AEPMA Presidents Report February 2014

As we move into 2014 most Pest Managers are wondering why the phone is not ringing as much as they would like with the type of work and clients that best suit their business and their business expertise. Whilst at the same time, consumers are looking for qualified and reputable Pest Managers and are unable to contact or connect with one that suits their specific needs. It is often heard said that ‘consumers are more informed now’ because of the internet, however it should be said that, ‘consumers are now more confused’ because of the internet. This leads to uncertainty, and in some cases, a lack of trust when selecting a pest management company.

Since the launch of the new AEPMA website we have been able to extract much more specific data and analytics on how and what consumers are searching, and even in this short period of time we are seeing a trend in consumers looking for pest management providers that are association members and verified by the industry association as suitably qualified and reputable.

In talking to other industry groups, consumers, and digital marketing organisations, this trend is across many trades and service providers, especially from the domestic or home services sector.

Some of the reasons for this, are that a lack of trust exists with a lot of websites, in that, they can be really professional looking and present a particular image or claims of expertise to consumers that is often vastly different to the actual company service delivery and overall experience, leaving consumers wary. Whilst well established companies with high levels of expertise and service skill often have under-performing websites and do not invest in SEO or Google advertising, as they largely rely upon word of mouth to gain new business. These companies are often not found by new consumers until they are called to “fix a problem” created by another service provider. Sound familiar?

So I urge all AEPMA member companies to log on to your profile page on the AEPMA website and update your details and technician numbers or secure additional ‘service area’ postcodes at minimal cost if the ones listed don’t fully represent your area of service coverage. AEPMA membership and listing on the AEPMA website should be a part of any pest management company’s marketing and brand strategy, at least for the businesses that qualify and are accepted as AEPMA members.

AEPMA’s national office activities for the first half of this year will focus toward establishing and revising the new training and assessment criteria, with a good start already under way. This initiative and opportunity for AEPMA to take back some control and set the direction for training and our national competencies for the pest management industry, has proved popular with our members and the industry in general. National office and myself, personally, have received many messages of support with the underlying message of, ‘Enough is enough of the poor training and the loopholes to gaining a pest control licence, or shortcutting “the system”’.

The truth is, no one benefits from the current system except maybe those selling franchises and sub-standard training. Even then, they will find they end up with very low skilled operators representing their brand, resulting in high recall rates and low job prices because they don’t have the skill or reputation for referrals and high paying, loyal, regular customers.

This is also true for the independent “start up” operator that gains “a licence” without the necessary training, experience and mentoring necessary to be successful in this industry.

AEPMA believes that, for our industry to grow and be sustainable, and to have the ability to adapt in the future, we need to continuously improve the service and skill levels of both Technicians in the field and the business owners or operators. If we don’t, as an industry, continue to develop our skills and look forward to the future, the “value” to consumers of selecting a professional Pest Manager will diminish and selection will be based on “price only” – not unlike lawn mowing or cleaning.

PestCert is still alive and well, and is an initiative originally designed to address these issues, by offering a system to assist in continuous improvement and industry best practice. So please, if you are serious about your business and professionalism and the sustainability of your industry, re-visit the PestCert section on the AEPMA website and sign up.

Until next issue.

David Gay, W.R Gay Pest Control

AEPMA Presidents Report December 2013

Now that we are into our busy season, most pest management businesses will be reviewing their position as employers and the choices they have made, or should have made, in relation to employment of Technicians. Under-skilled and under-performing Technicians will be struggling with the increased pressure and workload. Smaller businesses or one man operators may be considering hiring a Technician or Trainee to help out as they grow and struggle with the increased work load at this time of the year. Mid-sized companies that have traditionally relied upon seeking out and employing trained and experienced Technicians are also finding that the quality, experience and suitability of candidates is less than satisfactory, or they simply do not receive any applicants for the positions.

At National office and at State branch level, we are constantly hearing from members about totally inexperienced ex-employees starting businesses and offering services to consumers they are not qualified or assessed as competent to deliver, and the problem seems compounded by our various licencing departments that appear to “make exceptions” or a minority few rogue RTO’s that are lax in their assessment of these trainee technicians against the required competency for licencing.

As a result of this situation some confidence by our industry and AEPMA has been lost with “the system”.

AEPMA has identified that this issue was not in the best interests of our industry and has elevated this as a priority project.

This comes timely, as we have been notified that early in 2014 all of our competencies will be reviewed and that a consultation process will take place between AEPMA (representing the entire industry) and the consultant responsible for implementing any changes that we wish to include. In other words, any changes, improvements or loopholes that AEPMA want to close can be and will be, and AEPMA will not compromise on any point that lowers the standard or is not in the best interest of the industry in the long term.

