Mark Weisburger (2003)

“He has, without exception, represented the insurance and pest control industries with integrity and professionalism that I believe is unparalleled.” — Arthur Katz

“It is apparent that he has been influenced by previous generations to remember that we are not alone in this world, and to be compassionate and considerate of others.” — Lester Levin

These two statements are typical of those nominating Mark Weisburger to the Hall of Fame. In a lifetime as a supplier to the pest control industry, Mark has represented professionalism at many levels, as well as commitment to people and the industry.

He comes by this naturally, being the third of four generations to run B. & D.A. Weisburger Insurance, White Plains, NY. Most pest management professionals know of this company, as it has been providing specialty pest control insurance for nearly 70 years.

First on the Scene

B. & D.A. Weisburger was the first company to offer insurance specifically designed to cover the business and practices of pest managers, and that was the year Mark Weisburger was born — 1934. “My grandfather, Benjamin, started the business in 1915, and was later joined by my father, David,” explains Mark, now secretary/treasurer of the firm.

Mark’s father and mother were both licensed brokers in Manhattan in the early 1930s, when the then-National Pest Control Association was located in nearby Brooklyn.

“My father had a friend in the pest control business who needed coverage, so he got him the coverage,” recalls Mark. “That’s how it started.”

Business in the pest control niche grew steadily in the next 20 years, along with its “regular” consumer insurance customers. As a young boy, Mark was involved with the business, helping his father make collections each week in Harlem.

“We had lots of clients up and down 125th Street, and each Saturday we made collections. My dad was a terrific salesman who always carried an application in his pocket and had the goal to sell ‘just one more policy today,'” he says. “It was fun for me to watch him work.”

In those days, business was pretty simple.

“I worked during the summers and we didn’t have air conditioning on the 13th floor. It got so hot we’d just close for the day.”

David asked Mark to consider joining him in business, the same way Mark later asked his sons Donald and Michael. After marrying Roberta and graduating with a degree in economics from Lafayette College, Easton, PA, in 1955, Mark headed off to the Army for a stint as a platoon leader at Ft. Benning, GA.

“That was a great learning experience. I met people I never would have met, lived in the outdoors and thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says.

Although his plan had always been to join his father in the family business, Mark first worked three years for Connecticut Mutual Life.

“I sold nothing but life insurance. I wanted to get different business ideas to bring into the company,” he recalls.

When he joined his father in business in 1960, Mark had many ideas to share.

“I was pretty sharp then, and we had a wonderful time,” he notes.

He also had a growing family to support: Son Donald was born in 1957, followed by Michael in 1960.

Tradition of Service

It was when he joined his father that Mark became enmeshed in the pest control industry. His father’s sudden illness soon after forced him to take up many of the reins while still learning about the industry. Mark was thankful for the company’s employees, as well as his industry mentors who helped him understand the industry.

“We had good people to run the company. My dad didn’t want to let go of the business, so I was never really in charge, but I ran the business for six months of the year when he traveled. The business moved on and I gradually got involved with many industry meetings,” he says.

Mark began attending and speaking at industry meetings like his father had from the start of the NPCA.

“We attended all the state, local and national meetings — as many as 100 per year. My first National was in 1963,” he recalls. “I never could have done it without great people to run the business in my absence.”

Mark points to two longtime employees, Bob Oakes and Charlie Carnesi (“our chief cooks and bottle washers”), as well as others serving 20+ years with the company, as key to his success.

“These people have made my life comfortable while running the business, and they allowed me to get away even in the worst of times,” he adds.

B. & D.A. Weisburger established a Robert A. Oakes Memorial Scholarship fund at Purdue University to honor their longtime colleague.

He also points to other industry people as his own professional mentors, some of whom are fellow Hall of Famers:

  • John Medoff of West New York, NJ — “He and his wife introduced me to the New Jersey market when I was just starting.”
  • Dr. Austin Frishman — “His ability to size people up and understand what the industry needs has always been positive.”
  • Dr. Ralph Heal, Bob Showalter and Dr. Phil Spear — “These gentlemen took me under their wings, were always helpful and were knowledgeable, delightful people to work with.”
  • Mel Edelstein — “Anyone who can get 1,000 small companies into an organization and help them like that is a marvelous guy.”

Mark became a chartered life underwriter (CLU) in 1964, and a chartered property and casualty underwriter (CPCU) in 1994. “It took me 30 years to get that one!” he jokes.

In those years, Mark’s family blossomed to include Donald’s wife Robin and daughter Erin, as well as Michael’s wife Jenny and children Alison, Ben and Evan.

Donald worked as a school administrator in New Hampshire and Michael joined B. & D.A. Weisburger a few years after college in 1984.

Committed to Sharing

Beyond his deep love of family and business, Mark’s interests are reflected in the effort he gives to the Boy Scouts, Lafayette College and local organizations. He has served as vice president of the Manhattan Council of Boy Scouts, as well as president of the Lafayette College Alumni Association.

Currently, Mark is a trustee emeritus for Lafayette, after serving 15 years as a full trustee. The family has also established the Weisburger Family Scholarship Fund at Lafayette College.

His other focus lies on helping son Michael make the best of his term at the helm of B. & D. A. Weisburger.

“Michael’s been president for nearly 10 years now,” he says. “When I took over from my father, I realized that everything feels different when you run it yourself. Michael came to me with ideas like I did for my father. He is the innovator and has turned the company upside down, in a positive way.

“There are two reasons why Michael is now president: It’s a great time for me to enjoy life, and he is the one responsible for our great growth,” he explains. “I told him, ‘You have to be president because people are asking me questions and you know all the answers!’ He makes the decisions. If I don’t agree with them, I tell him, but they’re his call. He’s the one with the weight of the world on his shoulders. I don’t have that anymore.”

As secretary/treasurer, however, Mark is still involved with the business. He accepts speaking assignments from Michael and is always ready as an advisor.

Today, the firm continues to serve consumers, PMPs and a growing number of companies in the landscape and lawn care industries.

Future Challenges

Mark’s happy to see a more professional industry evolve.

“The mentality against having employees certified for fear they’ll leave has changed dramatically. Now, small firms still come into the industry and larger companies are training and producing managers who sometimes leave and start their own businesses. I see that as positive because if they’ve been trained well, it will be good for the industry and good for competition,” he says.

The biggest challenge he sees for PMPs are to “provide a service, charge enough for it and make people realize your value. Profit is not a dirty word.”

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