The History of Preferred Pest Control: A Story From Brad Smith
June 5, 2020
As owner of Preferred Pest Control, I’m very proud to say we are celebrating our 35th year in business! We have come a long way since I founded the company back in 1985, and I couldn’t be more proud to run a family business that thrives on superior pest control services and fantastic business ethics. Here’s my story on how I decided I wanted to start my own company and the journey of growing quickly.
An Introduction to How a Small Business Functions
My father, Bill Smith, is an entrepreneur at heart and was my inspiration for starting my own business. The beginning of his small business career experiences started on a farm in Laurel, Iowa during the depression. After his father died and left a widow and four young boys behind, Bill and his brothers helped their family survive by taking the vegetables they raised on the farm to Newton. They would wait outside the Maytag factory to sell their produce, and started to run a small operation by doing this.
Later in my dad’s career, he started a small restaurant called Smitty’s Tenderloin Shop in 1967, which is still in business today after 52 years and won the “Best Sandwich in Iowa Award” by People Magazine in 2019. I started working at the restaurant at the age of ten, and I worked at that small restaurant all the way through college. During my time there, I got to see how a small business operated and loved it. My dad’s goal at his small business was to please his customers by offering the best products with excellent customer service. Little did I know that my dad’s influence would have a profound impact on the way I would operate my own business years later.
How Preferred Pest Control Got Started
During college I chose an obscure major called Entomology - the study of insects. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do when I graduated, but I knew that insects fascinated me. After graduating from Iowa State University in 1980, I secured my first job with a pest control company in Des Moines. I discovered that I really enjoyed it, especially being able to meet people and help them with tangible needs. After working for this company for four years, I decided to start my own pest control company.
On June 1, 1985, I started Preferred Pest Control in Ames, IA. I found out that it was truly a grueling process to start a company. I took a Small Business Administration course which helped me to understand how to keep books, prioritize my time, market my services, manage my money and hire and manage employees. I hired my first employee to help sell and service clients’ pest control needs. Money was scarce at the time because I had no loans to fund the initial expenses. I started with a used Chevy truck that had 180,000 miles, a hand-written ledger for accounting and a very meager inventory of chemicals and equipment. I did not have an advertising budget except for a Yellow Page ad and a magnetic company sign on the side of my truck. We started going door to door, business to business, gaining new clients the hard way - in person.
I found that Ames was a great place to start my business because there were no local pest control companies located there at the time - we were the only one. This gave us the opportunity to quickly build up our client base because customers wanted to support a local company. Additionally, my Entomology degree definitely helped me attract new clients and gave me an advantage over any of my competitors. Within the first year, we were able to sign agreements with almost every realty company in Ames, many restaurants and apartment complexes.
As I managed my business we started adding bigger clients. During our second year in business, we earned the pest control contract for both Iowa State University and The University of Iowa. In addition, a large apartment management firm hired us to take care of thousands of apartments. We then started growing faster than I had anticipated, and soon I was adding about one staff member per year and learning how to manage a fast growing company. Preferred Pest has enjoyed a fairly steady growth, and our team today consists of 20 full-time employees.
Preferred Pest Control was started during the era of the digital revolution. Microsoft Windows 1.0 was introduced during our founding year. Search engines, cell phones, personal computers, GPS devices and many more innovations were developed during our formative years and helped us to grow quickly as we embraced this new technology.
Pest Control Innovations Help The Business Grow
We are always looking for ways to be innovators in the pest control industry. Some of our team members attend large conferences where pest professionals get together to discuss new extermination techniques or products, and we’ll use these to make sure we’re staying ahead of the competition. The following methods are examples of how we use innovation to be leaders in our field:
- Expert Pest Identification: Preferred Pest Control is the only company in Iowa that is owned and operated by a certified Entomologist. As a result, we offer free expert pest identification services to anyone who wants to submit an insect they’re curious about.
- Integrated Pest Management program (IPM): We are the leaders in Iowa for using IPM for school systems to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure to students. Preferred Pest Control has been servicing one of the largest school districts in the Des Moines area for almost 20 years using our Integrated Pest Management no pesticides approach. Thanks in part to our safe procedures, the EPA and the Iowa DNR have recognized this school system for their leadership in being stewards of the environment.
- Invested in technology to fight bed bugs: In the early 2000’s, bed bugs started to resurge across the nation. I decided to invest in state-of-the-art technology to combat bed bugs. I purchased four Temp-Air Thermal Remediation systems that effectively use heat to kill all stages of bed bugs. I also purchased two nationally certified bed bug detection dogs, which are 98% accurate at detecting the odor of bed bugs.
- Developed residential and commercial treatment programs using safe and effective pest control methods: There are many methods other than chemicals that we use to combat pests such as:
1. Exclusion - Sealing cracks and crevices where pests enter.
2. Direct Removal - Removing unwanted pests and eggs using HEPA vacuums.
3. Monitoring Traps - Placing traps and regularly checking to determine pest populations.
4. Sanitation- Communicating to our customers on how to decrease pest populations by making their house or business less attractive to pests. Dirty dishes, clogged drains, open food containers, and missing screens are all things that promote pest entry.
5. Resident Habits - Many pests enter structures as a result of leaving doors propped open, using windows without screens, leaving garage doors open, etc. Our technicians are trained to look for these practices and make recommendations when needed.
- QualityPro Certification: QualityPro is a 3rd-party certification given by the National Pest Management Association for excellence in pest control. It is the award given to pest control companies that go above and beyond what is legally required by government agencies, both local and national. And, it is only awarded to companies that meet the highest standards of operation. Less than 2% of pest control companies nationwide have earned this distinction.
- Better Business Bureau Integrity Award: In 2017, Preferred Pest Control was awarded the Torch Award by the Better Business Bureau. We are the first pest control company in Iowa to win the Torch Award. The BBB awards companies whose leaders demonstrate a great amount of personal character, ensure their organization practices the highest level of ethics and generates consistent trust.
Preferred Pest Control has been recognized for our advanced techniques, and I have been interviewed by several news stations or newspapers to share my expertise with homeowners trying to get rid of seasonal pests. Throughout my career I have also spoken at many schools about my knowledge of insects, with the kids ranging from elementary to high school age. Oftentimes, I bring in examples of bugs for the students to observe first hand.
As Preferred Pest control grew throughout the years, we wanted to give back and help the people within the communities that attributed to our success. One of the things I enjoy most as a business owner is giving back to the community, and our team donated our services to a number of organizations over the years:
- Camp Sunnyside
- Central Iowa Shelter & Services
- Extreme Makeover Home Edition
- Anawim Housing
- Agape Pregnancy Center
- Meals From the Heartland
Preferred Pest Control’s Current Success
This month Preferred Pest Control is celebrating our 35th year in business! I lead a team of 20 full-time employees, including my two sons who are involved in the day-to-day operations of our continuously growing company.
My greatest satisfaction is knowing that we serve our customers with integrity. I have worked hard to instill this value in every aspect of Preferred Pest Control. Integrity is at the core of how I treat my customers, my employees, how we price our services, and how we guarantee our work. You can trust us to deliver the highest quality of service with confidence knowing that we will treat you right. Our current customers will tell you the same story - if you check our 5-star Google ratings, our customers always have fantastic things to say about Preferred Pest and how our employees do business.