Many people get the creeps just thinking about the ants, spiders, termites, or rodents that may come to infest the walls, basements, or attics of their homes. That’s good news for Mike English, operations manager, and his crew at The Hitmen Termite & Pest Control. For more than 30 years, the company has thrived on eradicating the unwelcome visitors from houses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
We recently spoke with English about how he started and expanded the business and overcome his biggest challenges.
ISBB: Why did you start a pest-control company?
English: We founded our company in Napa, Calif., in 1978 because we wanted to provide the highest-quality inspections and treatments while being dedicated to superior customer service. We are constantly improving our business through the development and use of new and innovative termite and pest-control methods.
How many “hitmen” do you employ today?
We currently have about 75 dedicated employees in nine Bay Area counties, with branch offices in Sonoma, Marin, and Solano. We’re looking forward to opening a South Bay office soon.
How do you find people who want to crawl in someone’s attic with a flashlight and a mousetrap?
It takes a unique individual who’s willing to inspect for small animal and rodent activity. Our technicians are dedicated to solving each customer’s problems. The biggest reward and motivation for our technicians is knowing that they’ve solved someone’s problem and that people feel comfortable in their home again.
How do you market the business?
Most of our business comes from customer referrals because we’ve dedicated ourselves to excellent customer service and quality treatments. Our company trucks, which display our logo and the services we provide, are also valuable advertising tools. And, recognizing that internet searches and smartphones are taking the place of opening up a phone book, we’re constantly updating our website, display ads, and social media to offer our customers pest education plus coupons for our services.
What’s the worst problem you’ve had to overcome?
The economy. Customers are facing the same pest and termite problems they were five years ago, but with half the monetary means they once had. They’re not willing to just pay for a service; they’re shopping around for the cheapest price.
How did you solve this problem?
We’ve become more flexible. We’ve offered more discounts for new maintenance customers through our internet coupons and coupon mailers through Valpak. In addition, we’ve worked with many customers on payment plans.
We’ve heard a lot of advertising about orange oil to eliminate termites. Does it really work?
Yes, it does. It works extremely well in eliminating drywood termites when used as directed with localized treatments. Best of all, we don’t have to tent the house, and the owners don’t have to move out of their home for three or more days, which was an inconvenience. We went through a special training program for XT-2000 Orange Oil to use it correctly.
What do you like most about your business?
I feel most proud of our employees and our customers. We have an amazing group of individuals who make up our Hitmen family. Without them and the continued support of our customers, we wouldn’t have made it this far.