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As the pandemic hit Hawaii in March 2020, Pest Tech Hawaii owner Ian Mateo found himself losing sleep over the influx of negativity the pandemic brought with it.
“I wanted to be able to do something, but what could I do? Then, it hit me,” he recounted.
Mateo wanted to help his community and he realized that offering disinfection services was the answer he was looking for. Plus, he already had all the equipment needed and, without fully realizing, had been training his team for years how to properly spray chemical treatments that had included disinfectants.
The next morning, he was on the phone with his attorneys, his insurance company and his chemical distributor to get the ball rolling.
“We pinpointed the product we had been using forever,” Mateo said. “It was a product we were familiar with and that we used for years, so it was not just some magical product that popped up on the shelves that had a COVID label on it.”
With the support of Operations Director Kale Kwon and Fumigation Director Ian Corey Ramelb, Pest Tech Hawaii was performing its first disinfectant service within a week of the initial idea.
“The first 20-30 we did for free,” Mateo said. “We did a bunch of churches that wanted to try to protect their congregations, so that’s where it started, and it took off from there.”
Of course, Pest Tech Hawaii couldn’t service the entire community for free but has offered discounted rates to help offset the cost for cash-strapped businesses and residents.
“My staff is trained that if someone has a problem paying for it to let us know and we’ll work something out,” Mateo said. “In fact, we went on our local news station that covered the first service that we did for free and we put the challenge out that the service costs money, but if you can’t afford it, just call us and we’ll work something out.”
Supporting Employees Through It All
Mateo’s commitment to helping others also extended to his employees. He prioritized educating his staff by bringing in a doctor to talk to them about infectious diseases, including tips for preventing its spread, as well as how to properly use and dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE) in those settings.
Very early on, Mateo had an inkling that the pandemic was going to have a bigger impact than what was initially thought, so he began stocking up on PPE. He made sure Pest Tech was listed on the critical businesses list with vendors so he could restock as needed. He also purchased a pallet of hand sanitizer at a local overflow supply store, which he supplied to employees and stocked in the office and trucks, even as shortages swept the country.
“We never had a shortage of gloves, respirators, face masks and hand sanitizer,” Mateo said. With the addition of disinfection services, office space and trucks were regularly disinfected, and employees were spread out for proper social distancing. Plus, if an employee needed their home disinfected, Pest Tech Hawaii did it free.
Even before federal stimulus came in, Mateo committed to subsidizing employees’ salaries to help them get through the initial shutdown in Hawaii.
“We haven’t let go of any of our employees,” Mateo said. “In fact, even when it got slow for a two- to three-week period, we maintained pay and salaries for everyone independent of how much hours of work we could give out.”
While the drywood termite fumigations took a big hit in the early days of the pandemic, the disinfection services helped Pest Tech Hawaii weather a tumultuous year that ultimately helped grow its business.
“It sucks because, in general, the economy sucked, but we were able to grow our business pretty significantly,” Mateo said. So much so, that Pest Tech Hawaii added 12 new employees by the end of the year.