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Pro Of The Year

Departments - People, People

Norm Goldenberg, the 17th winner of PCT’s Professional of the Year Award, is dedicated to helping others in the pest control industry.

| November 9, 2000

P>Norm Goldenberg, the 17th winner of PCT’s Professional of the Year Award, is dedicated to helping others in the pest control industry. By Jodi Dorsch

Norman Goldenberg, vice president for government/public affairs, licensee relations and technical services for Terminix International, is someone who helps others in the pest control industry. "I’ve never held anything back. I’ve always been willing to share information with other pest control operators. If I can help someone out, I’m more than willing to do it," he said. "A willingness to share our successes with others benefits the entire pest control industry."

He’s willing to share his expertise about the industry because he has a lot of respect for the people in the industry. "I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a phone and call a PCO virtually anywhere in the country I was visiting. Over the years, I’ve developed close relationships with PCOs all across the country. It’s a good feeling."

And when he says "over the years," he means it. Goldenberg has been working in the pest control industry for almost 39 years.

INDUSTRY ROOTS. Although today he’s in top level Terminix management, Goldenberg has worked at all levels in the industry. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in entomology from the University of Florida in 1962. From 1963-69, he held a variety of management positions with Orkin Exterminating throughout the U.S. At 27 years old he was responsible for seven western states.

While at Orkin, Goldenberg was approached by a company called Sanitas, a service company that wanted to break into the pest control industry. At the time, the company was involved in a number of service industries including sanitation, security and commercial laundry services. Sanitas offered Goldenberg the presidency of the company. He accepted, calling his boss Earl Geiger at Orkin to let him know. Geiger asked Goldenberg to fly to Atlanta to talk about it, which he did. "When I arrived, he didn’t try to talk me out of it. He told me to go out there and set the world on fire. I appreciated that." He worked for Sanitas Service Corporation for five years, from 1970-74. "It wasn’t the greatest experience, but I don’t regret it. I was uncomfortable with the direction of the company, so I left, giving them a year’s notice."

After leaving Sanitas, Goldenberg purchased Alert Lear Pest Control in Miami. Fortunately, Goldenberg had been trying to convince Tom Lear to sell his business to Sanitas, but he wouldn’t. However, when Lear learned Goldenberg was interested in buying his own business, he changed his mind. "I let him know what was going on and he said he would be happy to sell his business to me, he just didn’t want to sell it to Sanitas. He structured the deal so it was very easy for me to buy the business."

Purchasing the company was a particularly proud moment for Goldenberg’s family. His father, David, was a salesman. He didn’t have a formal education — he sold home furnishings door-to-door. "He never owned his own business, so he was proud of me when I purchased Alert Lear," Goldenberg said. His mother died two months after he bought the business, so she never saw his ultimate success, although his dad did. "My dad was always close to me after she died. He was a people person like me. I have a lot of my dad in me." David Goldenberg passed away in 1988.

"I was close to my dad, but you don’t always appreciate what your father or mother mean to you until later in life."

RUNNING HIS BUSINESS. When he owned Alert Lear Pest Control, Goldenberg said he used to have friends of his in the industry visit his company to observe how he ran his business. Goldenberg was one of the first PCOs to computerize his business, so he had a number of his colleagues check it out when the new system was installed. "They flew down to Miami to observe how the system worked and I was more than happy to open up my business for their benefit. I’ve always been willing to share information with the rest of the market."

One reason he’s succeeded at his current job is that he went through an acquisition — from the seller’s perspective — with Lear. He bought Lear Pest Control in 1974 and sold to Waste Management in 1987. Goldenberg sold his company to Waste Management before the company was purchased by ServiceMaster.

"I can speak from first-hand experience that there’s a tremendous amount of mixed emotions when you sell your business. I have seen transactions where sellers are crying at the closing."

Goldenberg says Waste Management pursued him about buying his company, but initially he had no interest in selling. "I was having a ball building the business," he says. The first time the team of Waste Management officials met with Goldenberg, nothing transpired. But after getting together a second time in 1987, Goldenberg signed a confidentiality agreement so Waste Management could look further into his business.

Since things were going well and he was enjoying the business, he didn’t feel compelled to sell. "They made me an offer and I tried to keep a poker face," he recalls. "I acted like I wasn’t interested, but I was. It was exciting, but after the sale life didn’t change for me dramatically. I didn’t go out and buy a new house or new car. I’ve found that most PCOs are a conservative group, not high fliers. More often than not, they’re looking to put something away for their retirement, not make a financial killing. That was also the case with me."

Goldenberg admits he had an easier time selling his business because he didn’t start the business himself. "I didn’t start the business from scratch, building it with my own blood and guts. But whether you build it from scratch by knocking on doors or you purchase an existing business, when it comes time to sell you have mixed emotions."

NEW RESPONSIBILITIES. Not only has Goldenberg offered help to fellow PCOs, but he also has given of himself personally and professionally. Toni Caithness, executive vice president of the Florida Pest Control Association, says Goldenberg helped the association get through difficult times in 1989. FPCA’s young, new president, Robert Dixon, died unexpectedly two months after assuming the presidency. Goldenberg, who was president-elect at the time, took over for Dixon under sad circumstances.

"When you lose a leader, there’s a sense of uneasiness," Caithness said. "Norman really had to take on an existing presidency. He didn’t change the committee structure — he led the organization with good empathy. He guided the organization in a magnificent style."

Goldenberg, during his shortened presidency, achieved Robert Dixon’s goal of his presidency: he wanted to pay off a mortgage FPCA had incurred when it moved into its new headquarters. "Robert was a second-generation president of FPCA and being president meant a lot to him," Caithness said. Dixon’s goal was to burn the mortgage at the association’s meeting the following year. And under Goldenberg’s leadership, they did.

"We literally burned a copy of the $250,000 mortgage at the annual banquet. We took out a match, turned out the lights and burned it," Caithness said. "We fulfilled Robert’s wish and Norman made it happen. Leadership like that makes things happen."

THE FUTURE. Today, Goldenberg and his wife of 12 years, Diane, live in Memphis. Like Norm, Diane Goldenberg is a "people person. She has a unique ability to make everyone feel comfortable. She can be funny, charming, persuasive and she’s always very confident. She’s a terrific partner." Golden-berg has four children — Mike, Bobby, Amy and Lindsay.

As far as the future, Goldenberg says, "I’d like to continue on the path I’m on. I have no interest in retiring. I’m enjoying what I do too much. I’m working harder now than I did 10 years ago and I’m loving every minute of it. When I’m in town, I’m often the first one in the office, making the coffee.

"I’ve always had a good feeling about this industry. I respect my colleagues and I think they respect me. This is truly a mom and pop business and I mean that in the finest sense of the term. It’s a family business."