Dave Haarsma, co-owner of The Bug Guys, chats about the perks and challenges of his career
Photo: Dave Haarsma
DAVE HAARSMA IS co-owner, along with Shawn Lawrence, of The Bug Guys. He started the business in 2012, after working at a large pest control company for four years.
Haarsma, 40, spent his early years in London and his teenage years in Ottawa. He returned to London at 21. He and wife, Nichole, have a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. They are expecting their third child soon. The other family member is a golden retriever named Jake. Not surprisingly, much of Haarsma’s non-working time is devoted to his family.
There are pests year-round, but what challenges does summer bring for you and your customers?
Pest control can be busy year-round, but the summer is insane. Everyone needs you there yesterday and everything is an emergency. The biggest challenge for us is prioritizing those emergencies and providing help to those customers in a timely manner. No one wants to wait three weeks if there is a wasp nest outside your door.
Which is more common, commercial or residential customers?
It’s a pretty even split. Our commercial customers rely on us for proactive solutions. We look at structural and sanitation deficiencies that may promote pest activity and help to clear up issues before they start. Our residential customers generally contact us to resolve a current issue, at which point we work with them through education and proactive treatments to help maintain a pest-free environment.
How did you get started in this business?
Like most pest control technicians, you either fall into it or you know someone. The someone I knew was Shawn [Lawrence]. Once I had the opportunity to learn about pest control through Shawn, I felt it would be a great fit for me. It combined my entrepreneurial skills with good old fashioned hard work. I learned the skills starting in 2008 and then combined them with my goal of being my own boss in 2012. After a few years of building a solid foundation, I partnered with Shawn who played a big role in helping to take our company to where it is today.
Describe your average workday.
Every day I have a set amount of contract calls to do. In and around those calls I schedule sales meetings, as well as what we call ‘one times,’ which can be anything from an inspection to removing a wasp nest to treating a home for bed bugs.
What’s the worst situation you’ve encountered?
Well, to the average Joe, most pest control situations aren’t pleasant. I mean, who wants to crawl into an attic knowing there is a raccoon up there and it’s your job to remove it? For me, I’ve dealt with everything from a home infested with rats to an infestation of flies resulting from a deceased individual.
Has increased environmental awareness changed your approach?
Yes and no. We work hand in hand with our local health board and the Ministry of the Environment to ensure everything we do is within safe regulations. We have a saying: ‘You can’t throw poison at the problem.’ We like to find the source of the pest issue and take the appropriate steps to fix it. This helps limit pesticide use and influences the mindset of our customers in the future.
Do you have any phobias or pest-related fears?
Bats! I don’t like bats.
Best part of your job?
Getting to meet new people every day. People are interesting.
Paperwork. We document everything from a small amount of debris behind a fridge to the amount of pesticide we use and where it has been applied. Interview by Christopher Clark