In todays blog post we contacted the one and only Jerry Schappert who owns The Bug Doctor
and has a great informative pest control blog
called pestcemetary.com. Anyone who’s anybody in the pest control industry knows of Jerry one way or another. Since he loves to educate the public so much about pests we thought it would be great to turn it around and ask him some questions.
James: Hey Jerry, its a pleasure to be speaking with you. Please tell us all about The Bug Doctor, Jerry Schappert!
Jerry: Well some people call me a dinosaur, affectionately I might add as I’ve been in the pest control industry 30 years now. I guess I’ve seen a lot of change and so many different aspects of the job. But I am most proud to say that I am a proud father of two great young men, a super daughter in law and my first darling little grand daughter Ella. She is kind of the pride of my life right now and if you were to see her, you’d be smitten too. I am also blessed beyond belief to have been married also for thirty years to the most wonderful woman in the world. My family has given me the strength to make it through all of the tough times and have made all the celebrations of the good all that much better. My sons know me as nothing else really, I’ve been a ‘bug man’ their whole lives. My youngest is one of my best techs right now and my oldest worked for us for a few years but he’s since taken off (literally) with his aviation career. My wife has been with me through thick and thin and she remembers the cold dark days when we were barely making ends meet but she would never let me let go of my dream-she has supported me the whole way and we have made a pretty good go of things over the years together. She is my rock, oh and also my office manager.
James: Thats great to hear Jerry. The pest control industry is such a tight-nit community and its always great to hear when family is involved. I myself am currently working 2nd generation in a family business so its always nice to hear when family is involved. It shows how pest control runs through our veins! How did you actually get started in this industry?
Jerry: In 1990 we moved from the cold winters of Baltimore to Florida on a promise of good things from a rather large company. Long story short, things weren’t all what they said and after two years of discontent and running out of money from the meager paycheck, we decided to make a change. In 1993 we started The Bug Doctor. I’ve written about this quite a bit in my blog but one theme I didn’t really notice but one of my readers pointed out. “We ate a lot of peanut butter sandwich’s” in those days. Looking back, I guess that’s true. Even though it was a lot slower for me than some of the other companies around, I’m proud of what we’ve built and I’m not sure I’d change a whole lot of what we went through. Well, maybe a steak sub here and there.
James: Great story. Sometimes things happen for a reason and it seems like everything eventually ended up in your favor! This business is always slow paced at first. Its the type of thing where you get what you put in. Blood, sweat and tears type of career. You started to mention your blog, Please tell everyone what got you started on the now successful pestcemetary.com?
Jerry: I started my blog in 2007. My oldest son was getting to be quite knowledgable about the internet and had started a few blogs. He was sure this was the way to make a million dollars. He and my family kept saying that I tell so many stories and knew quite a bit about bugs that I should write a blog too. So, after a little resistance I thought I’d at least give it a try. The name ‘pestcemetery’ came as a suggestion from my youngest son. Not sure how he came up with it but when I heard it, it just had a ring to it that I liked. Once we had that I was set up in about twenty minutes and ready to go. I had no idea about html or links or how to even center a picture so the first few months it was pretty much a mess. My first article was on termites and I kind of went along with information type articles for the first few months but it wasn’t until I wrote a story about one of my experiences that I really caught the bug for writing. From there I think I went on a five or six year writing tear, sometimes two articles a night. Back then I was maybe getting fifteen clicks a day (6 or 7 were me rereading my own stuff) and I got a little discouraged at times. However, I kept going and today I’m happy to say about 80,000 a month visit my site and I especially enjoy when I hear from other techs or owners who write to say that in some small way I’ve helped them or that they enjoy my work.
James: What a great story. Looks like you owe your son a little thanks. Its always a good outlet for information to post on a blog, always great to educate people on matters they may not know much about. An educated customer are the best kinds. You probably get asked a lot of the same questions over and over. Whats a question you wish people would ask you more?
Jerry: The one question I never get tired of is for help from another small operator, especially someone just starting out. I’m not some big business tycoon with all the answers but I’ll always do my best for folks like this. I just love to hear success stories from one man or mom and pop firms who get through some struggle on top. I have several ‘pen pals’ even today where our relationship started this way. It’s exciting to remind them of how they first contacted me and the problems they had and that now they’re problems include hiring a new tech, getting a truck or office. I just send them a smiley face and say “really?” “Do you remember when…?” Always love that and that is truly a very rewarding aspect of my blog and one I never ever planned on.
James: Glad to know you never forgot your humble beginnings and never forget where you came from! Its always great to help where its needed. The best type of advice from new start ups are to always get lunch to write emails to the seasoned vets. Nothing like experience! Out of all the pest control you do, in your opinion what do you find the most difficult pest to exterminate?
