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Focusing on what you can control became a mantra for many in 2020. In a year when a pandemic brought so much uncertainty, Florida fumigators were able to persevere with some creative thinking and a lot of tenacity.
With the pandemic and stay-at-home orders hitting at a time when business normally starts to pick up for many drywood termite fumigators, their phones started ringing for a different reason – to cancel or postpone their service.
“A lot of homes were rescheduled because the customers were either afraid of leaving the house or there were no hotels available to stay,” said Julio Pujol, Florida fumigation manager at P.E.S.T. “We just focused on what we could at the time and prepared for when the economy reopened so we would be ready to go.”
Many used that early pandemic downtime to focus on updating safety procedures to mitigate exposure for both employees and customers. However, pandemic restrictions varied by region and were early hurdles for fumigators as they worked to understand exactly how to service while respecting regional rules.
Yet, well-laid plans don’t bring in revenue. In order to keep revenue flowing in, many fumigators seized the opportunity to fumigate commercial businesses, such as restaurants and schools, that would normally be put off until later in the year.
“Fumigators were doing really big jobs,” said Erich Hobelmann, Vikane Business Development Manager – Northern Florida. “Buildings that were on the national historic registries were done, such as some of the older buildings in St. Augustine, because there were no tourists.”
The strategy paid off, as many fumigators were able to weather those early months of the pandemic and keep employees on staff.
“The commercial side of our business really took off in April and May,” Pujol said. “We actually ended up doing a 2 million cube fume in St. Petersburg because the entire complex was shut down. We were able to take advantage of the business and retain our employees by only cutting hours, so we were fully staffed and ready to go when things opened back up fully.”
By May, pest management was deemed an essential service in most states and business began to rebound as swarm season picked up.
“When people have termites swarming in their homes, they have to do something about it,” Pujol said. “For them, there’s just no way to live with drywood termites swarming every day.”
Since then, business has more than rebounded.
“We had a financially rewarding remainder of the year,” Pujol said. “From May on, our revenue and profits were above last year’s and above plan.”