Olympia pest service wins SBA veteran-owned business award

OLYMPIA, Wash.—PCI Pest Control in Olympia has been named the 2020 U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Seattle District Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year.

Owner Matthew Purcell Sr. started the business in 2007 after retiring from the military, where he spent 20 years in the Active Guard Reserve Program supporting National Guard units in Alaska, Virginia and Washington.

PCI Pest Control provides residential and commercial pest and weed control services in Thurston, Pierce and Mason counties and contract work with state governments in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

Purcell was nominated for the honor by Ron Nielsen, a business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) who worked with Purcell from 2013 to 2019.

The Washington SBDC is a network of more than 35 expert business advisors working in communities across the state to help entrepreneurs and small business owners start, grow or buy/sell a business. The SBDC center in Olympia is supported by and co-located with the Center for Business and Innovation at South Puget Sound Community College.

“It’s truly an honor to assist veterans like Matt Purcell as they grow their business from a one-person operation to a thriving small business of value,” said Duane Fladland, state director of the Washington SBDC. “Businesses like PCI Pest Control, with its focus on doing the right thing for customers and employees, make our communities better.”

Purcell credits his military experience with pushing him out of his comfort zone and instilling in him leadership skills, a growth mindset and the determination to persist in the face of challenges. When obstacles arise at work, he said, he reminds himself, “I can do this. I’ve had to do way worse and it was way harder.”

Purcell started doing pest control work on a limited basis while still in the military, mostly to support a friend’s small business and earn some money on the side. After retirement, he decided to lean into what he was already doing.

Still, he said, in the early years he viewed his work more as self-employment than an opportunity to build a business of value. In his first year as a business owner, as a one-man operation, he earned $35,000. Then he met with an advisor with the Washington SBDC and started looking at things differently.

“(The SBDC) really helped me to grow and develop the business side (of the business),” he said. At the time, he was most comfortable just doing pest control work, he said, but his SBDC advisors encouraged him to spend more time on his business plan, financial spreadsheets, cashflow management, marketing and other aspects of business development that would help him grow.

Today PCI Pest Control employs 10 people and in 2019 posted revenue of $900,000. With the help of his SBDC advisor, Purcell applied for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) disaster loan and has been able to keep all his employees working without a reduction in hours.

Purcell’s first SBDC advisor was Celia Nightingale (now a Small Business Liaison at Washington State Department of Labor & Industries). In 2013 he began working with Nielsen, who recently moved from the SBDC in Lacey to the SBDC in Wenatchee. Purcell now meets with SBDC advisor John Morosco and says he’s benefitted from all three of his SBDC advisors.

“It’s always really good to have an outside perspective,” he said, “an outside voice.”

While an outside perspective is crucial in developing business strategy, much of Purcell’s focus is on employee development. Purcell’s mantra has become “Take good care of the customer and take good care of the team.” Along with providing on-going training and professional development opportunities, PCI Pest Control also offers healthcare and retirement benefits.

And giving back to the community is also a priority. Each year, PCI Pest Control completes two community service projects a year where they identify a partnership in the community and volunteer their services for free for an entire day. In 2019, PCI Pest Control volunteered with both the Lacey Community Senior Center and the YWCA in Olympia. Purcell has also been offering limited pest control services to people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

“We aren’t just here to make money,” Purcell said, “we are also here to integrate with our community.”

For more about PCI Pest Control.