The following interview was conducted by Simply Integrated, a company that champions the success of small businesses.
Learn from those who know: Interview with Small Business owner, Dave Mueller, founder and owner of Insects Limited, Inc. and Fumigation Service & Supply, Inc.
SI: What is the background to your company?
Dave: I have an interest in science and nature. It started as a boy playing in the nearby woods. I sorted through the possible majors in college and I enjoyed biology, environmental science, and entomology.
SI: What made you decide to go into business for yourself?
Dave: I was unsettled working for a small company in California. The company was located far away and I worked hard with little attention or recognition. After 4.5 years I knew I wanted to do something else. I could work for the competition or take a try at starting my own business. No one in my family had ever been a business owner, so I did not have an example to look up to.
SI: How has your company adapted to changes in the environment and industry?
Dave: Changes in agriculture move slower than in other industries. Pheromones were groundbreaking technology. They were interesting and novel. They used the natural communication of pest insects as effective monitoring tools. The industry had nothing like this in the past. Insects Limited led the way in explaining how to use pheromones correctly. “People who don’t know will buy from people who know.” – Orville Redenbacher
SI: What one word or phrase best describes your expertise?
Dave: Persistent. Insects are very persistent. I watched them and found them to be a good example to work by. Also, “No” is not a word I understand. “No” means “maybe.” And if you never give up, “no” will change in form.
SI: How many employees did you start with? How many do you have now?
Dave: We started with 2 employees. Bob Springer answered the phone and started as a bookkeeper. He also helped on weekend fumigations. My biggest cheerleader was my wife, Mary Beth. She helped in many ways. Today we have 50 employees.
SI: What is your favorite responsibility in your company?
Dave: Making payroll 1800+ times. It is the satisfaction that the employees (and me) and their families had a job and a good income to reach their goals and wants. The second thing is knowing the people on a personal level. No one works for me, they all work with me. That is very important in any business, big or small.
SI: What products/services do you offer?
Dave: We are a sales, service, and light manufacturing (pheromones) business. We help reduce customer complaints. If a product has insect issues, we study the biology of the particular pest and offer it what it does not like. It will then leave or die. Solutions include toxic treatments or non toxic approaches. That is why we have two companies—Insects Limited and Fumigation Service and Supply. The two complement each other.
SI: What is your most important asset?
Dave: My most important asset is my wife and family. They make my life complete!
SI: Do you believe a company should ever turn customers away? If so, in which circumstances?
Dave: Yes. We have fired large companies that waste our time and tarnish our reputation. There are some mean-spirited companies with terrible attitudes about their service providers. They squeeze your people and make them dislike their job. No one should wake up each day disliking their job.
SI: What do you look for when considering any kind of investment for your business?
Dave: We set a goal over 35 years ago to be debt free. We didn’t borrow from the bank to get started. However, we used profits to pay what we could afford. We bought used trucks and turned out the lights when we didn’t need them. We apply this German attitude toward spending still today. Do we need it and can we afford it? Small businesses pay large taxes on income. The taxation system makes you spend your profits or pay 40% in taxes. So you flush your profits by investing in your business rather than taking a bonus. Also, a new employee, if he/she is a good one, can be a great investment in your business.
SI: How have you become a leader in what you do?
Dave: The world is a big place. By visiting 70 countries and meeting the quality companies in my very narrow discipline (stored product pest management), I can watch and listen carefully. If someone has a good idea, I try to get closer to them to understand them better. Longevity in the same discipline helps. How many people anymore work for 41 years in the same field?
SI: How much capital did it take to start your company?
Dave: $2,000 and people who believed in me.