Pesties in Cars Getting Coffee
Welcome to our Pesties in Cars Getting Coffee series of videos, where Tom Aldridge, the owner of Suburban Pest Management (he's the one driving) and Oscar, our Videographer & Content Creator (Guess what?... he's the one holding the camera!) get coffee and answer some questions that we frequently get asked about Suburban Pest Management, the pest control industry, and Tom himself.
Join Tom and Oscar for a bit of caffeinated Q&A.
How did you get started in Pest Control?
I got started the way a lot of people do, which is my parents started the business nearly 30 years ago. When I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just thought I would do this for a few months, but it is now 15 years later and I am still in it.
What is the SPM Story?
My mum and dad started the business in 1994 and when I finished school, I started in the business. My parents' focus was providing a quality service because it is a pretty competitive area, North Brisbane. Then a few years out of school, Kahlee (my wife now but my girlfriend at the time) started in the business, and when we were 23, we took over the business, and just extended on that, trying to focus on a quality service, looking after our clients, looking after our staff who look after our clients, and we have been fortunate enough that SE-Qld is such a busy area for pest control, we have grown year on year.
What's your worst Pest Control Story?
I have probably got a lot of interesting stories, but the worst for me is the countless times when I have found termites in a building. I would hate to be in that position, you can see the traumatic experience that knowledge brings. I have lost count the number of times people have been crying while I am trying to explain how to fix the problem. That is the worst of it, seeing the experiences that people are going through, so I always recommend getting ahead of it, and doing something before there is a problem.
Other times it could be just serious infestations such as a really bad cockroach or rodent job, where there is a crazy amount of activity.
What are your thoughts on the Pest Control Industry?
I think it has come a long way in the last 20 years, from being a ‘cowboy’ industry. Fortunately, it is still considered an agricultural industry even though most of it is commercial or residential work. So in terms of it being recognised as a trade or heading in that direction, there is still a lot of work to be done. The training still needs massive improvement and a lot more quality control regulations are needed. Overall, it is improving all the time and is heading in the right direction, it is an industry on the up. Pests don’t go away, unfortunately for people, but fortunately for us in the industry, there will always be a job for us.
How do I treat Termites myself?
The obvious answer is don’t. Avoid it. It is one of those I don’t recommend you do yourself. There are pests that you can treat yourself. The rare occasions where you can get away with it is when there is quite clearly a nest in the yard somewhere. You could potentially find the right product and treat that nest directly. But nine times out of ten, or more often than that, you are only finding a few live termites, you are not getting to the heart of the problem, which is the nest. So treating them with anything that is not going to get rid of the nest is only going to make the problem worse and they’re going to pop up elsewhere, certainly in the home. Termites are one of those pests you just can’t do yourself, and I would recommend you seek professional help.
Do you endorse the DIY approach?
I do actually. There are plentyof people out there who like to do things on their own; some people like to build their own cabinet, their own fence, their own house. For those who are inclined, they’re going to do it anyway, so I’ve actually created a series of videos where we encourage people to do it themselves safely and give them tips on the right way. As I said previously, not so much with termites, but cockroaches, spiders, rodents, those sorts of pests, you can get away with doing it yourself if you follow the right process. Once the problem gets to a certain level where the activity level is too high, you are going to need to get professional help, but otherwise, happy to give you tips, and then when you get stuck, you can still call us.
What is your best memory at SPM?
Well, apart from the day when we interviewed you Oscar, when you were late, you missed the train, and it was pouring down with rain, you still got the job somehow!
Some of the best memories are obviously taking over the business, when Kahlee and I bought the business from my parents, that was a very memorable and exhilarating experience. But probably in 2021, winning the Australian Pest Manager of the Year, to be recognised by our peers in our industry was obviously our coolest achievement to date.
How was it dealing with the pandemic?
It has certainly been challenging, it’s been up and down for the past couple of years. At times, it was more jobs cancelling than booking, and we didn’t know what tomorrow or the next week would look like. But then in other times, everyone was home because of lockdowns and they noticed pests, so then we became busier than ever because everyone was booking in jobs. It’s been a challenge, but in saying that, operating safely, following safety procedures, wearing the right PPE, masks, that’s not really new to us. So the team have responded really well in making adjustments and being able to continue to carry out pest management right throughout the whole pandemic, and it has been really great to see.
What does the future of SPM hold?
It is an interesting question, we are growing all the time. We’ve got more than 40 in the team now and probably will have close to 50 by the end of the year, so growth is definitely the direction we are heading in. The way pest control is done hasn’t changed a great deal in 20 years, but that delivery from the way you receive clients, the way you communicate with them through technology, those definitely continue to change. So, continuing to evolve our service or our delivery of service is definitely the focus into the future.
What have you learnt in the 10 years since you took over?
I have always known, but what I have learnt, is definitely that I couldn’t have done it without Kahlee by my side working together as a team. I’m the face of the business a lot of the time, my mug’s on the camera, but the reality is Kahlee has been doing just as much as I have and we have been a team the whole time. But over that time, as we’ve grown, I have realised that we need the support from the team around us, we can’t do it all ourselves. We've been getting the training and the systems in place so that as people come on board, we can explain to them what the business is all about, what our service is about, and get them up to speed as quickly as possible. We have grown to a point where we are now more of a capability business than a business reliant on Kahlee and I, so we need people who are actually more capable than Kahlee and I to do the work in different areas. The more we develop our training and systems, the more effective that outcome has been.
Just to finish up, Tom, what is your favourite TV show?
I think Married at First Sight is just about all done and dusted so I am not sure what is next on the horizon. Maybe some other drama, we will see.
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