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Out with the old.. In with the new

Out with the old…

BPCA President Martin Harvey goes head-to-head with Paul Rodman, who takes over the role from 14 June. Simon Forrester refereed the contest…

Simon Forrester: How far do you think the Association has come in the last five years?

Paul Rodman: I think there has been significant progression. I’ve personally seen the Servicing Committee and Executive Board have a much greater level of professionalism and focus – they have changed from a talking shop to something that really delivers.

Martin Harvey: I’ve been a paid-up member of BPCA since 2001, and joined the Board six years ago. Since I succeeded Henry Mott I suppose it’s difficult to judge; you don’t see yourself, only others see you. People tell me things are moving on at a good pace. I’ve tried to carry on the drive to more efficient meetings where we make decisions with a strategic focus. We now have the right people doing the right jobs – which to me is just good management practice. We understand where we are headed. I’m passing the baton on to Paul and no doubt he will change some things, but keeping up the pace is, I believe, the key to our continued success.

PR: One of the things that attracted me to the Board was the clear vision for BPCA’s future.

We are looking for the right people to join us on the Board to help us deliver this vision. The foundation work is done now and people can visualise the strategy.

MH: Yes, it’s definitely a vision thing.

PR: The quality assurance managers I come across on food manufacturing sites say culture is the hardest thing to change in order to deal with issues, and as an organisation BPCA is no different.

MH: We’ve modernised the Association in the past few years, bringing in staffing expertise from outside the sector, which has been hugely beneficial. It’s interesting that you talk about culture; it’s the biggest thing we have started to change – but we are still not there yet. Our industry is being forced to professionalise, and I believe BPCA has to be at the vanguard of that, no matter how many friends or enemies we make.

PR: External bodies are saying the same thing. Pest control is too important to get wrong, and we can’t keep doing what we have always done. If we don’t adapt we will be left behind.

SF: There’s a clear lack of focus on regulation from Government; we are being told to self-police. What is BPCA’s role?

PR: We’ve allowed the manufacturers to take up the mantle of protecting the products we use, and by extension the environment. While these initiatives are great, the servicing companies need to be at the forefront of this, not just leave it to the suppliers.

MH: Initiatives such as CEPA Certified® and EN16636 are great examples of how we are trying to take back control of our destiny. Auditing bodies are already embracing this standard. They are the ones who are currently setting the agenda, saying you must do ‘X’ to be considered for contract work. We can use this vehicle to drive quality in our sector. That process has moved rapidly in the last 18 months or so. It was great to be involved with the launch of the standard in Brussels – it was sobering (but fantastic) to see the number of high-profile people on the European stage who take this seriously. We are at the heart of the success of the standard, and that can only bode well for our future profile.

PR: I can see the expansion of the standard, and we are leading it – we’re the top of the European league table of certified companies, and likely to stay there. This will gain momentum as more and more specifications embrace the standard.

…in with the new!

SF: But is more red tape what our sector needs?

PR: Members do like regulation and structure, as long as it’s appropriate; they can identify with that. We want certainty and a level playing field for all, and regulation can provide that by excluding the cowboys. Clients want companies with a proper pest management structure, and I believe they will be willing to pay for this.

MH: CEPA Certified® is a useful vehicle to say ‘we are a quality outfit’ – it’s regulation by another route. I’ve been encouraged to see some proper debate (though painful) on us as members of the Association acting ethically, professionally, and properly. By that I mean thinking not just about today or the month end, but thinking long term about the impact of what we do and how we do it. The industry has suffered over the last 10-15 years through a culture of poor selling and poor servicing which leads to terminations and unhappy customers. This means that some customers don’t value what we do, and sometimes decide to do it themselves.

PR: We all benefit from these issues being tackled and put out in the open.

SF: So how do we stop the devaluation of what we do?

PR: I think that stewardship and regulation is key. Other control methods will be under the microscope in the future, rodenticides will not be the end of this. We’re seeing it with glue boards, for example. BPCA is leading on this subject to establish a ban on public sale and use, and break-back traps are on our radar. BPCA is leading here and will elsewhere. During my presidency I intend to put BPCA at the heart of professionalism, leading the debate on stewardship of all products. If we can create that definition of ‘professional’ we can add value.

