Editor’s Note: Matt Hamblin, owner of Smart Pest Solutions, Tempe, Ariz., was featured in our cover story in September and as part of our November issue’s Photo Finish coverage, focusing on the National Pest Management Association’s PestWorld 2020 closing ceremony Oct. 15. Hamblin wrote the following to share with readers why two keepsakes from when he was just starting out in the industry are still so important to him today, in the interest in perhaps starting the discussion with other pest management professionals (PMPs): What keeps you grounded?

The author's handmade wallet, left, and early journal are two items that keep him grounded in life and in career. PHOTO: MATT HAMBLIN

The author’s handmade wallet, left, and early journal are two items that keep him grounded in life and in career. PHOTO: MATT HAMBLIN

When I sang the “Country Roads” song for the “PestWorld PopStar” contest, I got a little emotional toward the end. That’s because I was thinking of my own “mountain mama,” my mom, raised in poverty outside of Fayetteville, Ark. I was thinking about where she comes from, and about her encouragement for me to play music over the years.

I have been blessed by success, but it’s very important to remember one’s roots. For example, my wallet is my absolute most prized possession. Long-time customers will laugh at lunches when they see it’s still with me. It’s a wallet I made of duct tape 10 years ago, when my company was 2 years old and I was as poor as dirt. I use it now every day as a totem, to remember where I came from and to never lose sight of the privilege that life has given me to still be in business nearly 13 years later.

My second-most prized possession is my book, which goes everywhere I’ve gone the last 10 years, too. I call this leather-bound item “Matt’s Book of Crazy Ideas: Volume 1.” I started writing in it anytime I felt I had a piece of advice from someone that I felt was worthy of writing down in my book, or an epiphany of some sort that I really didn’t want to forget.

One page, for example, is where I copied down some wise words I read elsewhere: “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal. Wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

The book has been a focal point of my pest control career, for sure. It’s filled with my creative ideas that made the company into what it is today, and also what made the non-profit Bright Island Outreach (BIO) where it is today. Through BIO, we’ve given more than 11,000 people dental and medical care, and taught thousands of kids how to brush their teeth.

I lose things all of the time, but by some miracle, I’ve been able to carry this book all over the world, back and forth from the Dominican Republic over 22 times the last 6 years growing our non-profit out there, and using it to share my business wisdom with my volunteer doctors and fourth-year dental students, young and eager to learn from the most unsuspecting mentor: A bug guy from Arizona.

I continue journaling daily — I’m on Volume 3, currently — but it’s Volume 1, where I was starting out and making mistakes and learning from them just as quickly, that keeps me grounded.

May I continue to inspire others to give as they grow. As far as I can tell, that will be the biggest impact I think I will leave on the world.