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Greenleaf Organic Pest Management | Mark Puglisi

Mark been in the pest control industry for 35 years and in 2004 became the first person in the US to obtain the new Associated Certified Entomologist certification, holding number A0001. His extensive background ranges from field work, technical trainer, branch management, operations manager, and vice president. Mark has also served on many State and Local committees over his carrier as technical advisory for California’s Structural Pest Control Board, and appointed in 1999 to head up a task force for L.A. County Agricultural Commissioner on the Africanized Honey Bees (AHB). He also helped author the Study Guide and IPM program for Schools. He holds Br-I, II and III licenses and recently added his QAL license for agricultural landscape.


future house

The Future of the Home Industry

Technology growth in the home construction has taken off over the last 5 years in my opinion. Automation seems to be what people are the most interested in. So called "smart homes" have everything from high tech security systems, appliances and comfort control that can be operated and programmed from smart phones to tablets. In the pest control industry this is no different. It seems many of today's pest control advancements have also included these things, with trap monitoring, bar code readers for service records, and QR readers for customer use, like label information or technical info. Today's advancements allow our services to be even more convenient for the client and the technician. Knowing when a rat has been caught in an attic by way of a silent signal sent to the technician, can eliminate the odor issues associated with a trap that may not be checked for days, now can be responded to in a timely manner.
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Designing a Home from Scratch

I'm rather surprised that a small percentage of new homes think about termites and the damage they do, especially when 2 out of 3 homes have termites. Pre-treating soil before the foundation is poured, or built can protect your structure form subterranean termites for years to come. The use of Borates is ideal to apply to all wood members before stucco or some other siding material. Consulting with a pest control expert during the planning stage can assist greatly in mitigating pest issues down the road, but the sad truth is not many even consider this service. There are two types of homes...Ones that have termites and ones that will. Consider pre-treats before you do anything else in your planning stage.
refuse project1

Refusing to Do Projects

As a service provider, sometimes we are faced with issues that go beyond the scope of service or aren’t related to pest at all. Our industry is highly regulated by local and state requirements. Many of these regulations are not always followed by other pest control companies. One of the things we will not do is treating for a problem that doesn’t exist, which we call No-See-Ems, or Mystery Pest. Potential clients call for what they believe to be “bites” and wanted treatment. Unfortunately there are companies that are happy to take your money without inspecting or confirming a target pest. This is a requirement before any application of pesticide can be made. Many issues that get blamed on pest are actually not pest at all. Some can even be psychological such as Mass Psychogenic Illness. I have seen my share of this over the past 35 years and always struggle with it, because the individual actually believes that “bugs” are responsible for their skin lesions. Our goal is always to resolve our client’s issues when related to pest control, but sometime that just isn’t possible. I’m always saying “How do it know”…Just this moment I received a call from one of my senior techs sharing his second inspection of the day. He responded to a general pest call for roaches on the inside of a home with 4 children. Sounds pretty routine, until he started to tell me how badly the sanitation was and the living conditions of this individual. Hording is another serious mental issue we come across that will keep us from gaining any kind of control in a home. Controlling nesting sites, sanitation and availability of food are essential to controlling just about every pest issue that we as an industry run across. We can easily explain this to someone, but not everyone can take the action needed to improve their situation regardless of their understanding because of this illness. Our technician wanted to help, but knew that he doesn't have those tools on his truck. Honesty isn’t always about business ethics, it’s also about humanity issues, and not always easy to communicate.

Best Resources for Home Improvement Professionals

I’m fortunate to be in a very technical industry, so resources are plentiful, such as Universities, manufacturers, advisers, state boards, local regulatory agencies, etc. The Internet can be a great help with some things in life, but the truth is there is a lot of bad info out there because no one has to fact check the info. We all have our preferred sources when it comes to help when we need it, and some of it can be protected from company to company. Social media is another great way to establish connection with others that may do what you. Following blogs are another great resource that can establish authority among a specific trade or service. The good thing about all this is you’re never really alone, so you can always reach out for help in so many places.
project pride

