Keeping the UK pest-free

9 February 2024

Anticimex, the Swedish world-leading pest control business is entering the UK market through a recent acquisition of Nort West based Pestokill. Dave Clements, Managing Director of SCC member Pestokill, explains how the investment has opened new doors for business and how Anticimex’s digital solutions enable sustainable and efficient methods for pest control.

”If we strip pest control back to its basic levels, it is about prevention rather than cure. Digital pest control provides us a sustainable solution, so we can eliminate or reduce pesticides. Before the acquisition, we didn’t have the smart solutions, which Anticimex is well known for globally,” Dave says.

From one man band to a team of 250
At only 17 years of age and straight after high school, Dave founded Pestokill back in 1985 as a one-man business. “It was my father who directed me that way. I did a Pest Control Association course, got qualified, and started the business on my own,” he recalls.

Initially doing domestic work, Dave started investing heavily in the Yellow Pages, which was the main advertising channel to be seen in at the time. “That allowed us to move into commercial clients, which now represents about 90% of the market for us.”

Headquartered just outside Manchester in Leigh, Pestokill is today a 250 staff strong business with a nation-wide coverage, servicing clients across the UK. With only one significant competitor working on a national level, the pest control market is dominated by many small local players, which has proven to be an advantage for Pestokill. “The pest control industry has a lot of local one to five-man operation businesses that only operate in a small community. Even in London, there are businesses that would operate parts of only one side of the city,” Dave explains. “That leaves a big gap in the market for someone to deliver a national service professionally.” 

Opening new doors
About a year ago, Pestokill was acquired by Anticimex, a Swedish global leader in pest control, which has, apart from adding stability, opened up completely new doors for the business. “It has always felt like David and Goliath in the UK, when I go up against the market leader bidding for work. Whereas now, I’ve got my big brother and his global family behind me. We can now compete with anybody – nationally and globally.” He continues: “We are now fourteen months into the acquisition, whereof the first twelve months were very much making sure structure and our base platform is ready to build on. And then beyond, the big opportunity for us is to grow organically, but also to acquire companies strategically when they’re in the right location for us. And we’ve now got the funds available, should we need to.”

Fighting pests digitally
With the acquisition, Pestokill has not only gained access to a network of knowledge on a global level, but to advanced pest control technology that focuses on prevention rather than fighting pests once there is an infestation. According to Dave, the first step is to think more like a pest and be proactive. “Man is a victim of his own making – we do literally leave the door open for pests. I look at premises through the eyes of a mouse or a rat. So, if you leave food out on your desk at night, I’ll be thinking ‘I’m coming out for that food at night’.”

Traditional pest control measures would involve site visits every four to six weeks to look around the site to identify risks and to see if pests have been around. But digital pest control offers not only a sustainable solution through eliminating pesticides, but also 24/7 monitoring to quickly detect and take measures against pests. “We detect it, deal with it, and solve it. So, we’ve got less damage to your food, less damage to your products, and basically a pest-free environment.”

Taking the best ideas from around the world
According to Dave, there are many perks of being part of the Anticimex family. “As the head of the business, you don’t really have many people you can go and speak to whereas now, for the first time in 37 years I have a boss. It’s really nice having someone to reflect on and to sound ideas with.”

Dave recounts some recent news about certain pest control equipment that has been banned in the UK and that by drawing from experience of the group, they can be pointed in the right direction in finding alternative solutions. “It’s nice that we can reach out to the Nordics and ask what they do about it. We like not to create a new wheel, so we are happy to take the best ideas from around the world and bring it to the UK and make it work.”

People buy from people
Despite the company’s transformation and growth, Dave says it is important to hold on to the values the business once was founded on. “I still want it to feel like a family business, that it’s people who care about what we deliver. And that’s the way it should be in my view – people buy from people.”

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