Remember thinking to yourself in math class, “When am I ever going to use these formulas?” Training in our field is very important; we often train on topics such as spill control, the right personal protective equipment, laws and the label. But when was the last time you broke out a math worksheet for your employees?

On behalf of Change the Equation, the Ogilvy PR firm conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people, ages 18 and older, to gauge Americans’ attitude towards math. Six out of ten (63 percent) reported that they have had difficulties with some type of math, with 19 percent saying they have had difficulty estimating a sales discount at a store. Figuring out a complex math problem can give even the brightest student anxiety. According to the same survey, nearly a third of Americans said they would rather clean the bathroom than solve a math problem. That leaves one simple question for managers and owners of pest control companies: If your company made an application mistake, was there an application error, or was it simply a math equation gone wrong?

If you think about your business, math comes into play on almost every level. From giving an estimate, to determining how much product to apply or running a balance sheet, math is everywhere. Three of the biggest common mathematical questions where you can help improve your staff Include: calculating area and volume; determining discounts and prices; and interpreting labels using formulas.

One way to improve efficiency is by ensuring that all sales are calculated correctly. Improper calculations can be costly. In pest control and lawn service, we typically see calculations for square feet to determine cost. Resources such as findmylotsize.com and county property appraiser websites can help take the guesswork out of sales, but often come with their own complications. Consider the following when your employees are going out to a property:

  • Are they using a wheel or measuring based on steps?
  • Are they measuring the diameter of a round island or just estimating the size?
  • Do they know that the area of a rect- angle is length times width?

Calculations can be even more advanced when you look at cubic measurements for fumigation (think of different types of roofs, crawlspaces and heights). Giving your employees a sample of formulas (like the one below) can help take the estimating out of an estimate and ensure your accounts are profitable.

PRICING MATH. Most firms offer discounts, whether on multiple services or for paying in advance. If a sales representative or technician calculates this incorrectly, customers could be paying more than what they were told, or the company is performing services for less value than what was expected. Either way, you create a problem down the road.

Price discounts are often what lead customers to make decisions. Nearly two thirds of consumers said a coupon or discount often closes the deal if they are wavering/undecided. Combine that with the customer service faux pas of not delivering on a promise, and it can lead to negative reviews about false advertising in regards to price — even if it was simply due to an unintentional miscalculation. Practice these equations with your team at every meeting using sample price sheets and discounts that your company may offer. Give them different situations on services that the customer might choose, while incorporating coupons you might have for them to utilize. As soccer legend Bobby Robson once said, “Practice makes permanent.”

PRODUCT MATH. Lastly, let us consider labels. You can go into any training or continuing education class and say, “The label is the...” and the word “law” will be shouted out in unison from all participants. We tend to immediately look for protective equipment statements and treatment guidelines as these tend to require thought and comprehension.

However, service professionals do not always look at use rates. Companies that develop programs that determine which products to use and/or specific mix rates take the reasoning out. It becomes a rapid response. If you were to then ask the employee why he mixed at a specific rate or how he figured it out, he would not know.

Give your employees a quiz on sample conversion factors such as ounces per gallon or square feet per acre. Let’s take a look at a sample product to show how equations and calculations are vital. The Termidor SC label states that we should treat at the rate of 4 gallons per 10 linear feet, per foot of depth. In order for the service professional to know if he treated with termiticide accurately, he would need to do several calculations (this is, of course, without a flow meter). The first calculation would be linear feet of the structure, followed by determining the footer depth. The professional would then need to take all these measurements and insert them into an equation to determine the correct amount of termiticide that would be required for the job.

It is important, but often overlooked, to continuously train employees on basic math equations, conversions, and problems finding area and volume. The more they practice these equations, the more comfortable they will be making sales, mixing products and performing their everyday tasks. Additionally, by ensuring your service professional is making accurate calculations, you are continuously maintaining company efficiency.

Goeltzenleuchter, a member of the Copesan Technical Committee, serves as the technical director for McCall Service, Gainesville, Fla. He has a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Florida.

Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.