Getting Started in Home Improvement

Getting into the pest management industry was about timing for me. You see I was having a late dinner at a very well know restaurant chain with my wife. I was just back from the Military and between jobs and noticed a crew of pest control guys waiting for the restaurant to close. My wife said, “You know, you would be good at that because you like to work with your hands”. So the next day I applied at that company and the manager hired me on the spot, that was 36 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Our industry back then wasn’t as hard to get into as it is now, but never the less you must be 18, and you are required to have at the very least an applicator’s license that certifies that you have the basic training to handle restricted materials and know about safety. My Dad taught me a lot about life and work and always said “no matter what you do in life, even if it is to push a broom, be the best damn broom pusher there is”. So I quickly realized that the training I had was not going to work for me. I needed to know more than just how to provide an exterior treatment to a home. I needed to know EVERYTHING about my new profession and off I went. I eventually obtained my Br-I, II and III license and also my QAL agricultural license. I soon found myself managing one of the offices I worked in and then realized that I hit the top of this company, if I wanted to go forward I needed to move on. I worked my way up the ladder to Vice President and General Manager of a local pest control company for 13 years. I continued my schooling and became the first in the US to obtain a new certification as an Associate Certified Entomologist. The pest control trade has been good to me and my family. One reason is bugs don’t watch TV or care about the economy, so there will always be a need to protect the homes and businesses from harmful pest. We are true environmentalist and have been a key contributor in extending the life expectancy of our population through reduction of diseases. There are many schools and resources now available to those that seek out a carrier in this industry. Many companies offer trainee positions to get you in the ground floor. Most that I have met over the years stay in the industry, but may move on to another company.
within the law

Working Within the Law

Pest control is a heavily regulated industry which leans towards environmental issue and public health. We have seen a huge change in our industry with entire class of chemicals disappear from our tool boxes. Even recently the laws have changed in application sites being taken away to some degree for concerns of runoff issues. One of the other issues that is tough to get around is many clients are not aware of these changes and still demand that we treat areas the way they want regardless of what laws are in place because they are paying the bill. Many pest control operators have come and gone because either they can't afford the changes, or just don't want to follow them. Unfortunately, like many other industries, regulations are ignored and corners are cut, which puts their customers at risk. We know the label is the law and we follow those regulations, and we lose business every now and then because of it as long as "bubby" is out there. Safety is the most important factor in our business. Always check the local governing boards for the contractor your considering to use and check for complaints.

Ridiculous Customer Stories

Our industry is a highly technical and regulated by about 15 different local, state and federal agencies. Most clients really don't understand these rules and regulations that pertain to the products we use, the training that is required to obtain a license, and the amount of hours of continuing education to continue providing our services. The most frustrating part for a technician is being told what to do and how to do it. The level of training to be licensed technicians is very extensive and covers everything from insect biology, pesticide safety, equipment, application technique, label comprehension, MSDS, rules and regulations, and guidelines set by the Structural Pest Control Board. Many times clients want things done their way, often being a violation of the label or methods outside good business practices. I've seen homeowners do some very dangerous things with store bought pesticides. One of the worst I have seen is a homeowner had fleas inside his home, but didn't think our method would work, so he had Chlordane (highly toxic termiticide from back in the day and now banned). Poured the full strength product into a Rug-Doctor machine and used it to clean his carpets!!!!! When using any pesticide the old saying "a little is good, so a lot must be better" does NOT apply in our business. Safety to our clients and technicians is the most important aspect to the services we offer.

Dangerous Jobs

Life in general is dangerous, but in my profession the level of danger is always there when dealing with insects, wild animals and the equipment we use to provide our services. I have seen some horrific accidents in my day. I think the worst was a young technician back in the late 70’s (yes I’m that old) was sent out to take care of a bee hive in a client’s attic. He discovered a large bee hive in the attic and decided to use a very dangerous product, Cyano dust (made from cyanide) typically used to treat ground dwelling rodents. Cyano dust actually turns into a toxic gas. The tragedy was this technician was wearing a respirator designed for organic vapors, much like they use in automotive paint shops. The filters are not rated for gas, so when the tech applied the duct to the bee swarm using a bulb duster, the bees became immediately agitated and the current of the attic changed because hundreds of bees taking flight all at once sent the dust directly in the face of the tech and killed him in a matter of seconds. He left a 6 month old baby and wife behind. Pest control services can be very dangerous when labels are not followed. Homeowner’s should leave this job to the professionals. I have seen homeowners use a product that is designed to be mixed in water but just sprayed it out directly from the container at concentrations hundreds of times over the label rate. Many of the services we provide involve ladders, . bird exclusion, chimney caps (keep critters out) and of course bee hives. Personal safety is the most important aspect of most jobs, but we also have to make sure the very client we are working for stays safe before, during and after our work. Bees can become a hazard to people on the ground and should be aware of the work before it starts. Many times the hazards aren’t immediately know, such as wild animals. Our termite inspectors can contest to that. Crawling in attics and subareas performing termite inspections can often be met with wild animals such as skunks, rats, snakes, raccoons, opossums, cats, and bats. Not only is the live animal an issue, but their droppings can be even more dangerous. Many diseases are associated with animal droppings. Always use caution when taking on a new project, review the area you will be working in and take note of anything can be a potential safety issue. When in doubt, call a professional.

