By CRAIG KLEIMEYER
Terry Freeman has been capturing wildlife since he was a child in the late 1950s. Growing up on the bayous in Gulfport, Miss., he quickly realized his love for hunting and capturing animals. Today, he owns and operates General Pest Control and his newest business endeavor, Wildlife Management.
Freeman got into the business in 1987. A friend suggested Freeman open a cable company, but he started a pest control business instead.
“I thought that I just needed a truck and a sprayer and to put some flowers out, and I could go to work,” Freeman said. “But, I ended up having a difficult time.”
He soon learned he needed certification and licensure by the State Department of Agriculture and took a crash course from Purdue University on pest control technology.
Freeman decided that the best way to get the news out about his new business, which opened in 1988, was to go door to door around Homewood with flyers. The first month of business might have seemed unsuccessful to some, but to Freeman, he was on the right track.
“I sold my first account in two weeks, and two weeks later, I sold the second account,” he said. “I had only made $40 in the first month of business, but I thought it was great that I doubled my business in size so quickly.”
The optimist soon had more to feel proud of as business began to pick up. Today, General Pest Control has more than 10,000 clients. His 20 employees have a combined 168 years of experience in the company.
“It was kind of like a snowball effect. Our neighbors were our first customers, and then they told their friends and relatives. Business kept rolling in.”
Word of mouth has been his best form of advertisement to this day for him.
“Nothing beats a customer selling for you,” Freeman said.
He said he has been blessed by the immeasurable amount of friends he has gained throughout his business, as well as by the business’ success.
“I have learned that you get out of business what you put into your business,” he said. “When you do a good job, it comes back tenfold.”
Freeman and his wife, Karen, who works alongside him, are careful to make sure their employees have good conduct in the homes and to make sure they give customers the knowledge they need.
“You don’t have pests because you’re a poor housekeeper,” Freeman said. “The pests come in, and they want to make your home their home.”
This spring, ants are a problem in the home and yard because of the mild winter, and it is a big year for fleas. Because of all of the trees and old landscaping in Homewood, there are a lot of squirrels, and squirrels can cause flea problems in houses too. You don’t have to have a dog or a cat to have flea problems, he said.
Also in Homewood, General Pest Control provides sponsorships to community organizations including the Homewood Parks and Recreation, the Jimmy Hale Mission and Youth for Christ Birmingham. They do pretreatments free for tornado victims rebuilding houses as well.
In March Freeman started Wildlife Management, and his customer base is already keeping him busy.
“We are on a path for heavy growth,” Freeman said. “Just in the past four weeks, I saw a great need.”
New development in Homewood is pushing wildlife out of their natural habitats, and Wildlife Management will relocate those animals in an environmentally and wildlife friendly way.
“We obey all laws pertaining to wildlife capture and safely put the animals back into the wild if at all possible,” Freeman said. Wildlife Management employees get the permission they need from property owners, do not use poison and do everything in the most humane way possible.
“People love wildlife, and there’s a place for it, but not in our attics or basements or garages,” Freeman said.
Freeman’s advice for homeowners is to avoid potentially dangerous situations by trying to handle them yourself.
“Call a professional when you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. “There is one number to remember, and we can take care of any need when it comes to insects, pests and wildlife.”
General Pest Control
397 West Oxmoor Road