Pest control entrepreneur George Pickhardt finally figured out how to turn the recession into an advantage.
So much so that Pickhardt, CEO of Sarasota-based Arrow Environmental Services, one of the largest pest control firms on the Gulf Coast, is on a buying binge. The company, with 90 employees and $6 million in annual sales, most recently bought Seminole-based Ultimate Pest & Termite Control, which serves Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. That deal closed in January.
Meanwhile, late last year the company bought Largo-based FloridaCare Pest Management and Kelly's Pest Control in Sarasota. Those two deals, plus the one for Ultimate Pest, cost $700,000, Pickhardt tells Coffee Talk.
Pickhardt's recession epiphany is built on timing: After two or three years of slow or no sales in what was once Arrow's forte — residential work — Pickhardt took the money he saved on not paying sales commissions and put it toward acquisitions. “We are doing this to offset the lack of residential growth,” says Pickhardt.
The acquisition strategy, Pickhardt says, is to go mostly for small companies with one or two employees. If the company has a commercial book of business past residential work, that's an added bonus. “Some people are looking to cash out,” says Pickhardt, “but we look at this as an opportunity to grow.”
Pickhardt plans to continue to grow Arrow through acquisitions. A purchase of two companies that would cost $2 million, for example, is expected to close by the end of May. Pickhardt says he has brought on some equity partners to help finance that deal.