Fred Willey On Bringing People Together And Bringing An Industry Along

Jan 23, 2024
6 min read
Fred Willey On Bringing People Together And Bringing An Industry Along
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The Invader Pest Management co-owner shares his philosophies on leadership.

By Eddie Wooten

Fred Willey didn’t really choose a career in pest control. But the industry, and the people who make it work, are choosing him. 

He’s just not sure how or why.

“Sometimes I wonder myself,” says Willey, who owns Invader Pest Management, with his wife, Barb, in Glendale, AZ.

“I like serving others,” he adds, “and I’m willing.”

Willey is among the founders of the Arizona Pest Professional Organization, serving for three years as its first president, and in 2022 the organization enshrined him in its Hall of Fame. 

"I'm just a committee member at this point in time," he says. "This is the first year I haven't been in any chairmanship or leadership role. It took 20 years to get there."

Willey has been a regular participant in the National Pest Management Association’s Academy conferences, which are rich sources of leadership development and networking. In addition, Invader Pest Management is QualityPro-accredited and has earned the QualityPro Schools and GreenPro service certifications from NPMA. 

Willey is also a leader among FieldRoutes customers who belong to the company’s invitational Pathfinder Network, in which members provide input about the software platform, showcase their success, and network with each other. 

If all of that is not enough, Willey started his own peer group in which company representatives from across the United States can exchange ideas.

Listening to Willey can pay off, too, as it has for All Clear Pest Control in Queen Creek, AZ, owned by the AzPPO past president, Darren Hunsaker.

"He drastically changed the profitability of our company," Hunsaker says, "by sharing his knowledge. It allowed us to move in a direction that would let us be more comfortable, be able to do more things that we wanted by just sharing his knowledge of business."

Willey’s approach toward his colleagues in pest control is rooted in the Golden Rule.

"I'll get involved, and the next thing you know I'm kind of leading the pack," says Willey, whose company is celebrating its 30th year in business. "Like with the software, for example: I just believe if it worked for everybody, then I would get out of it what I want, too. A do-unto-others-as-you'd-like-done-to-yourself situation."

What he’s given, but also received, in these three decades in pest control is much more than he could’ve envisioned when the rules he was learning all applied to accounting.

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‘If I could do that for him …’ 

In the days of dial-up internet, Willey worked as an apprentice for a certified public accountant. But Willey’s career trajectory would change after the CPA decided to send him to a client, a pest control company, as a full charge bookkeeper.

"To be in charge, you have to know everything there is to know about that business," the accountant told Willey.

"Thirty days later, I had my pest control license, I had my termite license," Willey says. "I just dove in headfirst: Had nothing to do with accounting."

Willey also learned how to build customer lists, including use of postcards and mailers.

"I made that guy a million dollars," Willey says. "If I could do that for him, maybe I could do it for myself."

Fred and Barb Willey opened Invader Pest Management in 1994 northwest of downtown Phoenix. Part of the company’s mission statement emphasizes care for employees and, of course, customers. 

Showing integrity, setting an example and being a Good Samaritan are among core values that not only have propelled Invader forward in these three decades but also have positioned Willey as a respected leader in the pest control industry.

On being ‘the helpful guy’

In 2004, the Arizona Pest Management Association decided it didn’t want to remain a part of NPMA. Willey and a few fellow pest control company owners saw the benefits and offered to start a companion organization that would retain NPMA ties, but the Arizona association didn’t want a part in it.

So Willey and friends created the Arizona Pest Professional Organization, and within two years the previous group dissolved.

“We were it,” Willey says. 

Willey turned early experience, not only with his own company but now AzPPO, into even more leadership opportunities. Besides putting into practice his company’s mission statements and core values, Willey also acted on inspiration he found in work by Jeffrey Gitomer, an author of multiple best-selling books about sales and business leadership. Gitomer’s passion for welcoming people at the door for a meeting and getting them connected with others left an impression on Willey.

"Being the helpful guy, being there for somebody, not just for yourself," Willey says. "People will remember you as the guy who brought people together."

Willey has played a key role in bringing people together and fostering camaraderie inside of AzPPO.

"Everybody's very sharing and willing to talk to one another," he says. 

And that includes Hunsaker with All Clear Pest Control, although that wasn’t always his preference. Before joining AzPPO, Hunsaker preferred to keep to himself, fearing another company would take some of his business.

“And that's just not the case,” Hunsaker says. “It really just let me learn more from others as I was willing to do what Fred did and share business knowledge and things that we're doing.”

Hunsaker credits Willey’s willingness to impart his knowledge with helping provide that monetary boost for All Clear Pest Control.

"He said, 'Don't be worried about this price increase. Don't be worried about changing things and pushing people to a bi-monthly over a monthly,'" Hunsaker says. "And he just kind of pushed me to do it, which then allowed us to really increase our profitability and be able to take care of the additional services we wanted to add."

While Willey likes to pay it forward, he also has been a beneficiary of the many relationships he has built.

Invader doesn't perform many termite pretreat sprays, and Willey had gotten rid of his equipment. But on a Sunday during fall 2023, the need for borrowing that equipment presented itself.

"'Hey Andrew, do you mind?'" Willey asked a fellow company leader.  "He said, 'No, come and get it.'

"He gave me the code to his building, and we did a pretreat and made four grand. 

"It developed these relationships,” he says of AzPPO, “because you're willing to communicate with everybody and talk to one another and just help out." 

Willey isn’t afraid to ask for—no, push for—what he believes will work best. He admits to being “loud and boisterous” but adds, “I do it in a nice way.” 

Beyond the insight built on decades of experience, Hunsaker says, “he’s just a good guy.” And it’s that way that Willey goes about life—being helpful but also humble—that wins friends and influences people.

"If you do good things for people, other people will do good things for you, too,” Willey says. 

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According to Fred Wiley

Fred Willey, the co-owner with his wife, Barb, of Invader Pest Management, on key topics:

On serving customers and leading in the industry

• "When you hear what people are looking for and what their needs are and you can help them with that, that's always been one of my gifts."

• "It's a fantastic industry. It supports a lot of us very, very well. In today's world, I love all the newness to it. We've got digital rat traps out there now telling us where there's rats. We don't have to check 500 traps; we can go check 40 where we caught them. It's a fun business. It's a people business. We get to help people every single day, which is cool. It brings joy to me to know you're doing a great job for people."

On the FieldRoutes Pathfinder Network

• "It is exciting to hear that our time is meaning something and to see things getting implemented that are really, really important to me as a company owner."

• "The biggest reason to belong to the Pathfinder group is just so that you understand that it's more than just a software that is handed to you. You actually have a say in what you want. You can help create that. The Pathfinder group is very open, and they want to know, 'What do you want?' Too many times, you're just thinking about the software and you get what you get out of a package. With this opportunity, you actually have input."

On switching to FieldRoutes as Invader's software partner

• "Because we were making a switch, the whole team learned how to set it up from the very beginning. It was pretty instrumental for us all learning the software at the same time."

• "FieldRoutes is easy to use. It was really easy to implement."

• "I do like the dashboard. You get a quick glance. I can get different kinds of reports that I want to see. I feel the numbers are more accurate than they were with the previous software. After moving here, I really did find out that the numbers were being overstated with the other company. I feel more confident that the numbers really mean something.”

Invader Pest Management

Owners: Barb and Fred Willey

Years In Business: 30

Technicians: 8

Office Staff: 7

Information: Invader.net, 623.888.8395

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