Insect-loving scientist takes out top pest control award

WINNING: Geordie McGrath (left) and Jay Turner of Laguna Pest Control.
WINNING: Geordie McGrath (left) and Jay Turner of Laguna Pest Control. Peter Gardiner

IT TAKES a rare breed of human to spend his days with cockroaches, ants, spiders and termites.

Pest control expert and entomologist Jay Turner didn't set out to lead his industry. He just wanted to do things well.

But with the help of his wife and business partner Nicky, the scientist created a business six years ago that has now been recognised as the Queensland pest control industry's best.

Last week the Turners attended a national conference of pest managers and returned with two awards under their arms - 2016 Pest Manager of the Year (Queensland) and the award for the best Queensland pest control business with fewer than five employees.

For the Turner family, the Laguna Pest Control story started seven years ago when Nicky came to Noosa "on a girl's weekend away” from their Melbourne home.

"I fell in love with the place and just wanted to live here,” Nicky said.

"We uppped and moved the family - had no job or anything - and just started the business.”

Jay had been a pest control teacher at TAFE, and the family's decision also solved another problem, Nicky said.

"We wanted to go out on our own with pest control but we didn't want to start in Melbourne or Victoria, because we didn't want to compete against the students that he taught,” she said.

"The only way we could think of doing it was to move interstate.”

Jay and Nicky first entered the pest industry as insect breeders, starting Mini Beasts Enterprises (now sold) which is now one of the biggest operators in Australia's pest trade.

But after a few incidences with "escapees” they had to call pest managers, and it planted a seed with Jay.

"He felt at the time there was more money in killing insects than there was in breeding them,” Nicky said.

Jay now uses his knowledge of pest species' ecology to design effective eradication treatments.

"We weren't obviously just going in and spraying for pests, we had a good knowledge on the biological side of the pest,” Nicky said.

The company's ant treatments were a cut above competitors', Nicky claimed, because each treatment was designed with the target species' diet in mind.

"With coastal brown ants, they're protein eaters,” she said. "So they go for dog food and things like that, whereas sugar ants or white-footed ants go for sugary products. So the bait is different for each.”

Any new Laguna pest managers are required to spend more than three years shadowing Jay, Nicky said.

"Unfortunately with the pest industry you can do a five-day course, get your licence and go and start operating, which is not something that we really agree with,” she said.

"Even with Jay, he's been in industry for over 10 years and he's still learning, picking the brains of people who know more.”

Laguna Pest Control won the awards because of its industry-leading customer service, Nicky said.

Customers receive an email immediately when they book, a reminder before their appointment, and importantly the technician spends up to 20 minutes before each treatment discussing it with the client, and 10 minutes letting them know what to expect afterwards.

An online portal collates all pest treatments so customers have records - a feature that real estate agents loved, Nicky said, because it allowed a property's pest control history to be accessed.

"We want to set the standard for the level of service our clients expect rather than following our competitors,” Nicky said.

"We want to get the pest control industry where it should be.”

Nicky said the Noosa community had been very supportive, and she realised early on that networking was key to success.

"It's very hard to get work in Noosa - it's not what you know but who you know sometimes,” she said.

"People learn to trust you because they see you all the time. We only work in the Noosa area, we don't go outside of Noosa, so that really works for us.

"We're completely booked out.”

Topics:  business, pest, pest control

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