Shortly after Frank Fowler walked into his empty office on his first day with USDA APHIS in 1989, his phone rang. It was Scott McNeely, then technical director for Wilson Pest Control in Winston-Salem, N.C. McNeely was looking for a different department, and Fowler admitted he wasn’t quite sure where to transfer him. McNeely asked, “How long have you been working at the USDA?”
“Thirty minutes,” Fowler replied.
The two talked for a bit, and within a week, Fowler received a letter from McNeely introducing him to the area’s best duck-hunting lakes. The biologist and entomologist went on to become fast friends, frequently hunting, fishing and comparing notes about their career aspirations.
That’s the kind of person Scott McNeely is: the guy who reaches out to welcome you, openly shares everything he knows and follows through with friendship and support.
“When we first met, Scott confirmed what I kept observing during my visits to North Carolina: that Southern hospitality is alive and well,” says North Carolina State University Department of Entomology Distinguished Professor Coby Schal, who met McNeely in 1993, prior to joining the faculty at NC State. “As I got to know him better, I was delighted to discover that he was also incredibly enthusiastic about building NC State’s urban entomology program.”
Indeed, enthusiasm shows up in whatever McNeely sets his mind to do — whether building his business, participating in research projects, developing his employees or supporting industry efforts. He has, over the past three-plus decades, become widely respected for his wildlife and entomological expertise, as well as the business acumen that has put his company, McNeely Pest Control, on an enviable growth trajectory. His company moved up nine notches in the PCT Top 100 this year, and its momentum continues.
McNeely says there’s no secret formula to his company’s success. “We work hard and play hard, genuinely care about our customers and employees, pay everyone as much as we can, outfit them with the best equipment we can, and always try to be fair. Everything else just falls into place,” he says, pointing out the strong influence of Christian beliefs, faith and principles on his company’s culture. “We encourage employees to take care of their families, to have good work-life balance and to enjoy the work they do,” he says. “We treat our clients with great respect, too. Remembering to ‘do unto others’ is an important pa
rt of building relationships.” Fowler, who became a partner in McNeely Pest in its second year in business, credits McNeely’s knowledge and attitude as well. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be in business with,” he says. “I never doubt Scott’s knowledge or integrity. He’s smart, consistent and resourceful, always focused on seeing solutions rather than obstacles.”
McNeely and Fowler are also focused on the future. Believing that every person should have the opportunity for upward mobility and growth, and that the next generation has the potential to take the business to even greater heights, they have built an infrastructure that supports employee development and a management team that represents the millennial generation.
“We think strategically about recruiting, developing and retaining talented staff members who are looking for career opportunities, not just a place to work,” McNeely shares. “With the exception of Frank and I, all of our supervisory staff members are under 35 years old. They offer fresh perspectives and ideas for our future.”
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. McNeely’s love for wildlife and insects became clear early in life: At 10 years old, he would hang out with his dad, Robert E.T. McNeely, who was at that time part owner of Wilson Pest Control, or his Uncle Hal McNeely, a technician there, when they went on pest control missions. “I always liked catching anything,” he says.
His passion continued to burn throughout his young adult life, as he became the ecology conservation director and wilderness camp director at Raven Knob Boy Scout Reservation (McNeely is an Eagle Scout), and went on to study entomology at NC State. McNeely was part of the last undergraduate cohort of NC State’s four-year entomology program, and, thanks to the mentorship and coaching of Dr. Charles Wright, one of only two in the group to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. As he pursued his studies, he worked weekends at Wilson Pest, participated in the Leopold Wildlife Club and became a Hunters Education Instructor with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
He also found time to court his future wife: Cindy Midkiff. “He proposed to me in an acarology lab at NC State,” says Cindy. “Yes, Scott has always been a bug man — all the way.”
Upon graduation, McNeely became very active in the industry, participating in a number of organizations as he began building his career at Wilson Pest Control. During his tenure there, he worked extensively in sales, established and managed a branch office, oversaw general company operations and became a company stockholder — all while serving officially as the company’s technical director. When Wilson was acquired in 1997, McNeely spent two years working with the new firm in acquisition activities and operations, as well as technical support and services. His non-compete agreement stipulated that he could not offer pest management services for three years following the sale of Wilson Pest, so, in 1999, when he and Cindy started McNeely Pest Control in their basement, he offered only wildlife services for the first year. He added pest management in 2000 and, in January 2001, pulled Fowler into the mix. McNeely Pest Control was off and running.
POISED FOR FUTURE GROWTH. From the outside, peers view McNeely as a savvy businessman. From the inside, his staff views him as the leader who will do anything he can to improve their lives, personally and professionally. That includes providing in-house education; encouraging employees to go to meetings, educational events and leadership classes; and even working schedules around their classes should they choose to pursue a degree, says Fowler.
“He is there for everyone on the team,” Fowler adds. “When we moved to our new office about four years ago, what was most important to Scott was that his office be positioned so that he could welcome every employee in the morning and thank them at the end of the day as they were leaving. He is appreciative of every person’s contributions to the company, and every person knows that he has their back.”
Brandy Rhodes, general office manager, says that McNeely’s support strikes just the right balance. “Scott is always willing to give advice when we need it, but he doesn’t micromanage. He trusts us to manage our own areas and uphold the company standards of honesty and integrity,” she says.