SF: What are the ‘elephants in the room?’

PR: Internet sales are a real concern. A free market allows anything to be sold to anyone, but Government isn’t interested in policing it. We need to work with the suppliers to ensure ethical sales. Manufacturers and distributors have an innate responsibility to ensure understanding of who they should sell to and what knowledge should be there before use. Internet sales must include safe use guidance and be policed properly.

MH: It’s morally irresponsible to sell it to just anyone if it says ‘for professional use only’. Apart from the risks of misuse, that cheapens the offering of a professional pest controller who has set up a legitimate business, has spent time getting trained, and is trying to do the very best job they can. If Joe Bloggs from a chip shop can buy and use the same products as us, without any checks and balances, where’s the value?

PR: If the customer sees us as just the ‘placer of baits and the sprayer of insecticides’, and they can buy the same things, we are doomed. We need to demonstrate the value to clients, starting with education of our industry to explain to clients the value of using professionals. The best way is to be properly trained, and the best place for that training is BPCA.

SF: We’re seeing lots of ‘super rat’ stories – pests are flavour of the month again. What do you think BPCA should be doing to offset the more scandalous stories?

PR: We should all ensure we answer professionally and if possible with science to back us. The media are after a story, and there’s clear mileage for them in adding fear. We need to remain distant from that.

MH: Giant cannibal rat stories get front page news, even if they are fake. While it’s difficult to resist, I’d advise members ‘don’t join the bandwagon – stay clear of it’. BPCA has a role to play by offering guidance on how to answer this type of enquiry. I’d also say that the media always wants to go out and see a bad site, they aren’t interested in ‘safe’ or a site where you have successfully controlled an issue – that’s boring for them. No, the media generally seem to want ‘car crash TV’ or stories – we shouldn’t stoop to that level.

PR: But auditors and food manufacturers are food safety aware, and we’ve had a lot of success in improving their understanding of pest control, frequencies on service, what qualifications to seek and standards to achieve. Martin championed our work to change specifications, and we had some real successes. During my presidency I am establishing a directory of specifications for members to access – there’s nothing worse than being measured against something you haven’t seen or find it really difficult to get hold of.

MH: One of our goals was to engage with opinion formers (specifiers, journalists, politicians, regulators) in order to raise the importance of public health pest control, and we’ve done well so far.

PR: That’s one of the key things I want to accomplish. We’re looking for a patron to give us some additional leverage in Westminster, we will keep up the momentum to professionalise the sector, and we want to talk to clients about why they should always use a BPCA Member If I can accomplish these things and more in the next two years I’ll be happy.

SF: So, Martin, in a few weeks you hand over to Paul. What is your role then?

MH: From the AGM onwards I see my job as someone that Paul and his Vice-Presidents can call upon, but I have no intention of being a back-seat driver. The reason the Past President stays on is to be accountable for the decisions they’ve made, and to help see things through in a consultative role. It’s now down to Paul and his team to deliver.

PR: It’s really important to have that. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Martin for his hard work – he’s done a sterling job. He’s still a key part of the team alongside me, the VPs and the Treasurer. But we also need input from all the membership; we need new ideas and to take collective ownership of them. I suppose I would say I’m the principal shareholder in the ‘business’ of BPCA, but every member has a stake too, and I want to get more of them engaged and involved with what we do, to everyone’s benefit. I have some ideas about how we change our structure to accomplish that.

MH: I’ve been a bull at a gate on occasion to drive things through, which I make no apologies for. That has by and large paid off, for example the change to criteria around qualifications and CPD. But I think one of my greatest successes has been to let the staff team get on with it, and I think I’ve freed them up to do just that. The Board makes sure we go where we need to, the staff do what’s needed to get us there.

PR: In the last few years we have turned BPCA from a bit of a cosy club into an association, and now it’s becoming a proper business. In the next two years I intend to strengthen that position.