Interview with Gary Journeaux
CEO of Competitive Pest Services
Please introduce yourself and your background to our readers.
Hi, I’m Gary Journeaux, dual citizen of Britain and Australia, married with two children, and most of the year am based in Myanmar with short visits to Australia every few months. Having lived in Myanmar for the past six years, and after purchasing an apartment here last year and our children now going to school, I consider Myanmar my home.
My parents were originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and emigrated to Sydney Australia, just before I was born. I was born and raised in Manly, which is a beautiful beachside suburb in Sydney. As an adult, I moved to Bondi, Sydney, which is famous around the world. I started my career in advertising, working in London and Sydney. For the past sixteen years, I have been working in pest control.
Please tell us more about Competitive Pest Services (CPS).
CPS is the only pest control company in Myanmar to have triple ISO certification (Environmental, Quality, Workplace Safety), and HACCP Accreditation. We are also the only pest control company to have four foreigners based in Myanmar full time mentoring and supporting our local teams throughout the country. We have a great reputation in this market as the premium provider, due to our dedication to using premium pest control products, stringent training, certifications, accreditations, and also working tirelessly to fix any pest issues for our clients whenever they arise. With my sixteen years of termite management experience to stringent Australian Standard 3660, we are continually regarded as the termite experts in Myanmar as I work with our local team on every termite site we manage. I’ve always been goal orientated and always strived to improve myself every day. CPS follows the same principle, continually evolving over the past sixteen years into the great product it is today.
How did you end up as a CEO at CPS?
Pest control has been in my family for as long as I can remember. My father was a sales rep for Rentokil when I was young, all my brothers have worked in pest control, my cousins also. I on the other hand, pursued a career in advertising. However, in 2004, my cousin was selling his one man pest control business, and so I joined family tradition and bought his business when I was 24. After operating the business for a year, it was time to put on my first employee, and so I offered a technician role to my cousin who sold me the business initially. He accepted and we continued to grow from there. Whilst most of my day to day is taken up by meetings, I still work on the front lines if required in Myanmar and Australia. I have my pest licence in the UK, and also in three states in Australia.
How did the company start operations here? How would you identify CPS in Myanmar when it’s compared to CPS in other countries?
My partner is Burmese, and we welcomed twins in 2015. Knowing it takes a village to raise a child, especially twins, we decided to move to Myanmar to be near family. The intention was not to start CPS here, however I decided to contact some Hotels to discuss if my pest control knowledge could be put to good use. Honestly, it was shocking what I saw on those initial site surveys – general basics of pest control were not being carried out in the best establishments. It was evident that Myanmar needed a pest control company to lift the standards of hygiene and lower the pest levels. CPS then commenced in Myanmar, and the growth was rapid.
Which business sectors or customers do you mainly serve?
CPS predominantly works with commercial clients across all sectors. However late last year we commenced servicing residential clients.
What pests are commonly found in the market? Could you elaborate on how your services are curated to the market needs?
The pests in Myanmar are very similar to pests in Australia. The challenge however, has been the cultural differences and implications of pest control that CPS has. With 88% of Myanmar people being Buddhist, pest control and ‘killing’ are viewed hand in hand and pest control companies and technicians can have a negative reputation. It has been important and very beneficial to showcase the pest control industry in a different light, by starting the “We Save Lives Everyday” campaign. By promoting the number of lives we save from pest-related illnesses such as malaria, dengue, typhoid and zika virus, it reminds the country on how we protect the people, their homes and the food they eat. This has allowed our staff to take pride in the work we do, which we have found to tremendously increase our technician’s job satisfaction and service standards while still being a proud Buddhist.
What would be your success story so far? What are your future plans?
I think the success story so far is taking the business from a one-man sole trader to a business that operates in Australia and Myanmar, with 150 total staff. However, what’s important is that we have grown with the value of integrity and safety, which is honestly a personal achievement.
