Emily Thomas Kendrick is the President and CEO of Atlanta-based Arrow Exterminators. Family owned and operated by the Thomas Family since 1964, Arrow is the sixth largest pest control company in the United States and the 2nd largest privately held, ranked by revenue with revenues exceeding $225 Million. Emily is a member of the Thomas Family’s 3rd generation and has been in the business for more than 20 years. Her family and her team have aggressive plans to grow the business to over $300 Million in the next 3.5 years and $500 Million in the next 9.5 years.
“Growing up” in the family business gives Emily a unique perspective on what it’s like to be a woman in field service. What strikes her is the ability to stand out. “Obviously, you stand out because of your gender but the great thing is that as a result, it creates an opportunity to stand out because of your ability. You earn respect when others see how capable you are and frankly they lose interest in your gender and only focus on your abilities,” she says.
As field service companies look to foster diversity, Emily explains that it’s a delicate balance because you want to first focus on hiring right person for the job – but at the same time, if you aren’t intentional about diversity it won’t just miraculously happen. “Always hire the best person for the position but be intentional as it relates to adding diverse perspectives to your team. If you create a diverse team, you will have the ability to understand all aspects of a situation. If everyone is coming at the solution from the same point of view, you are likely to miss out on a large spectrum of the industry and culture,” she says. “At Arrow there are many women in leadership positions not because they are women but because they were the best person for that role. Female team members can provide insight into our customers and those making buying decisions for their households, they can provide detailed work, can multi-task and can be extremely creative. I am excited to see more females getting involved with our industry and serving in all facets of the business.”
As you work to incorporate varying experiences, perspectives, and opinions, you have to be sure you are creating an environment in which they can be useful. “Foster a culture that is inclusive in all aspects and respects the input of all team members. A safe environment allows the team to express their thoughts and this allows every team member to thrive,” says Emily. “Once someone is hired and spends time in the pest control industry, they usually fall in love with it. Retaining top talent is key to every company’s success. We spend a lot of time as a company continually working on our employer value proposition (EVP). This is basically the balance of the rewards and benefits that are received by employees in return for their performance at the workplace. This should be part of every company’s strategic planning. At Arrow, for every idea we implement regarding our revenue and profit growth, we try and implement a benefit for our team members as well. Whether it is tweaking an insurance plan we offer, or changing PTO policies or starting a wellness initiative, making our talent a priority is imperative for retention.”
Consider The Opportunities
While the pest industry, and even other field service industries, may not be the career path some of us have envisioned since Kindergarten, the reality is that there are vast opportunities in these industries. “The pest industry is robust and growing and needs quality people. There is a real opportunity for top tier people to advance quickly and make a real and lasting impact on the company and the industry. There are many professional groups in the pest control industry that allow for professional development and mentoring. It truly is a wonderful industry to be a part of,” says Emily. “When I tell others I am in the pest control industry, I always tell them it might not seem glamorous to you but each day I get to make a difference in the lives of the people I work with by providing support for their professional development. Our team is providing uncompromised service to our customers in protecting their family’s health and largest investment, their properties. That’s pretty damn glamorous in my eyes! We have had numerous females come through our intern program including an intern this past summer who decided through her experience with Arrow to minor in Entomology, and another who changed her degree to Marketing and plans to come back after graduation and work in our industry.”
What advice would a woman that is a long-time member of a male-dominated service industry provide to a woman just entering the industry? “There is no substitute for hard work and the sky is the limit. Learn all you can about the operations of the company and make yourself an indispensable part. Be willing to take chances and learn from all opportunities. Be willing to fail and make mistakes. The old saying, ‘you learn more from your failures than your successes’ is absolutely true,” says Emily.