UToledo Family Business Center

Member Spotlight: Frame's Pest Control

Frames Pest Control


Given the ubiquity of unwanted ants, termites, fleas and other creepy-crawlies in people’s homes, the pest control business is often called recession-proof, but that doesn’t mean the success of Frame’s Pest Control is a free ride. 

Far from it, notes third-generation owner BJ Gall: “We’ve weathered several recessions that were challenging.”

Debbie Case, whose parents Shorty and Mary Ellen Frame founded the company in 1972, added, “During the 2008 recession, we didn’t grow as a company, but we stayed steady — which was a major success.”

Frame’s, headquartered in Toledo with an office in Ann Arbor, has notched other successes over the years. Their fleet of 23 bright red trucks are instantly recognizable on city streets and driveways, in effect serving as rolling advertisements.

“In comparison to our competitors, we spend very little on advertising,” BJ says. “In the early years we did a lot of flyers, and one year we bought big bus signs. But now the vast majority [of advertising] is word of mouth — and our red trucks.”

Under Shorty’s initial leadership — characterized by Debbie as “You knew he was the one running the business” — the company charted a slow but steady growth. “Dad’s partner Skip had knowledge of the pest control business. My mom answered the phones as they worked out of the family house for years. My husband Donald came into it as it grew, then Skip’s son, then I came in as well.”

Growth made the move to Frame’s current location on Alexis Road a happy necessity. Today’s overall staff of 30 employees are led by family members that combine second- and third-generation experience.

With experience comes the ability to adapt to a changing industry and chart the company’s course for the future. Not surprisingly, today’s pest control isn’t the same process as it was decades back.

“When we started, controlling termites made up most of our business,“ Debbie says. “Bedbugs were unheard of — but they saved us in 2008. It was a whole new revenue stream for us, maybe because of increased travel, or stronger bug resistance to easy DIY fixes.”

“We treat more than 50 kinds of pests now, and each approach is unique,” BJ notes. Termites, for instance, are tackled with heat instead of toxic chemicals. Pet flea collars all but eliminated fleas in the home, but other creatures took their place. Two years ago, the company branched out into Frames Wildlife Control, a four-person division that works to remove bats, squirrels, raccoons and the like from homes.

Adaptation and growth bring their own challenges, of course. “When my father retired, he left a kind of communications gap,” Debbie says. “Thanks to the Family Business Center, we found a business adviser to help us with designing better ways to communicate throughout the company.”

Now the family-based culture of open and honest communication is part of the reason employee retention remains high. “Once they’re trained in our culture and policies, people like to work here,” BJ says. 

Derrick Case, director of operations, adds that attracting new employees remains challenging at times. “People don’t usually think about pest control as a lifetime career path,” he says. “We don’t poach other companies’ employees, but we do reach out. Once we get them in, they stay.”

“Our high customer satisfaction rates make for a good reputation, and helps with recruitment,” adds co-owner Lindsay Cahill.

Their business adviser helped them craft a streamlined succession plan that won universal approval. All the company leaders note, however, that when the fourth generation arrives, it may not be made up of family members.

“As a company grows and becomes more successful, size brings new challenges,” BJ says. “Skill sets we have now might not be adequate in the future. Time will tell.”

In the meantime, daily challenges keep everyone engaged. “Next year will be our 50th anniversary,” BJ says. “It’s an exciting milestone — we just need to put aside some time soon to plan!” 

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Last Updated: 6/27/22