The pest marketplace in the country

With increased accreditation requirements driving the solo operators out of the pest control industry, an opportunity exists to combine the standards of a national organisation with the local service of a franchisee

Ever since the Pied Piper led Hamlyn's rats to the river (and reaped retribution on the townsfolk for non-payment) the pest control industry has become one of the most successful market sectors that anyone could be involved in. The marketplace itself is probably the most robust in the country - unaffected by the vagaries of the economy; oblivious to fashion; and increasingly bolstered by Health and Safety legislation, burgeoning lifestyle and waste disposal issues; not to mention an exponential increase in new infestations year-on-year as a result of climate change (the Guardian quotes 350 new infestations a year ago compared with 150 per year in the 1990s, as bugs brought in on ships and planes don't die any more) and you begin to see why the industry is so buoyant.

Historically the practitioners within the industry have fallen into two categories - the archetypal 'rat-catcher' and the large corporate 'catch all' company that has diversified into numerous and sometimes unrelated areas. Neither has been ideal, both have had their drawbacks for the customer. The 'rat-catcher' derivative operator has traditionally been a 'man in a van', poorly trained and under qualified with a personal agenda that means he'll work when he feels like it. Even supposing he works to capacity, he will never make an impact on the potential business surrounding him. The large corporation, while potentially offering a more thorough service, often falls down because the business is being dealt with at arm's length where diverse representation across the country leads to wide variation in quality of service offered.

Most people will be familiar with the more 'popular' pests such as rats, mice, cockroaches and perhaps bed bugs, but when you add into the mix literally thousands of other infestations from a multitude of moths, liberal droppings of birds and infinite insects including beetles and wasps, it's easy to appreciate what a massive problem confronts the public and a massive opportunity presents itself to anyone who can address the issue professionally.

Ever expanding legislation, Health and Safety standards and minimum performance requirements increasingly dictate that the 'man in a van rat-catcher' is being steadily elbowed out of the marketplace, due to an inability to comply with the numerous pre-qualifier accreditations that many customers specify before a contractor can work on their premises.

Customers increasingly need to know that any third party supplier they appoint has been thoroughly trained, approved and accredited by numerous external bodies (ISO9001, SafeContractor, Chas, Exor and Link-Up, to name a few) in order to have peace of mind that their supplier will act in a responsible, accountable and professional manner when on site. Acquiring these qualifications can be expensive and extremely time consuming, potentially forcing the smaller supplier out of this business all together. Even the casual reader can see, therefore, that the market is wide open for the fully trained and accredited operator, backed by a substantial core business, where each individual has autonomy but works within a tried and tested system such as franchising.

Given a marketplace that is virtually 'bomb proof', yet presents the perfect niche for the serious professional with a mind to develop a management-style business beyond 'man in a van' capacities, it's not difficult to see why pest control offers a secure and diverse future for the modern day Pied Piper and his team. Anyone with management experience and committed to the idea of running their own business could do far worse than consider becoming their area's 'local hero'.

Text: Geoff Whittle