Sister companies Insects Limited and Fumigation Service & Supply celebrate 35 years in business this year. But David Mueller, the companies’ owner, has never measured their successes in revenue or rank, but by their payrolls.
“‘Success’ is a difficult word to pin down,” Mueller said. “My biggest accomplishment as a businessman has been to offer a paycheck to our 50 people we work with and their families.”
Mueller says company owners always should be paid last and they should value employees as equals. “My father Albert Mueller taught me to treat other people like you want to be treated,” he said. “I often correct people that suggest ‘they work for me.’ I tell them we work together.”
A FLOUR MILLER. Mueller is a first-generation business owner but he said his father Albert, a World War II veteran and flour miller, taught him the value of hard work and education. “Flour millers go to work early in the morning and work weekends and holidays,” he said. “One of his responsibilities as a miller was to fumigate the mill a couple of times a year and fumigate all the incoming wheat that he would grind. This was my first exposure to fumigation and the need for pest management.”
When Mueller was attending Purdue University, his father encouraged him to take an entomology class, which eventually led to his first introduction to pheromone traps and a job in the field of fumigation at Phostoxin Sales.
“I was using fly paper ribbons to capture the Indianmeal moth in seed warehouses until I was shown a pheromone trap and lure for Indianmeal moths,” Mueller said. “That was the beginning of Insects Limited. I quit my job with Phostoxin Sales and started selling pheromone traps during the week and fumigating on the weekends.”
The companies only had two employees when they were established in 1981, when Mueller was 25 years old. His wife, Mary Beth, oversaw the firms’ payroll and taxes.
VALUES. Mueller said there have been many components at Insects Limited that have helped aid its successes. Perhaps the most important one is customer service. “Our customers include anyone handling stored products from the time it leaves the field to the time it reaches the consumer,” Mueller said. The product’s “satisfaction guarantee” doesn’t stop when it’s sold to a business.
“Our job is to reduce customer complaints,” Mueller said. The path every product takes from “farm to table” has become easier to understand because of videos online. “YouTube is now the police force for customer complaints,” he said. “With the increase of food safety, pest complaints get national attention almost immediately.”
EXPANSION. The company’s recent 12th Fumigants & Pheromones Conference in Adelaide, South Australia, which had 160 attendees from 26 countries, is the kind of outreach the company wants to offer as an educational resource in the market. “We are concerned about the environment and have been recognized multiple times by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for our efforts to protect the environment,” Mueller said. “We have trained thousands of pest managers in the United States and internationally over the past 35 years.”
Changes in global fumigation regulations continue at a fast pace and Mueller says he expects EPA to announce more restrictions in the future. “The latest trends will come from tighter regulations from the EPA on all fumigants. Buffer zones and boundary line restrictions will offer a big opportunity for innovation in fumigant scrubbers,” he said. (Scrubbers can capture and destroy fumigant gases that might otherwise be released to the atmosphere after fumigations.) “FSS has been working on fumigant scrubbers for the past seven years. We see New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands and Germany already requiring scrubbing of fumigants. We presently have three log fumigation facilities that have the capability of scrubbing fumigants.”
Even after the 35-year milestone, Mueller said the companies continue to aim for high-quality work and service. “Our guiding principles are to strive for quality service, provide the absolute best products available worldwide, to be a respected world-class organization, and maintain profitability with innovation, alternatives and education.”
The author is an editorial intern for PCT.