As Chris Gorecki steps into his role as the 85th president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) he’ll preside over an organization whose members — those involved in the pest control industry — are taking advantage of today's technologies and growth opportunities. However, it is an industry facing the challenge of identifying and retaining a skilled workforce that can deliver the high-quality services today’s residential and commercial customers demand.
This summer, PCT visited with Gorecki, vice president operational support at Rollins Inc., to get his take on the issues, opportunities and successes the association has realized — and what he hopes to accomplish during his term leading NPMA.
A longtime proponent of proactive public policy, Gorecki has chaired NPMA’s Government Affairs (now Public Policy) committee and continues to be an active voice at the national, state and local level, advocating for sensible, scientific-based regulations that benefit pest management professionals, consumers and the environment.
“Public policy has and always will be a major focus for the association and the industry. It is a fascinating and frustrating process at the same time,” says Gorecki. “We’ve made strides in recent years by going on the offensive, and we need to keep the momentum moving forward.”
A 32-year veteran of the pest management industry, Gorecki started his career as a commercial pest control technician with Orkin Pest Control in Houston, Texas, in the mid 1980s. He knows what’s important to both the frontline technician and occupants of the c-suite, and he hopes to use his broad experience and common-sense approach to help the association.
“Furthering the engagement and conversation between NPMA, its members and the industry as a whole is one thing I want to make sure we push over the next year and beyond,” says Gorecki. “To continue our growth as an industry will take a team effort and support from the grassroots.”
Q: What initiatives will you focus on during your term as NPMA president?
A: Public policy at all levels will be a major focus for the association and the industry. One program that has really stood out is the State Policy Affairs Representative program (SPAR). It has been hugely beneficial to the industry in providing states structure and resources when it comes to addressing regulatory issues at the grassroots level. As an industry we are not looking to reduce or eliminate legislation that protects people and the environment, but instead we are working to get it right and bring common sense to the conversation.
We are getting membership engaged with topics beyond regulatory issues. We are advocating positions on issues impacting how small businesses are managed and relieving them of burdensome regulations. This is a good example of how grassroots efforts can bring relief to business owners.
We can’t take the foot off the pedal, however, since the groups that want to affect us aren’t stopping and, in some instances, are coming at us harder than ever before.
Q: You spent two years as chair of the Government Affairs committee (now Public Policy) and have extensive experience in government affairs. What would a second term for the current [White House] administration mean for the industry?
A: The pest management industry will always adapt no matter who is occupying the White House. We are well-positioned either way. If there is a second term, Congress — both the House and Senate — must come together to help move some big picture opportunities forward.
As an industry we need to continue to tell our story. We need to educate representatives and regulators to get them comfortable with the real value we bring to the table — protecting people, property, food and public health from harmful pests. The message resonates with both sides of the aisle, and we need to continue to hammer it home at every opportunity.
Q: How has the approach to advocacy and public policy changed?
A: In years past it was easier to make visits and meet with elected officials who skewed more to the middle. We’ve lost that group to an extent and it has made it more difficult to have substantive conversations that address some of the hard conversations. Our messaging is key. We need to continue to branch out and understand the mindsets of both sides of the aisle and be creative in our approaches.
Q: How is the new NPMA dues structure going?
A: Nothing had been done with dues in some time and we needed to get revenue neutral and introduce more transparency. No one ever dreamed there would be billion-dollar companies and there was a need for thoughtful change to the structure. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach — 87 percent of the industry is small companies — and all have different needs, so we continue to listen and make sure everyone has a voice.
Q: All trade associations are under pressure to deliver more to their members, what is NPMA doing to respond?
A: NPMA has a tremendous amount of resources available to its members, ranging from public policy to consumer-facing programs aimed at educating and growing the market. On the technical side we have state-of-the art resources ready for members to utilize.
The NPMA Field Guide pest identification app is one that stands out to me as worth every penny. How great a tool is it for technicians to have at their disposal in the field? Our offerings in the area of OSHA training speak volumes about how NPMA is working to help members stay compliant, protect employees and make their companies better.
