Business Trucks: Signage or No Signage?
I wanted to focus attention on one of the most important aspects of a NWCO’s business, his truck. Other than your own health, your truck is your business. You take it everywhere. Your truck is a part of you and your company. Your truck also tells customers something about the kind of business you run. Don’t make excuses. The fact is your customers will judge you by your truck and the condition they see it in. Question is, should your truck be covered is signage or not? Unfortunately, the debate over this question is not an easy one to solve. Let’s talk about the arguments in favor of truck signage first.
Argument #1. Low Cost
The strongest argument for signage is the low cost. Labeling your truck turns your vehicle into a moving billboard. Now instead of spending money on gas and repairs, you can know that some of this money is at least drawing new customers. We all know that marketing is one the most significant problems facing NWCO’s. The fact is people don’t know we exist. Truck signage changes this. Customers will call stating that they got your number from the truck rather than in a crowded Yellow Page Ad. Gary Storms of N.Y. said, “I’ve heard both sides of the issue. But I like driving my billboard. And I like it when a customer says that he saw “one of my trucks around town” this is my first time trying to post a photo so I don’t know how it will come out, but this is my truck.”
Argument #2 Customer Safety
A second argument for signage is the safety and security of your customers. I read a consumer protection type article that advised consumers to avoid hiring companies with unlabelled trucks or magnetic signs. The author argued that no signage or temporary magnetic signage meant that the owner wasn’t fully committed to the business. By failing to sign his truck, the owner was leaving his options open to get out of the business. The second aspect to signage is safety. Let’s face it. Most of the time we meet women or an elderly person alone at the house. Having proper signage means they can identify who is in the vehicle. It’s not fool-proof mind you, but it can put minds at greater ease. Paul Magnotta of Connecticut says puts a different spin on this. He contends that on more than one occasion his signs have stopped or slowed police involvement and calmed onlookers. He points out that NWCO’s work odd hours and in strange places. Truck signage, in his opinion, is safety equipment. Don LaFountain of Massachusetts states that police will often give a service truck a little leeway on speeding issues. He says, “I trained a guy that was a part-time cop. He told me that the police give a little more of a buffer on the speed end to service trucks. I noticed that to be very true. I’ve had the arm out the window of a cruiser giving me the slow down wave instead of pulling me over. (He would have been in the right too) Several other policemen I know said the same thing. They know we’re just trying to make a living. Don’t get me wrong I’m now saying speeding is right but after 5 miles in a no passing area, 10 miles an hour below the speed limit, behind a Sunday driver, we may try to make up the lost time.”
Arguments Against Truck Signage
However, the anti-signage crowd also has some good arguments. Stealth has its advantages. Occasionally, clients don’t want the neighbors to know there is a problem in their house. Their concern is especially high around the time they decide to sell their house. Stealth trucks can also help the NWCO work in high traffic areas with fewer protests and possibly less theft and vandalism. Let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t want to have to answer questions or explain what you are doing. Another problem with signage is getting it off when you sell the truck or take the truck out of your fleet. When I sold my company, it took several hours to get all the vinyl print off my service vehicle. Now some people may by pass this problem by putting signage on the truck cap only. This way, when they buy a new one, they simply move the cap to the new truck. Of course, this will require that you buy the same size bed truck all the time.
Some NWCO’s try to have the best of both worlds by using magnetic signs. Magnetic signs have the advantage of being removable. So if you are going to a job that requires anonymity, you just need to peel off the signs and you are all set. I know of one NWCO, that uses blank magnetic signs to cover his vinyl, permanent signs. Patrick Cassidy, however, warns that magnetic signs can mar the paint. While I don’t recall them damaging the paint of my vehicle, they can become sort of permanent if you don’t remove them regularly. Don LaFountain has this advice for would be magnetic sign users. He says, “Put several coats good paste wax on the truck as well as a coat on the back of the sign. This will protect the truck from damage.”
Should you put signage on your truck? I think Tim Julien, president of the National Wildlife Control Operator’s Association, said it best. He said, “I feel the signs on a truck are great advertising and add a touch of professionalism. Critter Control, Inc. has been in business for a long time and their trucks are well marked.”