As for future plans, one of our key focus for 2020 for both Myanmar and Australia is culture. In Myanmar, our team love the culture and we often refer to ourselves as the CPS Family. Last year, I found great value reading Brene Brown Dare to Lead, which focuses on vulnerability in the workplace, tough conversations, and healthy striving. Our Heads of Department worked through the process from this book last year, and the results were incredible. As a result we will be rolling this out across the whole team.
Our growth strategy moving forward is BDM initiatives, launching in new markets, and bolt on acquisitions. This year CPS purchased our first, and will launch in the UK in the next few months. In terms of the Myanmar market, we are really focusing on HACCP education. When I first started in Myanmar in 2015, ISO Standards were not very well known, with limited knowledge of the concepts. Now I believe the market has an understanding of these basics. I am finding the same with HACCP and Hygiene principles now. The market is starting discussions, and slowly starting to understand the importance of hygiene for the economy as a whole.
Overall, the long term outlook for Myanmar is positive on a whole, and I’m really fortunate and grateful to be here working on raising standards and educating the market.
What is your pricing structure?
CPS offers a different service compared to all our Myanmar competitors, so its no secret that we are priced highest in the market. We are very upfront about this with all potential clients. To offer around the clock comprehensive full service at HACCP and ISO Standards, its natural that our costs are higher than our competitors. Also having four foriegners based permanently in Myanmar supporting the team adds to these costs. Most clients opt for the full service, which means that they pay the one price per month, and we return as many times as required to gain control if any issues arise. Other pest control companies work differently where you pay as you go for each service.
What is the prospect for the pest control services industry?
There will always be clients for businesses that offer customer value, and pest control is no different. Pest control industry standards have increased over the past five years, and this will only increase with time. Additionally, we would hope for a Myanmar Pest Managers Association to commence here in Myanmar to increase standards even further. However this will take time. The benefit of this Association would involve coordinating with our Asian neighbours regarding developments in pest control, and receiving assistance with growing pest control knowledge in Myanmar.
What did the First Annual Pest Control Conference cover in 2019?
For our First Annual Pest Control Conference (held in both Yangon and Mandalay), our aim was to raise awareness about Food Safety, Hygiene, and Termite Training across the F&B, Hospitality, Manufacturing and Government sectors. We specifically flew a speaker in for this event for his wealth of pest control trends shaping the industry. CPS’ in house Field Biologist James Ritter spoke about Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is focused on proofing and hygiene to keep pests away instead of the use of harsh chemicals that are now banned in a lot of countries. Leonard Laird is CPS’ Operations Manager and HACCP Instructor who has worked in an auditing and HACCP background. He talked about the Fundamentals of HACCP which is an International Food Safety Standard, the importance of food safety and the role pest control plays in it. Lastly, I talked about Termite Management – Baiting Vs. Chemical Applications. I have been working with termites for the last 16 years and shared my experience on the pros and cons of different control methods and the many benefits of Termite Baiting.
Tell us about Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and its importance to both producers and customers.
HACCP is primarily concerned with analyzing where physical, biological, chemical hazards can enter the food manufacturing process. Food safety is extremely important globally, especially in developing markets. Most deaths and a high percentage of illnesses attributed to food safety issues come from developing countries. The WHO estimates that close to USD 95 billion is lost to the economy each year because of food poisoning.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing businesses in 1-3 years?
The global markets are still jittery in my opinion, however I am probably more reserved and bearish in my outlook. Myanmar is cushioned somewhat from global events, so I am not too concerned about poor economic results in other markets. There would be research to outline that a global recession could be positive for Myanmar, as international companies look to reduce costs and commence operations here.
I think the challenges are the same as have been over the past few years: upskilling and educating the workforce here in Myanmar. However its an important step for the country growth, and one that all business owners should take on board. Upskilling a population of 53million people in Myanmar, that are very passionate about their country, can only lead to good things.
If you could recommend one change to government policy, what would it be?
Whilst not a government policy change, we would love the market to get to the stage of hygiene inspections for food and beverage outlets. As we originated in other markets that have health inspections as common practice, we always operate with this standard in mind. This type of inspections will come with time, however it would be a great goal for the future.