Learning from Mistakes

I certainly have made my share of mistakes, but what you do about them is the key to learning from them. I have always told my kids and employees, making mistakes is how we learn, what I am concerned about is making the same mistakes over and over. It also is a teaching opportunity if you share the mistake with someone else. Mistakes don't have to be a negative experience if you turn them around and find the positive in them. Most mistakes I've made are repairable without too much trouble. Mistakes can be caused my many things such as not following policy and/or procedures, that's why they are in place. We are all human and mistakes are just part of life. I typically look at a mistake I have made and try and figure out where things went wrong and then figure out what could I have done to avoid this? The troubling thing about mistakes is someone has a need to point fingers and plays the blame game. Take responsibility in your actions and you will have greater respect the next time you make one. The fault in making mistakes is not taking ownership of them. We all make and we all will continue making them, so make a point to learn and move on from them and your wisdom will grow.
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Aging in Place for Homeowners

As a baby boomer myself I can see the needs for changes in the home as I grow older and less "flexible"(yeah, lets call it that). Certainly any remodeling that you plan, you would want to consider these special needs when your dealing with any contractor. Some of the things you may want to look into would be sink height, space under cabinets for those that require a wheel chair, showers, tubs, assistance rails, ramps, etc. My specific area of expertise isn't really dealing with these things, other than there can be preparation work that the homeowner would need to do, but may not be able to physically handle. Home shows for special needs can have lots of ideas and products that are available and incorporated into any plan. Do your homework first, make a list of the things you may need. It's a lot more cost effective to make the changes and additions the first time.
phone calls

Common Customer Calls

Certainly, calls are opportunities even if you only provide advice or an ear. In my business we get calls for all kinds of pest issues, but many times people believe they have a pest issue, especially when one thinks something bit them or another member of the family. We call these mystery pest or in our industry we call them "noseeums" My blog is loaded with info about this issue. I went as far as putting together a 3 page list of all the things suspected bug bites can be. We also deal with the occasional issue of delusions of parasitosis, which is not in our field. Many pest related issues can be handled by the homeowner and without the need of a professional. Sanitation, caulking, door strips, screens, removal of debris etc. can eliminate pest intrusions and infestations. Having a link on our site for folks to "Ask The Expert" gives them a quick resource for asking questions, without a fear of commitment. Phones are more than a way to speak to another person. With smartphones, which are mini computers, the resources are almost endless when they use features such as photo and video transfer on the fly (no pun intended)helps get answers almost instantly. I recall in my day having to send out bug samples for identification, which could take weeks. We do have dozens of the same calls everyday, and clients feel better that they are not alone with others facing the same challenges. Unfortunately, some companies see phones as an interruption, we see it as an opportunity and a tool to fix those challenges.

Upcycling, Recycling and Removing Old Junk

It seems now a days you can recycle just about everything and anything back into use. Land fills are filled with items that have recyclable value, but many homeowners don't know where to go. Paper, aluminum cans and bottles use to be what people thought recycling was. The number of new products out there is staggering that have been reborn form old, unusable products. From cloths to cars to just about anything you can think of gets a second chance of making back into your home. With the way the economy and employment is, many people have become experts in the field of recycling. A great resource is your local recycling center who have list of items that have value in recycling. Even hazardous waste, such as paint, oil, pesticides,and batteries no longer target dark alleys for dumping. With the many "no questions asked" roundups in most cities you have resources, and most are free. Just about any appliance that had better days, have recycle value. The number of trucks I see that have "we pick up metal" are growing everywhere. So, contact your local recycling center and load up all your stuff and you may even make a few extra bucks!

The Keys to De-Cluttering

Great subject, especially how it relates to pest control business. Clutter is a homeowners enemy in many ways. The vary word clutter, can be made up of many things. I typically see clutter as "items that will no longer likely be used" but we hold onto it. But if you absolutely need to have it, and in the home, then there are lots of smart choices that can be used to make these items and the space in which they are stored more organized. Garages seem to be the first stop for storage. Best practice is to store items in sealed containers, such as boxes or plastic tubs when possible. Be sure to mark your boxes, such as holiday decorations, books, etc. Place these items that require frequent access in easy locations and staged according the the frequency of use. As a pest control professional, storage is a homeowners worst nightmare when it comes to resolving issues of pests, especially rodents. If you have lots of containers that will not be used often, consider a storage unit rental. Garage overhead space products are excellent for keeping things off the floor and out of the way. Wire rack style shelving helps view items from below and avoids horizontal surfaces that gather dust and possible nesting sites for all sorts of pests. Inside storage is always a challenge, so there are many products, such as Rubbermaid tubs that fit under beds and are clear, so items like wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, gift bags, and tissue paper can be all in one area and out of the way. Some of the biggest pest issues can start under beds, because they are one of those "out of sight, out of mind" places. Having storage inside rolling tubs make it easy to remove and clean under regularly. Shoes and purses take up a lot of space in most homes, so proper storage can condense the space needed for these items. Using plastic, clear, shoe size tubs make this a great option for that shelve over your cloths racks. Closet organizing companies or DIY kits are great for adding storage in these spaces. Papers and documents take up tons of space, even if you have them in filing cabinets. With todays technology products like NeatReceipts, (neat.com) a document scanner can make your world paperless and free up clutter, and at the same time organize all your paperwork. Clutter organization is about what you need, want and must have, so separate your items and organize accordingly.

