Angel Rodriguez, a biologist who had worked both as a lab technician and in human resources for Abbott Labs, was downsized in July 2005.
He was “fed up with the corporate world” and wanted to start a pest control business so he could work for himself. Rodriguez knew pest control, having worked part time in his father’s extermination business since 1988. He was well-prepared in other ways to go into this venture: he already owned the necessary equipment, had cash reserves to get started, and was within one test of receiving his state license. SCORE counselors Phil Hartung and Tom Woolley, “pointed me to explore my competition, marketing, pricing, budgeted expenditures, forecasting, business bank accounts and reasons to choose Rodriguez Exterminating as your pest control service,” he explains.
SCORE is a nonprofit association of successful business executives who provide free one-on-one counseling, teach low-cost workshops and supply other resources to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
First, Hartung advised Rodriguez on essentials to start his company. “Phil helped me get organized and to prioritize,” Rodriguez said, “laying out what steps to take first (pass the exam, apply for license) and what to do next to launch the business.” Hartung also emphasized the importance of “writing it down and following through.”
While the new business owner felt he just needed sales, Hartung worked with Rodriguez to create a budget by thinking through related expenses and doing projections. “If you’re really going to do this, you need a plan,” Hartung told him.
Together Hartung and Rodriguez also analyzed his competition and identified his opportunity to offer a bilingual service. Rodriguez Exterminating now has flyers and business cards in both English and Spanish. “Phil and SCORE counselor Anibal Merino also opened me up to possibilities beyond Waukegan,” claims Rodriguez. “I’ve even got customers coming from Highland Park, Lake Forest and Gurnee because of my quality service and customer satisfaction.”
Hartung further urged Rodriguez to think that “everybody is a customer” and this philosophy is paying off. On a recent trip to Target, Rodriguez started talking to a friend who turned out to be a facilities manager of a church needing pest control. Rodriguez Exterminating provided him with a business proposal. The mentor and entrepreneur also decided Rodriguez should target certain businesspeople for leads: “Phil has got me talking to real estate brokers, because no one wants to buy a house with bugs.”
Most important, Hartung described ways that Rodriguez could gradually take over clients from his father when he retires and compensate him in the process as an agent or independent contractor. Rodriguez was grateful to be able to think through the delicate issues of merger and compensation with someone who was unbiased.
Since the spring of 2006, Rodriguez Exterminating has been in full swing, helping both residential and commercial clients in Lake County with pest control services.