To this end AEPMA arranged a private meeting in Sydney in early November for a select but broad cross section of member pest management companies only, that are concerned with the current training and assessment system, to find out exactly what the industry wants and needs.

In the afternoon of this meeting, we invited the key RTO’s and trainers from our industry to attend and discuss or hear from us as an industry and consumers of training, and to share our “vision” for industry training.

The good news is that both AEPMA and the quality RTO’s are all on the same page and have already commenced the review, re-writing and strengthening of both the key competencies and assessment criteria as a collaboration project, and we expect this part to be close to completion in early 2014.

However, probably the biggest conclusion that came from the meeting, both from the select pest managers and the RTO’s, is the importance of the Employer in the entire process of training.
The Employer is actually the most important element in the training of pest management technicians, and the person responsible for poorly trained technicians in our industry, whether this is from poor initial recruitment, in field training, supervision, monitoring, access or leave to attend training, and/or continually tolerating sub-standard employees, that we do not act in the best interests of their companies or the industry.

AEPMA’s vision and mission on this is to both develop and assist members to create a “Training Culture” and assist members in any way they can in the employment and training of new or trainee technicians.

This is a ‘turning point’ issue for our industry and I believe that as Employers and an industry we need to get our act together and share some of the elements and lessons learned in recruiting, training and retaining quality Technicians for the benefit of the industry as a whole and make a stand to not tolerate the low quality and inappropriate training and recruitment that is common in our industry.

Anyone wishing to assist in this area or anyone that has sound, well thought through ideas, we would love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to contact us via National office or your State Branch.

Until next edition,

David Gay W.R. Gay Pest Control

AEPMA Presidents Report September 2013

Now that Spring is finally with us, our pest management season is off to a start. Many Pest Managers around the country are optimistic and enthusiastic about the season, especially after, for many, successive quieter than average Summers.

Continuing low home loan interest rates, along with investor confidence now that the election is over, and we should have political stability for at least the next four years. Hopefully this will kick start the domestic building and renovating sector that much of our industry relies upon and is a good indicator of how the domestic economy is really performing.

At national office, the business of administering AEPMA is running smoothly and to plan. Our biggest internal task for this last 12 months has been the new website and industry” hub” that will merge all of our associated websites and online assets into one place that is easier for consumers and Pest Managers alike to find and use. The hub will also create more value for AEPMA members by allowing them to find information on industry issues or events fast, book and pay for everything from membership to events and conferences online using credit card facilities; create accurate company profiles for consumer services and sales leads, along with clearly identifying members as businesses that operate to the highest levels of professional industry standards and integrity, and that have the backing and resources of a national organisation for technical support, dispute resolution and consumer protection through mandatory insurance and compliance to the industry operating code of ethics. This can be summed up to consumers as “Buy with confidence from an AEPMA member”, a stark contrast to the old industry image of the past.

The new “clean, safe, reliable and professional” image of our industry did not just happen by itself. It’s been, and continues to be, a long slow path with many miles yet to go. However the ground we have covered is clearly a joint venture between AEPMA and our associate members, along with professional members working together and generally all getting along. The recent Rapid Solutions conference on the Gold Coast was testament to this behaviour.

Our industry is lucky to have Pest Managers, suppliers and manufacturers all putting in an effort to make the event a success. The speaker line up that Rapid Solutions delivered this year was new, relevant, interesting and professional, with many delegates commenting “I could have watched that speaker again,” or “He was so interesting, I wish he had more time.”

This last Rapid Solutions Conference is clearly up there with some of the best pest management conferences or events Australia has produced. But in saying that, and not taking anything away from the organisers of the event – so it should be – because we are a professional industry with a professional association (AEPMA) that is non-political and non-commercially influenced and now have many, many years working together to better this industry. One of the things that we often forget is that the speakers we invite to speak at our events have influence outside of our industry or amongst our customers. As an example, a speaker on food safety, or someone from a government organisation, or a consultant to the food industry or fast food outlets. Fortunately in recent times I believe our industry has presented ourselves in a professional manner in which the events are organised, the quality of the speakers, the design and layout of the trade exhibits, but mostly and importantly as how the delegates interact with invited guests, down to how well everyone is dressed. Gone (thankfully) are the days of Pest Managers attending events in work clothes and dirty boots. So all those that have attended pest management industry events in the last few years deserve to be congratulated and reminded that you are a part of making this industry better. For those that don’t attend events or are not members of AEPMA, let me remind you – you’re freeloading.

Until next issue.

David Gay, W.R Gay Pest Control