[Add-On Services] From Plumbing to Pest Control

Talk about keeping your fingers on the pulse of our country’s economy. About four and a half years ago, the Pearson Company, a 45-year-old, family-owned plumbing, heating, and air conditioning company in Rockford, Illinois, did a good job. But they saw the first signs of a deteriorating economy and were determined to proactively combat the business downturn. As a long-established home services company, they decided to take a unique approach that capitalized on their specialty.

“We knew how important it is to strive for growth and stability in a fragile market. In such an economy, you need to look to diversify by offering more services to all of your existing customers,” said Matt Morgan, the company’s finance director for business development. “There is no need to take on more overhead when offering additional services to your customer base. And there is no need to spend a ton of advertising money looking for new business when you can convince your existing customers to use your new services.”

A few years earlier, Pearson had diversified a 10-man plumbing business that was growing well, adding heating and air conditioning repairs and water softening services.

The beginning. Morgan was sitting in his office one day and happened to notice a large centipede crawling along his desk. “This gave rise to the idea of ​​offering our customers pest control as an additional service,” he says. Morgan; Greg Lee, President of Pearson; Robert Stenstrom, the company’s owner; and the management team brought the idea around, researched the market opportunity and decided to offer pest control as another add-on service to homes.

“Think about it. The heating business has the same seasons as pest control, and their service models are quite similar. We already had software and systems that could handle these operations,” he said. “And our plumbers typically work in basements, under sinks, and in bathrooms — high humidity areas where insects thrive.”

After careful research and deliberation, Pearson learned that the owner of Oxford Pest Control in Rockford was ready to sell his business. In April 2007, Pearson bought the company and integrated the pest control service into its overall business. “This venture was exciting and, in my opinion, successful”,

Says Morgan. So successful, in fact, that Pearson continued to expand in a difficult economy.

According to Morgan, Pearson’s pest control business alone has generated 25 to 30 percent growth in the company’s profitability. This prompted the company to recently purchase another pest control company, Adams Pest Control, located about 15 miles away. As a result, the Rockford-based company can now offer its integrated housing services to homeowners and businesses in a multi-county area, including the cities of DeKalb, Oregon, Dixon and Byron, Illinois.

“We have also developed a termite specialty as well as a power spray capability that gives us two excellent niche markets. Both of these help us differentiate ourselves from our pest control competition,” says Morgan. “We are treating residential neighborhoods in rural areas that experience increased boxwood beetle activity because they are close to agricultural areas.” [Editor’s note: The preceding paragraph was revised on Sept. 22, 2011, to more accurately explain Pearson’s power spraying capabilities.]

Marketing. To promote the diversified organization, Morgan and his team are in the process of rebranding Pearson with an aggressive marketing campaign promoting the company as a one-stop shop. The campaign relies primarily on word of mouth, but also uses public relations, TV advertising, Facebook and direct mail. “Instead of the cumbersome name Pearson Plumbing, Heating and Pest Control, we are now known simply as Pearson. We also train our customer service representatives to address our various services.”

Morgan says the company’s plumbing and HVAC technicians can also help leverage its pest control business. “As you know, plumbing problems can cause moisture that can usually cause an insect infestation. This would be an opportunity for our plumbers to promote our pest control service. And if, for example, our HVAC technicians discover a rodent infestation due to cold weather, they can let the customer know that our rodent control operation can solve their problem. At the same time, our pest control technicians can cross-promote by also targeting our HVAC and water softening services should they see a need.”

Pearson uses integrated pest management as a working philosophy, offering clients a thorough inspection of their homes or facilities to determine the extent and scope of their problems. They then discuss options and special circumstances, and provide a detailed proposal that includes a treatment plan, a schematic of target areas, and a cost breakdown.

A clever strategy. According to Morgan, the company’s reputation for quality, integrity and fair dealing has never been stronger. “Pearson takes great pride in educating and educating our employees to provide outstanding customer service,” he said. “We took a solid, well-known plumbing and heating company and expanded it into pest control, building on the trust we’ve already built with our customers. We continue to be known in the industry for our quality service.

“We think this kind of diversification is the wave of the future,” he added. “And we believe that the key to succeeding in an economic downturn is to be open to change, as we have been.”

To learn more about Pearson, visit http://pearsonguy.com.

The author is a contributing writer for PCT. Email him at [email protected].

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