[2003 Leadership Awards Profile] Greg Clendenin

Features - PCT News

October 17, 2003

Commitment is a multi-faceted ideal for Greg Clendenin, president and chief executive officer of Middleton Pest Control, headquartered in Orlando, Fla. He not only oversees a pest control business with 16 branch offices and nearly 300 employees, but he also donates his time and resources to numerous community service organizations and he encourages his employees to do the same.

"Everyone in the company receives six hours per month of paid time off to mentor. This can even include going to their children’s school functions. I believe if parents are involved in their children’s schools, the kids will do better, and it just helps the whole community," Clen-denin says. He finds this perk also helps reduce employee turnover, and increases productivity and quality of work.

Middleton, throughout its more than 50-year history, has always been committed to the communities it serves, and Clendenin strongly believes such involvement reaps significant dividends. Building stronger communities creates a better environment for business. "But more than anything else we do it because it’s the right thing to do," remarks Clendenin. "Most of our help focuses on kids and education."

Recently, Middleton received the "Corporate" finalist award from the Orange County Citizens Commission for Children, which recognized the company’s outstanding volunteer efforts on behalf of children, seniors and families. It cited Middleton’s involvement in a variety of organizations promoting advocacy for children. In addition, Clendenin was awarded the Governor Lawton Chiles Corporate Champion Award from the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families.

Clendenin chairs the Central Florida Mentoring Network, which matches adult mentors with children throughout central Florida, and assists other businesses in implementing policies that provide paid time off to mentors. Receiving support from Middleton is the Hi-Tech Tutoring Center Inc., which provides after-school, computer-assisted tutoring for at-risk students. A Gift For Teaching gathers surplus supplies from the community for teachers and students, and Middleton supports this outreach effort through a school sponsorship program. Teens are supported through Middleton’s involvement in WeekEnds of Greater Orlando, which provides social events, leadership development and community service opportunities in a positive and safe environment. For his longtime commitment to the community, Clendenin received a key to the city of Orlando and the mayor proclaimed Feb. 15, 2003, as Greg Clendenin Day.

Little League receives support in the form of sponsorship of 18 teams throughout Florida; Mid-dleton donates a portion of its retired vehicle fleet to Charity Cars Inc., a nonprofit organization that refurbishes donated vehicles and gives them to welfare recipients, single mothers, the medically needy and disaster victims; and Middleton donates its pest control services to the Boggy Creek Gang Camp, which provides services to children with chronic diseases and disabilities.

In addition, Middleton recently sponsored a Blood Drive for the Troops, and the company mascot, Leap, made an appearance at the Daytona Beach, Fla., Seventh Annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which supports breast cancer research.

"I believe community involvement is as important to a business as the human resources department or any other department," Clendenin says. "I need to give something back, and if you can include the social aspect of community service, it’s even easier to get others in the company involved."

DEDICATED TO SERVICE. Clendenin joined Middleton in 1979 as a salesman and inside pest control technician. "I was looking for a sales job and knew I wanted to get into a service business. I enjoy helping people solve problems. And ever since I was a young kid, I was always interested in insects," Clendenin says, chuckling.

Clendenin was hired by Chuck Steinmetz (see related story on page 43), and three years later, when Steinmetz was awarded the license for pest control operations for Sears Authorized Termite and Pest Control, Clen-denin was promoted to branch manager for Middleton. "Chuck asked me to run Middleton while he built the Sears business. There was one office, and we were doing about $500,000 worth of business per year," Clendenin recalls.

In 1984, Clendenin was promoted to vice-president of operations, and five years later, he assumed the same title for Sears. He worked daily with Steinmetz again until 1996, when the Sears Authorized Termite and Pest Control company was sold to Sears-Roebuck, and then eventually to Terminix. Clendenin was then named president and chief executive officer of Middleton Pest Control. "In 1996, we did $8 million of business. That was all from internal growth without any buyouts. That’s been Middleton’s strategy," remarks Clendenin.

In fact, Clendenin credits the experience of working for Steinmetz at Sears for Middle-ton’s success. He feels that the basics of good business were instilled in him during that time – the process of developing managers and operating systems. In the 14 years that Steinmetz operated Sears, it grew from zero to $100 million, through new branch growth. Establishing training and consistency benchmarks provided the strength for the company.

"Chuck was passionate about the business. He looked at growing, not just maintaining. He wasn’t satisfied that he would look good against the competitors; he knew he had to compare himself to how he should be doing," Clendenin says. "He capitalized on every opportunity or resource."

MIDDLETON TODAY. A wide swath of central Florida is covered by Middleton offices, as far north as St. Augustine, to just north of Fort Pierce. Clendenin expects Middleton to generate $25 million in revenue this year, and he boasts that Middleton has not had less than double-digit growth since 1996.

