Persistence is defined as a firm continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. At Burt’s Termite & Pest Control in Columbus, Ind., persistence is Steve Morrison.
Morrison, the 2020 PCT Termite Technician of the Year, is a study in persistence. Losing both parents early in his life, Morrison spent most of his childhood in the Bartholomew County (Ind.) Children’s Home.
“I had to grow up early, and not having much influenced my work ethic when I was older,” recalls Morrison. “It made me persistent to succeed and appreciate what I had, but it also made me understand that I had to work for it.”
The nearly 30-year veteran of the pest management industry entered the industry later in life after meeting Doug Foster, president of Burt’s Termite & Pest Control, when Morrison was working as a furniture restorer at a local antique shop.
What piqued Foster’s interest to offer Morrison a job was the energy and innovation he witnessed while watching him handle one-of-a-kind antiques that came into the shop. “There could be missing pieces to a lamp or piece of furniture that they had no way of finding replacement parts for, but Steve didn’t let that stop him from finding a way to restore it,” says Foster. “The preciseness and attention to detail he displayed told me he would be a good technician.”
Morrison knew Burt’s founder — Dave Burt — when the two worked together at a local furniture store when Steve was in high school, but he never thought he’d end up at the company bearing Dave’s name.
“Doug would come by the shop and hang out, and one day he asked me if I would ever consider taking a full-time position as a technician,” says Morrison. “Crawling under houses in the heat of summer wasn’t my first choice but I said I’ll try it and I’ve never looked back.”
A QUICK STUDY. When Morrison came on board in 1988, Foster told him it would take five years to fully understand the ins and outs of the business. That was a little long for Morrison’s tastes and this is where his persistence paid off.
At the time, Burt’s only had three technicians so being a jack of all trades was a necessity. Doing a termite job in the morning and then running a general pest route in the afternoon was the norm.
The persistence to juggle a full schedule and be relentless in his pursuit to find a solution to a customer’s termite problem, led Morrison to become the company’s go-to technician for termite jobs.
Morrison entered the industry just as chlordane was being phased out and he has seen many product introductions aimed at preventing and eliminating termites — a pest that causes millions of dollars of damage to homes annually.
“I enjoy the challenge every termite job brings,” says Morrison. “Finding the source of an infestation, learning how they are gaining access to a home and what attracts them in the first place.”
Morrison recalls a particularly perplexing termite job he encountered that took him several years to solve. He performed a slab treatment around the fireplace of a home and every year the homeowner would call to say they the termites are back.
Determined to find the source of the infestation, Morrison asked the homeowner if there was an issue with a leaky roof. The homeowner said yes. Morrison then got on a ladder and found that the termites had crawled up from the fireplace’s foundation and established a nest in the water-damaged wood roof supports.
The experience taught Morrison a valuable lesson: Never underestimate the tenacity of termites and never look at things from just one viewpoint. Look at a home up and down, inside and out and be persistent in finding the true source of the problem.
SHARING THE WEALTH. Morrison describes himself as “old school,” but that doesn’t stop him from sharing his experience and knowledge with new technicians.
“I take great pride in my work and enjoy being a mentor,” says Morrison. “I prefer to lead by example and if they are willing to listen and put the work in, I’m happy to help.”
This was evident when the company introduced the Termidor HP High Precision Injection System to their termite control toolbox. When Morrison and his fellow technicians were going through the initial training the younger technicians kidded him that they’ll figure it out before him. They were wrong.
“They said ‘He’ll never get using an iPad with the system,’ but I got it and now they come to me with their questions which I’m happy to answer,” says Morrison with a hearty chuckle.
“Steve has set the example for his coworkers and new team members with his work ethic and determination to find answers to customers’ termite problems,” says Foster. “He comes to work each day with a smile on his face and a positive attitude.”
Foster says Morrison’s approach has been especially important during the pandemic. He never missed a day and helped his co-workers adapt to the changes the industry faced. When asked what makes a good termite technician, Morrison says they need to be a good people person, listen to what a customer has to say and build trust.
“Many times, a customer doesn’t realize they have termites because they never see them, only the damage they leave behind,” says Morrison. “They need to understand the threat is real and that your recommendations are in their best interest. That can only be done if they trust you.”