“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” —Winston Churchill
When Phil and Sara Gregory started the process of planning a new headquarters building for Gregory Pest Solutions three years ago they wanted it to be a focal point for the company’s 220-plus team members, as well as a place that both employees and the community would benefit from both personally and professionally.
When the new building opened last year they accomplished those goals. Not only in brick and mortar but in the realization of a 43-year-old dream to build a business whose true foundation will stand the test of time for generations to come.
The business had a humble start; the pair operated the firm out of their 500-square-foot apartment. Phil handled sales and Sara performed the actual service calls — a rarity for a woman in the early 1970s. Today, Gregory Pest Solutions services thousands of customers across 11 Southeast states but it has maintained its commitment to being a family-oriented business.
“It was very important to Sara from the early days that the company be family friendly,” says Phil Gregory, co-founder and chairman of the board. “She wanted to get to know employees and we celebrated birthdays and holidays together.
“That has stuck with us all these years and we certainly wouldn’t be sitting where we are today without her inspiration and dedication to keeping us family-focused.”
“We started with one account, the apartment complex we lived in,” says Sara Gregory, co-founder and CEO. “Nothing was handed to us. We worked long hours and they didn’t think I had it in me but I showed them.”
As Gregory Pest Solutions has grown, the company’s client base is 80 percent commercial and 20 percent residential, it has worked hard to maintain the family-feel Phil and Sara Gregory laid down in the early days.
Five years ago the company went through Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” program that emphasizes incorporating elements of trust, teamwork and accountability.
“We have been working at it constantly for the last five years and as a result we have been able to create a great team environment within the company,” says Ben Walker, president of Gregory Pest Solutions, who joined the company in 1997. “If I had to select one word to describe our workplace, it would be ‘passion.’”Phil likes to visit the company’s branch offices and build relationships face-to-face rather than through an email or text.
“You need to get eye-to-eye with people,” he says. “It opens your eyes to the challenges they face every day and I always learn something new about that person or our company during that time.”
Having face time with an industry peer was something Gregory himself experienced soon after he and Sara started the business. His cherished friend was the late Richard Yashek of J.C. Ehrlich who, like Sara’s father, was a Holocaust survivor and a most willing and generous mentor to Gregory and others in the industry.
“We started having lunch together at the NPMA convention in 1972 and continued doing so every year thereafter,” says Gregory. “Every year we couldn’t wait to meet up at the convention. I’ve never had a closer friend in my life.”
The deep bond of friendship carries on in the new headquarters where the training center is dedicated to Yashek, a tribute from one humble gentleman to another.
A Building That Works. The 15,000-square-foot headquarters sits on 4.5 acres and has the personal touches that you would expect from a company that has emphasized family since its inception.
From a specially colored shade of green glass in the atrium (matched to Gregory Pest Solutions’ corporate logo) to the photos of historic buildings from the 20-plus metropolitan areas the company services to the rooms dedicated to people (and even to the company’s first office dog) that helped influence and grow the business, the building takes on a very personal feel.
“The building represents how the company started and the people who helped Phil and Sara get where they are today,” says Larry Motes, B.C.E., who serves as director of operations. “They have come a long way from the one-bedroom apartment where they started the business.”
Phil and Sara Gregory also wanted the new building to give back to the community as they allow clients to use the training room free of charge.
“It’s an intangible benefit for our business and a perk for our clients,” says Walker. “It is very helpful in building a relationship with clients.”
The new headquarters is also designed to spur the company’s “pedal to the metal” growth strategy. In 2017, the company is taking its “Smarter Pest Control” tagline and motto and starting an internal process called Simply Smarter (the firm’s website is www.smarterpestcontrol.com).
“We’re going to be simple and we’re going to be smart,” says Walker. “We think there is a benefit in simplifying our message and we are asking every employee to share with us how they can contribute.”
Continuing to operate with the nimbleness and mindset of a smaller organization is a must if Gregory is to reach its goal of becoming the premier pest management provider in the Southeast.
An example of the company’s highly responsive and entrepreneurial mindset came two years ago during its annual meeting when they received a call from a large supermarket chain they were pursuing that was experiencing a chronic rodent problem.
Despite the fact they were in the middle of the meeting, the company put two people on a plane to Washington, D.C., to work on solving the rodent problem and at the end of the day securing the client’s business.
“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what to do in that case,” says Phil Gregory. “We were literally handing out our annual awards when we were made aware of the opportunity.”
How the company reacted in that situation confirms its commitment to take advantage of market opportunities whenever or wherever they arise while keeping its Simply Smarter mantra in mind.
“We want to be smarter than the competition and smarter than the pests and involve our employees in the process,” Phil Gregory says. — Jeff Fenner