Note: This article first appeared in Wildlife Control Technology magazine. I would like to thank members of the NWCO listserv for helping with the content of this article.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest book is the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition. He can be contacted at stephenvantassel at Hotmail dot com.
If you would like your publication, video, or product reviewed, please contact the author at the e-mail above.
All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.
A Bad Fall: Why NWCOs Can’t Be Too Careful
A friend of mine, let’s call him Kyle, owned a nuisance wildlife control company (NWCO). I write about him because he fell off a ladder on November 18, 2000. He was inspecting a one floor ranch house for the presence of squirrels in Westerly Rhode Island. Everything was routine. He climbed the ladder and inspected the roof. After completing the roof inspection, he grasped the ladder and placed a foot the rung testing the ladder’s stability. All appeared well so he placed the full weight on the ladder. Regrettably, the ladder’s base kicked out perpendicular from the building. As he started to become horizontal to the ground, Kyle, reached out his left hand in an attempt to grasp the gutter. A bend in the gutter showed he did grab it. But it wasn’t enough to stop his fall. He extended his right hand out to stop his fall. He hit the pavement below with his palm and his right arm fully extended. The resulting force shattered his wrist and elbow. It is the same effect as trying to drive a nail into concrete. It bends. That is what happened to his arm. Fortunately, the owner heard him yelling. A neighbor also saw what happened and drove over to help too. Kyle wondered how he was going to get the ladder on the truck and drive to the hospital.
The result was Kyle getting an external fixater on his forearm which he wore for at least 6 weeks. He also had 2 months of physical therapy. He went back to work 2 weeks after the incident but he was unable to do much work. Most of his time was spent monitoring the people he has had to hire to get the work done. The costs to his business have been substantial. But as Kyle said, “At least this didn’t happen during the Spring.”
I asked Kyle about the cause of this fall. He says, there was no defect in the ladder. He also doesn’t believe the ladder angle was wrong either. He believes the cause was the slick driveway. “It was a very well kept blacktop driveway”. It didn’t rain, but there was dew and wet leaves around. Perhaps, he speculates, leaves got underneath the ladder’s feet. He didn’t tie down the ladder in anyway nor did the ladder have any stabilizers attached. Perhaps his biggest concern is how he will feel climbing ladders again.
The conclusion of all this is the phrase used on the old series drama, Hill Street Blues. The sergeant always ended the briefing reminding the officers, “You be careful out there”. I couldn’t agree more.
Homeowners should understand that sometimes the least expensive price can be the most expensive. If Kyle wasn’t a stand up guy and someone who cut corners on insurance, then the homeowner may have found himself with a liability lawsuit. Buyer beware.
About the Author
An earlier form of this article was published in Wildlife Control Technology magazine. Stephen M. Vantassel, a CWCP, is available for consultation, conferences, research and publications. You can reach him at Stephenvantassel(at)Hotmail(dot)com.
All blog posts on Wildlife Control Consultant may be reprinted provided the articles are unedited, and my full name and website address are included.
The Care and Feeding of Academics
In my experience, many Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs)have a less than positive opinion of academics. You have heard the comments, “those who can, do, those who can’t teach”, ivory tower, and “Ph.D., piled higher and deeper.” As a former full-time NWCO, I understand those comments. NWCOs are people of action. They are frustrated by academics who want to “study everything.” For example, I know of one professor suggested that a study be done on how to manage an overpopulation of Canada geese. But NWCOs already know how to solve the problem, namely kill more geese. NWCOs think that the idea of having to spend years studying a problem as simple as resolving goose over population makes about as much sense as someone spending more to get themselves out of debt.
Understanding the Academic’s Situation
While appreciating the NWCO perspective, my time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has given me greater sensitivity to the needs and challenges facing academics. My goal in this article is to pull back the curtain, so to speak, and help NWCOs understand academics. For I believe that with better understanding, some of the emotional dissatisfaction felt by NWCOs can be diminished and lead to ways for both sides to work together more constructively.