Making Your Man Cave

I can hear Tim The Tool Man Taylor's grunt with the mention of a Man Cave. Whether your into sports, cars, or woodwork, garages are a man's hangout, especially mine. I enjoy working in the garage, especially in the evenings when it is a bit cooler and after a long day at work. I recently was in the garage with the garage door open and no sooner than the sun dropped below the horizon, the bugs started to fly through the open door towards my lights. As an Entomologist during the day, I didn't need the reminder at night what I do during the day. So the following day I started to research what options I had other than closing the garage door. I quickly found many types of screen doors designed for this type of application, so I would suggest that you make a list of Man Cave uses and review not only what you will be doing, but when before you start any construction or remodeling. Electrical needs is very important, and may call for a sub-panel for current or future uses, such as air compressors, big screen TV, welding units (some require 220V) and any other "tools of the trade". Having plenty of outlets is very important as well as convenient. Will you be needing water? If your going to install a sink, you need drains. These are the things that can add up the cost of your project, especially if you try and add these things later, such as a bathroom. I've seen some really nice garages turned into a Man cave, but over looked an important aspect...Permits. What goes up, will come down if you forget, or try and do it behind closed doors! Storage is likely going to be needed not only for your stuff, but don't expect to control ALL the space in the garage. Where are you going to put your holiday decorations, the kids toys, and the junk you will likely never use again? All part of the planning process.
unhappy clients

How to Handle an Unhappy Client

We all would like to think that we can make every experience a happy one, but then again we know that is just not possible. There are many reasons people become "not happy". Most situations can be avoided by making sure communication is clear and you listen to what your client wants or is looking for and make sure they understand what they can expect when you complete the transaction. Listening skills are as important as your product or service and require your utmost attention, this is why we have two ears and one mouth. Yes, I have had those customers that I felt noting is going to make them happy, especially when they become abusive and rude on the phone. No one wants their employee to have to endure this type of behaviour, and as an employer, we have an obligation to not subject them to a "hostile environment, and need to intervene these rare calls. Thank goodness these are few and far between for the most part. I have had my share over the 35 years of challenging issues to try and resolve if something didn't go as promised. I look at complaints as an opportunity. Many people just go away when they are happy, some go to the Social Media sites to express their side, but when they come back to you to complain, then you have an opportunity to not only meet their expectation, but to exceed it. Most companies do a pretty good job providing their service or product, but the test comes when you don't. I've learned that if something goes wrong, then the true test of a company is in the resolving phase. Now does this always end on a happy note, of course not. Giving your staff the authority to do whatever is required to make the client happy is important. When you discover that you have an issue that needs to be resolved, that should be done with the one that receives the complaint, rather than passing it off to someone else, even if they are above you in the business chain of command. When you empower your employees to resolve conflict, it keeps them invested and rewards them with the ability to resolve it rather than hand the phone to the boss and say "here, I can't make them happy". Handling complains is a skill that comes with practice unfortunately, but if you never have to deal with complaints and just hand them off, this can be a factor in generating complaints. If you are the one that will resolve it, you can also be the one that avoids it.


Refusing Projects: Home Expert Awards

As a service provider, sometimes we are faced with issues that go beyond the scope of service or aren’t related to pest at all. Our industry is highly regulated by local and state requirements. Many of these regulations are not always followed by other pest control companies. One of the things we will not do is treating for a problem that doesn’t exist, which we call No-See-Ems, or Mystery Pest. Potential clients call for what they believe to be “bites” and wanted treatment

Future Home Industry: Home Expert Awards

Technology growth in the home construction has taken off over the last 5 years in my opinion. Automation seems to be what people are the most interested in. So called "smart homes" have everything from high tech security systems, appliances and comfort control that can be operated and programmed from smart phones to tablets. In the pest control industry this is no different. It seems many of today's pest control advancements have also included these things, with trap monitoring, bar code readers for service records, and QR readers for customer use, like label information or technical info