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THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER

Professional Pest Manager is offering readers an opportunity to upskill in a new and potentially lucrative area of business: lawn care.

When walking towards the front door of a home, you are normally thinking about the job on hand – the pest control treatment or inspection. However, more often than not, you are walking past a great upselling opportunity: lawn care.

The lawn care opportunity

In the US, combined pest control and lawn care companies are quite common. Admittedly the service model in the US is a bit different to Australia, with many customers on a quarterly or even monthly pest control service. When you are with your customer on such a frequent basis, providing lawn care services becomes a very obvious option to maximise your business opportunity.

This may not be common at the moment in Australia, but the market dynamics have changed somewhat over the last ten years. The relatively recent explosion of lawn mowing companies illustrates that homeowners are increasingly time poor, but still want to have a nice looking lawn and garden.

However, lawn mowing is but one aspect of lawn care. Many of these lawn maintenance companies simply mow the lawn and tidy the yard. A few may apply fertilisers, but very few companies will provide complete lawn care services. The main reason being that this requires knowledge, equipment, licensing and insurance. Most lawn maintenance companies do not have this knowledge and many have no intention of getting trained and licensed.

In contrast, pest managers already have some knowledge in this area, at least from an insect point of view. They also have most of the equipment required to carry out a treatment and in many cases are also covered by their current licence. They are also ideally positioned with homeowners who care about their property, as they are already providing pest control services. Indeed, it is quite common for pest managers to be asked about pest problems on plants or in the lawn, as homeowners trust the pest manager and see them as a pest expert.

So there appears to be an opportunity.

The current state of play

Results from the recent Pest Pulse lawn care survey indicated that only around 20% of pest managers o er some degree of lawn care service (Figure 1).

Figure 1: How many pest managers offer lawn care services?

However, of those that do some type of lawn care treatment, the focus (unsurprisingly) is on insect treatments in lawns. Around 50% of pest managers offering lawn care provide some type of weed treatment services and only around 20% provide disease treatments and fertiliser applications (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The lawn care services offered by pest managers

Of those carrying out insect treatments to lawns, ant treatments are the most common type and indeed for a quarter of these pest managers, it is the only type of lawn treatment service they provide. Although not asked in the survey, funnel ant and green-headed ant treatments would probably be the most common. Other pest managers also offer treatments for fleas, ticks, armyworms and lawn beetles. However, less than 10% of all respondents provide comprehensive insect treatment services for lawns, giving the response ‘whatever is required’ when asked what services they offer.

Of the approximate 10% of pest managers who provide weed control services, around two thirds o er to control all types of weed, with the remainder only focusing on specific weed types. Again, although not asked in the survey, presumably these would be the common weeds such as bindi, clover, dandelion, cudweed and creeping oxalis

Only four respondents provide services to deal with lawn diseases. This is perhaps not surprising, as it is probably the area of lawn care that requires the most knowledge and expertise. Not only is disease identification more of a challenge, but successful treatment normally requires a series of applications and potentially ongoing management. Only companies committed to providing comprehensive lawn care services can generally offer such treatments.

However, it is fairly straightforward for a pest manager to enter the lawn care market by offering insect and weed control services, especially with a bit of help.

Training to grow the industry

Certainly those who completed the survey indicated there was a great desire to learn more about this opportunity – 97% of respondents were keen to receive more information and training. Even those pest managers currently involved in lawn care are looking for more formal training, as most had picked up their knowledge through in-house training or being self-taught. Respondents identified the preferred routes of receiving this information and training were through Professional Pest Manager magazine and specific training events.

Professional Pest Manager magazine is committed to supporting the industry and helping pest managers grow their businesses. So we are pleased to announce that the Lawn Care segment will become a regular feature in the magazine. Information will be provided by industry experts on the various aspects of insect control, weed control and other aspects of lawn care. Of course, if readers want us to cover specific topics, please let us know.

In conjunction with an expert industry partner, training seminars are in development and will provide pest managers with comprehensive training in all aspects of lawn care. Most importantly, the training will also include guidance on the various business models pest managers may want to consider when entering this market. This will provide pest managers with both the knowledge and confidence to tap into this opportunity and grow their businesses. More information will be provided soon.