Types of Universities
Let’s begin by explaining the three kinds of academics involved in land-grant universities, researchers, extension, and teaching. Land-grant schools typically receive state funding and also are heavily involved in research. Private colleges are not prohibited from researching wildlife damage and agricultural topcs but are less likely to have courses or faculty relating to those subjects. Researchers, as the term suggests, are faculty that are tasked with the discovery of new knowledge. They have to perform experimental studies and publish findings in peer-reviewed journals. As can be expected, research is time-consuming and expensive. Remove any thought that faculty have legions of students waiting to provide free labor for research. Research at the graduate level requires money. Lots of money. To illustrate, it costs over 71,000 dollars (2010 dollars) for a university to cover a grad student for the 3 years of their master’s program. While graduate programs only last two years, some universities require additional monies to ensure that a student is covered beyond the minimum as a cushion in case research gets delayed. The money for that student can come from a variety of places. If the school is wealthy, it may come from a scholarship endowment. In a few instances, industry gives the money to have some work done by an independent third party. More likely, the money comes from research grants.
The Problem of Money
Grants, despite TV ads to the contrary, are not easy to obtain. Even highly successful grant writers only achieve a success rate of 33%. That means out of every three grants applied for, only one is received. Nor are the forms easy to fill out. I have participated in half-a-dozen grants at this point, and I can assure you that it takes hours of time to fill out the forms. It is not unusual to take 24 hours to fill out the paperwork for one grant. To put that in perspective, can you take 3 days away from paying work for the chance to get a grant? To add insult to injury, grants for wildlife related projects are low budget. Most are in the low five figures. When you consider the cost of travel (.55/mile) plus equipment, plus hourly rates for field staff, plus the time needed to write up the research for publication, the money does not go very far.
Once the research has been gathered, the researcher must write up the findings. If a grad student is on board, then he/she does this initial draft but the faculty person must continually edit and return the document for revisions. Once the document is deemed ready, it is sent out for internal review, meaning the paper is passed around for others to critique. Changes are made. Weeks later, the paper is finally sent to a journal for consideration for publication. 3-4 months later, you may get an answer. 99% of the time, the paper is rejected and is full of comments from the journal reviewers about how the paper must be improved. The researcher must then decide whether to make changes and resubmit or send the document to a different journal. When and if the paper is finally accepted by a journal, the researcher must then pay a fee for laying out the document for publication. Yes, you read that right. While WCT pays writers to write articles, researchers write papers and then pay the journal to publish them (in addition to paying the journal for a subscription to read it). The average cost is 100 dollars per printed page.
Finally, research faculty must publish a number of articles each year. At University of Nebraska-Lincoln, research faculty must publish 5 articles a year. I trust you get the idea that a lot of projects have to be underway in order to have enough research going on in order to keep the publishing pipeline full. That is both a blessing and a curse for NWCOs. On the one hand, researchers are interested in your projects. On the other hand, faculty need money in order to move these projects forward or they have to be able to find a grant large enough to pay for the costs of performing the research.
Extension faculty are tasked with putting knowledge to work. They take research and package it in a way that is understandable for the public. Extension faculty create workshops and seminars in order to disseminate best practices to the public. Very few Extension faculty specialize in wildlife damage management. There just isn’t enough work or money in wildlife damage management to justify that kind of investment on the part of the University. However, those in the position are passionate and heavily invested. Because of their role with Extension, these faculty do not have the same publishing pressure as the researchers. So instead of 5 publications a year, they may only have to have two.
The final category, teaching faculty, have the role of instructing students. They are busy giving lectures, grading, keeping up with their field, and creating new courses. Like the extension faculty, teaching faculty have less publishing pressure.
To make matters confusing, faculty are rarely just fall under one of these categories. Universities frequently hire faculty with split appointments. For example, a professor may be 50% research, 20% teaching and 30% extension. This breakdown would equate to 3 peer-reviewed publications per year, teaching one course per year, and all the remaining time spend on outreach programs such as seminars, workshops, and publications for public consumption. Furthermore, a professor may have a 12-month appointment or a 9 month appointment. The former means the professor works year-round. The latter means the professor works for only 9, typically the equivalent of the school’s academic year.
