnership means.
A good PMP is morally, legally and ethically responsible to support food safety as part of his or her service. Allow access to strategic decision makers when needed to resolve an issue. The Institute for Supply Management defines a partnership as: a commitment over an extended time to work together to the mutual benefit of both parties, sharing relevant information and the risks and rewards.
True partnerships require:
• A clear understanding of expectations
• Open communication
• Information exchange
• Mutual trust
• And a shared common direction for the future
If both parties don’t benefit from the relationship, there is no partnership.
— Chris McCloud is president and CEO of McCloud Services and has over 30 years of pest management industry experience. McCloud currently serves on the board of the National Pest Management Association. Founded in 1904, McCloud Services is a leader in integrated pest management solutions. For more information, visit www.mccloudservices.com.