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[2012 Leadership Awards] Chris Gorecki

Features - 2012 Leadership Awards

The oil industry’s loss has been the pest control industry’s gain.

PCT Magazine | October 18, 2012

When Chris Gorecki was working on the oil wells in West Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, he didn’t imagine he would one day be visiting the offices of United States Senators asking them to consider the benefits of structural pest management.

To say he has a unique background and a different perspective is an understatement for this Pennsylvania-born Orkin executive whose work ethic and commitment to his profession run deeper than an anxious wildcatter’s drill.


The Early Years
The son of a metallurgical engineer who possessed a very specialized skill set involving the manufacturing of copper tubes and pipes, Gorecki and his family, including an older brother and younger sister, moved quite often following their father as he employed his talents.

The family’s itinerary read like a Greyhound bus schedule, as it included stops in Pennsylvania, Long Island, N.Y., Massachusetts, Nevada and, finally, Texas where Gorecki attended high school.

“My father always had a job offer and was always willing to take on a new assignment, and, as a result, we moved quite often,” says Gorecki. In several of the locations where the family lived, his mother also held jobs in doctors’ offices. That steady work ethic of his parents rubbed off on him, Gorecki says, explaining “I was never afraid to work.”

During high school. Gorecki worked at the local Sonic drive-in where he earned $1.35 an hour plus tips. He worked every Friday night during the school year passing up football games and other social activities – except prom.

After graduating from high school, Gorecki enrolled at Kilgore Junior College to study petroleum technology, with his sights set on securing a job in the booming Texas oil industry of the earlier 1980s. While in college, Gorecki worked at a local machine shop running various equipment and sweeping up at night.

IN BRIEF

NAME: Chris Gorecki

COMPANY: Rollins Inc. (Orkin Pest Control)

HEADQUARTERS: Atlanta, Ga.

TITLE: Vice President Government Relations/Environmental Stewardship, Quality Assurance and Claims

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Kilgore Junior College, associate degree in Petroleum Technology; member of the National Pest Management Association Government Affairs Committee (Chair 2010-2012); Chairman of Georgia Structural Pest Control Commission; member of Georgia Pest Control Association, Florida Pest Management Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Georgia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors; NPMA/FMC Legislative Award recipient (2011).

PERSONAL: Married, Tracy; children, Kyle and Isabella; enjoys working in and around the house and in his yard, and hitting the links to polish his golf game.

Upon earning his degree, Gorecki landed a job with an oil-field service company and spent the next five years working in Texas and Oklahoma and on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, helping prospective wildcatters in their search for black gold.

“We would bring out equipment and test the first flow to determine if they had hit a good producing zone or not,” says Gorecki.

Gorecki was a jack of all trades in the field learning how to operate heavy equipment, how to snub a well after it blew out and constructing safety systems.

However, the mid-1980s saw the Texas oil industry dry up faster than a puddle on a sidewalk during an Odessa, Texas, summer. “I knew I needed to do something else, but I stayed on to the bitter end,” recalls Gorecki.


A New Career Opportunity
Knowing a new career was in the cards, Gorecki moved to Houston along with thousands of other oil-industry refugees seeking employment. Like many pest management professionals, Gorecki entered the industry by accident.

He had no previous exposure to the world of pest management, but, through a local employment agency, he found a job and was hired as a commercial pest technician with Orkin.

“Running a pest control route was not a career aspiration of mine but I enjoyed being out meeting people, and I saw an opportunity to move ahead,” Gorecki says.

He credits his initial training supervisor with opening his eyes to the possibilities of a career in pest control. Learning where bugs hide, how to tear apart and repair equipment and how to listen to customers were among the early lessons Gorecki took to heart.

“I was like a sponge talking with other technicians, meeting a lot of different people and learning the business,” says Gorecki. “I got a good feeling that the people I worked with cared about what they did, and that appealed to me. One of those people was Paul Hardy, whom I’ve called upon many times for assistance over the years. He has always been a true professional.”

Gorecki’s hard work and initiative paid off, and within a few months, he was promoted to branch service manager.

“If you wanted responsibility, you could take it and go with it,” says Gorecki of his early days with the company.

As Gorecki was learning the ins and outs of the industry, an event took place that would make a significant impact on his career. At that time, Gary Rollins was president of Orkin. In visiting Gorecki’s Houston branch office, Rollins had a conversation with the young manager that Gorecki would not soon forget.

“I clearly remember his unique ability to strike up and have a meaningful conversation with everyone in the branch, and how willing he was to share his knowledge,” says Gorecki.

“We had a conversation about the business and expectations, and he said, ‘Do what is right by the customer – they are what is most important. And do it every day.’ That has stuck with me ever since, and it’s what guides our company.”

Gorecki says he came away from that visit with a very strong, positive impression about Orkin, and about where his future was headed. “From that day on, I always knew where the base was at Orkin, and that if you stuck to it, you couldn’t go wrong,” Gorecki explains.


Climbing the Ranks
Gorecki was named Houston commercial branch manager in 1988, and his next assignment required a move to San Angelo, Texas, to become a residential branch manager. From there he moved to Austin, where he was named regional service coordinator with responsibility for the service operations of more than a dozen branch offices in the South Texas Region.

Claiming To Be Different

Orkin’s work to reduce termite claims yields results

With termite work holding a significant level of liability for Orkin, as well as virtually every pest management company that performs termite services, Chris Gorecki has worked hard to push for more stringent quality assurance service standards.

With the help of Orkin technical and training experts, he has established a system of checks and balances to improve the quality of termite treatments, reduce callbacks and limit the company’s liability.

