Grow Our People, Grow Our Business

By Karen Carpenter, COO

 Environmental Pest Management has been fortunate to experience tremendous growth over the last twenty years, and especially so this past year. Much of that growth has been a result of building a strong company culture known for delivering exceptional customer experiences and for being a very desirable place to work.

To be honest, keeping up with the increasing demand for our services hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We’ve made our fair share of mistakes and experienced disappointments as the company – and each team member, myself included – has grown.

As the leader of a company that’s bigger today than it’s ever been, I’m learning how to keep my head up and my eyes on the road ahead, even when things are feeling out of control. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling this way, here are some tips that have helped me – and EPM – keep up with the growth while not losing sight of what got us here.

Culture of care

I am keenly aware – and constantly reminding myself – that EPM is not in the extermination business. Yes, we’re in the pest control industry, but first and foremost, we’re in the people business. That not only includes the customers we serve, but our employees, too.

Our policies and practices, and even our company outings, are designed to express to our employees that we care about each of them as individuals and as whole people with interests and priorities outside of work. I have a favorite book – and philosophy – that I share with each new employee, called How Full Is Your Bucket. It’s a simple concept that reminds each of us that by caring for others, we are caring for ourselves.

We can’t do the work that we do, and maintain our reputation for exceptional customer service, without great people who genuinely care about their work, our customers, and each other. So, we care for our employees the way we want our employees to care for our customers. We create exceptional experiences for our employees so they can understand how it feels; and our employees, in turn, deliver that feeling of what it’s like to be cared for to our customers.

Celebrate the failures

In our office, we have a wall of bells – the kind you ding at a check-in counter when you want service. At first glance, people think the bells are there to notify the team that EPM has had a big win.

Actually, that wall of bells is for a different reason: to celebrate our failures. Each time a bell rings, it means we’ve made a mistake. Each mistake is an opportunity for us to learn what went wrong so we can make changes in our policies or processes to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

We celebrate those mistakes because it means we’re growing – as a company and as individuals. By celebrating our failures, I’m sending a message to the team that it’s OK to make a mistake, as long as we learn and grow from it.

Focus on individualized development

We regularly evaluate our organizational structure to make sure that a manager has no more than ten direct reports. Following this rule of thumb ensures each of our team members receive individualized attention.

Each direct report gets ongoing coaching and feedback at regularly scheduled touchbases. At these touchbases, managers reinforce and reward positive behaviors that are aligned with our company’s values and culture, and coach to improve anything that’s not going well. These touchbases also give the employee an opportunity to suggest new processes or policies that improve their own performance, as well as the company’s.

Right people, right seats

I work with my HR team each quarter to examine our crew as a whole and consider whether we have enough people doing the types of jobs we need them doing to uphold our high standards of customer service. We don’t wait for the annual performance review to determine whether an employee may be in the wrong seat or is ready to take on more responsibility. We make moves accordingly. Sometimes that means someone gets additional training or a promotion; sometimes that means we create and fill a completely new position.

At the end of the day, I want every employee walking to their car feeling like what they did was important, that they got all the support and resources they needed, and that they felt appreciated.

Embrace change

EPM is constantly evolving and changing. The way we’ve always done things is not the way we’re always going to do things. I encourage our employees to share their ideas.

I’m a great listener, and I always welcome suggestions for how we can do things better. People who think outside the box will help all of us learn.

That’s why it’s important to me to show our employees how much they are valued and how much their ideas are valued. They are a big part of why EPM has grown so much, and I can return the favor by helping them grow.

It’s my mission in business—and in life—to help people solve problems. If I can be of help to you in any way, please reach out.