With 50+ years’ industry experience between them, Rapid Solutions’ industry experts Gary and Robert provide in-house technical and business support to Rapid clients every weekday.
Access their expertise via 1300 309 169 or email [email protected].
Tell us about your experience in the property services sector
Gary – After I graduated from my Applied Science degree in 1970, I worked for the agricultural division of a large pest control company, which took me all around Australia.
I’ve since been a pest control business owner (sole trader contracting to a large pest firm), Council noxious weeds and mosquito controller, pest control business branch manager, and I’ve worked in pest control and horticultural research for ACT Parks and Conservation/Canberra Urban Parks.
When I took time out of the industry in between those years I ran several hi-fi stores, but it didn’t take long to return.
In 2000 the Rapid Solutions Technical Manager job came up and the rest is history. I am well suited to my advisory role here – I understand how property services businesses operate and I understand business management because I’ve done the work myself.
I should note I have had plenty of experience with building inspections and related activities too, working alongside consultant builders for years to build that side of Rapid’s business. I learned a lot during that time and continue to keep myself updated on the industry as we service our builder clients.
Robert – I started in the industry in 1989 and spent 15 years as a pest controller within a busy pest management company. Over the following 10 years I had plenty of experience in both the domestic and commercial side of pest control.
I have been a Technical Officer with Rapid Solutions for 15 years now. I would say my speciality is termites – detecting them, managing them and applying appropriate termite management systems.
My role is one of risk mitigation. It has involved contributing to changes in the Australian Standards for termite work, both the 3660 and 4349 suites, and periodically reviewing our paperwork. I ensure it not only conforms to current standards, but assists our clients to fulfill their duty of care in warning customers of the consequences of findings in their reports.
I have spent many years reviewing client documents, checking their reports have appropriate warnings and Certificates of Installation show full treatments have been installed. Where necessary, I advise clients what should be included in their reports and certificates.
Another important part of my risk mitigation work is ensuring operators wishing to be approved to conduct activities such as termite work, building inspections, and agricultural pest and weed work, have appropriate qualifications, experience, etc.
My Rapid Solutions job is an opportunity to share my knowledge with others in the industry. I have been on both sides of the fence and understand the challenges and opportunities our clients encounter daily.
What are some big changes you have seen over the decades?
Both – One big change is the development of new-generation, better-performing pesticides and other chemicals used across the property services sector.
We’ve also seen the growth of more sophisticated and specialised application equipment, and a much greater emphasis on safety.
Although the business basics are similar, there have been big changes in termite management, with baiting becoming commercially available in the early 2000s. Also, termite and other pest investigation equipment has improved significantly with microwave detection equipment and thermal imaging.
What do your jobs as Rapid Solutions industry experts entail exactly?
Gary – A big part of my job is providing technical advice to our clients, and other business assistance where we can. It is not always straight technical support. For example, some like to run a scenario past us. We are often asked, “I’ve got this pest situation; should I do this or that treatment?” or “How do I deal with this unlevel flooring; what exactly should I put in the report?” or “I can’t access the manhole or other area safely; what should I do?”
We also do compliance work, keeping up with Australian Standards relevant to the many business activities Rapid Solutions insures. This helps us develop the correct paperwork templates to meet clients’ needs and provide the right support.
We also support the insurance arm with technical risk management advice and information.
From an insurance claim perspective, we provide technical support to the claims team and review client photos and paperwork such as inspection and treatment reports. We give clients feedback to assist them in understanding why a claim has occurred and why it can or can’t be defended. We always aim to assist our client no matter what the claim circumstances are.
Robert – We work in an advisory position. The most common request from clients is support on paperwork, inspection and reporting techniques, and treatment methodologies across a range of different business activities. We’re often trouble-shooting termite and other pest problem jobs, and we also do some identification of bugs. We also advise internally, as Gary has explained.
Sometimes you can be on the phone all day to clients. At other times it’s more administrative, such as keeping up to date with industry standards, news and other important information, doing our own paperwork and so on.
All our clients – whether builders, pest controllers, handymen, maintenance workers, agricultural ground crop sprayers, methamphetamine testers or carpet cleaners – they are always welcome to call and discuss any questions. If we can help, we will and if we can’t we can usually advise who can.
What are the top questions asked by clients?
Gary – Number one would be around inspections and reporting – issues clients encounter and how to report on them.
When it comes to treatments, it’s about the practical implementation of a system at X location with Y constraints. Clients have questions around how they might approach it.
We are asked many general urban pest questions on treatment of cockroaches, rodents, ants and spiders. Sometimes clients have an unusual bug or one they’re not sure about; we do some identification of bugs.
When it comes to building inspections, we are often discussing reporting of awkward situations. We get asked how to deal with situations where an agent or property vendor is asking our client to change the inspection report to suit them. We talk clients through what to do, how to refuse so they remain compliant and keep their integrity.
From a physical point of view, we get questions like to what degree do they need to report building defects and other issues, what advice do they give customers when they can’t access areas they need to examine for a full inspection. Situations they can’t really control but can – and need to – report on to move the responsibility off their shoulders. Reporting on limitations is crucial to avoid a claim.
Key factors potentially leading to claims include incorrect reporting on the inability to access areas and the non-compliance with current standards. Australians are increasingly willing to litigate. It is even more important today to operate by the book and ensure you report appropriately. You need to protect yourself and your business, and we can help you do that.
