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As we approach the end of the year, I’ve spent some time reflecting on our business and the changes we’ve seen since 2018. I also find it a valuable opportunity to think about our goals for the future and make plans for 2020.

The Support to Succeed

For a while now, I’ve been actively engaged with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Daytona State College. This invaluable group of professionals is dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs grow their businesses, boost our local labor force, and support the economy.

I had the good fortune to work with Maggie Incandela as my advisor and, under the direction of Jim Deering, have participated in The Growth Xchange, a roundtable of local business owners seeking to take their enterprises to the next level.

I mention the SBDC because they have helped guide many of the positive changes we’ve witnessed in the past year, and inform the decisions that will take us into the future. With their expert advice, we identified accomplishments and goals that contributed heavily to Universal Pest Control’s growth this year. The same managed growth remains our goal for 2020. Thank you, Maggie and Jim, for your thoughtful direction and support.

Last spring, we began to see an uptick in new customers coming to our business. This was the result of a new website developed by my friend Bill Payne and his staff at Drive Group LLC, and a digital content marketing effort developed by Grace Everitt of Grace Marketing Group.

As Bill fine-tuned our online image through our website, Grace began helping us with the Bug Blog and our Facebook page. These efforts led to the comprehensive website many of you visit and the Universal Bug Brief newsletter you read each month, both of which have been exceptionally well received.

Team Work to Make the Dream Work

The increase in new customers required us to hire additional staff.

Enter Jacob Wills.

Jacob joined our team as a technician in May after completing his contract with the US Army. He spent long hours with our other fantastic technicians, TJ and Chris, learning the termite and pest control trade.

Although Jacob didn’t spend a ton of time in the field with our stalwart 40-year veteran, Mike, I am sure the war stories” he heard made him think twice about staying on! Fortunately for us he did, and Jacob began running on his own as our fifth field technician in June.


Our next growth opportunity arrived in July, when a colleague told me of his plan to sell a portion of his business. Dan Kuenning of Service Pest Control offered not only termite and pest control accounts in southern Volusia County, but lawn and shrub care accounts as well.

It looked like we were finally getting into the lawn business!

We purchased the accounts in September and with a herculean effort by Larie (our receptionist and scheduler), Grace (Grace Marketing Group), Michelle (Service Pest Control), and my wife Natalie (office and accounts manager), we managed to get all the customer files successfully transferred into our operating software. (I will never cease to be amazed at how difficult technology can make some things!)

The lawn and shrub accounts require the full attention of one technician, and Jacob was drafted to take on the challenge. While eager to do so, his pivot left TJ and Chris with the additional work Jacob was hired to do…whoops! TJ and Chris stepped up to the plate without complaint, and I am grateful for their loyalty and strong work ethic.

Currently, we offer lawn and shrub service only in the southern part of Volusia County, though we are maintaining a waiting list for those in other areas. In 2020 we will begin to offer these services to those who have waited so long for us to develop a lawn care division.

As we look to the spring—and all the bugs it brings—it’s easy to see the need for additional staff. Our plans for 2020 include hiring more help for our office and, very likely, another technician as well. If you know of someone who may be a good fit for our team and company values, please send them my way.

Most of All, Gratitude

UPC has been a family business for over 25 years, and a lot has changed in that time. Just look at how much changed just this past year!

Change can engender uncertainty and believe me, I felt it at times. After all, success is never guaranteed, no matter how expert the guidance or thorough the planning.

The accomplishments of the past year have left me filled with gratitude: for our partners, our colleagues, our dedicated staff, and you—our customer. We would not be who we are without you! The opportunity to meet you, help you, and serve this community remains the best and most rewarding part of this job for me.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to reflect over your year, as well, and feel encouraged going into the New Year. Know that you step into 2020 with the very best wishes from the whole UPC team. Happy Holidays!

Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.

Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control