“Working here you feel the commitment to individual and collective success,” adds Eastern Regional Manager Jordan Myers. “Scott inspires us to hold high expectations for ourselves, as he does for himself and for us, and to never compromise, especially when it comes to customer service.”
Rhodes and Myers, along with Jim Gliniewicz and Tyler Pruitt, make up the senior management team at McNeely Pest. They are among the employees who have benefited from McNeely and Fowler’s commitment to offering advancement opportunities.
“When I came into McNeely Pest, Scott saw something in me I hadn’t seen in myself. He said, ‘Here’s where I think you could go,’ and he has helped me progress to become service manager here,” says Gliniewicz. “He inspires all of us to reach our full potential.”
Says Pruitt, “I started as a termite technician, gained some experience and moved into a pest management position, learned some more and opened a branch office. Now I’m regional manager of our Western territory. Throughout all of this, Scott has been a great mentor to me.”
McNeely reciprocates this respect. “When I look at our company’s future, I look to our younger people for direction. Who better to market our company to future generations than members of the up-and-coming generation? Our strategic planning is done with everyone’s input so that we can identify the best path forward.”
PEER FRIENDSHIP & SUPPORT. Known far and wide as one of the industry’s most knowledgeable wildlife experts, McNeely also gets calls from his peers when entomology and pest management challenges arise.
“Because of his relationship in working with the tobacco industry, Scott has a wealth of experience with pests like the cigarette beetle; he also has some unique experiences in wildlife control based on his geographical location and personal interest in wildlife,” says Pat Hottel, technical director at McCloud Services, who serves with McNeely on the Copesan Technical Committee (CTC). “When I have a special issue with pests like cigarette beetles or with wildlife control, Scott is one of my main go-to resources. He goes out of his way to share his special knowledge with me and others.”
Former CTC member Richard Berman tells a similar story. “When I had problems with animal control, I went straight to Scott. He made me look good on more and than one occasion,” says the retired technical director of Waltham Services. “Scott also has tremendous expertise in heat treating, canine inspections and other bed bug protocols.”
Don’t forget fumigation. Schal says that McNeely Pest is one of very few companies in central and western North Carolina with expertise in large-scale fumigation. “Scott is our preferred speaker for guest lectures at NC State on all aspects of fumigation; he also leads technician education and training on fumigation at the NC Pest Control Technician’s School,” he explains. “Additionally, Dr. Mike Waldvogel often calls upon Scott to demonstrate wildlife trapping techniques in classes and training workshops at our Structural Pest Management Training & Research Facility.”
McNeely’s support of NC State also includes a variety of tests and collections — major termiticide tests, for example, and experimental work with other new chemicals. Graduate students often connect with Scott to collect cockroaches or bed bugs. And McNeely and Fowler both accompany Schal in the field: “When we go out together to look at problems — massive bed bug infestations, for example — I always learn something new from Scott and Frank,” says Schal.
The industry also benefits from McNeely’s expertise through his speaking engagements at local, regional and national pest management and wildlife management events, and the articles he writes. He has written articles for PCT magazine and contributed content to the 10th Edition of the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control and the PCT Guide to Commercial Pest Management.
DOWN-HOME FUN. Throughout his life and career, McNeely has prioritized family and friends. Asked to recount his favorite hunting story, he simply replied, “Time spent with good friends and family is more important than any one story. It’s not about the harvest or the circumstances surrounding it. It’s about the fellowship.”
That fellowship, not surprisingly, generally happens in the great outdoors. Growing up, he spent time hunting with his dad. He passed the love of the outdoors on to his three daughters, Elizabeth, Sarah and Ashley, who would hike, camp, ski, fish and occasionally hunt with their dad.
At home, he and Cindy entertain with the kind of Southern hospitality that keeps friends coming back.
“Scott and Cindy open their old family mountain home near Yadkinville to friends far and wide; their guestbook boasts familiar names dating back years. When I last visited, we had a barbecue, collected insects and listened to live bluegrass on the porch at sunset,” says Kathy Heinsohn, technical and training entomologist at American Pest.
“Part of the allure of these get-togethers is Scott’s stories,” she continues. “You know you’re in for a treat when he starts talking about alligator hunting in South Carolina’s ACE Basin, coyote trapping in Western North Carolina or moose hunting in Newfoundland. Boy, can he weave a yarn!”
As with all good friendships, the storytelling goes both ways. Jim Sargent, former director of technical support and regulatory compliance at Copesan, shares one of his favorite stories of a Scott McNeely adventure — one that reflects the playful side of this impressive industry figure:
“Scott is friendly, generous, kind and helpful. Ask him a question, and he’ll give you the best answer based on all of his experiences, both good and not so good. The ‘not so good’ experiences can be at once hilarious and terrifying.
“For example, Scott once invited visiting friends to see a buzzard roost. He drove us to a desolate place with no address that looked straight out of the movie ‘Deliverance.’ I don’t remember the year or who all was there, but I do remember that Scott kept saying, ‘Be careful where you step.’
“It turned out that the buzzard trees were out ‘a ways’ in a swamp, and we weren’t wearing boots, insect repellent or snake gaiters. We slogged, slipped and tripped over fallen trees, and ended up bitten, scratched, bloody, muddy, sweaty and ‘wore out.’
“On the upside, I think we might have seen a few buzzards.”