I hope this helps readers recognize that faculty are extremely busy. Note that I have not even begun to explain the amount of time faculty have to spend with the endless committee meetings they must attend.
More importantly, I want to provide NWCOs with strategies on how they might work more effectively with professors to enhance mutual cooperation.
Tips for Handling/Dealing with Academics
Tip #1. Bring the money. NWCOs have to decide whether they want their industry to mature or remain stagnant. Research is expensive. With federal dollars being shifted away from traditional fish and wildlife related projects, NWCOs will have to decide whether they are willing to fill in the gap. Many times, faculty can bundle multiple sources of funding together to meet project needs. In fact, more grants actually require public/private partnerships. So funding a project actually helps faculty get more money. Remember that funding needs are correlated to the size of the project. Some research projects only need $5,000. Others will need more. It all depends on what you are looking for. NWCOs wanting their lures or devices tested by a neutral third party should consider the advantages that academic research can give their products.
Tip #2. Invite academics to speak. Inviting academics to speak at your conferences is an excellent way to expose them to your issues. They are willing to come provided you pay their expenses. You will need to notify them at least 6 months in advance. Make the letter official, clearly explaining that their costs will be covered, and then give a deadline for response. Be sure to research their background and suggest topics they could speak on that would be related to their research and/or expertise.
As a corollary, attend their meetings and read their literature. I think it is patently unfair for NWCOs to complain about the lack of attention from academics when NWCOs refuse to attend academic meetings such as the Vertebrate Pest Conference and the Wildlife Damage Management Conference. Even if you can’t make those meetings, do you read the proceedings when they come out? They are not that expensive. You can buy back issues from the ICWDM.org store.
Tip #3. Do your homework. Before asking an academic if he/she is interested in a particular research project, find out if anyone has done any work on the topic already. Google the subject and be sure to consult colleagues and the digital commons. In addition, make sure you have an idea of how much money you can come up with. Faculty don’t have time to be pursuing some project idea without knowing if there is any money available. Show the faculty member you are serious by doing some of your own due-diligence and putting some of your own time in the project.
Tip #4. E-mail first. Academics are busy. I know faculty who purposely don’t use a full signature line in their e-mails because they don’t want to make it easy for people to contact them. This is particularly true with phone calls. So e-mail your questions/comments first. Be sure your e-mail is clear, concise, and proof read. Furthermore, make sure that you include ALL your contact information. I can’t begin to tell you how annoying it is to get an e-mail from a NWCO who signs the e-mail “Bob”. So now I am left with trying to figure out “Bob who?” “Bob where?”
Tip #5. Follow up. If you are like me, you hate pestering people. I figure if someone is truly interested they will do what they said they were going to do. Well in a perfect world that is true. But with academics, you have to nag them. Too often in Universities the urgent takes priority over the important. So you have to be sure your project or issue gets into the urgent category. This is why I keep talking about money because money trumps everything.
I hope this helps NWCOs better understand the world of the University. Better awareness of others can go a long way to greater appreciation and improved cooperation. And I think that is a worthy goal.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP, MNI is a Project Coordinator, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management http://icwdm.org at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These comments are his own and are NOT endorsed by UNL. This article originally appeared in Wildlife Control Technology magazine.
Definitions of Key Terms and Acronyms for the Wildlife Control Industry
Wildlife damage management is a relatively young industry having come into its own in the early 1980s. So it is understandable that the public isn’t as familiar with wildlife damage control terms and acronyms the way they may be regarding terms of the pest control industry. It is a glossary that will continue to grow. If you have questions on the terms listed below or want some added, please contact me through this site.
Academy Certified Professional. A certification gained from attending a 5 day training seminar in Indiana. The training is no longer available since 2008.
