One’s tolerance for critters can range from nonchalance to high anxiety.
“I love animals,” said Jacob Borg, “including insects.
“Once, when my kids were young, I saw a praying mantis in the driveway. When my daughter went to step on it, I grabbed her and asked, ‘What are you doing? Don’t kill it!’
“I’m fine with things living outside around my property,” Borg said. “That’s nature.
“But if they’re hanging around my doorknobs, or laying eggs in the corners of my garage, I’m going to solve that.”
And as owner of Post Falls-based Pointe Pest Control, Borg has plenty of solutions at his disposal.
This time of year, falling temperatures may encourage four-, six- and eight-legged would-be guests to look for winter lodging.
“But it’s a misperception that pest problems are seasonal,” Borg said. “We get calls year-round about almost every pest you can imagine.”
During a recent interview, he identified which pests generate the most calls from customers and which are the hardest to eradicate.
S-R: Where did you grow up?
Borg: In Boise.
S-R: What were your interests?
Borg: Baseball and the outdoors.
S-R: Did you have a favorite class in high school?
Borg: No. I liked socializing, but I wasn’t fascinated by schoolwork.
S-R: What career did you imagine for yourself?
Borg: At one time, I was interested in orthodonture, only because I knew orthodontists who appeared to have a good life.
S-R: What was your first job?
Borg: When I was 14, I worked in food service at a home for seniors. I mowed lawns before then, but that was my first paycheck. Later, I worked for an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) company, hung rain gutters and built concrete panels used for commercial buildings.
S-R: Did you go to college?
Borg: Yes. Boise State.
S-R: What was your major?
Borg: I studied business and marketing, mostly because I didn’t have much direction. In order to pay for college, every summer I went door to door, drumming up business for Orkin Pest Control. That was my introduction to this industry. I don’t know that I believed pest control was a good thing or necessary. It was a means to an end. In 2001 – my last summer selling pest control for someone else – I earned about $90,000 working straight commission. When I graduated, I had significant equity in a house and no student debt.
S-R: What do you recall about that job?
Borg: It was the toughest kind of work on the planet. Every summer, I would move to Florida, California, Virginia, Louisiana for four and a half months, and I would knock on doors for 10 hours a day – sometimes longer – six days a week. I also had paperwork. That’s not a job a lot of people are stoked about.
S-R: How about after college?
Borg: I went to work as an enrollment counselor for the University of Phoenix in Boise. It paid significantly less, but at least I had a life beyond knocking on doors.
S-R: What brought you north?
Borg: When the University of Phoenix opened its Spokane campus, I came here as director of enrollment.
S-R: How long before you launched your own company?
Borg: About two and a half years. Pointe Pest was started in 2005 by a group of former Orkin contractors. The first location was Seattle, and I went door to door one summer to raise money to start my own business. At one point, there were 15 locations. Now there are three: mine, my brother’s in Chicago and a friend’s in Philadelphia, and we’re all independent. The other locations were sold to Terminix.
S-R: How much did it cost to launch your business?
Borg: Maybe $30,000. I bought a truck and all the equipment, and started selling.
S-R: Were you successful right away?
Borg: Yeah. I had to be, because I had a young family and a mortgage, and I’d quit my job at the University of Phoenix. Within two months, I hired my first employee.
S-R: What lessons from previous careers transferred to this one?
Borg: I’m an observer, and with each job I’d say, “I want more of that in my life,” or “I want less of that.”
S-R: Such as?
Borg: When I worked at the University of Phoenix, I had some strained relationships with people in other departments. And I remember thinking, “I want fewer challenging relationships and more fulfilling ones.” As the owner of a company, I now get to hire the people I’m around every day.
S-R: What qualities do you look for when hiring?
Borg: I don’t care so much about someone’s education or work history. I ask them to tell me about a problem they’ve solved and how they arrived at that solution.
S-R: Anything else?
Borg: We want people who are friendly and can communicate so that customers are comfortable letting them in their home to treat ants or spiders in their bathroom.
S-R: What do those jobs pay?
Borg: Our technicians can earn $30,000 to $55,000 a year.
S-R: How many of your technicians are women?
S-R: Are you hiring now?
Borg: Oh, yeah. All the time.
S-R: What pests generate the most calls?
Borg: Ants and spiders, followed by mice and wasps.
S-R: Does one treatment solve the problem?
Borg: Generally speaking, no. Weather impacts what we do. Sun, more than anything, breaks down the products we put out. Most residential clients pay us $90 to $120 a quarter to treat their home.
S-R: How about bedbugs – one treatment?
Borg: My instinct is to say no, even though there are times when one is enough. But bedbugs are very tough.
S-R: What do you like most about your job?
Borg: The people I work with.
S-R: What do you like least?
Borg: Sometimes it’s a burden to be responsible for a big operation.
S-R: What’s the best idea you’ve brought to your business?
Borg: Knowing exactly what I wanted to accomplish – having clarity of purpose.
S-R: What’s been the biggest surprise?
Borg: Everything. Back in 2006, I never imagined I’d have a fleet of almost 90 vehicles.
S-R: What has this job taught you about yourself?
Borg: That I can’t do everything myself.
S-R: Lots of people have personal phobias. Do your employees ever say, “That’s one problem I don’t want to deal with”?
Borg: Some guys say, “Don’t put me on the bedbug team.” It’s not so much about the pest. Bedbugs end up in every kind of housing imaginable. But some of the situations – apartments and rentals – can be really rough.
S-R: What pests are most difficult to eradicate?
Borg: A lot of conditions impact our success with ants – type of construction, weather, access to areas where ants are living, and people’s personal habits.
S-R: What business challenges lie ahead?
Borg: We have a saying: “Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.” We’re growing, and that’s exciting. But we’re not interested in growing at the expense of the quality of our service.
Writer Michael Guilfoil can be contacted at email@example.com.
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