Big Growth Big Vision for South Sound Pest Control

OLYMPIA, Wash.–Father-son business partnerships are fairly common, father-daughter partnerships less so.

If online reviews are any indication, it seems to be working out well for Matt Purcell, owner of PCI Pest Control, and his daughter, Kaylee Purcell. Of 31 reviews, every single one is five stars and the comments are so positive that even if you don’t have pest problems, you kind of wish you did.

After working for the business on and off for years, Kaylee Purcell broached the idea of joining her dad on a full-time, permanent basis about eight years ago, when she was 18. PCI Pest Control was already a successful business, Matt Purcell said, but his daughter’s involvement has made a huge difference.

“Kaylee’s got a big vision,” said Matt Purcell. “She sees things in a different way.”

If not for Kaylee’s involvement, Matt Purcell said, he’d probably be coasting right now. Knowing she will own the business one day is great motivation to keep moving forward.

“One day she will be at the helm, and we want to get it right.”

And for Kaylee Purcell, she said she’s grateful for the opportunity to have a leadership role in an established small business with great potential.

In 2016, PCI Pest Control grew 61 percent over 2015, and in 2017 they saw a 24 percent increase over the previous year. “Or said another way we have seen a 98.76 percent increase in sales since 2015,” Kaylee Purcell said, and they are seeing increases this year as well.

In addition, PCI Pest Control was named Best of South Sound among pest control companies in both 2016 and 2017 in a competition sponsored by The Olympian and the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce. For the past two years they have also been recognized as a Thurston Green Business.

According to Matt Purcell the cornerstones of their success have been their professionalism, punctuality, thorough documentation and effective treatments. Over the past decade, PCI Pest Control has earned government contracts totaling over $1 million to provide services to agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Veteran Affairs, U.S. Army, Washington Air National Guard and the Washington State Patrol.

The company is poised for growth, but first, some history

Matt Purcell was stationed at Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis McChord) in the late 1990s when he first began doing pest inspections for a friend’s pest control business. It was definitely a side venture, a way to make a little extra money when time permitted.

In 2007, when Purcell was planning his retirement from the U.S. Army, he wondered if he could turn intermittent pest inspections into a full-time business. “I decided I was going to give it my best effort,” he said, “and I did.”

Early on, Purcell sought the assistance of the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and began meeting with Celia Nightingale, then an SBDC business advisor. Even though he started as a sole proprietor, his SBDC advisor encouraged him to think of PCI Pest Control as a business, not just a job. “Celia was instrumental in helping me change how I looked at my company,” he said. “She was a breath of fresh air.”

The Washington SBDC is a network of more than two dozen business advisors working in communities across the state to help business owners and entrepreneurs start, grow or transition a business. The Washington SBDC is hosted by Washington State University and receives funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as institutions of higher education and economic development.

The SBDC office in Lacey is located at the Center for Business and Innovation, a partnership of South Puget Sound Community College and the Thurston Economic Development Council. Nightingale is now director of the Center for Business and Innovation and Ron Nielsen is an SBDC advisor there.

“Matt and Kaylee are a wonderful example of a family-operated business that has succeeded in building a first-class business model,” said Nielsen, who has been advising SBDC clients for 17 years. “They are committed to treating each customer and their employees with integrity and respect.”

At the Center for Business and Innovation the Purcells also work with Tiffany Scroggs, program director for the Washington Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Scroggs helped the Purcells navigate the process of becoming approved federal contractors and securing  government contracts.

Kaylee Purcell said she’d never really thought of PCI Pest Control as a career opportunity until she enrolled in an entrepreneurship course at South Puget Sound Community College in 2009. While she and her classmates were trying to come up with business ideas, she realized her dad already had a good thing going.

A pest control business wouldn’t necessarily have been her first choice, she said. For one thing, she tries to live as chemical free as possible. But, she said, she realized that pest control services are a necessary part of public health, and she had an opportunity to bring her own values to an existing business that meets real needs in the community.

Since joining the company as general manager, Kaylee has focused on the business side of the business, but she also spent a lot of time investigating non-chemical alternatives to pest control. Matt Purcell has always been a proponent of prevention first, so Kaylee’s efforts have helped position them at the forefront of pest control companies offering non-chemical services.

Creating an employee friendly workplace

One area she is particularly passionate about is HR issues. Several years ago, the company was having problems with retention, so Kaylee initiated a systems approach to the problem.

“When systems are in place, things just work,” she said.

As a result of internal discussions and online research, Kaylee Purcell revamped their hiring process and implemented a number of policy changes, including allowing employees to work four 10-hour days. The company offers health insurance. Kaylee said she’s in the process of figuring out how they can offer employees a 401K.

Though the company is still small, with eight employees, Kaylee has set up HR policies and procedures that reflect a growth mindset. She handles quarterly performance reviews and expects every employee to set personal and professional goals. For instance, she said, one service technicians asked to be trained on office software and another committed to learning more about the lifecycle of specific pests.

The goal is to create a culture that people want to be part of, Kaylee Purcell said. “They work harder, they work better, and they stay longer.”

The Purcells meet with Nielsen every month to go over financial statements, strategic planning and whatever issues are important at the time, such as staffing issues, equipment purchases or new state regulations regarding employee sick leave.

“He’s been a great resource every time there’s been an issue that we are dealing with,” said Matt Purcell. Nielsen was especially helpful when he and Kaylee Purcell were investigating the cost of offering health insurance to their employees.

Matt Purcell first reached out to the SBDC when his business was just getting off the ground, but he expects he and his daughter will continue to meet with their advisor as their business continues to grow.

“Business owners can benefit from SBDC advising at any stage,” Kaylee Purcell said. “There is no right stage.”

By Hope B. Tinney

For more about PCI Pest Control, go to http://pci-pest-control.com/

For more about the Washington SBDC, go to https://www.wsbdc.org