[2002 Leadership Awards Profile] Bob Rummel

Features - PCT News

October 17, 2003

Western Pest Services’ Dr. Bob Rummel is much too busy to think seriously about retiring. Although he’s been with the company for more than 32 years, he has put recent thoughts of retirement on the back burner. That’s because the company’s highly respected training and technical director is involved in several important projects that should keep him busy – and professionally energized – for several years.

"At Western we’re embarking on a new ‘umbrella’ curriculum that includes sales, technical, office, and management training," he says. "This is an initiative that started last year and will likely run to 2004, and will ultimately cover every aspect of our business."

The pest control veteran currently runs Western’s Technical and Training Department, which consists of himself, Patty Bradley, and Jennifer Brum-field. All three are experienced professionals who have made significant contributions to Western’s success.

"When this curriculum is completed," he explains, "it will be among the finest training programs in the industry."

Working out of Western’s Leesburg, Va., office, he and Brumfield also have been working on an E-Learning initiative that is a joint venture with 13 Copesan partners. The centerpiece of the effort is the Learning Management System, which will feature dozens of training modules on a variety of pests and other subjects.

"It will be highly interactive, so the learner is actively involved in his or her own education. It’s a fresh approach to training and we’re just beginning to deliver it to our investor partners," he says.

Rummel is committed to seeing these projects through to the end. When he does retire, he’ll do so with good feelings about Western and his contributions to the pest management industry.

"I’ve always enjoyed working here. It’s always been fun. Always challenging. There’s never a dull moment in the pest control business. These days, it may be unusual to spend one’s entire career with one company, but it is not unusual here," he says. "There are a number of people who have worked at Western more than 30 years. The culture of our company is so positive, the ethics so first rate. That’s what I’ve valued most over the years. People just don’t want to leave. All of the employees are treated fairly and with respect, just as they were treated when J.E. Sameth was running the business. The Sameth family has always been generous with their employees. They provide nice offices, nice vehicles and nice perks. As long as you’re challenged, treated fairly and paid well, there’s really no reason to go anyplace else."

A LEARNING EXPERIENCE. "After earning his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, Bob started with Western as our first training director," says Bruce Nelson, the company’s former general manager and a member of the Leadership Class of 1991.

Says Rummel, "After being hired, I started learning instantly. Even with a Ph.D. in entomology, it was amazing how much I didn’t know. I spent the first summer with our technicians in the field and learned a tremendous amount of practical entomology. They were fantastic teachers. I knew the book stuff, but they knew the field stuff. They helped me pull the two disciplines together."

"Consummate professional that he is, he helped us raise our professionalism," says Nelson, who credits Rummel’s talent and passion for training for bringing about significant changes in the education process at Western. "He instituted training programs and techniques, many of which are still in use today."

After spending seven years in a training director capacity, Rummel headed up the company’s Region 3 from 1978 through 2001 and built a solid and growing operation in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., area.

During those 23 years, Region 3 more than doubled in size from about $8 million in revenues to $20 million. "We had 150 employees at the end of 2001 with six offices," he says. "We were somewhat remote from corporate headquarters and we functioned pretty much on our own. That’s what made it so satisfying. We knew what to do and just figured out how to go out and get it done."

Rummel returned to the Technical and Training Department when the company reorganized in 2001. "While I enjoyed running the region, I was ready to slow down a little," he says.

According to Nelson, Rum-mel’s passion for training didn’t diminish while he was a regional manager. "He mentored many young people and developed talented people who have moved into other upper management positions in the Western organization," he explains. "His character qualities were recognized when he was the first recipient of our Gae Tyahla Humanitarian Award. The award was named for the company’s executive assistant who worked for our founder for 45 years and recognized her outstanding strength of character, personal integrity, untiring and unselfish service in all aspects of life, and willingness to help individuals without regard to personal sacrifice. Nelson says those qualities "perfectly describe" Rummel. "His desire to help people develop their business and personal skills has brought him many followers. He has actively recruited and brought to Western many graduates from Purdue University and Virginia Tech. And he also has remained active at Virginia Tech in mentoring graduate students."