We see our client relationships as partnerships; our clients aren’t just a number. We get to know their spouses, families and so on. Many of our clients have been with Rapid for more than 10 years.
Robert – We are always being asked “Where can we get our paperwork from?” We can help with this because Rapid has a wide range of compliant tools and templates to provide clients. We also launched a great app called Rapid Inspect in 2019 that many clients are enjoying using for their report writing.
We get asked a lot of questions about the many different pests our clients are controlling all over the country, but generally it’s about what direction they should take with treatments.
More often than not the question is focused on termites. We find many clients will find their own way through dealing with cockroaches and spiders, for example, but they don’t want a recall on termites, so they call us to check the best approach.
We also speak to clients frequently about how to word what they’re trying to say within reporting paperwork. Making sure the wording they use is descriptive, not filled with acronyms or industry jargon, so that it is easily understandable by their client, etc, and they are using the correct terms for the pests. It is important to be professional in your reporting.
Why do you think professional indemnity and general liability insurance are so important for business owners?
Gary – Regardless of the expertise and good faith of any business, claims do arise. Often through no fault of that business. Professional indemnity and general liability insurance are a backstop – a buffer against significant losses to that business. Or even losses so major it can fold the operation. Insurance provides behind-the-scenes security so that should something unexpected happen a business is protected.
We see claims come through from work done more than five years ago. Not frequently but it does happen. Maintaining that continuous cover is very important.
Robert – It is hard enough to make money in the first place. You don’t want to be just giving it away through a claim against your business because you don’t have adequate protections in place. Even if you don’t find it difficult to make a living, if you’ve earned it then you should keep it. It’s pointless to give it to someone else; instead, get the right insurance coverage.
What advice would you give for growing and/or managing a business well?
Gary – Develop and maintain integrity within the business in all its functions, whether that’s administrative, techs, other team members in the field or elsewhere.
Keep abreast of technology, get good business advice and have a proper accounting system in place so you know what your profits are per hour and what your expenditure is. You need to know what to charge to maintain your business, across all aspects from paying staff to replacing vehicles, maintaining and replacing equipment, advertising, etc.
I also suggest joining business-related organisations such as your local Rotary or Lions Club, to promote your business and become known in your community. It is amazing what it can bring you.
Robert – In terms of on the job activity that helps you grow a solid business, in my experience the whole opportunity lies in observation. Look out for the potential to do more work for a client. For example, if you’re there to do a rat job and there’s spiders everywhere, there’s an opportunity. Also consider what repeat business you can generate if a property might benefit from regular, proactive treatments.
It’s simple to keep your eyes open, to make that a habit. Just because you’re there to treat weeds in the driveway doesn’t mean you can’t look for a chance to upsell or form a long-term relationship with your customer.
What advice would you give business owners for avoiding insurance claims?
Gary – It’s all about providing value to your customers. Be thorough in carrying out diligent inspections, treatments, cleaning and other work. Go the extra yard. Provide honest advice backed by good written reporting.
Don’t be afraid to say no if there are too many risks to your business. Take the approach that you’re the expert. People will ask you to do certain things and if it’s outside your professional standards don’t go there because that just leads to issues.
If a claim does arise it’s not the end of the world. Rapid Solutions is there as your backstop, as an insurer that is intimately involved in the industry we’ll provide as much support as we can. We are there for all our clients no matter what the situation.
There is no magic wand in preventing a claim but there is a magic wand in protecting yourself against a claim by having insurance. Other than performing your business activities well, insurance is the main buffer – it doesn’t stop claims, but it provides the opportunity to work through them and mitigate financial risks.
Initial and ongoing training is also very important. Licensed professionals require national units of competency for their licence and need to gain field experience with experienced people. And the industry changes all the time, so it is important to stay abreast of changes and upskill. Stick to good industry practice and that will bring rewards of its own.
Robert – Whatever treatment you’re doing or are there to quote for, make sure your inspection is thorough. If you don’t know what’s there – pests, building issues, stains and so on – you can’t treat them. For example, in pest management, there’s no point in treating the house if the spiders are in the vines on the fence. Be aware of your environment.
Know your Australian Standards, understand the record keeping requirements of your state or territory and write clearly when you’re reporting. If you’re using hard copy paperwork ensure your copy is legible by anyone who will read it – yourself later, your office staff or, in the unfortunate circumstance that a claim should arise, your insurer. Your paperwork is often your best defence.
Without going overboard, ensure there’s enough detail for your customer to understand what’s going on – whether that’s your treatment proposal, your limitations or what you’ve treated.
Always make the best recommendation in your inspection report. Do that first, then allow your customer’s requirements to change what’s done. Always record what was discussed and how the limitations you encountered or were imposed on you changed the treatment.
Tell us something about your life outside of being a Rapid Solutions industry expert
Gary – I race on a yacht on Saturdays on Lake Macquarie, as a mainsheet hand. I’m also a hi-fi buff. My youth was diverse – surfing, rugby, tennis, Army then Navy cadets while studying. A family ethic of honesty and hard work has always been at the forefront.
Robert – I love lawn bowling and gardening. I really enjoy home life, where we have a number of cats. I’m picking up two Main Coons this weekend, actually. We also used to breed border collies.
Want to know more from our Rapid Solutions industry experts?
If you are a Rapid Solutions client and have a question for these Rapid Solutions industry experts, call 1300 309 169 or email [email protected]. Gary is available 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and Robert is available 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday.