Extermination company thrives in third generation
Quarterly planning keeps Batzner on track
According to studies of family businesses, most don’t survive to be passed onto the second generation. And of those that do, only 10% are still operating after the third generation. That’s why the success of Batzner Pest Management, New Berlin, is so remarkable. President Jerry Batzner, who bought the company from his parents in 1990, ramped up sales by 10% last year alone. The firm’s 2002 revenue figure of $3.4 million landed the company on the 91st rung of Pest Control Technology magazine’s list of Top 100 extermination firms nationwide in May.
The company’s service mix differs from national extermination giants such as Orkin and Terminix in that 85% of Batzner’s work is for commercial accounts. Batzner Pest Management has a fleet of 36 vehicles that cruise southeastern Wisconsin and portions of lake country, zapping miniature livestock as they go.
However, unlike the pests his company persecutes, Batzner is not one to roll over and play dead.
"A lot of times, people look for the easy way to stay at the status quo," Batzner says. "But success is not going to happen on its own. You can’t spend a lot of time on the golf course unless you are selling golf clubs. Without hard work, you will float and keep your head above water — or perhaps sink a little."
Since taking over the company, Batzner has focused on taking the firm up to the next level. He has implemented an integrated marketing communications campaign, and three years ago Service-Marked a name for the company’s approach to pest elimination – Balanced As Nature (BAN).
In a small company, staying focused on big-picture goals amid the realities and challenges of day-to-day business is a struggle. And that’s why Batzner began working with consultant Phil Mydlach to facilitate quarterly planning sessions.
Like business-book author Jim Collins, Batzner recognized the need to keep himself and his team focused and working vigorously toward big-picture goals — and avoid sinking into complacency.
Collins compares successful companies to a flywheel, where, as Collins describes in his book Good to Great, a sustained momentum accelerates the energy, allowing an enterprise to move farther and farther ahead.
"With Jerry’s business, one of the objectives is to improve follow-through in execution," Mydlach says. "In so many organizations, people know what to do. But one of the killers is that there is a lack of sense of urgency. One of the things Jerry wanted to do was improve the execution and the follow-through."
Batzner says that his goal is to take the foundation that his parents laid and build a machine on top of it that would continue to serve customers consistently and deliver growth and profits.
"I think they laid the groundwork that the customer is king and that if you take care of the customer, you will be rewarded," Batzner says. "But we can’t just leave it there. You can never rest on your laurels. Every day is a new day, and you are only as good as you are today."
Batzner and Mydlach work to infuse Batzner’s enthusiasm company-wide.
"Some organizations know what their issues are, but they don’t understand the relationship between those issues and the financial results," Mydlach says.
An outside presence, such as a consultant, can help a small company articulate its mission, Batzner says.
"That is where our quarterly operational planning process comes in," Batzner says. "We meet offsite with all the managers and set up goals for the next quarter."
The company’s progress toward its goals are reviewed at each meeting, and according to Batzner and Mydlach, the resulting peer pressure helps nudge managers along.
"Just the fact that you have to reconcile with your peers – it gets people to sit up a little straighter in their chairs," Mydlach says. "Their team did a good job. They did a wonderful job in their follow-through. But when people know they have to review their progress in front of a dozen folks, we want them to understand that if there are any missed goals, they will have to explain what happened, what they are going to do differently, what support they can get from others."
Batzner Pest Management, Inc.
Education: Bachelors in business administration, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Company’s annual revenues: $3.5 million
Role model: Parents, Al and Gloria Batzner
Leadership philosophy: "Treat others how you would like to be treated, and never rest on your laurels, because you are only as good as you are today."
May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee