It’s hard for Butch Morrison, owner and president of Adams Pest Control, to go anywhere in Alexandria, La., and not be asked about bugs. Whether it’s a child who recognizes him from a school presentation or a longtime resident anxious to share a pest encounter, people know they can turn to Morrison to "tell it to them straight."
Adams Pest Control’s reputation for delivering quality, dependable service is in many ways a reflection of Morrison, who quietly but assuredly drives the company. In 20-plus years at Adams, Morrison has been involved in every aspect of the business and has been instrumental in strengthening the company’s ties with the communities it serves.
BIG SHOES TO FILL. Morrison follows in the legendary footsteps of Paul Adams, who founded the company in 1946, and whose accomplishments include authoring the "Recommended Procedures for Termite Control" for the Louisiana Pest Control Association (LPCA) in 1952. The document has been updated periodically throughout the years, but many of its core principles are as applicable today as they were five decades ago. His contributions to the pest control industry earned Adams a Leadership Award in 1991 and the National Pest Management Association’s highest honor – the Pinnacle Award – in 1996.
Any concerns about the commitment to the industry or the company during the transition from "Mr. Adams" – as he was known around the office – to Morrison in 1993 were unfounded. "Butch is the same way Mr. Adams was," says Laura Day, president, Dugas Pest Control of Baton Rouge, La., and past president of LPCA. "There is a level of honesty and integrity you don’t see everywhere. He’s very involved in the community and the industry. He’s made a strong commitment to give back to the industry and the community. I knew right away that it would be a smooth transition from Mr. Adams to Butch," she says.
Still, when Morrison started at Adams Pest Control in 1981, he entered an industry foreign to him. He had graduated from Louisiana College in 1976 with a degree in education, fully intending to teach and coach. His father, mother, sister and grandparents were all educators, but Morrison muses, "Something happened to kids between the time I graduated from high school and graduated from college. It wasn’t the pleasure that I thought it would be."
He shifted his focus to the publishing business, working for Jostens American Yearbook Company for five years, covering 15 parishes in Louisiana. While at Jostens, he was asked by his aunt Lois Stevens-Caffey, who is secretary-treasurer of Adams Pest Control (and a 1999 Leadership winner), to consider joining Adams. Morrison initially turned down the offer, but after leaving Jostens and trying other fields, he eventually joined the business as an assistant manager.
STEEP LEARNING CURVE. Morrison’s duties in the beginning dealt with payroll, accounts payable, advertising and tax administration, taught by Stevens-Caffey. The talent for teaching also was exhibited by his aunt, since Morrison states, "It was a pretty strenuous learning curve the first three months, but it was easy to learn because Lois was a great teacher." Also, his previous experience as a student trainer for the Louisiana College basketball team and five years in yearbook publishing established accounting and budgeting skills from which he could draw.
In addition, after regular working hours, Morrison and Mr. Adams reviewed the technical aspects of insects and proper pest identification.
All of the business and technical training that he received during this period exposed Morrison to another aspect of the business – the culture and philosophy embraced by Mr. Adams (see related story). Morrison sums this up by saying, "Two of our technicians who retired a couple of years ago had been with the company for 42 years and our average tenure for all employees is over 20 years."
Morrison viewed first-hand Mr. Adams’ concerns for his employees and he has mirrored that style. "Mr. Adams wanted to be sure that the technician had a comfortable environment and could earn a living wage," Mor-rison states.
"I allow my employees to run their routes, set their schedules and develop relationships with the customers," adds Morrison. Additionally, Morrison continues the tradition of profit sharing started by Mr. Adams in 1956.
Bob Kunst, president of Fischer Environmental Services of Mandeville, La., has witnessed the interaction of Morrison with his employees. "Butch is extremely well-versed in people skills and employee relations. You can tell that when you visit his office. It’s obvious how people feel about him. His employees are very devoted to him," Kunst says.
"Morrison’s interest in his employees and their well-being, as well as that of their families, is to be commended," says Stevens-Caffey. "He maintains an ‘open door’ policy, not only for consumers and employees, but also for his competitors," she adds.
This concern for the industry propelled him into roles with pest control associations. Only three years after entering the field, he was chosen to represent the Central Louisiana Pest Control Operators as director of the state association.
He has served on various committee positions for the Louisiana Pest Control Association, including personnel, vehicle, finance, summer and winter conference, nominating, legislative, education, constitution and bylaws, and contract review.
Morrison also dedicated time to the National Pest Management Association, having served on the education, business management, marketing management, operations, vertebrate control and communications committees, as well as being a past national director.
"He looks for what’s best for the association regardless of what that might do on any personal level," says Day of Dugas Pest Control. "He’s committed to the good of the association and of the industry."
Morrison believes the role of industry associations is to educate and lobby the legislature, so once again he draws on his educational background.
"I’ve served on a lot of committees and boards with Butch and have had the opportunity to see his leadership style in action," remarks Kunst, of Fischer Environmental Services. "He’s skilled at assessing a situation and providing committee members with the background and materials needed to come to a consensus."
Day adds, "He’ll speak when he has something worthy to say. Therefore, what he says is listened to."
Morrison himself believes his strength lies more in personnel issues, but he will tackle regulatory issues, and is lobbying for more stringent regulations governing the termite pre-treat business.
Morrison has been joined in business by his wife Tamara, who handles payroll and accounts payable, and his son Blake, who runs a route and helps maintain the company’s vehicle fleet and termite records. His daughter Shea is completing her senior year in college.
"It’s really been amazing how it all fit together and how enjoyable it’s been," says Morrison. His aunt puts another spin on it. "As a youngster, Butch’s dream was to live on Fish Creek and fish all the time. Time changed that. Under his leadership and hard work Adams Pest Control is the best of the best," Stevens-Caffey concludes.
A Born Educator
Even though Butch Morrison hasn’t pursued a career as a teacher, he gives 20 to 30 presentations a year, ranging from preschool groups to organizations such as Rotary Clubs. He carefully tailors each presentation to the recipient group and brings along the requisite hands-on attractions. In addition, Morrison sponsors the annual Bug Day at the Alexandria Municipal Zoo.
During one elementary school group presentation, Morrison was talking about beetles. "Where they come from, I was surprised to learn that Goliath beetles are a food source," Morrison told the kids. "So compared to most beetles, Goliath beetles are really big and named after someone from the Bible. Does anyone know his name?" Morrison asked.
A child answered, "George Washington."
The Company Philosophy
Butch Morrison credits Paul Adams with a progressiveness that permeates the culture of Adams Pest Control, even today several years after the founder’s death. In addition to his technical procedures and their effect on the pest control industry, Mr. Adams saw the symbiotic relationship between a business, its employees and the community.
“His major concern was for his employees,” says Morrison. “By taking care of his employees, he thought he would have less headaches. This would lead to the people of the community respecting him and his business.”
One of the lessons learned by Morrison about running a business was the secret to hiring. The technical aspects could be taught, but a person had to be honest and be able to communicate with customers. Those qualities enable the technicians to schedule their own routes and complete their work without, as Morrison says, “anyone holding a hammer over their heads, telling them when it has to be done, as long as they get it done.”
The motto for Adams for years was, “Your hometown neighbor.” Morrison is dealing with the challenge of shifting demographics; where previously three or four generations would be Adams’ customers with no questions asked, the transient nature of today’s society means more people are unfamiliar with the quality of service performed by Adams.
But Morrison upholds the company philosophy. “There’s not another pest control company I would work for, after I learned how you did business. Sales is not our first priority – taking care of the current customer is. It’s always been that way. That’s what Mr. Adams instilled in me. You have to give back to the community that supports you,” he says.
Up 'N Adam
One of the most recognized logos in Central Louisiana borrows an Army slogan from the ’50s and utilizes the style of Otto the Orkin Man. Paul Adams found himself seated, on a flight, near the man who created Otto. Thus, “Up ’n Atom” the slogan, became Up N Adam, the corporate logo, sketched on an airplane napkin.
Butch Morrison agreed to update the logo a year ago, making Up N Adam buffer, younger and more contemporary. The public opinion is split on the change. “I’m hoping that eventually people will like our new logo more, but understand that people are nostalgic and there will always be those who prefer the old logo,” Morrison says.