The president and CEO of Neighborly was selected as one of 11 entrepreneurs in the Central Plains region recognized on the E&Y Entrepreneur Of The Year list.
WACO, Texas — Neighborly, a franchisor of home service brands, announced its president and CEO Mike Bidwell was recognized as a Central Plains Entrepreneur Of The Year by Ernst & Young.
The business awards program recognizes entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies in more than 145 cities in over 60 countries. An independent panel of judges selected Bidwell based on his entrepreneurial spirit, purpose, growth and impact, among other core attributes.
“It is an incredible honor to be recognized alongside my peers as an Entrepreneur of the Year, and I am grateful for the resilient team and empowering culture we’ve cultivated at Neighborly that has stretched me to evolve as a leader,” said Bidwell. “Our business is continuing to thrive, and I’m proud to lead and work alongside the entire Neighborly network to take our vision to ‘Own The Home’ to the next level, positioning us as a leader in the home service industry.”
As a Central Plains award winner, Bidwell will now be considered by the national independent panel of judges for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 National Awards. National finalists and winners, as well as the Entrepreneur Of The Year national overall winner, will be announced in November at the annual Strategic Growth Forum. The Entrepreneur Of The Year national overall winner will then move on to compete for the E&Y World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in June 2023.
A list of the Central Plains winners can be found here.
Target Specialty Products will hold “Wildlife In and Around Structures,” a free business growth webinar, on Thursday, July 28, at 10:30 a.m. PST/1:30 p.m. EST, featuring speaker Marcus Johnson.
SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. — Target Specialty Products will host “Wildlife In and Around Structures,” a free business growth webinar, on Thursday, July 28, 10:30 a.m. PST/1:30 p.m. EST.
Marcus Johnson, wildlife expert, Target Specialty Products, will provide attendees with a basic understanding of the most common nuisance wildlife species found in around residential and commercial structures, along with a background on the impact and significance of wildlife and wildlife-associated diseases. Johnson will discuss regulations and safety practices required by pest control operators in providing these services and share strategies on trapping, exclusion and removal techniques.
Johnson is a technical sales representative with Target Specialty Products covering the Mid-Atlantic region. He received his bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife from Virginia Tech. Johnson started in the industry as a wildlife specialist for a family-owned pest control company. His responsibilities included selling and servicing residential and commercial accounts with a wide variety of wildlife issues and complaints. He then moved into a management role within the company’s distribution sector, where he traveled the East Coast training companies on wildlife trapping, exclusion and related products. With over 23 years of industry experience, Johnson now educates PMPs looking to expand their businesses. 
“We are excited to finally offer this highly requested educational webinar on wildlife with our very own wildlife expert Marcus Johnson,” said David Helt, president, Target Specialty Products. “With his decades of experience, Marcus will provide PMPs with all of the necessary strategies to extricate wildlife in and around structures.”
Attendees are invited to ask questions at the conclusion of the webinar. To register, click here.
To be added to the mailing list for future business growth webinars from Target Specialty Products, click here.
Sprague Pest Solutions granted $10,000 in scholarships to three recipients.
TACOMA, Wash. — To expand its commitment to continuing education, Sprague Pest Solutions created the Sprague Pest Solutions Scholarship Fund, which assists Sprague employees and their children in their pursuits of traditional postsecondary education, technical or vocational training. This year’s three recipients will share a $10,000 pool — an increase of $5,000 from 2021 — for their continuing education pursuits.
The 2022 scholarship recipients are:
“Sprague’s culture has created an environment that emphasizes ongoing learning environment and whole-person development,” said Leila Haas, director of people operations. “The scholarship program is another avenue for Sprague team members and their families to act on and achieve their educational aspirations.”
Scholarship applicants were asked to submit an essay describing what they have done to give back to their community, their most significant accomplishment and how it impacted their life and how they intend to use the scholarship to advance their skills, knowledge and abilities as they pursue their education. A committee of Sprague employees reviewed the applications.
Dave Bradford was appointed as the new CEO of Certus.
Certus announced changes to its leadership team, including a new CEO.
Dave Bradford will lead the company as chief executive officer. Bradford joined Certus in September 2021 as chief financial officer with experience in high-growth and route-based service companies, including pest control and pool service.
“Since joining Certus last year, I have been blown away by how much our team can accomplish balancing incredible growth with providing our customers great service,” Bradford said. “Our structural changes have been made to further support our mission to be an employer of choice, putting people first, while continuing to grow at a very high rate.”
New appointments to the Certus leadership team include Dawn Hammond as chief human resources officer, David Joles as vice president of operations, East, and Eric Chavez as vice president of operations, West.
With 22 years of experience as a human resource professional, Hammond will be focused on building depth in Certus’s HR capabilities to support current team members while onboarding new team members.
Joles and Chavez joined Certus with 57 combined years in the pest control industry and will focus on building strong teams to deliver quality service to home and business owners.
Amy Wilson will continue as chief operating officer.
Co-founder Mike Givlin will step down as CEO and move to an advisory role as a member of the board of directors. Under Givlin’s leadership, Certus has grown to place 18th on the PCT Top 100 List through acquisitions of 53 companies since the company’s inception in 2019.
Smith’s innovative marketing strategies and a commitment to community have helped put R.B. Pest Solutions on a fast-growth track.
