“We rescue people from wild animals every day,” said Wildlife Command Center founder Michael Beran. “At the core of it all, it’s about people. We want to make that connection with people.”
Though principally a humane wildlife removal service, Beran’s Good Company now covers everything from pest control and nonprofit raptor rescue to providing trained animals for movies.
“When we were rescuing people from wildlife, they started asking us to do pest control, so we started a vision called Pest Command Center,” Beran said. “Then a lot of industrial and commercial complexes started asking us to come out and deal with the pigeons and starlings, so we started Avian Strike Force, which specifically deals with avian problems.”
A Louisiana native and former Navy man, Beran is also a master falconer who quickly gained a reputation for handling wild animals bare-handed, earning him the nickname Bare Hands Beran. He has captained the Wildlife Command Center from its St. Louis home base since 2014, but its growing popularity would eventually see the business expand into a five-state footprint.
“We branched out to Little Rock, Arkansas,” he said. “We branched out to Shreveport, Louisiana; Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri, and then we went a little bit further to Wichita, a little bit further over to Albuquerque, and eventually we ended up in Sacramento.”
Though it isn’t only client demand that determines the Center’s course of expansion. A firm believer in servant leadership, Beran cultivates an indispensable team and builds a development plan around their needs.
“We are looking to grow, not for the sake of growth itself but for the sake of the people that work with us,” he explained. “We usually don’t intentionally open an office anywhere. We try to develop people that want to live in a particular city, and then we open up an office for them in that city.”
When the people are worth it, he added, it pays to serve their needs, and a key to hiring worthy prospects is possessing the humility to recognize when they’re better than you.
“You’ve got to really check your ego and you’ve got to make sure you get really good people that know how to do specific tasks better than you,” said Beran. “I know how to catch raccoons, but I don’t really know how to do marketing that well, so I get help with it. Hire people that are better than you so that you can broaden that influence. They’re going to bring you up because you’re going to learn from them.”
One such team member who has helped uplift the business is Marketing and Event Coordinator Jenna Heckethorn, who lent her 20-year marketing experience to the Wildlife Command Center after falling in love with the animals as a volunteer, then ultimately falling in love with the team.
“It’s very family-like,” she said. “We go out to different events and we learn from each other, taking everybody’s strengths and pulling it together, making sure that we can put our best foot forward.”
Supporting the company through all its forward steps, Regions Bank has forged a 20-year partnership with the Wildlife Command Center that has only strengthened with each of its growth milestones.
“A good financial institution is paramount,” Beran said. “you’re going to run into times where you need to go get a $10,000 payroll loan. Those types of things are easiest if you already have a pre-established relationship.”
“His business is unique,” said Arnold, Missouri Branch Manager JR Horrall. “It’s not like a cookie-cutter manufacturer or a restaurant per se, but his financials have always been pretty strong, so when it comes to making credit decisions for him, it’s pretty easy for us to do that. We’ve helped him with a couple of different facilities. We also did some financing for the wraps on his vehicles. If you see his truck going down the road, the snakeskin, you can’t miss it.”
The vehicle wraps serve as a key element of the Center’s iconic branding, which has quickly become synonymous with community service.
“When we go out into the community, we have a very specific brand,” Heckethorn said. “People in the area, they recognize the trucks with the animals on the side. We have headlight-reflective images on the vehicles so they can even see us at night. We go out into the community and we talk about the animals, and everybody gets to have hands-on experience. There’s nothing greater than being able to give a child an experience to be like, ‘Wow, I got to hold an owl today!’”
In addition to its education outreach, the Command Center also engages in raptor rescue and environmental preservation.
“We run a non-profit called Raptor Rescue, Inc. where we go out and rescue birds of prey that have been injured,” Beran said. “We also run a tight-knit group of people called Wildlife Command Center Litter Getters, so we’re always out there picking up litter on the side of the roads. We’re involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other civic types of organizations because we want to develop a positive image in every person that we come across.”
Yet with so many enterprises already under the Wildlife Command Center umbrella, what does the future hold? Now boasting well over 50,000 YouTube subscribers, the Center has secured a substantial social media following, and Beran has confessed his ultimate designs on parlaying that viewership into a reality TV series.
“We’re really into social media, and we market ourselves through a couple of different platforms,” he said. “We are always pursuing a reality TV show. Whether we develop it ourselves or whether a network buys some episodes, we definitely will move into that sector because I like the entertainment sector. I’m an actor; I’m a stunt guy; I’m an animal trainer, and with all of those, I’ll always have opportunities to work on projects.”