About Rhodes Exterminating
Nearly 10 years ago, Mike Winfrey accepted an offer from an old friend, Keith Taggart, who had told him for years, he wanted to help him get started in a business of his own. Keith who had operated Rhodes Exterminating for over 20 years, taught Mike the ‘bug-killing business’. Always a family-owned business, originally started by Harold Biggs in the 1970s, an exterminator from the Clinton area, Mike and his wife, Kelly now operate Rhodes Exterminating out of Lebanon, Missouri.
“I have to admit,” Mike Winfrey shared, “my first thought regarding this as a career, was how could a person stay busy enough just spraying bugs? But I have found out over the last many years!
“What we do and what we encounter is different at every stop,” he continued. “And it is always a challenge. Whatever kind of pest we are confronting—moths, gnats, ants, termites, bed bugs, spiders, fruit flies, fleas, or roaches—the key is to find the source of the infestation.”
He thought for a moment before adding. “Probably the most challenging are termites and ants and in recent years, we have seen an influx of bed bugs in this area. Unlike most other insect pests that come in from nature, bed bugs hitchhike in, like lice. We’ll see a situation where they are in a home and of course, the family reacts like they have in the past to lice, telling the children not to say anything to anyone. Then one of their kids goes to another family’s home to spend the night and now we see the spread of the bed bugs.
“They are difficult and expensive to get rid of. We do it using chemicals. There are heat systems to treat the home to kill them but the equipment alone costs $80,000-$100,000. To cover that cost, big exterminating companies that use such equipment have to charge as much as three times more than smaller companies like ours.”
Mike has his business degree from Southwest Missouri State University and is a former supervisor at Justice Bedding of Lebanon. Kelly is an experienced businesswoman and former car dealership owner. She picked up the narrative. “This is like any other business in that it is all about customer service. We serve both residential and commercial clients, with about 75 per cent of our business being residential customers.
“The majority of our business is preventative. The big nationally-known companies try to get people to sign a contract that involves monthly spraying and frankly, as someone who has had that done to their home, it’s downright annoying,” Kelly added with a laugh. “We advise people here that a spring and fall spraying is sufficient to take care of any problems they might have. In doing that, we also check the home for termites, something that all homeowners should do each year.”
She continued. “We use chemicals that are completely safe to humans and pets, once they are dried, which takes a couple of hours. I’d love to say we use ‘green chemicals’ to do the job but the truth is, they just don’t work. We are very careful and conscious of the chemicals we do use.
“Mike knows he has been very blessed in this business to have the help of family, including his mother, Rosalie Winfrey who helped him so much in the beginning. Today, my brother, Kevin Uder and my sister, Christy Barker as well as Rob Bates also work for us and we are happy to say that our business just keeps growing.”
Mike concluded. “When someone calls us for the first time, it is often because they have a significant problem. We meet a lot of cool, interesting people in this business but no matter what kind of pest they are dealing with, I have to say it gives me a real sense of pride to be able to help them solve their problem.”
Interview conducted & written by Laura L. Valenti