We need to identify more effective ways to communicate the breadth and value of our resources and cut through the noise to engage members, so it easier for them to take advantage of what’s at their disposal.
NPMA’s Quality Pro certification program is another resource that has become a real business advantage for our members. It is helping advance our members’ training and service standards to the next level, and the program continues to expand and promote our professionalism. We are also looking to promote the program beyond the industry to those involved in real estate and procurement who are making buying decisions.
Q: The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA) continues to push the industry’s message with consumers. How critical is the work they are doing and what is the next level for them?
A: The work PPMA is doing is tremendous for (our) industry. They are out front with a positive voice for the industry and developing relationships with key stakeholders like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the media. We are fortunate to be in a position where the media now calls us to tap into our expertise, and that is quite a change from years past.
Our challenge is to figure out how to get more industry professionals engaged and supporting the cause. For many years it has been the same group, and if we are going to take it to the next level, we need more resources.
While we have accomplished a lot, there is much more to be done, and we need to educate the industry on what PPMA means to them and how it can help grow and protect their companies.
Q: How is NPMA addressing the issue of diversity/inclusion within the industry?
A: This is an important issue for NPMA, and we are committed to the cause. We established the Diversity Committee in 2013 to lead the charge and help educate members about the benefits of diversity within the industry, provide tools for members to increase diversity within their organizations and promote NPMA membership to minority-owned companies.
The Professional Women in Pest Management is another example of an (NPMA) effort that is taking off and gaining traction at the national and state levels.
People are seeing the value in making diversity and inclusion part of their business. The need for information continues to grow, and it is our job to get that out there. We’ve had some nice wins so far, and we need to share that and build on it.
Q: Employee recruitment and retention remains a concern for company owners/management. What is NPMA doing to enhance the association’s professional development efforts to make the industry more attractive to millennial workers?
A: I’ve always said when you need to solve a problem, ask a technician; they know what’s happening. We’ve started more dialogue on the issue, and people in the industry are doing and trying more things. Many companies are establishing intern programs to recruit college-aged workers to let them experience the industry to see if it is a fit. NPMA also has a new recruitment and retention committee discussing this issue.
The PestVets and Diversity committees are working with companies to find solutions and look at what workers from different backgrounds value in a career and if pest management is a match. We want to present pest management as a progressive industry that is looking to the future.
I think we have become better in tune with the social trends of today. We want to continue to be mindful and sensitive to these issues and attract as diverse a workforce as possible.
Q: What impact has the high frequency of acquisitions had on the association?
A: There is some good and some bad in these moves, and that is the way NPMA looks at it. There is some concern about the impact on membership and engagement, but we’ll see how that shakes out. We are seeing more mid-size companies doing acquisitions and smaller companies building their businesses, and that is a positive sign of growth for the industry. The industry has always survived mergers and acquisitions. New companies continue to pop up and the industry continues to grow. Look at all the new companies on the PCT Top 100!
Q: How are advances in technologies impacting the industry?
A: The advances we are seeing in technology will continue to change the way we run our businesses and interact with customers. Today’s products are less toxic than two decades ago, and we are using less product and leaving a smaller environmental footprint. These are messages we need to share.
Technology is shifting the way we deliver our services and the emphasis on data collection and analysis will only continue to grow.
The key with any new technology, whether it is software or remote monitoring, is finding the right mix that works for both the client and the PMP. Clients still value relationships, and we can’t lose sight of that while embracing new technology.
Suppliers are seeing pest management as an opportunity market, and I think we’ll continue to see new faces and products introduced that will help the industry grow and become more proficient at what we do.
Q: At the end of your term as president, what would you hope people say about your tenure?
A: I hope they’ll say we worked to accomplish goals that benefited the entire industry and that we were good stewards. We want to get people engaged to make a positive impact and make our businesses and industry better. This is a unique industry where people are willing to share their knowledge, and I hope to facilitate more of that.
It is important for people to know that NPMA is working hard on their behalf every day. There are many talented people on staff who love what they are doing. We would not be where we are without them.
The author is a partner of B Communications.