Tom McCloud Remembered as a Charismatic Leader, Mentor to Many
Tom McCloud in the 1950s and a more recent photo of Tom, who passed away in January.

Tom McCloud Remembered as a Charismatic Leader, Mentor to Many

The third-generation owner of McCloud Services died in January, at 93. He was remembered as a bridge between post-World War II operators and subsequent generations.

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March 26, 2021

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Tom McCloud, third-generation owner of McCloud Services, South Elgin, Ill., died Jan. 8 at age 93 at a nursing home in the Kansas City, Kan., area. He is remembered by his colleagues and family as a compassionate industry leader with strong ties to the National Pest Management Association and Copesan Services, an alliance of regional commercial pest management companies with locations throughout North America.

Tom became involved in the industry at a young age. McCloud Services was founded by his grandfather, William Bailey McCloud, as W.B. McCloud & Company in 1904, and later taken over by Tom’s father, Walter McCloud. Though the company originated in the Chicago area, by the 1940s, it had branched out to offices in central Illinois, central Indiana, eastern Iowa and St. Louis.

Tom faced adversity early in his career. Walter passed away in a 1947 car accident at age 49, when Tom was just 19. At 21, Tom was forced to lead the company and instantly faced a difficult decision.

“Dad entered the business in his early 20s and immediately removed his father’s successor, a well-liked industry professional who was siphoning off McCloud cash to run his own pest management business,” youngest son Chris McCloud said. “Since my father was a relative newcomer to the company and industry, this move was not received well by his peers. Later, he realized that as unpleasant as this experience had been, it helped forge his own identity as well as an immediate sense of ownership and accountability.”

Tom furthered many of his father’s initiatives as a leader. Walter had served on the boards of several industry associations, and in 1940, he was president of the National Pest Control Association, now the National Pest Management Association. Tom followed in his footsteps, spending considerable time working with NPCA from the 1950s through the 1970s. 

In 1954, Tom expanded McCloud Services further, adding Illinois branches in Decatur and Pekin. He was a bridge between post-World War II operators and subsequent generations, said his oldest son, Phil McCloud.  “He was one of the youngest guys in the industry,” Phil said. “All the other dynamite guys were his grandfather's age.”

Tom’s focus was always on building commercial accounts, said Phil. He rarely turned away work and was known for his honest reputation, which boded well when EPA began heavily regulating the industry in 1969. “My dad aggressively encouraged innovation and embraced new ideas and services that would provide more value to customers and help him grow the business,” said Chris.

For example, in 1980 he hired Pat Hottel as technical director, making her one of the first women in the pest control industry to hold this position. 

Tom always lived by his moral compass, said Alfie Treleven, CEO of Sprague Pest Solutions, Tacoma, Wash., a fellow Copesan company. “His coworkers, partners, family and friends all knew his passion for doing the right thing, even if it took longer to achieve or the process was a little messy. Doing what you were doing right was the goal he lived.”

McCloud Services was an original partner and remained a stockholder through 2018 when Copesan was sold to Terminix.  Tom became involved in Copesan in 1958 and a stockholder in 1971. “That's when it all took off,” said Phil. “Because, quite frankly, you could do the best you want to do in your industry, but if you don't have friends and you don't have mentors and you don't have an association to gather information from, you're not going to be as good.”

Tom grew his business by learning from other Copesan companies and constantly accepting new clients from the alliance, until McCloud Services transformed “from a little company into a powerhouse,” said Phil. Tom also served as a mentor to fellow Copesan members, including Treleven and Clarke Keenan, former president of Waltham Services, a Copesan services company headquartered in Waltham, Mass. “He was a listener and sought consensus,” Keenan said. “He liked to challenge the establishment, and Copesan junior execs represented a good way to push the envelope.”

The McCloud family legacy in business continued with Phil, who said his earliest memory is of making bait for the company at eight years old. “I always knew, even as a little kid, that we had this wonderful company that made us different,” Phil said. “We owned something, and I felt important, even at the age of eight. I always was told by my dad that we were the Rolls Royce of pest control.”

He joined the company as a sales representative in 1972, eventually taking over as president in 1985. Phil described his relationship with his father as “like brothers,” and stressed that his father never pressured him to join the family business and gave him the freedom to craft his own identity as a leader. “After 1985, he wasn't on the sideline; he was up in the skybox,” said Phil. “He said he would watch us, but he didn't get involved. He let me run the company. I thought I was taking it from him as a responsibility, but I think he was letting me have it.”

In addition to Phil and Chris (who succeeded Phil as president of the company in 2007), Tom’s daughter, Carol, worked in the business for 10 years. Chris said his father took great pride in having his children involved in the business. “I was the youngest child and never reported directly to him, so his approach with me was hands-off, but I was set up to learn from his best people,” he said. “This was a positive in our relationship because it allowed us to have productive and healthy conversations about the business in general. He was a great mentor, and I could not have asked for a more supportive father.” Chris led McCloud Services until 2019, when the company was sold to ServiceMaster. 
 

Copesan Colleagues remember Tom McCloud
As an important bridge between WWII pest control operators and subsequent leaders, Tom McCloud’s influence was far-reaching, particularly among Copesan leaders, several of whom shared their thoughts.

Bert Dodson, president and CEO of Dodson Pest Control, Lynchburg, Va., met Tom McCloud through his involvement with Copesan and described him as “lively, supportive, understanding and compassionate,” and one of the kindest people he knew in the industry. “Tom McCloud was from the generation of pest control professionals that made this industry what it is today,” Dodson said.

“His attention to professionalism, honesty and personal commitment was the standard of his day.” He remembered McCloud as someone who listened to and encouraged everyone around him. “His life was defined by giving rather than greed, by empathy rather than negative comments of others,” said Dodson.

Alfie Treleven, CEO of Sprague Pest Solutions, Tacoma, Wash., noted that Tom was an excellent conversationalist with varied interests. “He could talk about the latest in pest management, contemporary and old jazz or blues recordings; name a book, he probably knew it; talk fishing, say goodbye to the rest of your day; going fishing, say goodbye to the rest of the week,” Treleven said.  McCloud was a voracious reader, Treleven recalled, which aided his ability to speak on many topics. “This taught me to always look for leadership team members who did the deep dives into subjects,” said Treleven. “They will uncover ideas I would miss or challenge my thinking. Tom did that for me throughout my career, especially important when I was in my 20s and 30s.”

Clarke Keenan, former president of Waltham Services, a Copesan services company headquartered in Waltham, Mass., also remembered McCloud for his kindness and willingness to share. “Tom was a great mentor. At McCloud, he allowed Phil to thrive as a creative junior executive and soon promoted him to run McCloud.”