Getting to know you: Paul Bates

What to you currently do?
I am the managing director of Cleankill, a pest control company covering London and the Home Counties directly, but offering a national service using ISO9001 and 14001 accredited sub contractors. We deal with all public health pests and birds in commercial, retail and industrial properties. We specialise in dealing with property and facility managers.
What is your inspiration in Business?
Having brought up my two children on my own for the last ten years, I have had quite a need to succeed in order to supply them with their ever growing needs during their teenage years and beyond!
My main motivation has been to build a company that can be trusted to provide the quality of service that the customer has been promised – at the right price for the job! I get very frustrated when the big companies start undercutting prices purely to get the work – it devalues the industry as a whole.
For instance, a pub chain of over 3500 properties has just taken a contract which is about £80 a year per property…that is £10 a visit! You have to ask what quality of service can be expected for that amount of money.
Who do you admire?
People like Richard Branson who seem to have maintained a feeling of enjoyment in the brand he has grown and stayed in touch with reality, but still has an extremely driven personality….and companies like Google seem to be places where employees enjoy going to work.
Pest control is not the most glamorous of industries, but we want our staff to be proud of their work and to feel fully rewarded. We pay them above the industry average, give them and all dependants private health care and a pension scheme, and also a death in service benefit and 25 days holiday a year….not a bad package overall!
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
So many of the decisions that you make in business you can look back on and think that maybe you should have gone the other way, not taken on that contract, not taken on staff so early, terminated that bad debt customer sooner, but it is no good looking back unless you are learning from it….every day you are where you are and have to move forwards and that means constantly making new decisions….which you only know were right or wrong in the future, when you look back at them!
What defines your way of doing business?
Honestly! I hate it intensely when a customer complains that we haven’t done a job to their satisfaction! Quite often this will happen because of a lack of clarity in what has been sold – the difference between realities and expectations.
For example, in the lovely world of pigeon fouling removal for instance, we will remove all loose fouling and treat the staining to make it safe for workers to go into an area, however, we are not stone cleaners and the acidic nature of bird fouling means that staining remains. So if this has not been explained to a customer fully, they expect to be able to eat their dinner of the surfaces after we have been in.
I want my customers to be happy with the service we provide and to feel that we communicate clearly and concisely with them…so much of the work today is about good communication and paperwork!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Avoid all of the advertising promises that get made…especially nowadays with the promise of SEO work to get you on page 1. If page one was 30 metres high then we would all be on page one.
It takes a lot of work to get noticed on google and if you are promised overnight success…don’t believe it…even more – don’t pay for it! Also…always stay in touch with all levels of staff that you employ…you can’t manage somebody successfully if you don’t know what their job involves….