Jerry: The most difficult pest for us is still the German roach. I made a business decision to stay away from bed bugs so perhaps that might be more difficult without some of the pricey equipment. The German roach poses a problem more for the reason of cooperation more than anything. When we get a client who goes with the plan we can make short work of it, but sadly that’s not always the case.
James: Yes you’re right. The German cockroach really can be difficult. I would say 15% of our customers are not properly prepared for cockroach treatments and we have to return after explaining what needs to be done. People think we have a magic wand. Whats your favorite thing about being a PCO?
Jerry: My absolute favorite thing about being a PCO is the variety. Everyday is different and I get to see so many different things. I can’t think of another job where you can be crawling under a nasty house and dealing with extreme filth and an hour later you’re standing in a ten thousand square foot mansion. I’ve been in clean rooms in full sterile gown where you had to stand in a decontamination chamber to a prison tower with miles of razor wire. Seeing how things are made, how people live from every angle is truly the most exciting part of my work. A close second is my elderly clientele. These people are just the best. So much wisdom and stories of life. I always slow down and try to listen to these folks because it has enriched my life so much just to get a glimpse into what they have seen and done.
James: Theres never a dull day in this business! I don’t think people understand the things that service technicians go through on a daily basis when going in peoples homes. So Jerry, if pest control didn’t work out for you what could you see your self doing?
Jerry: When I was a kid my mom tells me I always spoke of being either a Pastor or a Dr. I guess I got the doctor part in a way but if not for pest control I’d be a preacher. Changing lives with the word of God is something you never get tired of and I enjoy teaching immensely.
James: Amen Jerry. Sounds like a great alternative path! The Pastor Bug Doc! What do you think the biggest problem about homeowners is when it comes to pest control?
Jerry: The number one problem Diyer’s bring to themselves is the pseudo knowledge they get from the internet. Ironic, since I write so much on ‘how to.’ But ‘un-learning’ is the most difficult thing and it’s too often an uphill battle trying to undo what they see as truth just because some website or comment thread says such and such or so and so. However, if we win them over (and we usually do), these folks become customers for life.
James: Perfect answer Jerry, I think we all feel the same about that. I think the miseducation is the problem. They read bad information and really put them selves in danger and make the pest problems 10x worse. A good example are customers who use Hotshot Brand foggers to treat for bed bugs. Self treatment by the customer always, always, makes our job harder. I know i struggle with this but how do you find time to be a business owner and a family man all at once? Any tips?
Jerry: That’s a million dollar question. The number one thing I can say is eat dinner together every single night. There’s something about breaking bread together and having a chance to just talk that goes a long long way. I’ve worked more twelve and fourteen hour days than I can even remember but so many times my wife would somehow keep everything warm and be ready to serve the minute I came in the door. Of course the boys were pretty hungry by then. I also rarely missed a football game or a play. (I missed a few) On those days my number one focus was getting home or to the field etc. I very often got there ten or fifteen minutes late but the look on my kids face when they looked out in the crowd and saw me, priceless. Besides that-each day, write down your five most important goals for that day and find a way, everyday, to get each one of those goals done. More to it than that but if you take these steps I promise you, you’ll find more time than you thought you ever had.
James: Very true Jerry. I always struggle to find that balance but I remind my self that family is #1 and always try to make time for family chat. Missing a graduation is much more hurtful then missing a bed bug treatment. I love working but family has to come first. Now i just have to practice what i preach. Any good war stories?
Jerry: I have so many stories and as you can probably already tell- I talk a lot. I’ve written many of them in my blog under the topic area tales of the route. I have so many I also put them together in my first book titled what else? ‘Tales of the route.’ I’m happy to say I’ve sold a few copies of that one on my site as well as a short novel I just wrote this year. It’s a blend of true stories that have happened to me as well as an idea I’ve had for quite some time. This book is called ‘The Find’ and it’s about a termite guy who is deathly afraid of spiders. He gets in some real trouble when he comes upon The Find of a lifetime. It’s a fast paced thriller with a bit of comic relief. It’s a work I’m pretty proud of and so far it’s been received pretty well.
James: You’ve supplied us with so much great information. Its great to know so much more about the man behind the computer. Hopefully if you visit NYC anytime soon, you’ll drop by. Any last words Jerry?
Jerry: I can’t imagine doing anything else other than pest control and I think I’m in one of the greatest industries in the world. It’s been said that mankind owes its survival and opportunity to thrive to three things. Medicine, indoor plumbing and pest control. I’m proud to be a PCO, proud to do my part to fight for a pest free environment for my fellow man. I’m also very proud and humbled to stand with all the great men and women who also share this passion.