Following on from an interview with the Rentokil Initial CEO, we spent some time speaking with Andy Ransom, Rentokil Director, about the future of pest control, the future of Rentokil and finding out a little more about the man behind the title.
CM: Almost 6 months in ‘the job’ – and with a better than expected 2009 – how do you feel 2010 is looking, and how we are doing in relation to the 3-year strategy?
AR: We are making steady progress. In the first Quarter of this year our revenue was up 2% on last year, and our profits were up around 15%. Our cash performance was also good. The key challenge for 2010 is our level of sales growth, which we must improve.
We are making steady progress, but the key challenge for 2010 is our level of sales growth, which we must improve.
Our 3-year plan is doing well against our 5 strategic thrusts. We have clear projects with clear action plans; there are 32 of these across the business, so there is a full agenda. We won’t be adding any more material projects for a while – we have plenty to be getting on with.
The future of pest control
CM: What particular challenges do you consider the pest control industry around the world faces?
AR: I think the industry has several challenges, but in many cases these are also opportunities.
Firstly, the marketplace – we are operating in a number of markets with very tough economic conditions.
In these markets we will continue to win by being absolutely focused on serving our customers well and by keeping our costs as low as we can.
Another challenge we face is from lower-priced competition who are far less interested in the quality of service provided to their customers than we are.
We have an opportunity to raise standards in the industry through innovation and providing value-adding services.
We have got a great team at Rentokil, many of whom are now spending an increasing amount of their time seeking to find innovative ways to add value to customers though focusing on new services and products supported by some leading edge IT!
CM: Do you see Rentokil playing a major role in shaping and leading global pest control in the future, particularly in relation to the Global Public Health agenda and the control of vector-borne diseases?
AR: The concern regarding vector borne diseases in underdeveloped countries is particularly significant and requires a response from many stakeholders such as the WHO, EC, governments, commercial enterprises and charitable institutions like the Gates Foundation. We are starting to have a dialogue with a number of these stakeholders to better understand the potential role for our organisation.
Diseases like dengue fever and malaria are major problems again, and despite millions being spent on developing effective malaria treatments, in some parts of the world resistance to antimalarials is increasing. The most effective way would be to stop the disease at its source.
Rentokil pest control has some world-class experience, expertise and capability in the monitoring and control of mosquitoes, and we have case studies of putting this into practice from Singapore, Spain and now Libya. This is an important area for our division in the future.
CM: What is the role and future of technology in pest control?
AR: Innovation is firmly on our agenda and we are driving this through collaboration between technical, marketing, commercial and IT colleagues.
The pest control of the future will rely less on chemical treatments and more on pest prevention through surveillance monitoring and targeted application of modern pest control techniques.
We are unique in having our own world class Technical Centre in the UK which is very busy working with many of our colleagues around the Rentokil world.
The future of Rentokil
CM: Of particular interest to me, as Head of Rentokil.com, is your ‘take’ on the website. What contribution do you think it makes to the business and how important do you think it is in our overall strategy?
AR: The web is a phenomenally important channel for Rentokil and for the last few years it has been used mainly as a marketing tool.
We are now increasing our success in driving enquiry traffic from the web and the more we focus on: quality sites, SEO and the ease of navigation for customers; this will result in increased web footfall.
Using the web as a sales channel is important and we are ahead of a number of competitors – but we aren’t the best in class – yet.
We shall soon start transacting business on the web via our residential offering with the “Self serve” facility operating in the summer for UK residents.
Specifically we are planning a trial roll-out offering wasp nest and ants removal with, the whole process of requesting a job and paying for it will be done online.
CM: Rentokil’s contract with the Libyan government has attracted much interest from the media and was the big story of 2009. What do you think the big story of 2010 will be for Rentokil?
AR: It might sound unexciting, but I am not looking for a headline story for 2010. I would be content with hitting targets of delivering service and delighting customers and continuing the development of our values and colleague engagement agendas.
So yes, it’s more about a year of delivery rather than making headlines.
CM: How do you see the role of Rentokil in the ‘fortunes’ of Rentokil Initial?
AR: The Rentokil Pest Control Division is obviously vitally important to the overall success of the Group.
To many people, Rentokil is the flagship business of the PLC – ask most people what Rentokil Initial does and they will say it’s a pest control company.
