I n the same way that it’s an odd time now for your organization, it’s an odd time for the PCT staff too. Sure, some things are “business as usual” but even those “usual” things are looked at through a COVID-19 lens. How should we cover coronavirus editorially? What trends should be addressed in longer, more in-depth articles? What should next month’s print issue look like? What does the spread of the virus mean for industry events?

Of course we don’t know all the answers to these questions, which is why we’ve taken the editorial approach we have. As I said in this space last month, we have decided to address COVID-19 daily on our website. In the print edition, we’ll cover the topic in more in-depth pieces. But on both fronts, we are keeping our primary focus on pest management. While many PMPs are playing an active role in this pandemic by offering cleaning and disinfecting services, your primary business — pest management — is still your focus. Insect, rodent and wildlife management may look different than it did in February (fewer commercial calls? more residential visits? perimeter-only service?). But the foundation of your business — providing peace of mind to your customers, managing staff, running routes — is still the same.

Same with PCT. The foundation of our business — getting news to the marketplace, providing analysis of trends, fostering community — is still intact. That means, in the spirit of “business as usual,” our May issue features PCT’s 19th annual Top 100 list. But, because of how the world has changed over the last several months, we’ve made sure the articles that accompany the list address today’s challenges as well.

While for many readers the highlight of this month’s coverage is the Top 100 list, we know it’s important to highlight topics that apply to everyone. In “The Middle-Class Squeeze,” we explore how and why the middle class in America is the key to success for the pest management industry. The middle class is changing, and not in a good way. According to a 2017 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and as referenced in a New York Times article, “By the time they reached 30, more than 90 percent of Americans born in 1940 were earning more than their parents had earned at the same age. But among those born in 1980, only half were earning more than their parents by the age of 30.” Those are your customers.

Our article features insights from a variety of experts, one of whom says, “We are in the midst of just about every significant demographic shift.” And, as a result, “We have to make a significant shift in how we approach people, how we market to people, how fast we get to people, and the types of programs we offer them to fit their lifestyles.” To complete the package, Victor Hammel, the former president and CEO at J.C. Ehrlich, discusses how consumer earnings affect customers’ ability to afford the pest management industry’s services.

We chose these middle class articles as the linchpin of this year’s Top 100 coverage because they affect all PMPs, large and small. It’s not good for anyone if consumers can’t afford our services, so we hope these insights into pest control buyers help you and your business.

A few other notes about this year’s list:

  • There are 16 companies on this year’s list that were not on last year’s. And on last year’s list, the 100th company came in at $4.9 million. The revenue of this year’s #100 is $5.5 million. That’s significant growth!
  • Ten companies that were on last year’s list are not on this year’s because of mergers and acquisitions. While that’s been the trend the past few years (in the 2019 and 2018 issues the total was 18 off the list), it’s unlikely to be that high in 2021. Some of the industry’s largest buyers are holding onto cash and not buying in today’s uncertain business climate. Thus far in 2020, there have been no announced purchases of firms on the Top 100 list.
  • In years prior, we’ve asked companies to predict their growth for the upcoming year. We asked this year too but since that information was collected throughout the first quarter of 2020 (and prior to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States), we decided not to include that information on this year’s poster. There are just too many variables and we don’t want to publish a number that companies may not be able to attain because of factors beyond their control.

The author is editor of PCT.