Wednesday, January 28, 2015


ESA gets a number of questions about how the CEUs for renewing ACEs work. Today I'll try and answer some of them and ease any lingering confusion.

First off, our intent in having CEUs is to ensure the rigor of the program is uniform. If you've earned your ACE, you know that the test is rigorous and really tests your knowledge of the program. You didn't earn your ACE without working for it. Similarly, you need to keep learning in order to keep your ACE. And documenting your CEUs is a part of that.

But at the same time we're not trying to recreate what the states do. Here in the USA, all states require a certain amount of education to maintain your pesticide applicator's license. Internationally, some provinces, states, and countries require recertification, but not everywhere. The standard needs to be uniform for all ACEs, regardless of geographic location.

Generally the US-state requirements are pretty strict and only certain activities will count toward renewal. Virtually any activity that counts for your state recertification credits will also count for ACE. And ESA has some allowable activities that most states won't allow.

The examples below are some less common ways to earn your ACE renewal CEUs. Bear in mind that the rules may change over time. These are allowable as of now, but you should click here to see the current table of eligible CEUs.

Reading trade publications: There are many great trade publications for pest control, including PCT, PMP, and NPMA's PestWorld. You can claim up to 2 hours per year by reading trade publications. We recommend that you simply keep a file of articles that you read as documentation. Some people keep a copy of the magazine in print form and put a checkmark on the Table of Contents of articles that they read.

Job-related examinations taken:  You can claim up to 3 hours per year for job related examinations, including the ACE exam, as long as it falls within the period you are submitting CEUs for.  This is of great value to those newer ACEs who are still gathering their first renewal CEUs.

Webinars:  NPMA, Univar, and others all put on some great webinars on pest control education. Some of these are free and some require a fee, but you can claim up to 7 hours per year for webinars.

Job-related community service:  You can claim a couple of hours per year simply by being a good steward of your knowledge in your community. Talk to a group of seniors about insects, speak at your local homeless center about ways to mitigate the likelihood of bed bugs, or maybe even help educate your community about the dangers of DIY pest control. You could even get credit simply by performing pro bono pest management services for a charity organization.

Articles authored and Pest control Blogs written:  Some ACEs find that starting a blog or authoring a column for their local newspaper is a great way to do some marketing outreach in addition to fulfilling their CEU requirement. YOu can claim 6 hours a year for articles and 2 hours a year for blogs.

Training attended and Professional conferences:  This is the primary way that most people earn their CEUs. You can get all that you need simply by attending a one full day session every year.

If you have any questions about what counts as a CEU, please contact us after clicking here to see the current table of eligible CEUs.  ESA wants to make the process as smooth as possible for everyone while still maintaining ongoing educational requirements.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Studying Paying Off

The ACE Exam is not easy. 

Some of the words and phrases I've heard PMP's use when describing the exam include:
  • "Rigorous, but fair"
  • "More broad-ranging than I thought it would be"
  • "Hard"
  • "Tougher than my state exam"
  • "A good overall assessment"
It is not at all uncommon for a person to take the ACE Exam and not pass it. In fact, more than half of the people who take it do not get through on their first attempt.  I think that a lot of the reason for this breaks down into one of two reasons:

1) A lack of preparation
2) A lack of understanding for the depth of the exam

This is not meant as an insult to anyone. I could easily see a person who has been in the industry for 25 years thinking that they can pass the exam with little to no preparation. And some have -- but not many. 

Pest management is a time-consuming business and it can be hard to imagine where you would be able to squeeze study time into an already jam-packed day. But, the ESA Certification Board recommends that an ACE applicant spends a minimum of 40 hours of self-study in preparation for the exam.  One good approach that some people use is to slot 15-20 minutes a day for study. Maybe when you first get up. Habits form quickly, and getting out your study materials while you're having your morning coffee can end up being a fairly simple way to prepare for the exam (not to mention learning how to better excel at your job!).

Exam Depth:
The ACE Content Outline is extremely broad. It can be hard to figure out exactly what to study based on the outline. I've asked a couple of our ACEs who did not pass the exam on their first attempt to share their study tips.

Robert Alarco, ACE works for Orkin, which has been a big supporter of personal credentialing for PMPs. While he took his first exam largely through studying by himself, he was part of a group study environment for his second attempt and was able to raise his score by 8 percentage points to a comfortably-passing grade. As he says, "Here at Orkin we had weekly conference calls as a group and we went over specific material i.e. termites 1 week, ants another etc.  And then we had 2 study sessions as a group off site before we ultimately took the exam.  That structure forced me to remain in an environment conducive to learning and definitely helped me brush up on my knowledge."

For Chris Clark, ACE, Service Manager for HomeTeam Pest Defense, he acknowledges that he came in unprepared for the first exam, thinking that his years of experience in the industry would carry the day. "Being a state certified GHP operator and 15 years in the industry.  I mistakenly went into the original ACE exam with the thought that this was going to be breeze.  I did take part in a study course with Dr. Baldwin at UF which was an eye opener that I was not studying solely for our FL pests, I was also looking at all North American pests.  So needless to say I gave the exam my best effort at that time and the results showed my preparation.  So with a bruised ego and a new determination I buckled down with a better idea of what to expect.  For my second attempt, a lot of my preparation was based off the content on the ESA website including the ACE Exam Content Outline.  Dr. Stephanie Hill created a worksheet (click here to access a free copy of Dr Hill's study sheet) for me to judge my knowledge of each potential pest.  So based on my perceived knowledge of each listed pest I utilized the Mallis/Internet/Dr. Hill/Featured Creature of UF to go over the areas I was not as familiar with. After the new date was set for my ACE exam attempt.  I set myself to have the week prior off to do make sure all information was read and reread.  This time after the proper preparation I was able to pass my ACE exam with a little breathing room. The first time, I went in almost expecting to pass based on my years of experience.  My preparation was horrible and so were my results.  The second time I just made sure to buckle down and study because it was important for me to achieve this accomplishment."