What I find particularly exciting right now is that all of the sister divisions across the Group are beginning to work together in a way that they haven’t in the past.
Recently, we went “on the road” with the other divisions and have put plans in place with respect to cross-selling activities.
We now have a country governance model and if the Chair of the group is a pest control manager they report to Peter Slater (Washrooms Director) and if they are a washrooms manager they report to me. This way we can share expertise and resources and really start working together with a one-company approach.
CM: Ambius now also comes under your Leadership; what, if any, influence do you think one business can have on the other?
AR: There are opportunities for Pest Control and Ambius to work together, they previously had the relationship of parent and child when Ambius was a part of the Pest Division but are now more like siblings.
There are cross-selling opportunities and co-location of branch facilities as well as the sharing a number of back office activities. It also gives us a wider network to share best practice.
For example in North America, John Myers (Rentokil North America President) and Jeff Mariola (Ambius Divisional Managing Director) are now working together and meet regularly. An excellent example of colleagues collaborating.
CM: Prior to having direct responsibility for Rentokil Division you were responsible for AsiaPac. Are there any AP initiatives / best practices you think will be of benefit if introduced to Pest Division? What differences do you see in the approach to pest control in different countries, continents and cultures?
AR: Pest Control can absolutely learn from AP – it’s best practice to share experience and knowledge after all.
David Peterson (Rentokil Managing Director Australia) and Elco Schwartz (Rentokil Senior Vice President Asia Pacific) as full members of the pest control board are there to drive consistent development throughout their regions, but also to share their successful practices with the rest of the Division.
Australia and New Zealand are currently leading the pack in terms of their customer focused activities.
They have customer welcome packs for example, and each time a technician changes, they immediately let a customer know who their new technician will be. Phill Wood likes this practice so much that he will soon be adopting this practice in the UK.
In Asia, for example, we have very experienced mosquito control practitioners in Singapore and Malaysia and we are using this expertise now across the Division.
I think there is more commonality than differences; the basic business model is very similar.
CM: Can you tell us anything more about the new divisional newsletter?
AR: We decided an internal quarterly newsletter would be a good way to address the points from YVC which says we are poor communicators as a division.
There will be stories from across the division and there is a cross divisional team working together to prepare it, led by Clare Marriott (Head of Internal Comms & Engagement). It will reflect our values and service, relationships and teamwork and will be available in a number of languages. In time, it may also include testimonials from customers, but that’s a longer term objective.
The man behind the title
DJ: We are all aware of Alan Brown’s love of 2 and 4 wheeled modes of transport – and a preference for Lycra over Leather – what are your hobbies?
AR: Well, I don’t look good in spandex if that’s what you’re asking!
I spend my spare time with my family and my 3 kids. I am an avid football supporter and go to see as many of Chelsea’s home games as I can.
I am also a big rugby fan and never miss an England match at Twickenham.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself a petrol head, I do love my car – an Aston Martin DB9. It’s the best present I ever bought myself (after I was made redundant from ICI a few years ago) – and no, I don’t consider myself 007 behind the wheel!
DJ: We all have one ‘pest’ memory – mine is wasps – what is yours?
AR: Well, it’s a bit embarrassing but… I was living in America at the time and was in the garden when I disturbed a yellow jackets nest.
For those of you who have never seen one, a yellow jacket’s like a wasp with dangly legs – but bigger.
It stung me in the neck so I ran into the house, slamming and actually locking the door behind me. My wife just started laughing and asked if I thought they had keys on them that they might open the back door.
DJ: Share with us your most recent, funniest pest control moment or story; perhaps you know a Pest Control joke?
AR: I have to tell you that I laugh a lot when I am with my Pest Control board colleagues; they fill my day with a lot of humour!
But as for jokes, well I couldn’t come up with any so my wife and daughter volunteered this one: What’s the fastest way to get rid of a cockroach in a woman’s flat? Tell him she’s looking for commitment!
DJ: If you were a pest which would you be and why?
AR: Not a question I have honestly spent much time thinking about!
Maybe an ant – industrious, hard working – a team player – but no I am not the Queen, and yes, I do like sugar!
DJ: Please tell us one thing that people do not know about you
AR: My garden backs on to that of Sir Clive Thompson the former boss of Rentokil.
We haven’t bumped into each other yet, but when we do I’m sure we will have a lot to talk about!