INDUSTRY ADVOCATE. Rummel also has been heavily involved in association work benefiting his company and the pest control industry. He’s been active in the Virginia Pest Management Association and has worked on various National Pest Management Association committees. A number of years ago, he developed a complete fumigation training program while serving on the NPMA’s Project Development Council.

Additionally, he has served on Copesan’s Board of Directors form 1986 to 1996, working as its treasurer for eight of those years.

Tom Moore, Copesan’s pres-ident, recalls entering the pest control industry some 25 years ago and working with Rummel, one of the first professionals he had the opportunity to meet. "He familiarized me with the technical service aspects of our industry and did an A-1 job of doing that. His professionalism and demeanor back then left an indelible impression. His insightful leadership in his roles as a Copesan director and treasurer, and as chairman of our online Learning Management Systems task force, has made a huge impact on the success of this organization."

Dick Sameth, vice president of the Parsippany, N.J.-based Western Industries, brought Rummel on board back in 1971. "What a find!" he says. "Through the years, he has made many contributions to Western. His most important contribution, I feel, has been as coach and mentor. In this capacity, he continues to help our employees maximize their business and personal skills so that they can advance in the organization. I have great enthusiasm and sincere appreciation for his many contributions."

THE EARLY YEARS. Rum-mel grew up on a farm in LaGrange, Ky., where he developed the strong work ethic that he has successfully put into practice at Western. "That’s because there are always a number of chores to do on a farm," he explains.

"It started out being a dairy farm, but my father eventually got out of the dairy business and went to work as a machinist for an elevator company," Rummel says. "We still raised cattle and tobacco, but it wasn’t our sole means of support."

As a youngster he was first introduced to entomology through his local 4-H Club. His involvement with the club taught him the basic components of entomology. "It was something I’ve always been interested in and I won a number of county competitions," he says.

"I was always interested in the outdoors and biology of insects. Bugs have always fascinated me. There’s such a diversity of animal life on the farm, including insects. There were tremendous populations of them. In those days, you could look over the fields at night and see something akin to a light show."

Although his father passed away several years ago, Rummel still owns the family farm. "But now it’s more a wildlife preserve than anything else."

He was the first in his family to go to college and he worked hard to earn an undergraduate degree in microbiology and a master’s degree in entomology at the University of Kentucky. He also played hard there, he says. "I enjoyed basketball games, pubs, parties and girls. I enjoyed my college years immensely.

"As a grad student, I always had a desire to work for the World Health Organization and deal with exotic diseases. I was very interested in medical and veterinary entomology." It was that strong interest that led him to earn his Ph.D. in veterinary entomology at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. His dissertation was on face flies, a pest plaguing cattle.

He counts himself lucky in his choice of a post-graduate institution. It helped both his career and his personal life. It was there that he met and married his wife, Ellen, who also grew up on a dairy farm and happened to be a dairy science major.

The couple now has three grown children: daughter Deborah Clark, 29, a horticulturist for a nursery and a North Carolina State University graduate; daughter Mary Dail, 27, a graduate of Virginia Tech, who works for the Department of Environmental Quality in Roanoke, Va.; and a son, Jeffrey, 25, currently attending art school and involved in comic book art and graphic illustration.

Larry Treleven, co-president of Sprague Pest Control in Tacoma, Wash., and a past president of the NPMA, says he is proud to call Rummel "a leader, mentor, great mind, and friend." Rummel’s family and the many people in the industry who have been touched by him say the same.

A Passion For Photography

Dr. Bob Rummel says he has always had a strong interest in photography. “I loved photographing the multitudes of insects that we found on our farm, and I worked on my high school yearbook as a photographer. This hobby allows me to be creative; I find it to be a very relaxing pastime.”

In his leisure hours as an adult, he uses his photographic skills to take pictures of insects and a wide variety of other subjects in nature. Professionally, he has used many of his insect photographs in the training materials he develops for Western Industries.

Rummel enjoys his hobby so much that he’s gone on photography trips to Katmai National Park in Alaska and to Sanibel Island National Park in Ft. Myers, Fla.

“Although it’s an expensive hobby, I plan to do it for many years to come,” he says.