Thanks to a solid franchising system and its experience procuring government contracts specifically set aside for small business and veteran-owned businesses, one national pest control company is giving veterans plenty of opportunity to own their own successful business.
Started in 1979 in the small town of Bishop, CA, Pestmaster Services, a pest control company that has been ranked in the top 100 in the country by Pest Control Technology magazine, now has 30 locations — three corporate and 27 franchise — spread throughout 13 states that stretch from California to New York.
The company performs Health Related Pest Control, pest control for Utility and Railroads, as well as Structural Pest Control for buildings.
While the company has long-since established itself as a solid way for entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses, things didn’t start out that way.
“I started it in my garage,” founder and president Jeff Van Diepen recalled during a recent interview from his home in Reno, NV.
Pestmaster was started with no grand plans of expansion or launching the careers of like-minded entrepreneurs. Instead, it was started so Van Diepen could provide for his family and better himself. His original prognosis for the company was that he might be able to grow it to the point where he could hire an employee.
That modest outlook has since been blown away, with Van Diepen having 20 employees under him now. And he wants to share that success with others.
A Nice Nest Egg
Van Diepen doesn’t just want his franchisees to have successful businesses. His goal for franchisees is much longer-term than that; he wants to help franchisees develop their equity.
The Pestmaster founder sold six locations in 2012 to a major pest control company — a multi-million-dollar deal that set him up for life — and he wants others to be able to have that same luxury. And right now is the perfect time to do it, as Van Diepen said a handful of major pest control companies are snapping up smaller pest control businesses left and right so they can expand their footprint. This leaves anyone with a small pest control business in an enviable position.
As an example, Van Diepen pointed to a franchisee in Kingston, NY, a veteran who has a contract with the West Point Military Academy. After 15 years, that franchisee’s business was recently appraised at $2 million.
“It’s a pretty nice nest egg that veterans can anticipate growing over a period of time,” Van Diepen said.
Veterans are an especially good fit for Pestmaster, which has been franchising since 1992, because of government “set aside” contracts. These contracts are ones the federal government sets aside for small businesses, veteran-owned businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. This means many lucrative pest control contracts are out of the reach of the major pest control companies and can be picked up by Pestmaster franchisees, like the one at West Point.
“The real ‘sweet spot’ of our business model is being able to have a national footprint, with a consistent brand and ‘green’ program that cannot be duplicated by a ‘mom and pop’ pest control company, while at the same time, is insulated from competition by the large pest control companies like Terminix, Orkin, Ecolab, Rentokil,” Van Diepen said.
A small business is defined in the federal arena for pest control business as $11 million, Van Diepen explained. The big guys are doing sales up to $1.5 billion, so they are disqualified from playing in Pestmaster’s “sweet spot.”
Pestmaster Services also happens to be a General Services Administrations (GSA) contractor, only one of 70 pest control companies that are on the federal supply schedule with the GSA. When the GSA has a contract, they’ll put out an e-buy, Van Diepen explained. Only the 70 pest control companies that are associated with the GSA will be able to bid on that contract and when Pestmaster is notified of a new available contract, it pushes those GSA contracts out to franchisees to bid on.
Another thing that makes veterans ideal for Pestmaster franchising, the company founder said, is that their skill sets are often complementary to the franchising model, with set systems and protocols to follow.
Once they understand the system, he noted, they are usually successful working within that system.
And Pestmaster helps them master the system as quickly as possible, with a week of training when they come on board in Reno, NV and then one more week of training at the franchisee’s home territory. Following that, there are three two-day training meetings per year that keep their skills fresh.
Pestmaster also provides marketing support and discounts to veterans, plus it’s a business that can be run out of a home for the first few years until it gets established.
Franchisees need not be in major markets to make it work either.
“Even in a town of 15,000 people, it was a successful model,” Van Diepen stated.
Pestmaster puts an emphasis on green strategies and non-toxic solutions to pest control, something residential, commercial and institutional customers appreciate.
Van Diepen said he was always concerned about pesticides in the environment and as he grew his business, he remained aware of the pesticides he chose.
“Less toxic was always better and that’s continued to steer the decisions we make as a company 37 years later because we’re striving now to utilize materials that are essentially non-toxic,” he said.
The menu of services Pestmaster provides is broad and they are meant to be reoccurring, which is good for franchise owners.
Between contracts that are only available to them and a franchise that aims to help them grow not only their business but their equity, veterans have a superb opportunity waiting for them at Pestmaster.