Clendenin refuses to use the current economic conditions as a scapegoat for poor performance. "It would take a catastrophe to affect the pest control industry in Florida," he says. Recently he spoke to the Society for Advancement of Management on the topic, "Prosperity Post 9-11 – What Did Middleton Do?" Clendenin shared his philosophy that his company didn’t just focus on surviving – it focused on excelling despite the challenging business conditions that currently exist in the United States. "I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies – the actions you take will follow what you believe. So Middleton didn’t just get through, it did well," adds Clendenin.

Goal setting is important, and Clendenin challenged his company a year ago. "I proposed that Middleton can grow 25 percent a year, and in five years, we can be a $50 million company," Clen-denin says. "Right now I haven’t set a goal outside of Florida, because as it stands, only about 19 percent of households use pest control services. We can keep growing here. Right now, Middleton is about the 25th largest company in Florida – my goal is to grow into the upper dozen."

BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY. "From my first day at Middleton, I knew it could be something big. My goal was to become a manager, and own my own company," states Clendenin. In 24 years, he has ascended the ladder, learning from his predecessor and others, and implementing his own unique leadership style.

"A leader should be able to develop an environment that really encourages people to do their best and believe in themselves," Clendenin says. To that end, Middleton operates an ongoing training program for all employees. In addition, each employee carries a laminated card with Middleton’s mission statement, strategic principle and company values (see related story, page 42).

Clendenin continues, "A leader needs to be planning, working on strategy and executing. He should be looking for new ideas and opportunities." Middleton became the first pest control company to offer customer service via the Internet, through ordering, scheduling and paying for services, following Clendenin’s viewing of Internet commercials during Super Bowl XXXIII.

"A leader should keep learning. You don’t want to fall short of what you could be providing your company," Clendenin adds. He received his MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in 1998. Clendenin also is continuously learning new technology, which can translate into better and more efficient systems for the company.

"I’m 50 years old, and there is still a lot ahead of me. What we’ve done in the past at Middleton isn’t necessarily going to influence what we do in the future. If I see an opportunity, Middleton will get into it. We’ve just added mosquito management to our list of services," he says.

But his overriding philosophy returns to his commitment to helping people. "There is no one person in the organization more important than another person. I’m doing my job if I help others realize their full potential. My goal for the employees is for them to be happy and productive," Clendenin states.

Middleton Pest Control

Each new Middleton Pest Control employee (Team Member) receives a laminated card that lists the company’s mission, strategic principle and values. These aren’t words to be dismissed, according to Middleton President and CEO Greg Clendenin. He believes any question regarding service or possible conflict should be addressed using these principles.

Our Mission As It Pertains To Customer Service

To be the obvious choice for the single family homeowner for all outdoor and indoor pest control services and to outperform every competitor by delivering to our customers the best value and highest quality in lawn and ornamental care, termite control and indoor pest control.

As It Pertains To The Work Environment

To provide our employees (Team Members) a safe, challenging and fun workplace where each one has the opportunity to reach their potential in an environment conducive to productivity and success.

As It Pertains To Growth And Profit

To grow rapidly and achieve healthy and fair profit margins.

As It Pertains To The Community

To remain actively involved as a good corporate citizen.

Our Strategic Principle

Do what is necessary, legal and ethical to fulfill all contractual promises to the customer and all obligations to your fellow Team Members and do it in a manner that is most efficient, effective and considerate to all involved.

Company Values

We Believe In:

1. Listening to all voices in the company, believing that everyone in the organization can and should contribute to efficiency, growth and profit.

2. The total team concept of premier customer service regardless of market territory or personal job description.

3. A willingness to take risks without fear of failure or personal backlash as we seek to be a part of the solution to all company challenges and accept final decisions after having our idea(s) receive fair consideration.

4. Working smarter and more efficiently so as to keep the competition not only wondering about us but also always chasing us in terms of growth and customer satisfaction.

5. Aggressively and vigilantly protecting our corporate assets; the most important ones being those that are proprietary, our Team Members’ environment and our customer list.

6. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

7. Always fulfilling our obligations to our customers and Team Members and, at the same time, striving to be family-friendly.

8. Being a good corporate citizen, knowing it is the right thing to do and that we will be more successful if our community is more successful.

9. Paying more attention to detail than our competition toward total professionalism, our fellow Team Members’ success and external customer satisfaction.

10. Working hard and, when necessary, long. At the same time we believe in having fun at work.

11. Thinking in innovative ways, taking reasonable risks and encouraging others to do the same toward continual improvement and to heighten our level of efficiency. All ideas should be openly discussed so as to determine the potential value to the entire organization.

12. Protecting each Team Member’s work environment from bad politics, contrary personal agendas and non-productive distractions.

Learning The Ropes

n 1996, Greg Clendenin assumed the role of president and chief executive officer of Middleton Pest Control Inc., from Charles (Chuck) Steinmetz, himself a winner of a 1999 Leadership Award.

"Chuck is a man of great vision. I’ve worked with him 25 years, and it’s been great," Clendenin says. "He doesn’t think small. Chuck expects growth in spite of anything and everything.

"He taught me that you build a company by building the people. Even though he’s retired now, he still shows an interest in the company and is always willing to share his experience," Clendenin says.