“Having a strong internal review process for our termite work has paid huge dividends by identifying where we can do better,” says Gorecki. “We are able to say to our branch managers and technicians, ‘If we don’t do these things well the first time, this is what will happen.’

“Termites represent the greatest liability in our business and my job is to look at the nature of the claims and audits, and recommend a course of action to correct what’s wrong,” Gorecki says.

And it seems to be working, as termite claims have dropped 70 percent under Gorecki’s watch, resulting in seven-figure savings.

Gorecki credits his fellow Orkin team members for helping improve the company’s standing when it comes to reduced claims activity, but he also draws upon his experience in regulatory affairs to make improvements.

“Regulatory officials have a job to do and actually give us another set of eyes to manage our business,” says Gorecki. “They can help fix what’s wrong.”

When a termite claim or regulatory action arises that involves an Orkin treatment, Gorecki responds with a positive and simple approach. “We identify what happened, what we can do today to make it better and what can we do to fix it in the long-term,” Gorecki says.
 

In this role, Gorecki was involved with all aspects of the service end of Orkin’s business in the region. From managing P&L statements to regulatory and licensing requirements and fleet management and training – he did it all.

It is also where Gorecki became an expert in one of the pest management industry’s most challenging tasks – termite claims. (See related story at right.)

Millions of dollars in claims are pursued annually by U.S. consumers, and the job of working with a customer whose home is being eaten by termites requires the deft touch of a skilled diplomat combined with the pragmatism of a middle-school principal whose job is to render justice that also teaches a lesson.

“Claims boil down to solving a problem for the customer,” says Gorecki, who still manages the claims department for Orkin. “Every claim is different because of the people involved.”

He says you can have the exact same house with the exact same damage, but because you have two different consumers, the way in which you approach and resolve the claim can be quite different.

Gorecki has always focused on listening to customers and finding out what is important to them. This approach, which mirrors the advice he was given as a young manager by Gary Rollins, has served him well.

“Customers want to know how you are going to resolve their problem and want to be reassured there is a plan to get it done,” says Gorecki.

As Gorecki’s expertise and effectiveness grew in this area, he caught the eye of the management team in Atlanta, Orkin’s headquarters. In the spring of 1996, he was offered a transfer to work as the company’s termite claims manager.

In this role, Gorecki managed Orkin’s response to termite claims across the country. He worked with customers and their attorneys on resolving claims before litigation, conducted numerous inspections and claims analysis, and was the point man in keeping the company’s termite claims policies up-to-date.

After nearly four years in the role, Gorecki was named director of termite compliance and claims and managed Orkin’s entire termite claims operation.

Gorecki’s work in improving the quality of Orkin’s termite service offerings and reducing claims earned him a promotion in 2001 to vice president of quality assurance and claims.

Gorecki was now responsible, not only for the company’s termite claims, but for developing and implementing an audit process for all commercial and residential services Orkin performed.


A New Challenge
In May 2007, Gorecki added yet another area of responsibility to his plate when he took over Orkin’s government relations department from long-time retiring Orkin Government Affairs Executive Tom Diederich. Asked how this came about, Gorecki jokes that he missed a meeting while on the road and came back to find a new title on his door.

While he may take a whimsical view of his involvement in the government relations area, Gorecki is all business when it comes to advocating for the industry with federal, state and local regulatory officials.

Gorecki recently completed a two-year term as chairman of the National Pest Management Association’s Government Affairs Committee where his tireless work ethic stood out.

During his tenure, the committee and industry worked closely with the EPA to revise restrictive rodenticide usage regulations and clarify pyrethroid usage issues.

“I’m not one for sitting on the sidelines, and I took my role very seriously,” Gorecki says. “I was not there just to sit at the front chair in the meetings.”

Gorecki says he was very fortunate to work with a talented, dedicated committee including NPMA’s Bob Rosenberg and Gene Harrington, Terminix’s Norm Goldenberg, Arrow Exterminators’ Rick Bell and Western Exterminator’s Mike Katz to name just a few. “They were very supportive of me and I learned a great deal from them on how to get things done at a national level,” he says.

“He is a tireless advocate for industry,” says Rick Bell, vice president of government affairs and industry stewardship for Arrow Exterminators. “He is a consensus builder and seeks solutions. It is not always easy to solve problems but Chris is willing to do the work. He is always on a plane doing something for the industry.”

Bob Rosenberg, senior vice president of government affairs at NPMA, says Gorecki’s work as committee chair was exceptional.

“His diligence, hard work and patience when it came to navigating some tricky issues rivals anyone in the industry,” says Rosenberg, himself a Leadership Award recipient (Class of 1996). “His work will benefit the entire industry.”

Gorecki says the current regulatory climate favors discussion rather than confrontation. He adds that the industry enjoys a good working relationship with the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials (ASPCRO) and has worked jointly on several projects aimed at improving application standards and eliminating onerous regulations.

“They understand our business and the important role we play in protecting public health and property,” says Gorecki.

He points to the activists advocating no pesticide usage at all, as one of the significant challenges facing the industry. Gorecki says activists are aggressively pursuing their agenda at all levels of government, causing the industry’s lobbying resources to be spread thin.

“People need to be involved at all levels because they are coming after our livelihood,” Gorecki says. “Being engaged and involved at the grass-roots level is essential. You never know who has a valuable relationship that can help.”

The recipe for successful government relations, Gorecki says, revolves around getting people engaged, using sound science and bringing a healthy dose of common sense to regulations.

With Gorecki’s many duties and commitments both within and outside Orkin, one may think he could easily become overwhelmed. But instead, the activity seems to energize Gorecki, who says he is motivated by the fear of being bored.

“I love my job,” Gorecki says. “It is always something different, always a new opportunity to solve a problem and make the company better.”