We rub elbows with the mayor of New York City and Michelin-rated chefs — we shake hands on Fifth Avenue,” says Rich Cappa, in a non-boastful way, explaining how his team has personal relationships with its high-end clientele. His customer base has evolved drastically since 1996, when Cappa, then 24, started Liberty Pest Control with no car and no customers. His goal: Land 1,000 accounts. “That was my dream,” he says.
Cappa dreams big.
Day one, he landed his first job and serviced it the next day. “The following day, I had sold 20-something more accounts,” Cappa says, noting that he’d borrow wheels from his friends and family to get around town.
Today, Liberty Pest services more than 4,000 commercial accounts in the Big Apple, largely in the hospitality industry. The firm is now expanding into “infrastructure giants,” including such accounts as JFK International and LaGuardia airports; the Metropolitan Opera; and various hospital groups. The company just landed the Jet Blue terminal, too.
“New Yorkers like to deal with New Yorkers,” explains Joe Temperino, Cappa’s partner in the Brooklyn-based business, who is focused largely on sales and business development. “Pest services are the product we deliver, but we are really in the people business.”
By understanding what people (especially their clientele) need to stay in business, Liberty Pest Control has tailored programs geared for different types of clients. In particular, the pressure is on for New York City restaurants, which are required to post letter grades based on sanitary inspection scores. So, Liberty offers a “Blitz” program for restaurants that includes a visit that lasts several hours and encompasses drain and rodent treatments, mosquito control, pest monitoring, installing fly lights and door sweeps, waterproofing and caulking, and an overall inspection.
“We maintain more ‘A’ restaurants than any other pest control company in the metropolitan area,” says Cappa, proud of being new to the PCT Top 100 list at No. 65.
After each Blitz visit, Liberty Pest sends out a separate quality control team to each site. “The team meets with the general managers and we try to meet as many restaurant owners as possible to give them the knowledge they need to make our job more efficient, as well,” Cappa says. “Our crew looks at every location the day after service to make sure it’s up to par.”
Education is also a focus and differentiator for Liberty. “We teach restaurant staff the dos and don’ts — what to put in a drain, how to clean the bar,” Temperino says. “That has made us successful and gone a long way with the restaurant and bar owners.”
Last year, Liberty focused on building its restaurant client base — and in 2020, the company wants to earn additional clients similar to the airports they already serve, delivering a service system that’s focused on detailed inspections and custom pest management plans for each site.
Like most pest management firms, the biggest challenge for Liberty prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 was the hiring of people to deliver the type of service Liberty expects. As such, the company takes a friends-and-family approach. “We ask our technicians to bring in relatives and good friends,” Cappa says. “So, we are attracting a better individual that cares and wants to be part of the group.”
As of press time, COVID-19 was ravaging New York City. Once the city opens up, Liberty is ready to roll with a sanitizing program. In fact, the company developed sanitizing protocols two years ago, but customers weren’t interested at the time. But now, those customers will be treated to free sanitation, disinfection and protection services once the city is moving again. “We feel that it’s our responsibility to give back to the communities that we have been a part of for over two decades and we want to do our part in getting things back to our new normal,” Temperino said.
And despite coronavirus, Liberty’s growth plans remain intact. The firm is eyeing up expansion beyond the city and plans to service nearby New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The company has never advertised before, and growth has been completely organic so far. “We’ve done all this without purchasing other companies,” Temperino says.
To grow its service area, Liberty plans to increase its digital presence and implement technological tools that allow customers to see photographs and notes immediately after visits, Cappa says. Already, clients appreciate Liberty’s transparent communication techniques — and the energy they bring to the job, like New Yorkers do.
“You know, like the song, ‘There Ain’t No Stopping Us Now?’” Cappa says, referencing the oldie-but-goodie by McFadden & Whitehead. “That’s like us. Nothing is going to stop us now.” — Kristen Hampshire