McCall Service based in Jacksonville, Fla., has gone through changes in name, service and even ownership over its 75-year history. However, through it all the company’s commitment to top-quality service, ethical business standards and customer satisfaction, has remained constant.
Today McCall Service is owned by the Cooksey family, namely Bryan Cooksey Jr. and his wife Jane, and his three sons, Bryan III, president; David, vice president; and John, vice president of operations. There are also two sisters in the family: Cathy Patton, who serves on the board, and Beverly Mulholland, a customer of McCall who works as a teacher. The elder Cooksey, now serving as chairman of the board, ran the company from 1969 to 1998.
FOUNDING BROTHERS. McCall got its start as a family-owned business. The company was founded as McCall Coal Company in 1928 by two brothers, Sidney and John McCall, in Jacksonville. In those days life in America was changing drastically. Advancements in technology were fueling consumerism, Walt Disney had just introduced Mickey Mouse and the long economic boom was headed for a crash. Meanwhile, McCall Coal Company was beginning to offer coal, ice and later, fuel oil services, to customers living along the St. John’s River.
In 1954 the business was sold to a local investment group headed by R. Eugene Orr. Orr appointed local politician and businessman C. William Beaufort chief executive officer. Beaufort made many changes at McCall, including renaming it McCall Fuel Services and then capitalizing on what was a new business opportunity at the time: lawn care.
Toward this end, Beaufort hired Bryan Cooksey Jr. to sell lawn service to the company’s existing fuel customers. A graduate of the University of Florida with dual majors in entomology and agronomy, Cooksey began building one of the first lawn care businesses in the area. "When we first started offering lawn care services to our customers there were only a half dozen companies providing that type of service," Cooksey Jr. said. "Now there are hundreds of companies serving the Jacksonville market."
Shortly thereafter, pest control services were added with good success. However Cooksey, who had become a certified pest control operator, decided to leave McCall in 1964, in hopes of running his own business. When his start-up was subsequently purchased by Terminix, Cooksey stayed on in a management capacity with the company. He returned to McCall in 1969, when he was offered partial ownership in the company. Throughout the next 30 years, Cooksey purchased the remaining stock in the company and went on to build one of the Southeast’s top pest management firms.
A SECOND GENERATION. Today McCall is run by a second generation of Cookseys. Bryan Cooksey III, who grew up in the business, joined McCall full-time in 1988. A graduate of West Point, Bryan III served in the U.S. Army for five years, attaining the rank of captain. At McCall, Bryan first found a niche in growing the company’s commercial pest control business and then quickly rose through the management ranks. He was named president of the company in 1998. Bryan has also held critical leadership roles outside of McCall, having served as the president of the Florida Pest Management Association and currently, as a board member for the National Pest Management Association.
Cooksey Jr.’s youngest son John came on board in 1994. With his education and experience in analytical chemistry, John focused on the technical side of the business. While working for McCall, he earned his master’s degree in entomology from the University of Florida and today serves as vice president and entomologist. John’s decision to study entomology was, in part, influenced by the elder Cooksey’s exit strategy, Bryan notes. "Dad said he wouldn’t retire until one of us was an entomologist," he says.
David joined the company in 1995, after having served in the U.S. Air Force for six years, achieving the rank of captain and then earning his MBA from the University of South Carolina. He has concentrated on business management at McCall and is now vice president of the company.
The elder Cooksey retired in 1998, handing the business over to his sons, but staying on as chairman of the board. With their differing interests and experience, the three brothers have made a good team. "We felt we’d have this complete package," says Bryan. "We’d take what dad used to do and divide it into three sections."
Furthermore, he said, the brothers wanted to create positions in which each one could grow and prosper in the company.
A GROWTH STRATEGY. Bryan says the company took on a strategy of growth beginning in the late 1980s after he, then his brothers, joined the company. "My father was happy where he was at because it was only one family," Cooksey says. "Then it became four families, so growth was really the only option we had." He adds that in the last 10 years, the company has experienced double-digit growth. Today the company ranks No. 57 in PCT’s list of the 100 largest pest management firms.
Bryan says his management style is similar to his father’s, even though his current goal of growth differs from his father’s goal of profit. "It depends what stage of life you’re in," he notes. "When he had a family, he was interested in growth. As he got to where he had all his grandchildren looking at him, he wasn’t so concerned about it."
Since the Cooksey brothers have controlled the company, they’ve worked to grow specific parts of the business where they saw the most business opportunity. For instance, the pest control side of the business has more than tripled since 1988 when Bryan III joined the company. The commercial side has also grown steadily in recent years, notes Bryan, thanks in part to his own sales efforts, becoming part of the Copesan network in the early 1990s and training employees specifically for the commercial side. "We’ve gotten more aggressive in creating our own market," Bryan says.
Several years ago the company also created commercial and residential divisions for further focus in each area. "Once we specialized we were able to offer a higher level of service," says Bryan.
Today the company still offers a full range of services: pest and termite control, lawn and ornamental care and fuel oil. The company has 85 employees and runs six offices, as well as four remote routes to serve customers in southern Georgia and the top two-thirds of Florida.
Currently just more than 60 percent of the company’s pest control business is commercial, but in recent months Bryan says the company is putting more emphasis on growing the residential side. "We’ve sort of shifted our strategy," he says, "from gangbuster growth to profitable growth." Also, the company has refocused to concentrate on its core geographic areas while eliminating other fringe areas.
One way the company has focused more creatively on the residential side of the business is by getting involved in the pretreat market, something McCall began five years ago. The benefits of being the initial pest control company for new homeowners has helped McCall earn more lawn and ornamental work as well as more pest control business, Bryan says.
Working in a family business can be difficult for some people but the Cookseys have seemed to strike a balance that works well. "We all take care of the areas of the business that we enjoy and each one focuses on what they’re good at," Bryan says. He also credits the family’s success with the brothers’ relatively "low-key" personalities. "We get along for the most part on many things and we each know where our strengths and differences lie."
The Cookseys have many things to be proud about. "Having the opportunity to run your own business is the greatest satisfaction that we as a family get out of this," says Bryan. "It’s still great to know that America is a country you can be in and control your own destiny by the efforts you put into it."