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WINNING WITH A FOUR-DAY WORK WEEK

Pest manager and business owner Shannon Grohs shares his insights on what it takes to create an efficient business that operates on a four-day work schedule. 

When Gippsland Pest Management was established in 2013 in rural southeast Victoria, its founder, Shannon Grohs (second from left, main picture) was dedicated to building a business with outstanding customer service at its core. “Pest control is like owning a coffee shop,” he says. “People can make their own coffee but if you sell the coffee with a smile and solve their problems, they will always come back.”

As well as striving to deliver excellent customer experiences, Mr Grohs also had a very clear picture of how his work week would look; no more weekends spent working overtime for little pay or being stuck in traffic outside of official work hours. He wanted to be in control of his time and to strike a balance between work and home life.

Before entering the pest control industry, Mr Grohs had a very diverse work background – with jobs ranging from carpenter and handyman to graphic designer and draughtsman – which had exposed him to the joys of being a contracted employee, working a four-day week but being paid for five. In creating his own business, Mr Grohs was able to establish his own way of working, which included a fixed four-day work week.

Growing the business

In 2016, with the business experiencing rapid growth, Mr Grohs was required to hire new staff. Like many small start-ups, the decision to take on a staff member was daunting. “With the business so focused on providing great customer service, it was integral to our success that any staff shared the same vision,” said Mr Grohs. “It was a turning point for me, as I made two key decisions: my new staff members would only work a four-day week of ten-hour days, and secondly, that these hours would include travel to and from the jobs.”

Now with two staff members, Mr Grohs believes that those decisions have contributed significantly to the growing success of the business.

For employees Nigel Judd (far left, main picture) and David Burns (far right, main picture) the working day runs from 8am to 6pm, with jobs booked in between 9am to 4pm. This means the technicians get paid as soon as they hit the road in the morning and until they’re back home in the evenings. Each employee has one fixed day off each week – the same day every week.

Good for staff, good for business

Mr Grohs believes having a four-day work week brings numerous benefits. “We find that our staff tend to leave their personal business and admin tasks to their day of during the week, which means that while they are at work they are engaged and ready to work.

“Between the two technicians, we have had one sick day in over two years. The ultimate result of this is that our clients haven’t been let down because someone is too tired and run down for work.”

For technicians with young families, they have the flexibility to give their partner a ‘time out’ day, or to go back to work part-time without the expense of daycare. “It’s important as employers that we recognise the need for families to have two working parents in today’s society and to understand the restrictions this can place on an employee,” adds Mr Grohs.

A balancing act

Despite having a four-day work week, it was essential that Gippsland Pest Management could still o er services to clients six days a week.

“Historically we found our busiest days were Mondays and Fridays, so we wanted to keep a full team on these days,” explained Mr Grohs. From this, the scattered work week was born with one technician having every Tuesday off, one technician having every Wednesday off and one technician having every Thursday off. “No one will ever be asked to work overtime or work on their day off– that day is always theirs,” he added.

What about when things get busy? Mr Grohs admits that scheduling a four-day work week can have its challenges, especially over summer. For his partner Tara Kiker (second from right, main picture) who handles the bookings on a day to day basis, it’s a delicate juggling act.

“The secret to our success with customers is knowing their history,” explained Ms Kiker. ”Our internal systems have the ability to tell us who is calling and identify when their last job was, which technician they had and key notes from the treatment. This information immediately puts us ahead of the client before offering a time and day for the technician to come out. With customers often preferring to have the same technician, this helps us avoid booking jobs for the preferred technician on their day off.”

Having spent so much time in the eld over the years, Ms Kiker also has the experience to ensure that all jobs are actionable on the day, with the technicians having the right equipment.

“Another key aspect to our scheduling is that the schedule is updated in real time – the minute a job is booked and allocated to a technician he can see that job in his schedule. This allows our technicians to plan their days in advance and ensure their trucks are fully stocked for the jobs coming up,” she added.

Making customers happy

Summer is busy for every pest control company, and is also the time when the business gains the majority of its new clients. Therefore it is essential to deliver the very best service to ensure those new clients become ongoing clients. Around 60% of Gippsland Pest Management’s turnover is generated from repeat clientele. Mr Grohs believes that marketing to an existing client is less costly and more successful than continually seeking new clients.

He regularly receives positive feedback about the team and the pleasantness of the technicians when dealing with clients – something that Mr Grohs believes is fully accountable to his business model.

What advice would he give to other pest managers thinking of setting out on their own with a four-day work week for their staff? “Commit to it at the beginning. Be prepared for it. Customers often want the same technician for callbacks but if it’s the technician’s day off, you have
to honour that. Start out as you mean to go on, stick to it and make it work!

“It’s hard in the beginning when you might have to turn down a job but if you’re doing it, go at it a hundred per cent.”

With Gippsland Pest Management entering its sixth year of trading and with over 2500 customers, Mr Grohs feels confident that he’s doing something right.

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