Heather Tutton is co-owner of Ecoskan Pest Solutions, San Bernardino, Calif. She’s also an account executive with Worldpay, a direct credit card processing company. Combined, the two roles provide her a unique perspective on the pest control industry.
Earlier in her career, Tutton’s family ran a cash register business. After a stint managing the company with her mother, and then for a period on her own, she realized she wasn’t happy. “It took a lot of time, I wasn’t loving it, and I wasn’t making much money,” she said.
As Tutton was evaluating her role in the cash register industry, she and her husband Sam were looking for a natural pest control solution to keep insects out of the chicken coop on the small ranch they owned. (Sam had been in the pest management industry for almost 20 years at the time.) After experimenting with a number of natural solutions, they found a combination of products that worked. A neighbor was looking for a similar solution and the couple stepped in to help. Ecoskan Pest Solutions was born.
“We found a solution using botanical and organic products, as well as a minimal amount of chemicals,” said Tutton. “In the process we discovered we really enjoyed finding natural solutions to pest problems and wanted to help others.” Their focus is to find Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions that primarily use botanical products. “We believe 99 percent of pest issues can be maintained botanically along with a limited use of produced products,” added Tutton.
One unique aspect of Ecoskan is its pest control consultation service. In addition to providing training on effective eco-friendly pest control methods to food safety inspectors and public health workers, and advising government bodies on eco-friendly pest control practices, the company provides technical and business consulting for pest control companies.
“Our long-term focus includes conducting audits for pest control companies to help them create more Integrated Pest Management programs using more botanicals, as well as establish business practices that are more environmentally friendly, such as doing as much electronically as possible,” explained Tutton.
PEST CONTROL + CREDIT CARDS. That unique experience in both the cash register industry and the pest management industry led Tutton to go to work for Worldpay, a company providing a broad range of technology-led solutions to customers. The firm operates secure, proprietary technology platforms that enable customers to accept a vast array of payment types, across multiple channels, almost anywhere in the world.
“Although I can work with clients in multiple industries nationally, I choose to concentrate on my industry — pest control,” said Tutton.
Tutton says she’s is pleased that Worldpay offers an incentive to California-based pest control companies through its partnership with the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC). A portion of each credit card processing transaction of participating pest control companies is donated to PCOC. “Aside from offering pest control companies a great rate, Worldpay allows us to ‘share back’ and support the industry,” she said.
CREDIT BENEFITS. It may seem logical to some that running a business using a cash-only model will save money compared to paying fees to accept credit cards. But Tutton says there’s a cost to processing cash and checks, too.
“Recording cash and check payments requires manual tracking and posting, which is time-consuming for administrative staff and there may be posting mistakes,” explained Tutton. “Software can automatically generate receipts with credit card purchases, as well as create a history report of transactions and may be able to post directly to your accounting system.”
“One of the biggest misperceptions about switching from a cash-only business model to accepting credit cards is that it’s only an additional expense,” said Tutton. “Yes, there’s a cost involved, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. In most cases, businesses will make more money.”
“One client in the pest control industry shared that he had gone from a cash-based business and paper invoices to accepting credit cards and using paperless invoicing,” said Tutton. “He found that through electronic processing he reduced receivables from a 45-day pay to a 15-day pay. There were no more customer excuses that they ‘couldn’t find the invoice.’ Services are performed and immediately invoiced using a credit card. Transaction complete.”
According to a 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study, more than two-thirds of all non-cash transactions are credit and debit card payments. Another report indicates that 58 percent of small businesses are regularly asked by their customers to accept credit cards. If you’re running a business and not accepting credit cards you may be missing out on sales. Several sources indicate that, depending on the industry, business may increase by as much as 40 percent once a company begins accepting credit cards.
It’s been demonstrated that individuals paying by credit card also tend to spend more. In the case of pest control, if a customer has problems with termites and is paying by credit card to have a treatment performed, maybe they’ll pay for repair costs at the same time. (“Ticket-lift” is when a customer is willing to make larger purchases because they’re using a credit card.)
Customers also have personal incentives to use their credit cards, including:
- Convenience. A credit card is easier to use than writing a check.
- Rewards/Points. Many credit cards offer points or cash back. Customers want to rack up as many points as possible and put them toward their next vacation, for example.
- Expense Tracking. Some customers like to track their purchases and using a credit card makes doing so much easier.
- Pay Over Time. Customers have the convenience of not having to pay upfront. This removes the owner’s burden of extending credit in the form of an invoice, which lengthens the payment period.
SELECTING A PROVIDER. “Most companies don’t understand how to select a merchant service provider,” said Tutton. “There’s a lot of misinformation being given by sales reps with the goal of keeping business owners ‘cloudy’ on the process so they can make more money.” Tutton’s approach is based on having been in small business her entire life and owning a pest control company — she stands in the same shoes as her customers.
“I want to help pest control owners understand the process and make the best decision for their company,” said Tutton. “If they already have a processing partner, they should touch base with you every year or two to make sure you’re still getting what you need. It’s OK to get a second opinion. If the agreement with their current processing company is good, I may recommend staying where they are.”
TRANSFER OF LIABILITY. From a security perspective, partnering with a respected credit card processor helps protect the business owner. “Ensure that the provider you select has a secure platform and processing network, and they meet all regulations regarding protecting credit card transactions and storing customer data,” explained Tutton.
“Liability is big consideration,” said Tutton. “If an owner decides to establish their own credit card processing through their bank, which is possible, they also accept some of the liabilities. If they don’t have the network security necessary to process credit cards, for example, their business may be at stake. Fraudulent activity can cripple or close a business. I’ve seen it happen.”
CREDIT CARD TRENDS. “The most significant trend is mobile payments — being able to accept credit cards using a smartphone or iPad,” explained Tutton. “Square spurred the trend and now other companies are quickly following. More and more ‘cash registers’ are now mobile devices.”
Pest control service technicians can accept payments in the field using their company or personal smartphone or tablet. This eliminates additional administrative time back at the office to create, send and track an invoice.
“Another trend is recurring payments for regularly scheduled services, which can be crucial in this and many other industries,” said Tutton. Recurring payments can be established through a processing company. This helps to ensure a steady cash flow without monthly invoicing, eliminates past due accounts and the challenges associated with collecting payments.
CONCLUSION. “You want to make it easy for your customers to pay you. They like paying by credit card, so let them,” said Tutton.
“If you make it difficult for a customer to pay you, they may eventually hire another company,” she added. “The increase in business you’re likely to see as a result of accepting credit and debit cards will outweigh the increased costs of having a merchant account.”
The author is a Florida-based freelancer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.