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Interview: Tom Swift, COO, Mosquito Squad

Interview: Tom Swift, COO, Mosquito Squad

The chief operating officer for Mosquito Squad reflects on this year’s challenges, and how they’re preparing the franchise for a successful future.

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GF: What are the most vital components of a well-run organization?

TS: At Mosquito Squad, there are three vital components to a well-run organization – marketing, sales, and production. We visualize these three components as gears working together. Each gear must be in sync, properly greased, and rotating at the same speed as the other gears for the machine to work properly.

If any one gear is out of sync or not properly greased or rotating a different speed, the entire organization will suffer. For example, the marketing team’s goal is to produce leads; however, if those leads are coming in faster than the sales team can handle the calls, there is lost opportunity.

If the marketing team and sales team are in sync, but the production team cannot take on new customers, you will have lost sales. At Mosquito Squad, we pride ourselves on knowing the formula for making the gears work smoothly and in sync so that each franchise organization can flourish.

GF: What does success look like for you?

TS: As chief operating officer of Mosquito Squad, success for me is centered on three areas – franchisee revenue growth, franchisee unit growth, and creating a culture of unity and alignment of purpose.

In any well-run organization, the success of the franchisee should be the main priority. Revenue growth includes both top-line gross revenue growth as well as bottom-line net revenue. I have found that profitable franchisees are happy franchisees.

In addition to driving franchisee revenue growth, we must focus on expanding the breadth of the Mosquito Squad population. Our goal is to be the dominant player in our industry and to get there we need to expand the reach of our brand across the county.

Finally, culture is critical. Franchisees want to be understood, appreciated, and feel like a partner with the corporate office. Creating a culture of unity and alignment on why we exist, meaning our purpose, is critical to our success.

GF: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your organization?

TS: The coronavirus pandemic created uncertain times for all small business owners. While many small businesses suffered during this crisis, Mosquito Squad was deemed an essential-services and was able to continue to operate.

While we faced many challenges in 2020, such as dealing with PPE shortages, product delays, and licensing restrictions, we were blessed to be able to provide our mosquito and tick barrier treatment service to homeowners.

With shelter in place orders in each state, families spent more time at home and in their backyards. As a result, we saw a systemwide sales increase by more than 20 per cent in 2020.

During this crisis, we learned to be flexible, fast-moving, and to prepare for uncertainty. We are already stocking up on the products we need for 2021 in the event we see another major outbreak.

GF: Where do you see your brand in five years?

TS: Our goal is to be world-class. Specifically, we have set a goal to be world-class in three main areas – world-class training, world-class sales, and world-class operational execution.

We are currently working on strategies to reinvent our training to be virtual and on-demand. By doing so, we will be able to train more franchisees, more often, with fewer restrictions. We are designing our sales training programs based on the best of the best in our organization and rolling out these programs to all of our franchisees.

Finally, we are redefining how our franchisees operate so that they focus on the core items that make the biggest impact on their top line and bottom-line revenue. With our world class focus, I believe that we are going to see exponential growth in our systemwide sales and unit growth. My goal is to grow to 400 units producing $200m in systemwide sales in five years.

GF: What are the biggest challenges facing your organization today?

TS: At Mosquito Squad, we are a seasonal business with most of our franchisees operating from April through September, while others operate March through October. Our biggest challenge is and always will be attracting and retaining qualified employees who are willing to work with a seasonal company.

Beginning in February of each year, our franchisees will hire approximately 1,000 seasonal technicians and more than 200 sales agents. We have to be really good at finding qualified candidates, training efficiently, and getting our new employees up to speed on company policies, procedures, and protocols. We have developed predictability tools that allow our franchisees to forecast labor needs and sales agent needs months in advance based on the existing marketing lead volume.

These tools allow franchisees to constantly recruit during the season based on the demand that will be coming. This proactive approach to hiring allows our sales teams to be properly staffed to handle the call volume and our production team to be staffed to handle the treatments.

GF: What advice would you have for an entrepreneur looking to embark on a career in franchising?

TS: If you are an entrepreneur at heart and have a desire to be your own boss, there are several pieces of advice that I would give:

  1. Over-capitalize your business at the beginning. Many young entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to start a business on a shoe-string budget. If you are strapped for cash, you are going to make poor decisions. Figure out the capital needs for the business and double it. You will never regret having too much capital, but may lose everything if you have too little capital.
  2. Each day you are not working to make your business better, someone, somewhere is and when you meet them in business, they will win. Owning a small business is very hard work and it takes dedication and discipline. Too many young entrepreneurs fantasize about the flexibility of being your own boss but neglect to think about the countless days and nights and weekends that are consumed with the business. Success is not easy, and it takes hard work, discipline, and constantly working to make your business better.
  3. Begin with the end in mind. This is classic advice from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Know where you want to go and then create a plan on how to get there. A pilot would never take off in a plane without a flight plan. He would also have alternative courses in the event of bad weather. Similarly, a business owner should envision what success looks like for him or her and then create a plan of action with alternative routes.
  4. Have no regrets. For many, the entrepreneurial spirit is something that they are born with. Often times, people are too afraid to take the leap of faith to enter the small business world out of fear of failure. Failure is only when you do not learn from your mistakes. If you are considering starting a business, ask yourself – if I don’t do this, will I regret it later in life? If the answer is “yes”, do everything you can to make your dream of owning a business come true.

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