Company reaps benefits of innovation

JOE HOTCHKISS/STAFF Bo and Dena Thomas worked their way up at Advanced Services to become the company’s vice president and president. They have been married for more than 14 years.

For Bo and Dena Thomas, one of the most rewarding parts of running a pest-control business is seeing innovations benefit their employees.

 

“Once you get to the size where you can have a staff, and you see them develop and start to get it, it’s pretty rewarding to see them pick it up and learn the business end of it, not just the technical,” said Bo Thomas, vice president of Advanced Services. “I mean, there are only so many ways you can kill a bug.”

One policy Advanced has implemented is open-book management, in which a company provides its relevant financial information to its employees. It gives workers a sense of company ownership.

“They see all of our financials and get trained on what they mean, and how to read a P&L, and what a balance sheet is,” Bo said. “So they really become business partners. They get to see how the business actually works. It’s pretty interesting.”

Also, profit bonuses are shared among all employees instead of individually, which encourages teamwork and a commitment to success.

“It makes it so we’re all rowing in the same direction,” said Advanced Services President Dena Thomas.

Those policies and more helped Advanced Services, earlier this year, win a place among the Best and Brightest Places to Work For, and an Elite Award for Work-Life Balance. The distinctions are bestowed by the National Association of Business Resources.

Another example: In 2013, the company changed the way its technicians check in.

In most pest-control businesses, the worker goes to the office in the morning, goes out on calls, returns to the office to submit paperwork and have it checked, then goes home.

But Advanced realigned its work groups and retrained all their technicians. Now workers can print their paperwork from home, leave home directly for the day’s first appointment, perform work transactions by smartphone, go home, send their paperwork to the office, and fetch their work schedules for the next day.

Now technicians show up at the office mostly for weekly team meetings instead of checking in at least twice a day. Also, employees with families gain more time at home with their children, and don’t have to spend time and money on daycare.

Advanced rarely hesitates to innovate. Perhaps the biggest example is how it changed the way it exterminates termites.

The more traditional method has been to crawl under a house, bore holes and pump in hundreds of gallons of liquid termiticide.

But in 1999 Advanced’s owner, Jeff Annis, switched to Sentricon, a system that uses in-ground stations baited with a slow-acting chemical that interferes with a termite’s ability to molt, which kills the termite.

“We all thought Jeff was crazy when he rolled out that we were going to be Sentricon only – we weren’t going to pump another drop of liquid termiticide,” Dena said. “In fact our Dow (Chemical Co.) rep, who sold us all the termiticide, and introduced us to Sentricon, told Jeff he had lost his mind – that there was no way we would be sustainable if we didn’t do any more liquid termite work.”

The Dow rep was wrong. Advanced sold more than double the amount of Sentricon that year than it did liquid treatments the year before.

“We’re not afraid to innovate and change things,” Dena said.

 

Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or joe.hotchkiss@augustachronicle.com

 

More