| Special for the Arizona Business Gazette
The idea of owning a business was attractive.
But CimeX Control Pest Management founder Fernando Torres felt anything but glamorous when he first launched his Scottsdale company in 2017.
Not long after Torres left his executive job, he found himself crouching and plodding through hot attics and crawl spaces.
“Having rodents chase you, roaches and spiders dropping on you … I was sweaty and dirty thinking, ‘I was making six figures and this is what I’m doing?'” Torres said.
Torres previously worked for a landscaping company with a pest control division. Although he was in sales, Torres was required to have a license.
Thoughts of being his own boss occasionally crossed Torres’ mind. But it was his wife and CimeX co-founder Ann who helped those thoughts linger longer.
“Fernando was always very, very good at everything he did. He was always doing it for someone else. I was like, enough’s enough. Just do this. I’m sick of you making everyone else all this money and not us,” Ann said with a hearty laugh.
Torres bought a truck, backpack and uniform and set out with CimeX, which means bed bug in Latin.
Encouragement from Ann as well as friends who let Torres practice on their homes to smooth out what was a pretty steep learning curve were valuable assets. There was also a lot of online support.
“YouTube University is very cool,” Torres said with a chuckle.
With CimeX up and running, Torres was working seven days a week and making good money. But it was taking a toll on his personal life by leaving Torres less time to spend with his family. Once again, Ann provided insight: Did he want to be an entrepreneur or self-proprietor?
A year later, Torres hired his first employee. Like many small business founders, Torres was hesitant at first but quickly learned the benefits of hiring people whom he could trust with his baby.
“It got easier little by little. They bring different ideas so it became refreshing,” he said.
It also allowed Torres to do what was his professional background: sell. Over the years, this also got easier as happy clients became first-hand sales people, touting the boutique, independent pest control company. Growth followed.
What started as a husband-and-wife operation with Torres going on every job himself is today powered by a staff that serves more than 600 commercial and housing development clients.
In the company’s first year, it generated $25,000 in sales, Torres said. The next year it did 10 times that. Since then, growth has been exponential and steady with CimeX doing $850,000 in sales in 2021, and on track to reach $1.1 million.
CimeX is part of a US pest control industry that had a market value of $16.9 billion in 2021, according to Statista.
How the business got its start in AZ
For more than a year, Ronnie Smith, senior property manager for the Lincoln Property Company, has relied on CimeX to take care of pests at its five commercial office buildings in Mesa.
Smith knew Torres from his landscape company days and felt his was the ideal company to take care of the properties.
“I like that it’s locally owned. I like that Fernando is involved in the process. We always had this great relationship. He was always a straight shooter and upfront about how he handles business,” Smith said.
The above and beyond amenities that Smith appreciates include advising of any surprise issues — such as a wasp nest problem at one of his properties — taking care of them and instructing on how to prevent or spot them before they get out of control.
“They take the extra steps to remind me when they will be here and check in to see if there are other needs that have to be done,” Smith said. “Not everyone does that.”
A native of Panama, Torres moved to the US at 13 and grew up in Cleveland. At 21, wishing to leave the cold weather and experience a fresh start, he moved in with a friend in Tempe who needed a roommate. He arrived in 1995 with $2,500 in his pocket. Torres’ plan was to have fun, blow all the cash and head back. Hey never did.
Here, he met his wife of 15 years Ann, a native of Buffalo, New York, who moved to Arizona for a teaching job in 2001.
When Torres decided to go out on his own, he wasn’t as convinced as Ann that it was a wise move. By this time, Ann was a stay-at-home mother to their two children. She convinced him she could always go back to work if needed.
“When I first started, I had a license but only sold pest control. I was 43, no spring chicken,” Torres said.
Ann was his biggest believer and the best person to give him the confidence to venture out.
“I figured if she’s not scared, then why should I be scared?” Torres said. “It’s like jumping into cold water. It’s cold at first but then it starts feeling OK.”
Extra attention on the clients
Being a small operation allows everyone to provide personalized service, like educating clients about the services that are provided, what they can do to help themselves between treatments, bringing out chemical suppliers so clients can ask questions directly and publishing a newsletter to cover all the bases .
Clients have Torres’ personal cell phone number that he picks up. If there’s an issue, he accompanies techs to the site.
“We spend time with them and they love that warm and fuzzy feeling,” he said. “These are the things that show we are different. You create a buzz by being different.”
CimeX’s expansion plans include Tucson, where current clients have properties, and Florida, where Torres has a friend with a large HOA.
It is still very much a family affair with Ann, a realtor, helping with marketing. They take clients bowling, to football games and happy hours. The events create a bond deeper than a purely professional relationship.
But the job itself has rewards. Torres talked about the relief people have when he or his employees arrive on the scene and come to the rescue.
“It’s almost like you’re Superman. They look at you like a hero,” Torres said. “You’re taking the pain away. To have the ability to make someone feel that way is pretty fulfilling.”
What: CimeX Control Pest Management
Where: 5111 E. Calavar Road, Scottsdale
factoid: The US pest control industry had a market value of $16.9 billion in 2021, according to Statista.
Details: 602-688-4985, cimexcontrol.com