CHICAGO — Robiar (or Robi) Smith is a true innovator in the pest control industry. Against many odds, Smith opened R.B. Pest Solutions in 2016 and has grown it substantially while becoming a widely recognized leader on her home turf in Chicago and as an active member of the National Pest Management Association.
In fact, Smith was recently a recipient of NPMA’s Impact Award for Women in Pest Management. 
Smith was introduced to the pest control industry by her mother, Dolores Benton, and her father, Michael Benton. Michael has been a technician since 1979 and worked at several different companies in Chicago throughout his career. He is still “rocking and rolling” with his tech work at R.B. Pest Solutions, said Smith.
Although Smith grew up in the industry, she never seriously considered getting involved until after completing her education and starting a teaching career of her own. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Roosevelt University and her MBA and master’s in information technology from Keller Graduate School. 
“I went out there and got every degree that I could get,” Smith said. “I never thought in a million years I would be in pest control.”
It was when Smith was teaching information technology and professional business development at a college in Chicago that her father suggested she apply these skills to the pest control industry. She possessed the necessary skillset to develop her own business, as she had experience assisting other people scale and grow their businesses. 
However, a major roadblock in Smith’s journey to success was passing the certification test.
“I failed it over and over again, to the point that when I got to the third time, I got serious about it,” Smith said. “The professor in me felt kind of cheated.”
This extra push towards the finish line was exactly what Smith needed to spark her passion. Upon studying more intensely, Smith said she fell in love with learning about the life cycle and “what pest control is really all about.”
It was also a major motivator for Smith, as a professor, to go through the studying process and see the “gaps and holes” in the education aspect of the industry, she said. Smith said that from the beginning, she hoped to contribute to the implementation of new curriculum, training and technology. From the advent of her company, Smith has made efforts to provide “transparency and education” to all her clients, she said. Presently, she is further achieving that goal by sharing informational videos to social media and walking her clients through the services she provides step-by-step.
Once Smith passed her exam in 2016, she did not waste a second.
“After I left that room, I immediately printed out business cards,” she said. “I created my website. I grabbed a vehicle. I started designing our logo, all our paperwork, everything. I just I created it all from scratch. I did it right there in my living room.”
Initially, R.B. Pest Solutions was composed of only three technicians: Smith, her father and her husband, Ahmand. Her daughters, Amaiya (21), Amari and Iman (twins, 19) are now heavily involved in the company, keeping R.B. Pest Solutions a family-run business to this day. During the past six years, the company has accumulated 21 technicians and nine office staff — 30 employees total. Also, the company has expanded into Indiana.
“It’s rapid growth over here. I’m excited about it,” Smith said.
R.B. Pest Solutions has made a name for itself and gained recognition largely through Smith’s unique marketing efforts. Smith said that her background in IT has given her a broad understanding of how to reach an audience using algorithms and formulas on social media. Smith emphasizes the importance of marketing and advertising to her entire team.
R.B. Pest Solutions is active on several social media sites, including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Smith said that she has attempted to make fun, engaging content for viewers who might not otherwise find pest control to be so “cool.”
Offline, R.B. Pest Solutions continues to make strides in its advertising. Besides billboards and radio appearances, the company has begun to receive television opportunities.
“We’ve been on Chicago Fire on NBC,” Smith said. “They reached out to us to do a bed bug episode last year. And we’ve been on Fox 32. We’ve been on there three or four times, and WGN, too. So, we’re making a lot of strides media wise,” Smith said. 
Smith’s passion for serving the greater Chicago community, and her familiarity with it, has been mutually beneficial to the company and the community. Smith is especially adamant about “giving back to the community” by serving urban neighborhoods in the city and providing tax-free extermination, she said. Also, Smith has made it a priority to hire local.
“I opened up the first office here in the neighborhood, and all of the techs and everybody have been hired and trained literally within the city of Chicago, in this neighborhood,” Smith said. “I want to be a part of the solution and hire and provide economic development in the community. My goal is also to just be a leader. I want to show that people that come from where I come from, which is the South Side of Chicago, can grow and scale huge businesses as well.”
Smith also attempts to connect with and uplift her competitors. She recently launched the PWIPM Chicago chapter for the sake of creating a collaboration, she said. 
“Here in Chicago, I’ve created a community with them,” said Smith. “So even though they are my competitors, I still think as an industry, we need to step back and make sure that we have a collaborative effort here so that we can stay on top of the technology, treatment plans and ways of doing things.”
This stride for community and collaboration is what earned Smith an NPMA Impact Award for Women, which she accepted in Nashville this April.
Smith has taken her desire to educate the community about pest control to the next level by launching a children’s book on the topic. The story of “Kodi BlackMan” is of a Black pest control technician who is a superhero by night. The book was distributed around Chicago to local daycares and schools. 
“This was our way to introduce pest control to children and talk about the lifecycle and just the industry in itself,” Smith said.
R.B. Pest Solutions also makes sure to participate in local career fairs and entrepreneurship panels to spread knowledge of the industry.
An upcoming project Smith said she is excited about is the launch of new R.B. Pest Solutions products such as mattress covers, which can be found online or in R.B. Pest Solutions select retail stores. 
“We’re trying to be a one-stop-shop for your pest control needs in the neighborhood and in the community,” Smith said.
Her goals are to continue supporting her community alongside the scaling of the business and to leave a legacy, “raising awareness for the industry and putting it in a positive light,” she said.

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