Usually, at the beginning of the new year we look forward. Instead, let’s go back…waaaaaaaaaay back…to kindergarten. The smell of crayons, the taste of paste, the joy of recess and naps. Kindergarten was our first formal education; we started learning stuff that was supposed to help us through life. What does this have to do with pest management? Everything!

CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. Winter is the perfect time to clean your equipment, to make sure everything is working properly. From a bait gun to a gallon sprayer to a truck rig, a clean piece of equipment means more accurate applications and less wasted product. Make sure your vehicle is clean and neat. Not only does that ensure that products are stored properly and easy to find, but your vehicle is a moving billboard so show people your good side! Speaking of storage, what does your storage room look like? It should be well organized with all products in the right place. This makes it easy to find what you need and figure out what needs to be ordered so you don’t run out of something when you need it most. Finding you are out of bait right before you need to do a cockroach cleanout is not a good thing.

DON’T RUN WITH SCISSORS. There are so many potential safety issues to consider when it comes to pest management. Remember to always read the label! Not only does the label give the pest usage, dosage and placement information, it also has first aid and PPE require- ments. It’s not just about equipment you use during applications...think of all the other equipment that needs to be safe. Ladders need to be checked, respirators need to be cleaned (with non-expired cartridges) and spill kits need to be in place. One thing that gets forgotten often are the items inside the first aid kits. They expire too! Safety is incredibly important in our profession and should always be on our minds so incidents can be prevented.

LISTEN. I SAID LISTEN! This applies to so many things, but let’s focus on the customer here. So many times problems could have been found faster and dealt with easier if someone had just asked, “Have you seen anything of concern recently?” and listened to the answer. In commercial accounts especially, there are lots of people there all the time, but the PMP may only be there once a week (at most!). Ensure accounts have a pest sighting log and people at the facility know where it is and how to use it. If you listen, people will tell you what they saw, where they saw it, when it started and tons of other information. Instead of inspecting an entire warehouse for mice, focus on the area that employees are seeing the mice run and where they have seen evidence. This info is also great for setting traps in the best possible locations for efficacy!

HOLD HANDS & STICK TOGETHER. This can sound a bit silly, especially for the one-man operations or the technicians out there on their own all day. But think about this in regards to your customers. We’ve all had those customers who need a little extra hand-holding as well as customers that we’ve had to convince to stick with us. Pest management isn’t just one person’s job, it takes the customer partnering with the PMP as well. If we can hold their hand and explain why they need to seal the back door where the cockroaches are coming in, that will help address the problem. If we can convince them to stick with us through outside construction issues that are stirring up rodent issues, we can keep a customer. Another kindergarten lesson is to be nice to people so make sure you compliment the customer when they take your recommendations and make the correction! It also helps to show them the monitoring data of how their pest issues have decreased since they sealed up that hole, or taken care of that sanitation issue. Give them a gold star!

SHARE. Obviously, pest management is about sharing our knowledge and experience with the customer to solve their pest problems. Additionally, share with co-workers and colleagues. Everyone has had different experiences, different accounts and different ways of solving problems. Share what has been learned to mentor new folks, and share problems to gain knowledge from others. It’s expected that no trade secrets or business collusion happens, but if everyone keeps their knowledge locked up, no one will be able to learn and grow. Think of the conferences, trainings and recertifications you have attended where people share their knowledge and experience. PMPs and researchers alike share what they have done and what they are doing. Sharing is caring!

FINAL THOUGHTS. For many, kindergarten is where we learned to ask questions, to be interested in things, to have a thirst for knowledge and play nice with others. All of these apply to pest management so remember to continue these habits. And here’s one bonus kindergarten tip: Always wash your hands!

The author is Rollins’ technical services manager.