Chris McCloud worked his way up like many third- and fourth-generation business leaders, learning from seasoned technicians in the field when he was in high school. He worked holidays and summers during college and then joined McCloud Services full-time in 1989, after earning his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University. Today, McCloud is president and CEO of McCloud Services as well as a director of Copesan.
“This is probably as close as I’ll come to achieving my goal of becoming general manager of the Chicago Cubs,” he laughs.
He may be standing in a different “field,” but just the same, McCloud is leading a winning team — a team with a reputation for innovative IPM solutions tailored to the unique needs of the food, healthcare, hospitality, property management and retail industries. McCloud Services protects more than half of the nation’s largest food-related brands and services across an 11-state region through five service centers and nearly 200 employees. The company, established in 1904, earned the prestigious Century Award, one of the Family Business of the Year Awards, from Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business in 2014.
“We have evolved from a focus on exterminating services to a focus on food safety,” says McCloud. “Partnering with companies in the food safety industry — playing a role in protecting the world’s food supply — is extremely gratifying. Knowing that our work makes a positive difference lifts the self-esteem of our team and raises the profile of our company.”
McCloud says from the time he joined the business, he felt that the natural progression of his career would be to one day run the company. “My father, Tom, and brother, Phil, helped me develop into a leader from the time I was very young,” he shares. “I worked my way up to the
No. 2 spot when my brother led the company, and then I bought it from him in 2014. Today my wife, Stephanie Dickson, our vice president of business development, and I are very excited to be carrying on the family legacy.”
And they’re doing a great job of it, says Plunkett’s Pest Control owner Stacy O’Reilly, who serves on the Copesan board with McCloud and has known him since childhood (their families both joined Copesan in 1958). “Chris is deeply committed to the family business. He has an amazing ability to build on the company’s history, respecting its past but also having a very fresh vision for its future.”
Adds David Fisher, vice president of operations at Rentokil North America, “Chris takes ownership of his company’s successes and failures. He takes personal responsibility for providing his people with opportunities, mentoring and developing them so they can grow to their full potential. This approach has made Chris and his company very successful.”
Bringing Unique Perspectives to Copesan
Following in the tradition of his father and brother, McCloud has served on the board of directors of Copesan since 2007. In this role, as in his leadership of McCloud Services, he is known as a creative thinker.
Citing the six years he served on the Copesan board with McCloud, Rose Pest Solutions President Russ Ives shares, “Chris would often ask questions that hadn’t occurred to the rest of us. The way he would quietly and carefully listen, and then analyze situations and challenges, often led us to better decisions, because we were looking at the issue from every possible angle. Chris has a very quick mind; sometimes I would have to speed up my own thought process to catch up to him.”
Says O’Reilly, “Chris expands our thinking. He makes sure we don’t consider just the obvious but also the subtle impacts to our people, cultures and clients. He thinks far beyond what the flowchart looks like.”
McCloud explains, “When I analyze a situation, I tend to look at the small picture inside of the big picture. Copesan is a group of family businesses that are competing with very large, publicly-owned companies. I have a sense of what we need to do at the field level to compete and grow.”
“When we were on the board of Copesan together, I enjoyed not only working with Chris but also watching him analyze the issues we discussed,” says Michael Katz, president of Western Exterminator Company. “He has an uncanny ability to maintain focus while taking into account all of the details of a situation. He is fully committed to the board and ensures that the team progresses toward its goals.”
Copesan President Deni Naumann adds, “I think of Chris as an excellent chess player because he has the ability to see the whole chessboard and how each piece is moving. He helps everyone open up to thinking differently. For me, in my position with Copesan, he is a great sounding board. I bounce ideas off of him, and I love how he challenges my thinking.”
Building a Leadership Culture
McCloud Services has been a source of pride for McCloud since he was a teenager. “I have always felt that I was working for a company that aspires to be the best in the industry,” he explains. “McCloud Services was, and continues to be, known as a strong, values-based, quality-driven company. One of my biggest challenges has been to uphold that legacy in a way my grandfather, Walter, would have approved of. He died 17 years before I was born, but the impact he had on this industry is inspiring. I strive to run a good business to honor past generations and provide opportunities for present and future generations.”
It’s precisely his next-generation thinking that sets McCloud apart, says Bobby Corrigan, president of RMC Pest Management Consulting. “Chris thinks about how pest management should be, focusing on fresh approaches. He talks about how the future needs to be rewritten in terms of how we serve our clients. Every day, he carries his company another step forward. Chris has always impressed me with his passion for how we can improve our industry for the future.”
Naumann, who describes McCloud as a visionary, says he has been a key contributor in addressing next-generation customer service with Copesan as well. “One of the strategic areas in which Chris has influenced Copesan members is in our account management model — how we address client concerns and structure our service for the future,” she shares. “He brings creativity to the discussion, helping us think differently, and is always willing to pilot new concepts.”
His team is happy to participate in innovative programs, too, because they recognize the potential for new growth opportunities.
“Chris has built a culture here that cultivates personal growth,” says McCloud Services IT Director Byron Booth. “No one is afraid to speak their mind, because everyone’s views are respected, and everyone recognizes that Chris’ intent is always to do what’s best for employees, customers and the company. He challenges everyone to keep improving, and inspires by example.”
McCloud Quality Manager Steve Elliott agrees: “In my experience, through work with Fortune 500 companies, government and the military, I’ve found that leaders typically lean toward one or the other: people or goals. Chris has found a way to strike the ideal balance between people (employees and customers) and goals. When he communicates with a customer, that individual feels like they are the most important person in the world. Within the company, he helps each person identify development opportunities that will push them to be their best.”
It was the personal aspect of business that drew McCloud to the company. “The reason I felt compelled to work in the family business was that it enabled me to do what I really like: work with people, from a customer service standpoint as well as the opportunity to develop people,” he says. “People make businesses succeed. The level of front-line commitment and support you provide determines whether you become a great company or not. In other words, the company with the best technicians wins.”
Passing the Legacy On
Looking toward the future, McCloud says he expects the next 10 years to be the strongest growth period in the company’s history. Part of that growth will come from McCloud and his team doing what they do: competing head-to-head with larger companies in their established markets — and often winning. Technological advances and diversification into the residential market may be integral to this growth as well.
“Technology intrigues me; I like to evaluate what it’s doing for us and how we can leverage it to an even greater extent,” he explains. “In terms of diversification, my family has always been interested in trying new things. I’m no exception. Anything with four walls and a roof is a potential customer, so we continue to look into new possibilities to meet emerging market needs.”
What is his biggest challenge going forward? Developing a succession plan.
“While it’s true that this has been a family business for four generations, I don’t want to put pressure on my children to work in the family business,” says McCloud, who has two children: Hannah, 17, and Max, 16. “I’m doing my best to tee the business up for the next generation by building a competent and confident leadership team. I know how rewarding it can be to work your way up and one day lead the charge. I will be delighted to pass that opportunity on to other loyal, aspiring leaders.”