Spend just a few minutes talking to Wayne Golden and it’s easy to see why anyone would want him on their team.
Golden, assistant vice president of government relations at Rollins, brings with him wisdom that comes from working 44 years in just about every facet imaginable in the pest control industry. But beyond operational and management expertise, Golden is a people-person who takes tremendous pride in helping others succeed.
“We view him around the office as this wise, grandfatherly figure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to him as a sounding board and bounced things off him,” said Chris Gorecki, vice president of operational support, Rollins.
While Golden has had a long, distinguished career both at Orkin and Terminix, in many ways he has been a behind-the-scenes contributor, heavily focused on operations and content to let others have the spotlight. But those who work with Golden recognize his talents, including his ability to adapt to change — whether that change involves people or processes. Colleagues and coworkers also cite Golden as a natural leader, someone folks will follow — and this includes the many talented people he has recruited to Rollins.
“Probably his greatest impact — aside from his day-to-day efforts — has been the amount of quality people that Wayne has attracted to our company,” said John Wilson, president and chief operating officer of Rollins, Inc.
And Golden is not just a sounding board for those within Rollins. He’s helped many industry professionals reach their potential, including Cleveland Dixon, president of Alexandria, Va.-based Holiday Termite & Pest Control. “What he did for me was help me fill in the blanks,” Dixon said. “What I mean by that is that there is the way you think things are, but there are other ways of looking at things. Wayne is someone who will give you that different perspective. He’ll help you find clarity so that you can take action.”
Now in the twilight of his professional career (he is set to retire Jan. 1), Golden has left his stamp on the pest control industry in many ways, perhaps the most important being as mentor to many of the next-generation industry leaders.
Golden has been shaped by the people and experiences in his life, beginning with his upbringing in the tight-knit West Philadelphia neighborhood. The middle son of William and Theresa Battaglia Golden, Wayne — along older brother William and younger sister Renee — grew up in a block that he described as “family-like,” where everyone looked out for one another.
His parents divorced when he was in his early teens, and his mom remarried and relocated the family to suburban Philadelphia, where Golden would attend junior and senior high school. In high school, Golden ran track and he described himself as a “good and popular student.”
Like many of his generation, the Vietnam War was the formative event of Golden’s young adult life. In Golden’s case he had a front row seat to it. In the 1960s, only one son per family could be drafted for military service. In the case of the Goldens, that son would have been oldest child William. “My brother was a talented artist and I wanted to give him the opportunity to do what he was good at. I really didn’t have much direction at the time, so I volunteered to go into the Navy. My mom didn’t want me to go, but my dad agreed to it, so at 17 and a half I went in. And that’s when my life changed,” he said.
Golden entered the U.S. Navy in August 1965, and in 1966 he got deployed to South Vietnam, where he served as a second class gunner’s mate aboard the USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG-7). The ship, a guided missile destroyer, patrolled the Mekong Delta providing support fire for U.S. Marines landing on shore, and picking up downed pilots that had crashed into the ocean. On his second tour of duty (1967), the ship came under fire. “We had been stationed for 60 days and I think [the Viet Cong] had picked up our routine,” Golden recalled. “They hit us with 122-millimeter shells. I was in the rear gun mount and they fired over us, hitting our fire control station. We suffered one casualty.” For his efforts in silencing the enemy shore guns that day, Golden was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, with a Combat “V” on May 15, 1969.
Golden credits his mom, Theresa, whom he calls “my champion,” for her support during his service. “Her letters to me while I was in Vietnam were always uplifting during a not-so-great time.”
Reflecting on his military service, Golden said it “made me a man” and some of his experiences have served him well to this day. “One of the things it does is it makes you take a quick snapshot of someone and make decisions about them. What are their capabilities? OK, let’s give them X, Y and Z responsibilities.”
A CAREER IS LAUNCHED
Following his wartime service, Golden used the GI Bill to attend college at San Diego State University, but as he said, “The military prepared me for a lot in life but going back to school was not one of them. The adjustment from war to school took a lot of tolerance that I did not have at the time.”
Golden tried his hand at bartending at one of his stepfather’s clubs before answering a “help wanted” ad for an Orkin sales position in May 1973. Orkin had just purchased General Sanitation, a company in Northeast Philadelphia. He was hired by and trained by manager Larry Spruill on the finer points of pest control sales. “He was really good about explaining to me what to say, and what not to say. Pretty soon I got to be really good at sales and building routes,” he said.