A philosophical view which holds that animals (those with the sentient ability to feel pain) should be granted rights analogous to those given to humans. These rights would include the right to freedom from harm caused by humans against animals. This view rejects the notion that humans have a moral right to eat, wear, or use animals for our purposes as such behavior treats animals as means rather than as ends. See Animal Welfare.
The philosophical view (in opposition to Animal Rights) which holds that humans may use, eat, and wear animals provided the animal is treated with respect and reasonable effort is made to minimize the pain and suffering experienced by the animal when being harvested, raised, or hunted by humans. Animal welfarists believe animals do not deserve similar rights to those of humans but do deserve to be treated with dignity as a feeling creature. This respect, however, does not diminish humanity’s right to eat, kill, ride, and use animals for our needs and recreation. Pain and suffering incurred by the animal should not be wanton or for mere amusement of the human but should be minimized (as much as reasonably possible) by the person harvesting the animal.
Blind set is a method of trapping that relies on location of the trap to catch the animal. It doesn’t use bait or lure to attract the animal in the trap. It simply places the trap in a place where the animal is expected to travel. See Positive Trapping.
A device that captures an animal by imprisoning it. But unlike a cage trap, a box trap has solid walls.
A device that captures an animal by imprisoning it. But unlike a box trap, a cage trap has wire-mesh walls.
Cruelty is the malicious and excessive infliction of pain and suffering upon an animal beyond what is necessary. Unfortunately, animal protectionists have been attempting to change the definition to include killing of an animal whether it suffered or not. One may dispute whether the killing of an animal is justified, but to suggest that the mere killing of an animal even if done with minimal to no pain is an expression of cruelty blurs the definition beyond reason. Throwing a raccoon in the fire and shooting it in the head are ways to kill an animal. One is cruel the other isn’t.
Certified Wildlife Control Professional. A certification granted by the National Wildlife Control Operators Association. CWCPs must have 3 years of full time experience and have 100 hours of training.
A trap similar in form to a snare but is designed to capture the animal alive. See Snare.
A highly controversial and debated term whose definition is determined by the ideology of the person or group defining the term. In its loosest definition, humane refers to employing activities that bring the least amount of harm and suffering to the animal(s) being handled. to humanely kill an animal the creature must be unconscious while death occurs. Under a stricter definition, humane means bringing no harm at all to the animal and death is used only as an absolute last resort and then under strict guidelines to ensure a painless death as much as is humanly possible.
It is a common error to apply this term to only cage and box traps. Live trap is any trap that captures the animal alive. Traps that fit into this category include, cage traps, box traps, cable-restraints, footholds, traps that restrain limbs, and pit traps.
Pronounced (New koh). Acronym for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. A synonym for WCO. See WCO and WMP.
Pronounced (New Koh Ah). An acronym for the National Wildlife Control Operators Association. NWCOA is the trade association for professionals in the wildlife damage management industry.
Acronym for Problem Animal Controller. Title used in Massachusetts.
An acronym for Pest Control Operator. PCOs are primarily spray for insects (invertebrate animals) but they also handle pigeons, starlings, house sparrows, mice, and rats. Typically use pesticides and toxicants to control the species they are hired to remove. Lately, more PCOs are entering the wildlife control field.
A technique where the trap is set over the entrance of the animal’s den so that the animal is forced to enter the trap. See Blind Set.
A human moving an animal from one spot to another within the animal’s home range. E.g. Moving a squirrel from your basement and relocating it to your backyard. Often confused with translocation. See Translocation.
A looped cable (typically aircraft cable) designed to capture the animal around the neck and constrict to kill it. Commonly confused with cable-restraints. See cable-restraint
When a human moves an animal from its home-range to an area it is not familiar with which is outside the animal’s home range. Term often confused with relocation. See relocation.
An acronym for Wildlife Control Operator. WCOs are individuals who run or work for private wildlife control companies servicing clients in need of removal of problem wildlife. Some professionals prefer to be called WCOs because they believe wildlife should be considered a resource not a nuisance. A synonym for NWCO.
An acronym for Wildlife Management Professional. May refer to a private wildlife control operator running a business but can also refer to state or local agency personnel.