Kevin Thorn, owner of Thorn Pest Solutions, Pleasant Grove, Utah, recently won the 2018 Young Entrepreneur Award, presented by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and Rentokil. Although he never planned to work in the pest control industry earlier in his life, Thorn has found success in his company and the educational leadership style he uses to grow and maintain his business.
NEW BEGINNING. Starting out as a pre-med college student at Brigham Young University with an interest in entrepreneurship, Thorn began searching for small companies to buy. With aspirations of becoming a pediatrician, Thorn never considered a career in pest control. It wasn’t until he found a small pest control company for sale in 2006, bought it and quit his day job in sales to run the company, that he decided to make the shift to pest control.
“Everybody thought I was slightly ridiculous, saying don’t give up your day job,” Thorn said. “But no, I just dove into the small company. I saw something that was growing, and it’s something I thought I would have fun with. I don’t think anybody realizes how fun this is until they get into it.”
While researching the pest control company before buying it, Thorn was told that it was mostly a hands-off operation where he could hire some more employees and not have to do much work himself. But that wasn’t what Thorn was looking for, so he made a change after the purchase.
“Once I got working in the business, very quickly I realized there’s no way that I’m going to work five hours a week,” he said. “Since then, I work as many hours as I need to.”
Thorn decided to take his skills and dedication to educating employees and customers of the pest control industry a step further by writing his own book, Here to Help: Pest Management Solutions for Commercial Properties. The book, published in 2016, is targeted towards people with commercial businesses who need help making pest control decisions. Thorn’s expertise lies in the commercial side of pest control, as Thorn Pest Solutions’ customer base is 80 percent commercial. Here to Help provides advice on how to make decisions that are right for commercial owners and their company when it comes to pest control, including how to choose a pest control provider and how to manage and prevent pest disasters.
Many of these hours at Thorn Pest Solutions are spent continually preparing and training himself and his employees, something that Thorn believes has been key to the company’s success. After 11 years in business, Thorn Pest Solutions has grown from three to almost 30 employees and has grown in revenue between 20 and 30 percent year over year.
THE KEY TO GROWTH. Now in its twelfth year of business, Thorn Pest Solutions is thriving, Thorn said, due to the company’s continual focus on keeping employees informed and educated on the pest control industry.
“The basis of our entire company became and still is training, education,” said Thorn. “We’ve got a lot to learn and there’s a lot to know, and that’s what I love about this industry. There are 90 plus pests that we have to know intimately. You have to study biology, pest control techniques, and then you have to understand it in different environments.”
Thorn said he has all his employees attend weekly technical meetings that he leads, whether they work in sales, human resources or as technicians. Thorn also conducts soft skill meetings outside of these weekly meetings.
Since implementing this focus on training and education, Thorn said he sees a difference in the community surrounding Thorn Pest Solutions, both with employees and customers.
“Our professionals like their jobs more, we feel like experts, we handle things quicker, we educate better and all of that is due to training,” Thorn said. “That’s not different or innovative, but that’s what we really built our company on.”
“I wrote it not knowing if anyone would read it,” said Thorn. “I’ve had a lot of feedback from clients who sat down and actually read it in their office, and now it’s sitting on their desk.”
INDUSTRY AWARD. Thorn’s technical focus and dedication to building up Thorn Pest Solutions through training led him to receive the 2018 NPMA Young Entrepreneur Award, presented to him at PestWorld 2018, in Orlando.
When reflecting on receiving the award, Thorn said, “I was ecstatic. It meant a lot to me and to our team, and it’s super important to share that win with the team. That wasn’t a me thing, it was look at what we’re doing and be proud of the work we do.”
The Young Entrepreneur Award was established to recognize young entrepreneurs working in the professional pest management industry who have helped create or develop an industry business or have stewarded a meaningful industry concept to fruition. A team of NPMA experts judged the nominees on the contributions made to both their company, as well as their contributions to the pest management industry overall. Additionally, nominees were judged on their community involvement and their demonstration of personal leadership.
“Kevin creates a team culture of ‘We.’ Our team feels like we are working on something larger than ourselves, that we are building something,” said John Myers, one of the award nominators, at the award presentation ceremony. “He works harder than anyone I know, whether it is on business or on the process we are developing, the technical aspects of pest management or people development and leadership.”
Thorn plans to continue his education-based leadership approach to Thorn Pest Solutions and expects to see continued growth in the company’s revenue and in the Utah market.
“Utah is growing like a weed, so it’s an incredible market to be in,” Thorn said. “I see us moving to $6 million in the next five years.”
The author is an Ohio-based writer.