Business Unusual: How This Ohio Pest Control Company Pivoted to Fight COVID-19

Advanced Pest Control — which normally deals with rodents, bats, and insects — incorporated high-level disinfection packages to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in homes and businesses. 

Jim Sinkuc is used to dealing with clients’ fears of rodents, bats, and insects. The professional exterminator isn’t used to dealing with fears of a virus. But the owner of Advanced Pest Control in Brookfield, Ohio, is doing just that, after expanding his operation from pest removal to pandemic sanitizing services.

And it’s putting people to work: Unlike most small-business owners right now, Sinkuc recently had to hire more employees to meet a new demand.

In late February, when business was slow due to the Ohio winter, Sinkuc found himself watching TV more than usual — as COVID-19 began filling news headlines. That’s when the idea came to provide high-level disinfection packages to prevent the spread of the virus in homes and businesses.

“It was depressing to watch stories about people dying,” he tells Workest. “And I thought, ‘What can I do to kind of make a difference or help any way I can?’” 

“It was depressing to watch stories about people dying,” he tells Workest. “And I thought, ‘What can I do to kind of make a difference or help any way I can?’”

He started researching and reconfigured his services. “We do disinfecting anyway — when bats or raccoons get into people’s attics, we have to go in and clean up their fecal matter and disinfect the attics — so we were in that space already, but not to this degree. We had the knowledge and the ability.”

Experimenting for success

Founded in 2011, APC currently serves more than 5 counties in Ohio. It has remained open as an essential business during the state’s “stay-at-home” order, and while Sinkuc saw a decline in requests for indoor treatments when the pandemic first hit, he also saw an opportunity to help.

At the end of March he piloted his first COVID-19 sanitizing packages with 30 existing customers, which included both residential and commercial buildings. The experiment was well-received.

“Everyone was wanting to have the service done, so I thought, ‘Wow, this is something I should look into more!’ And that’s when I expanded.”

He doubled his team from 4 employees to 9. Adding 2 technicians and 3 outbound sales members, APC started cold-calling places — for the first time in its history — to share the new offerings. “Businesses started wanting to do the service and it took off.”

“We’re a pest control company that pivoted, because at the time we started this there were very few doing it around here. I told everyone, ‘We’re gonna be the first ones, but I guarantee in the next couple months we’ll have a lot of competition.’” 

“It’s something I would’ve never considered doing otherwise,” he admits. “It’s more of a janitorial cleaning business, and I don’t look at us as that; we’re a pest control company that pivoted, because at the time we started this there were very few doing it around here. I told everyone, ‘We’re gonna be the first ones, but I guarantee in the next couple months we’ll have a lot of competition.’”

He was right. COVID-19 cleaning has become a growing sector, and APC tries to stand out in the market with its use of antimicrobials and fogging technology in addition to “conventional bleach and alcohol methods.” Rather than just a brief fix, Sinkuc says this formula goes beyond the typical Clorox or Lysol effect, with antimicrobial treatment killing germs and viruses on surfaces for up to 90 days.

Sinkuc has seen a big demand from local churches, which are hiring APC to prepare for the reopening of Sunday services. And new partnerships with real estate companies have APC cleaning for open houses and move-in/move-out preparations.

“We do disinfecting while the house is empty so that families can move in with peace of mind.”

Because of the virus, APC technicians now wear respirators and gloves. For contactless service, the company is not currently taking signatures; client payment checks and APC receipt of services are often taped to the doors when a job is completed.

Advanced Pest Control Solutions Workest

Mark Miller is the operations manager of Advanced Pest Control Solutions based out of Brookfield, Ohio. In March, the small business incorporated high-level disinfection packages to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in homes and businesses. 

Marketing and complimentary services

To help promote this spontaneous branch of the company, Sinkuc quickly updated his marketing initiatives by:

  • Adding a COVID-19 tab on the company website homepage
  • Updating the company website with current photos
  • Linking to online press coverage about APC’s COVID-19 packages on the company website
  • Making himself available for local news and national press interviews

In these times, fundraisers and complimentary services can also help both the community and garner brand loyalty. Sinkuc has offered free sanitizing of frontline workers’ vehicles at events and donated a portion of sales to closed churches and nonprofits.

“I want to give other businesses hope and show they can do extraordinary things to make a difference,” he adds. “When you empower and help other people, you’ll get that back tenfold. I really believe that.”

“I want to give other businesses hope and show they can do extraordinary things to make a difference,” he adds. “When you empower and help other people, you’ll get that back tenfold. I really believe that.”

Look outside your norm to discover what’s next

Sinkuc advises fellow business owners to look beyond their usual product and services during this time. He believes that being too focused on what you sold in the past may block you from success in the future.

“Don’t follow in the trap of being in tunnel vision,” he warns. “Look outside the blinders to find opportunity and always be aware of your market and your niche, whatever that is. You’ve got to look in different ways to see how to survive.”

So, as a self-described optimist who strives to see the positives in work and life, what is Sinkuc’s own greatest fear?

“When I was younger and watched Indiana Jones fall into the snake pit, it left a lasting impression on me of snakes,” he recalls. “A snake as big as your thumb? I’d rather be in an attic with bats flying around than one tiny snake!”

In regard to the pandemic, he then adds seriously, “I don’t live in fear. We take all the safety precautions to protect ourselves and our customers.”

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