Tom Karren - CEO Vantage Pest Control
17 years in D2D is why Tom Karren is one of the leading performers in this space. With a solid team, he has the skills, experience, and stamina to help anyone take their game to the next level.
After his mission, Karren got into D2D during college when a random guy knocked on his door and invited him to a pizza party meeting where they told him he could make a lot of money selling pest control, and that free pizza changed his life forever.
Karren never dreamed of becoming as big as he is now. Early on he created a culture and atmosphere that has molded his company into a well-oiled machine. It is not about becoming the biggest and best, it is about staying strong to your values and never compromising yourself and your standards. In a few short years, Karren built two large businesses and sold them to Terminix before being hired by Terminix to manage their Door to Door sales.
Something unique about how Karren runs his business is that he offers ownership to Reps that perform and do their best. That is how he started and feels it is only fair to give that opportunity to others. Owning something is so crucial to success, the reps and management are both invested and help each other grow, it is truly rewarding for everyone.
Success does not come without struggles. One of the biggest hurdles starting off was growing so quickly and not being able to keep up with everything. Having everything be organized was difficult. Getting housing for 500 reps was difficult. Recruiting, training, operations, managing and selling were just a few of the many things that were on his plate.
Choosing a good partner is also a tricky feat, but Karren knew by watching people, who he wanted. Those who kept his same values, worked hard, kept the culture strong, honest and have been with the company for awhile were a few of the things that attracted partners to him.
Over 17 years Karren has had to recruit many thousands of people. Most reps have at least 3-4 years of experience. Our goal is to always retain the guys who stay. Keep them happy and build out from there. When we get them in the door, we keep them, we care about them whether they get 1000 or 100 accounts. We go out and knock together still. The industry is constantly evolving. He is able to see the front lines and get to know the reps one on one. He truly enjoys knocking doors and stays fresh by going out and getting on the doors.
By keeping close tabs on everyone, he is able to grow alongside his team. Seeing reps start out on door one, become a manager, become a regional manager and then part-owner. It is really cool to see the team grow. He is able to give shout outs to the leading reps each day and motivate individual reps company-wide. It is so important to him that his reps know that he is not vacationing and living the high life while they plow the streets. Each day he is out there with them, building them and their success.
To develop leaders, Karren has found that it is not always the top sellers who become the managers. Karren looks for work ethic, reps with the grit to keep going, the positive reps who are honest and chip in become the leaders. Recognizing that not everyone sells the same is important. Another way we help develop leaders is through their monthly meetings for all managers and weekly regional meetings for leadership training to become better men and leaders.
The key for them is to help reps recognize that they are learning life skills during the summer. They are learning how to work hard and be better in all aspects of their lives, not just selling door to door. It is bigger than “just summer sales”. The skills they learn on the doors are not learned in a classroom, you cannot just study doing this, you have to live it. It is not just about the money, it is about the lessons and lifestyle.
To keep up on sales continuing education is crucial. Reading books, surrounding yourself with good people, rubbing shoulders with the best in the industry and reaching out to other people is so important to growing. Rich Dad Poor Dad was the first book that made Karren think differently about his life choices and taking Door to Door to the next level.
Karren’s biggest hurdle now is working on the fear of failure. Logically the company is large enough and stable enough to be strong without him, yet he still gets paranoid and anxious that things may still not work out. Learning to let go a little and have trust that it is not all on his shoulders is his next big feat. Not being hard on yourself is so difficult at this level and he needs to shut down, turn off and balance family, work, and personal life.
To balance now, Karren says that turning his phone all the way off is crucial for him and his family. He has learned that even though his phone is off, business keeps going and anything that happens during the weekend can be saved for Monday. This seems to be a common issue that most managers run into, and it is okay if you take a minute to respond. Also, scheduling date night and family night. It is so important to schedule everything in your life including the most important things too. Karren plans a family vacation at the beginning of each summer with his kids and another big vacation with his wife when summer ends.
If Karren were to make a list of his top reps and say what qualities were similar to all of them, it would be really tricky. They all have different attributes and tactics that work for them. Most of the leaders grow to become leaders and are not just automatically noticeable. You can never judge a book by his cover. If he were to put a common thread for most leaders the two top attributes would be:
Attitude and how they overcome hard times and obstacles.
Fiercely competitive people who let competition fuel themselves.
In order to perform the best, you have to do what you love. Anything you can hire out, hire it out and save the things you are passionate about for yourself. Karren is not above any job in the business, it is just that he saves the jobs he loves for himself. He wants to knock, he wants to train, he wants to be on the front line so that is what he does. You have to love what you do, otherwise you won't do it long term.