What is the greatest obstacle to implementing a diversity strategy? One third of PMPs said there isn’t one, according to the 2018 PCT-NPMA Workplace Diversity Survey. Eighteen percent said they’re not interested in implementing such a program; 14 percent lack a qualified staff member to lead this initiative; 26 percent cited other reasons.

One of these is company size, said PMPs in follow-up interviews. Finding employees with the right attitude and who fit the company culture can be challenge enough for a small business, let alone ensuring they’re also diverse.

“I think people feel comfortable with people that they know, with people who are like-minded, so people tend to hire those people,” said Audrey Hall, president of Eco Serve Pest Services, Orchard Park, N.Y.

Companies err when they hire “the man in the mirror,” cautioned Curtis Rand, Rose Pest Solutions.

“I’ve seen really good companies wreck their infrastructure” doing this, said one former sales manager for a large, generally diverse pest control company who ultimately launched his own pest control business. “They started switching out managers and those new managers brought in managers like them, at the lower level who then replaced lower managers with managers like them and over the course of five years it’s a whole other landscape,” he observed. As a result, it became hard for diverse employees to see opportunities for advancement.

Another obstacle, said PMPs, is the English-only licensing exam for structural pest control. People who speak English as a second language may not be fluent enough reading it to feel confident taking the exam. PMPs said product labels likewise should be translated into other languages, like in agriculture.

Customer racism is another problem. “It’s not something that we will accept as a company. If the customer wants to openly display that and make comments, we chose not to have them as a customer,” said Billy Olesen, describing a time when his technician was on the receiving end of such behavior.

Julio Camacho, owner/operations manager of IPM Specialist, Soledad, Calif., had a similar situation with a client, who now represents $400,000 in yearly revenue. He chose to “die on the hill” and explain why this technician was the best person for the client’s job. “Luckily it worked out and I think they respect us more for that,” he said. Still, business owners (even Hispanic ones) typically address Camacho’s white employee as the boss.