Here are my 5 favorite ways to prepare for the ACE exam:

  1. Form a study group. Studying with a peer set is a great way to prepare for the exam. You will be able to capitalize on each other's strengths and weaknesses and perhaps you can even share study books to save on costs. A study group will also help keep you on task.
  2. Dedicate 15 minutes a day to read study materials.  You are busy, I'm sure. We all are. But everyone has 15 minutes out of every day that they can spend. Make it a goal and it will become a habit. 
  3. Develop your own review materials. Just like in Chris Clark's story above, using a study worksheet that is personalized to you and your situation can help you prepare. Studies have shown that the act of writing information down helps increase memory retention. In other words simply by preparing the study worksheet you are training your brain to remember the information. 
  4. Find an ACE review course. A review course is like a souped-up study group. It will generally be led by a BCE or other qualified instructor and is designed to help you hone the knowledge you've accumulated over your years in the industry. But ...
  5. Don't count on the review course.  Remember that the ACE exam is testing on a body of knowledge. It is almost impossible to cram for it. You need to be diligent in preparing for it. Recall that a minimum of 40 hours of self-study is the recommendation, regardless of your length of time in the industry.


Friday, January 9, 2015

The 'Uber-Effect' on Pest Control?

Many PMPs choose to forgo using any type of software, and stick to manual input methods when it comes to daily business tasks. Software exists in the field to make our lives easier, allowing us to focus more on the quality of work we perform everyday, as opposed to getting bogged down in repetitive or time-consuming tasks. 

There are a multitude of options for PMPs to consider when it comes to choosing a software solution for their business. One thing that's rarely taken into account though when making this choice, is what kind of features are customer-facing -- that is, what are functionalities available for the consumer to interact with, as opposed to just the service provider back in the office? After all, why choose a software solution that your customers might end up hating to interface with?

To learn more, we teamed up with Software Advice, a company that researches and reviews pest control software, for a new report that dives into this very topic. They identified the most requested technology preferences of residential service customers. These include the ability to track the technicians before they arrive at their scheduled appointment. The popular taxi-alternative Uber utilizes a technology just like this, which has catapulted them across the country. Another top-requested feature is a robust customer portal that includes online bill pay and appointment scheduling. Software Advice developed their report to help residential service companies identify and understand which software capabilities will not only improve the customer's experience, but possibly even motivate the customer to hire one service provider over another.

We spoke briefly with pest control market researcher, Justin Guinn of Software Advice, who compiled the report after surveying more than 8,000 residential service customers in the United States:

Considering the data from your report, what would you say are the implications that pest control business operators should consider?

“In short, residential service business owners, including those in the pest control industry, need to consider current and potential customers’ perception of their company. For better or worse, a typical measure of this is technology. While your business might be operating just fine with little-to-no technology integration, consumers might take this as an indicator of an outdated business. Nonetheless, our data points to the fact that they’d be more inclined to hire a business based on their software usage and offerings. For example, a majority of our respondents (58 percent) say the use of technician tracking capabilities by a service provider would increase their likelihood to choose that business for the job. This is a feature that allows customers to pinpoint exactly when their service provider will be arriving, whether it's on-time or even a little late. It eliminates the need to be home in that three hour waiting window for the technician to show up.”

What's one of the most surprising findings that came from the consumer responses?
“Surprisingly, over a quarter of our older millennial respondents (25-34 years old) indicated that residential service companies utilize technology poorly to improve experiences. This was surprising at first since millennials are supposed to be tech and software hounds... How could they not like it folded into their residential services experience? Well, a likely answer to why the data came back this way is that millennials have much greater expectations when it comes to the functionality of technology. They expect things to integrate and work seamlessly, not to mention, be aesthetically pleasing. The takeaway here is it’s not so much about simply offering the software functionalities to consumers, but having the right technology and software for your business and your target customer audiences. It’s about doing it right, whether that means signing a signature on an iPad, or paying a bill through an easy-to-use customer portal.”

What should be the residential service industry's priorities moving forward?
“Moving forward, residential service operators should consider the positive benefits of adopting customer-facing software; not just in terms of business operations, but also as a means of gaining a larger client base. More specifically, the industry should be targeting customer pain points that we now have the technology to fix. Technician tracking is a perfect example of this. I understand unexpected things can of course come up in the field that can have a domino effect and delay other jobs. But given the GPS technology available today, and the propensity of smart phones, reducing the window of arrival should be prioritized for the customer. This, for example, can have a multitude of benefits; both customer-facing and operational. Geofencing technology was highlighted in our study for this very reason. Essentially the same technology that connects Uber drivers to riders, geofencing is a tracking mechanism that sets digital boundaries in which technicians may cross in and out of. As they do so, their GPS enabled devices notify and log the information back to the main office. This is the technology that would enable the “technician tracking” functions that respondents said they wanted. Aside from notifying customers about updated arrival times, geofencing has many operational benefits as well.”

Find out more about the Austin, Texas-based Software Advice and the pest control software solutions they review, and check out their full report for further information.