Jacques Hess could not understand why the industry hid itself in shame when he joined Guarantee Exterminating Co. in 1925. He spent the rest of his career, which spanned nearly 54 years, trying to give pest management its proper due with the public.
Hess, this year’s posthumous member of the PMP Hall of Fame Class of 2009, put the industry’s first ad in directory, was a founding member of the National Pest Control Association (NPCA) and never wavered in his commitment to making sure people never took the industry for granted.
“It was always undercover because people thought that if they saw a pest management truck in front of your house, it reflected badly on the people inside,” says Michael Hess, Jacques’ son and a New York lawyer in the firm Giliuani Partners. “My father felt there should be sunshine on the industry, and he always worked to make sure it happened.”
The Responsible One
Jacques was no stranger to responsibility. After his father died prematurely, he dropped out of school so that he could support his mother and four sisters. After a nearly deadly stint as a newspaper photographer (on a return flight from an assignment, the plane carrying Jacques and his colleagues back to New York crashed into the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Jacques was the only survivor of the crash), Jacques joined the industry and quickly made his mark.
Two years after joining Guarantee, Jacques decided it was time for the industry, which did so much to protect the public’s health and property, to take center stage. Michael says his father developed a two-pronged strategy to build a more positive image for the industry.”
“The first thing he wanted to do was expand the way the industry viewed itself and how the public viewed it,” Michael says. “He felt pest management was no different than going to a doctor to prevent illness, and he wanted more people to understand that.”
Jacques had a two-pronged strategy for creating the proper publicity. The first, which required his personal intervention, was to get more advertising in the public sphere. This included pushing Reuben H. Donnelly Co., which produces the Yellow Pages, to accept ads from pest management firms, something they had not done beforehand.
In 1927, Jacques flew to Chicago to discuss the prohibition in person with the leaders of Donnelly, and they finally reluctantly agreed to accept the advertising from Guarantee. The cost at the time for Yellow Pages advertising was $40 per month.
Norm Cooper, a former pest management professional who followed Jacques as president of a company and now consultant with Norm Cooper Associates in Rye, N.Y., says Jacques refused to idly stand by while Donnelly refused to take the industry’s money. It was like him to get personally involved in these kinds of discussions and, by the force of his own strong personality, would often win the day.
“He really believed the industry shouldn’t hide itself from public view,” Michael says. “Not only did he increase the advertising reach of our industry, but he spoke at other business meetings and wrote articles for newspapers. It was something he believed in profoundly.”
Norm says Jacques was one of the pioneers of the industry for public relations and promotion of the industry.
“Jacques was always a forward-looking person and foresaw what the industry could become,” Norm says. “He believed in the future of pest management and wanted to see everyone in the industry succeed.”
Present at the Creation
Jacques also believed strongly in the need for a national association. Michael says he remembers as a child his parents leaving each fall to go to various locations around the country to attend the meetings of the National Pest Control Association (NPCA, now National Pest Management Association or NPMA).
It all started with meetings of no more than a dozen men who decided the industry needed national representation to raise the professionalism though collaboration of the industry nationwide. The group started conferences, newsletter and other publications to disseminate technical and business information throughout the industry, thus raising the standards of everyone.
“He was one of the founding members of the NPCA, and he was always involved heavily in all of the associations related to the industry,” Norm says. “He was always ready to speak at conferences like the Eastern Conference, the Purdue Pest Management Conference and others.”
One of Jacques’ pet peeves, for example, was ads in the industry that featured dead insects and rats. He believed it didn’t make the industry look as professional as it should and worked hard to explain that idea to companies around the country. It was this devotion to helping others that Michael remembers most.
“I can’t put a percentage on it, but he devoted a lot of time each year to promoting the NPCA to companies who weren’t members,” Michael says. “He was always looking to broaden the strength of the industry and recognized the importance of the strength that came in numbers.”
Norm says Jacques would always be on the cutting edge of pest management and would be among the first in the country to try new techniques or enter new business lines. He strove to broaden the reach of the pest management industry beyond the narrow confines of just eliminating pests.
What Michael remembers most about his father and his commitment to our industry was the camaraderie and strong friendships that developed through the years.
“His dedication to creating a strong national association was the strongest memory I have of Dad’s involvement in the industry,” Michael says. “But what I also remember is the bonds between the people in the industry. These men worked together and were dedicated to the cause of making the pest management industry the best it could be — and they genuinely enjoyed helping each other do it.”