By Donna DeFranco
When you have a natural-born curiosity about wildlife, it’s great growing up in a small rural town where the creeks teem with frogs, insects and turtles, and the fields serve as a wide open playground for snakes. But even though Arnold Parnell spent the better part of his childhood exploring these biological wonders of South Carolina, he didn’t realize until many years later that his early life experiences would shape his career.
“My parents, Alice and Levance Parnell, moved our family to High Point, North Carolina — the furniture capital of the world — in 1973, when I was in elementary school,” says Parnell. “I just assumed that after high school I would work for Thomasville or another big furniture manufacturer there.”
But as graduation day approached, Parnell instead found himself weighing the options of college versus the military. “The Army offered me more immediate exposure to traveling, and I could still take college courses, so I chose to enlist,” he says. He worked full-time in the U.S. Army, mostly in field communications, for six years, and then moved into the North Carolina Army National Guard. That’s when he decided to put his experience with bugs and snakes, and his military training, to work for himself.
“A friend in my unit worked for Orkin and told me about an opening. He thought it would be great if we worked together there — said we could become the best two termite technicians in the whole Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point),” Parnell says with a smile. “It made sense: We’d be doing a lot of low crawling like we do in the military — only under homes — plus, I’m more comfortable than most people are dealing with spiders and snakes. It seemed like a good fit.”
It turned out to be an outstanding fit, says Bennie J. Mumford Jr., service manager of Orkin in Winston-Salem, who has been Parnell’s supervisor since 2013. (Parnell has been with Orkin since 1991.) “Arnold has exceptional technical, training and customer service skills,” says Mumford. “He takes on any challenge, no matter how difficult, and we know we can always depend on him.”
TAKING ON TERMITES. Parnell spent his first two or three years at Orkin performing termite work, but when the company needed more help in the general pest control department, he volunteered to assist. He continues to lend a hand wherever he’s needed, but given the choice, he prefers servicing termite accounts. “You meet more people in general pest control, which is nice, but termite work is more interesting and gratifying,” he says, explaining that he enjoys the challenge of thinking through termite problems and coming up with appropriate solutions.
Pesticides, baits and exclusion are all part of Parnell’s arsenal, but he always takes customer preferences into account. Mumford says he is particularly adept at inspection and exclusion. “Arnold is really good about finding and sealing entry points or, where conditions merit, building crawl doors to help customers keep pests out.”
Adds Parnell, “The key areas we inspect for termites are the crawlspace, under and behind the porch, around doorways, in and around the garage, and under the bathtub. In slab homes, nine times out of 10, termites get in through the open area around where the plumbing comes up through the floor. We provide customers with an access door so we can inspect that area going forward.”
Parnell tells the story of one termite job that taught him a valuable lesson about inspecting porches:
“We had treated this particular house for termites and got a call a few days later saying that activity was starting up again, which was strange because I was confident we had done a thorough treatment. Upon return, we realized that there was another porch under the one we had treated. We had to make an opening behind the original porch to gain access to the activity. Now I always check to see if there’s another cavity within the porch.”
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. Mumford says that Parnell takes a consultative stance with customers, thoroughly explaining their pest and termite issues, discussing the ideal treatment plan and then providing a wrap-up of the services he performs. “He is committed to excellence and customer satisfaction. He takes his time, makes sure the job is done correctly and then, after completing the job, he does a walk-through with the customer to show them what he did and make sure they are satisfied with the work,” Mumford explains.
STRENGTHENING THE ORKIN TEAM. After 27 years in pest control, Parnell is as enthusiastic about his career as ever. “I love working for Orkin,” he says. “I always wanted to work for a company where I would have the opportunity to apply and improve my technical skills, be promoted for my performance, train others and be recognized for great service — similar to my time in the military. I found all of that at Orkin. I feel fortunate to work with such a great group of people.”
That group benefits from Parnell’s experience, knowledge and insights. Mumford often turns to him to train and coach less experienced technicians. “When I hire someone new, Arnold is one of our best resources for training, whether we’re teaching termite, general pest or bed bug management,” he says. “The new hires enjoy working with him and learn so much in the process.”
Parnell enjoys the training experience, too — especially ride-alongs. “The initial training I got here was great,” he says. “You must have that foundation of solid training yourself to train others effectively. And I’ve learned over the years that every day of doing termite work is a training day. Hands-on, on-the-job experiences help all of us learn daily, so we are constantly training and training up.”
In his years on the job, Parnell has seen evolutionary changes in termite technology. “A lot of the industry’s go-to products have been improved,” he shares. “When treatments are done according to label specifications, they last longer and enable us to achieve better coverage and protection of homes and businesses.”
LEVERAGING MILITARY TRAINING. Parnell retired from the Army in 2007 as a Sergeant First Class (E-7), but his military training continues to be an asset to his career. Mumford explains, “Arnold’s military background shows in his organizational skills, dedication to the job and discipline in consistently doing high-quality work.”
Don’t forget fearlessness. “Arnold never hesitates to go into tight spaces and tense situations that would freak most people out,” Mumford adds. “His constant willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty makes him an exceptional part of our team.”
The author is a frequent PCT contributor.