Handling Growth Through a Pandemic
As national COVID-19 numbers continue to improve and people are beginning to return to a pre-pandemic way of life, businesses are doing the same. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Environmental Pest Management fared over the last several months and how we are positioned for the future. I thought I’d share my musings with you, in case they are useful as you and your business emerge from this most unusual event in our world’s history.
What we didn’t plan for
I want to acknowledge that the shutdowns and subsequent decisions by local and state governments had a devastating impact on so many industries, businesses, and individuals. And I also want to acknowledge that EPM dodged a couple of bullets that many others simply couldn’t.First, we are in an industry that is essentially recession-proof. Bugs don’t care that there’s a pandemic. Multi-family properties still required our services as much as – if not more so – than ever. And with more people staying home than usual, pest management became an even bigger priority for many. So, we were lucky there. Next, as the months went on and demand for service continued to increase, many of our competitors struggled to keep up. Because we were a mature and well-respected pest management company, we were able to deliver where our competitors were falling short. Thanks in large part to our extremely capable team, we consistently met demand without missing a beat.
While the pandemic was certainly not something we planned for, I believe that because we had such a strong foundation in place – both in our practices and in our relationships – we grew 30% over the prior year, even as many businesses began falling apart in March of 2020.
A well-timed recipe for success
The way I operate my business helped ensure EPM would thrive in otherwise devastating times. As a leader, I learned many years ago to let others do the things that I’m not good at. Everyone on the team has a role to play, and each person is perfectly suited for that role. For example, Karen, our COO, is a master at follow-through. She focuses on all the details, and she’s the one who coaches the company across the finish line. As for me, while details just aren’t my thing, I’m great at big picture strategy and anticipating what’s next, and I inspire the team with vision.
Because we already had the best people in each position making sound decisions within their roles, and because I was freed up to focus on where the company was headed, EPM operated just the way it always had. If I hadn’t had this team in place, and if I’d had to wade into day-to-day decision-making just to keep up with increased demand, I, my team, and my company would have fallen apart.
Next, I have an expectation that every member of the EPM team consistently proves their value. There are specific goals and metrics that each of our team members must meet, and we all can clearly see whether an individual or department is meeting them. For example, even though my sons work for the company, they’ve had to earn their positions on the team. I hold them accountable just like I do everyone else in our work family. Business is business, and I’ve made sure that they, along with everyone on our team, know Blake and Brandon may have the Carpenter name, but they will not get a free pass.
As EPM headed into the pandemic, each and every team member was already crystal clear about what their role was and whether they were living up to the standards set by the company. Because everyone was already on the same page, we avoided any loss of focus during a time when outside distractions – like a pandemic – could have gotten us off track. Next, client service has always been our highest priority, and this didn’t waver, even with everything that was happening around us. We already had processes and metrics in place to ensure we delivered unmatched client experiences, and that was what set us apart from our competition. In fact, we actually gained many new clients, as it became clear we could do what our competitors couldn’t. This happened as a result of good old-fashioned word of mouth referrals, as satisfied clients were telling their friends and neighbors about their experience with us.
Lastly, the company was in a strong cash position as the impact of the pandemic unfolded. Cash is one of the many metrics we regularly manage. We are disciplined about receivables and are careful about taking on debt. So, heading into the pandemic, we had enough cash on hand to take full advantage of the increased demand for services. We were able to re-invest in growth – including hiring more pest management professionals and moving to a bigger office space – all of which has set us up for more success as we head into the next several years.
Where we go from here
As I take stock of what has happened this past year-plus, I readily admit that we were extremely fortunate to have fared so well while others were not as lucky. I’d be lying if I said I was fully prepared for what happened last March and in subsequent months.
But if I had to provide a recipe for perseverance and foundational fortitude – whether in the throes of a pandemic or not – it would include the following:
- Have the right people in place, doing the right things.
- Ensure everyone on the team is adding value. If they aren’t, cut them loose.
- Focus on what sets you apart from your competitors and be the best in your industry at it. In our case, it’s client experience.
- And watch cash closely. Ensure there’s always enough on hand to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
I, and our entire EPM team, continue to be a work in progress. I would love to learn what did and didn’t work for you as you navigated the pandemic. Please reach out anytime and share your story.