Bug Doctor Crushes Fleet Costs
Before launching his own business, Stuart Aust's biggest problem was that his professional opinions frequently clashed with those of his employers at larger pest control companies because he knew he was usually right.
"I wanted to go into my own business because I was the kind of guy who had a hard time taking orders from people," Aust says. "I told my wife the only way this was going to work was if I owned my own company."
Aust went into business for himself 17 years ago in Paramus, N.J. Now owner and president of Bug Doctor Termite and Pest Control, Bird Doctor, Mosquito Doctor and Animal Doctor, his company is closing in on $4 million per year in revenue and has 40 employees. However, it took Aust about five years to turn a profit after building his company from scratch.
Aust operates a fleet of 27 vehicles, which includes Ford Rangers and F-150 pickup trucks. The F-150s carry termite and power spray rigs. Managers and inspectors drive Volkswagen Beetles and Aust drives a Hummer H2.
Employees run three routes through Manhattan on a daily basis. The company also services Yankee Stadium and residential and commercial accounts in New Jersey.
Fleet Promotes Safety, Professionalism
A key to Aust's success is promoting professionalism throughout the company, starting with his vehicles, which he turns over every three years. Aust covers his pickup beds with caps from Suburban Caps that have shelving and tool bins on the sides. "We're paying a little more," he says. "But they've held up better. It makes for more pride with our technicians."
Inspectors and managers wear ties and the logo on their shirts. "We service a lot of high-profile accounts, including ConocoPhillips, Rockefeller Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The more professional we come across, the more it sets us apart from the competition," Aust says.
To ensure driver safety, Greg Tenhove, the company's quality control manager handling all regulatory affairs and licensing, performs monthly Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety classes in the parking lot. He covers everything from wearing respirators, bump hats, harnesses and driver safety training to assigning safety videos to new employees.
In the beginning Aust bought his trucks from dealerships, but says he got frustrated when he couldn't get the trucks with the exact set of options he wanted. Though his trucks are uniformly white with a blue logo, one dealer suggested he try a blue truck and invert the logo color. No way!
After talking to members of his trade association, he discovered better deals and alternatives. Because he prefers a new fleet, Aust chose to lease rather than buy. "Some of these other companies are riding around in 15-year-old vans and you think, who would ever call this guy for service?"