Arrow Exterminators CEO and President, Emily Thomas Kendrick, answers questions during an interview at their National Headquarters in Atlanta.
Photo: Phil Skinner
Photo: Phil Skinner

Family culture a ‘competitive advantage’ for Arrow

Nearly 3,000 companies were nominated or asked to participate in the 2020 Top Workplaces contest by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and its partner, Energage. Employees across the metro area responded to print and online solicitations that began appearing in September. 

Using survey results, a list of 150 workplaces was compiled, consisting of 22 large companies (500 or more employees), 63 midsize companies (150-499 employees) and 65 small companies (149 or fewer employees). 

» See all the AJC Top Workplace winners for 2020 here

Emily Thomas Kendrick has been president of Atlanta-based Arrow Exterminators since 2008 and its CEO since 2010. Her grandparents founded Arrow, now the sixth largest pest control company in the United States, in 1964. Kendrick’s father is currently chairman of the board with an adjoining office at corporate headquarters.

Q: How have you maintained a family atmosphere while keeping your eye on the bottom line and on growth?

A: “It can be difficult. We have 126 service centers in 11 states with almost 2,500 team members. With our growth, it is imperative that we are intentional with every interaction with our team. We know that our family culture is by far our largest competitive advantage. It always has been and always will be for Arrow.

“We have continued to invest in our people through pay, time-off policies, incentives, awards trips, training, technology and other team engagement initiatives. Growth is one of our core values as an organization, and we remain focused on it year after year.

“Creating new jobs and opportunities for our team members, our local communities and for the United States is something that is incredibly meaningful to our entire team. In the last five years, our rock stars have created over 1,000 new jobs for the local communities we serve.”

Q: What are the key things you do at Arrow that you believe say to employees: You are family?

A: “Communication is key for success at Arrow and is crucial for showing our team members that we are family. We are very transparent with everything, from our policies to the performance of the company — including revenue, sales, profit, investment expenses and more.

“Each office is heavily involved in the communities they serve, and this camaraderie during and outside of work also builds our family atmosphere. We have a Veterans Committee that serves our veterans at Arrow and active duty family members, as well as outreach by serving veterans in the communities we serve. Fun Fridays are part of an employee engagement initiative from our HR team with fun activities planned each month.”

» Employee training, family culture set Arrow apart

Q: With hundreds of employees in metro Atlanta and more than 2,000 in 11 states, has it been challenging to maintain that family atmosphere? Can you describe what’s been your strategy and how it’s been executed?

A: “Our strategy regarding the size of our offices goes back to my dad. He felt it was important for us to keep our offices smaller so that the teams remained close and kept that family atmosphere. Our average size office is around $2 million in revenue with 20 team members.”

Q: Describe your leadership style and its roots

A: “I am a people person; it is part of my core. My entire life I have had a front-row seat on how to interact with people, make them feel good and cared for, and inspire them to continue to grow as an individual. I learned how to treat people from the best I’ve ever seen, my mom and dad. Both my mom and dad are incredibly charismatic, warm, empathetic, caring and passionate people. Neither of them has ever met a stranger. I believe that if I can be half as good with people as they are, I consider it a success.

“My style is that I am a big believer that leadership starts and ends with people. A great leader is going to surround themselves with highly competent, smart, and honorable people who are smarter than they ever thought about being.”

Q: In the competitive pest control industry, what do you believe sets your organization apart?

A: “Culture. Period. Our culture is by far our biggest competitive advantage. Our family culture is intentional, and it is, and will always be, the bedrock on which everything else rests. We are diligent in making sure that every single new team member goes through extensive training on our history and culture, as well as providing an awesome experience to our customers and communities.”

Q: Employees say training is not an afterthought at Arrow but rather integral to their work experience. What’s your philosophy on that?

A: “We made a large investment in training almost 14 years ago, and it has had a profound impact on our company. We made the decision to go outside the company, and we recruited some top talent to come in and create what we call Arrow University. Arrow University is the training arm of our organization.”

» Meet the remaining top five large companies

Q: Can you talk briefly about Arrow employees’ involvement in the community? How does that fit with the company’s vision?

A: “Community is one of our core values. We give back to and are an integral part of the communities we serve. In Atlanta, for example, we are a 21-year sponsor of the Children’s Healthcare Christmas Parade, heavily involved in supporting Emory’s Winship Cancer Center, Folds of Honor, the Shepherd Center, Special Olympics, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Atlanta Ballet among many more localized programs such as little league baseball teams, local schools and hospitals.”

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS COMPANY AND OTHER WINNERS

» Leaders of top workplaces say clear vision, good communication build strong teams

» Dorsey Alston ‘seems more like a home than an office’ 

» Meet the remaining top five midsize companies

» Unconventional management style puts Supreme Lending back on top

» Meet the remaining top five small companies

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