ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. — How does the owner of a successful pest control business commemorate 35 years in business? For Roy Rich, founder of E-town Exterminating, the answer was simple: Bring together 300 long-time customers, realtors, builders, and local dignitaries to celebrate with a barbecue luncheon, which is exactly what the company did this past September at the E-town headquarters on Ring Road in Elizabethtown, Ky.
|E-Town Exterminating's Brenda, Roy and Shawn Rich.|
The September luncheon was Rich’s way of saying thanks to the people and the industry that have supported him throughout the years. After all, the people involved in the pest control industry are what led him to his career as a successful owner/operator. You see, unlike many PCOs, Rich started his career not as a businessman or service professional, but as a regulator. After graduating from Campbellsville University in 1967, he worked for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as pesticide director.
“I worked with a lot of pest control operators and saw what a wonderful industry pest control was, and I liked it,” he recalled.
So, in 1967 Rich left the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to accept a managerial position at Orkin in order to receive hands-on training. At the same time, his ultimate goal was to go into business himself one day.
After working for Orkin, Rich decided to venture out on his own, and in August 1976 he founded E-town Exterminating at the company’s original office on Gray Street, in Elizabethtown. “We started with me, my wife Brenda, and two other technicians,” he said. “I would sell new business during the day and work the initials at night and my wife managed our office in our house.”
The early years brought both challenges and opportunities. Fortunately, the mid-to-late 1970s was a time of growth for the Elizabethtown area, so pest control services were in demand. The key, of course, was being able to deliver standout service consistently. “Our goal was to provide excellent service with a lot of hard work. Through the years I feel like we have succeeded,” Rich said.
Keeping not only customers but employees happy has been the secret to E-town’s success. Rich said the company now has 22 employees, several of whom are 30-plus-year employees. “We are probably the most proud of us being a family-owned operation,” he said. “We feel we provide an atmosphere that is friendly to our employees and customers.
Tommy Reeves, vice president of Oldham Chemicals Company, is an admirer of the Rich’s customer-centric approach. “They’ve treated every customer since the first day they opened their doors for business with exceptional care,” he said. “They treat their customers like family.”
THE NEXT GENERATION. Roy and Brenda Rich’s son, Shawn Rich (age 40) grew up in the business, and has had the unique opportunity to witness all aspects of the operation, including its struggles and successes. Shawn Rich graduated from Georgetown College in 1994, did a short stint with Massey Services, Oveido, Fla., and then returned to E-town as a full-time employee later that year.
“Experience is our best teacher and owning any small business can either make or break you,” he said. “When I graduated from high school my dad told me I had to do two things before I could work for the business. I had to graduate from college and work for another company [Massey Services]. I am grateful the experience this gave me.”
Like many family-owned business E-town Exterminating is undergoing a generational succession. After working for the company in various capacities beginning in 1994, Shawn Rich became CEO in 2003 as Roy Rich gradually handed over most of the day-to-day responsibilities to his son. And despite stepping back from the daily operations of the business, Roy Rich remains a strong industry advocate, a role that has been critical to the success of the pest control industry in Kentucky. Says Reeves, “He’s a politician extraordinaire. He’s always represented the pest control industry in the state of Kentucky very effectively both at the state and national level.”
Under the leadership of tech-savvy Shawn Rich, the company has been infused with new technology, including upgraded computer capabilities. “I feel the mission has stayed the same but our services have evolved with new technology from pesticides to the Internet,” he said.
While Shawn Rich is excited about future opportunities the company’s main focus is sustainability. “Obviously we want to grow our company so that it will stay healthy in the future, but we want to still stay a local company,” he said. “I feel we have been so successful here because we have been so entrenched in our community.”
Shawn Rich added that E-town is planning an addition to its current facility and expanding its parking lot.