By 1976, Golden had moved to the commercial side of pest control, which is where he really found his niche, selling services to businesses throughout Philadelphia and South New Jersey. The bicentennial year of 1976 is memorable for Golden for another reason – it was the year he met his future wife, Grace (see related story, page 30). After getting married in December 1977, the Goldens settled into their home in Rockville, Md. (near Grace’s hometown). Golden was in charge of the company’s Rockville operation — its second largest in the Mid-Atlantic. More promotions would follow, including leading Washington D.C.’s newly opened commercial operation, and then becoming a regional manager.
“I began to develop my management style while I was a regional manager because I was dealing with people from all different parts of the country,” he recalls. “One thing I understood was the sales process. You teach people to do a job and explain to them they can make a good living. And if you treat them with respect they will respond.”
A CHANGE IN COURSE
In 1988, Orkin combined its commercial and residential operations. Golden, who by then was working and living in Philadelphia, received an offer to work at Orkin’s Atlanta headquarters in a training capacity. While this was a great opportunity, operations were Golden’s true passion, so he turned it down.
At about the same time Golden was determining his future, he had a chance encounter. “My kids were playing down the street, came back and said, ‘Dad we met an Orkin manager and you probably know him,’” he said. It turned out that this neighbor was not an Orkin executive, but a Terminix executive, Vic Charles, who at the time was sales manager for Terminix’s eastern division.
The two exchanged pleasantries and about a week later Golden received a phone call from Terminix executives, asking him if wanted to come in for an interview. He came on board at Terminix in 1989 and soon thereafter (1990) became eastern division sales manager, working alongside Albert Cantu, who would eventually become president and chief operating officer (COO) of Terminix and group president of ServiceMaster. Recalled Cantu, “Wayne and his lovely wife Grace were very gracious and welcoming as I relocated from Atlanta to Philadelphia. Wayne was an incredible mentor and I learned a great deal from him. He is the quintessential people-person and taught me a great deal, particularly the soft skills. In the service business, it’s about people. Wayne always got that.”
In 1993, Cantu was promoted to vice president of operations and Golden succeeded him as president of Terminix’s eastern division. “That was where my senior management began,” Golden recalled of this tenure that lasted until 2000. He helped grow the division from $75 million in 1993 to $280 million by 2000. He also was a part of ServiceMaster when the company reached the $1 billion mark. Golden moved to vice president of commercial operations in July 2000, and he held that position until 2005.
In 2005, as part of Terminix restructuring Golden accepted a buyout, and for the next year he worked as consultant helping minority-owned businesses. Not long after his non-compete expired, in April 2006, Golden received an unexpected phone call. It was then-Rollins President Glen Rollins and Rollins CEO Gary Rollins.
“Gary said, ‘Wayne Golden when are you coming home?’” recalled Golden, who soon thereafter accepted a position as director of commercial sales in the Southeast, charged with building up the sales team and bolstering sales. He’s since gone on to hold a variety of sales and operations positions within Rollins, sort of a jack-of-all-trades, during the past 11 years. This ability to adapt has served him and Rollins well, said Rollins’ Wilson. “Nothing fazes him in the slightest. In the face of tremendous change, he remains cool, calm and collected.”
Rollins management has recognized and leaned on Golden’s expertise in the commercial sector. Since rejoining the company he’s provided sales leadership by diversifying the Orkin National Account base to include more commercial accounts (e.g., hospitality, food service, health care, property management, food processing and state/federal government contracting).
In November 2012, Golden was moved to his current position — assistant vice president of government relations at Rollins. The job involves assisting and coordinating the day-to-day operations of the department’s work with regulatory agencies to maintain the company’s status in the pest control industry and with various associations.
Golden succeeded Gorecki, but the two still work closely together. “If a regulatory issue comes up, Wayne will gather all the information about what happened, research it, contact all of the people involved. He’ll talk it through with me and then we’ll come to a conclusion as to how are going to approach it. Then he goes and handles it. He’s really good at following up and holding people accountable. He just doesn’t miss anything.” Moreover, Gorecki said, Golden has been instrumental in transitioning and mentoring new employees, an increasingly important role at Rollins, which has added many new positions in recent years.
After 40-plus years in pest control, Golden is looking forward to his upcoming retirement. It will give him more time to spend with wife Grace and visit family throughout the Northeast. He plans to continue his work supporting minority-owned businesses and to serve on various community boards, especially those centered around youth development. So, while Golden’s pest control career might be winding down, his passion for helping others reach their potential remains as strong as ever.