For a company that relies mainly on referrals rather than marketing, it’s a good sign when demand has grown so much that you need to expand your team. That’s the situation for Venables Pest Management, a Tumwater business whose glowing referrals each month have attracted enough business that increasing their staff is essential. “We’re continuing to grow,” says Chief Executive Officer Juliana Venables, “and with each new phase of growth there are opportunities for people to step into greater leadership positions.”
Venables’ service technicians apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a holistic, proactive, and science-based approach to dealing with infestations. Technicians also emphasize educating customers so that when any future problems arise, they have tools to manage smaller issues. “We identify, not only the problem that needs to be taken care of but where the issue stems from,” explains Peter Larson, service manager. “We show clients what they can change and help them create a long-term strategy that works for the duration of their time inside that house.”
Office Manager Kenedie Williams agrees. “The educational aspect is something special we offer to customers,” she says. “It’s more beneficial than just solving the problem. When an issue arises in the future, clients call us to say, ‘You taught me about this, so I know what I need to do.’”
As an example of the long-term strategic approach, founder Steve Venables recalls a home occupied by an elderly man and over 180 rats. The rodents posed a significant health risk and the problem seemed overwhelming. “Through a lot of effort, we got it to the point where the house was free of rodents,” he says. “Now we work with this client on a monthly basis to make sure it doesn’t recur.”
IPM also considers larger environmental concerns. According to Chief Operating Officer Alex Duffield, that means staying current with technical knowledge about how to protect birds of prey, owls, other animals and pets. “We look at the ecology and environment around the structures we’re treating and select which products we’re going to use in different areas accordingly,” he says. “We have a Quality Pro Schools certification, which means that we’re able to work specifically with schools using IPM.”
Safety is another key priority and core value. Long before COVID-19, the company continuously looked for training opportunities to ensure that all staff members were operating as safely and responsibly as possible. Once the pandemic began, they quickly responded by creating safety protocols, even before the mandates through the Governor’s office.
“We were very proactive,” says Juliana. “It was a great exercise for our leadership team. We had to adapt very quickly, and it strengthened us.” Clients appreciated the extra precautions. In the first few months, technicians often worked on exteriors only, because not everyone was comfortable with having strangers in their homes. Venables also made sure that all staff members had the proper PPE and other protective gear.
Clients have responded with hundreds of positive reviews every month, helping to drive more business toward the company and increasing the need for more technicians. “Right now, we can barely keep up with referrals,” says Steve. “It makes us happy but it’s also challenging. Referrals are how we know we’re doing our job right.”
Other important changes are happening, including Steve’s transition to a more advisory role after 35 years in the industry. A restructuring is underway, with new job descriptions and new roles for current team members. “We’re also expanding our leadership team and there are opportunities for people to step into greater leadership positions,” says Juliana. “Peter is taking the lead on a three-month project to develop a standardized Quality Assurance program, which is our first big initiative.”
As Steve points out, an untrained and unskilled worker could join the business, get paid to gain education and knowledge, gradually test their way through tiered certification levels and not only continually earn higher wages but potentially grow into a management position.
However, no matter how much they grow, the fundamental family culture of the business will remain the same, according to Juliana. Currently, the office staff includes two dogs and one cat. “We have a great team,” says Juliana. “We want to maintain that small, family business feeling. Despite the growth and emphasis on professionalism, that’s still really important to us.”
To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit the Venables Pest Management website or call 360.456.4999.