Arrow Exterminators named top large workplace for 2023

Arrow Exterminators found ways to thrive during pandemic’s first years
The Arrow Team at the Children's Christmas Parade. Courtesy of Arrow Exterminators

Credit: Courtesy of Arrow Exterminators

Credit: Courtesy of Arrow Exterminators

The Arrow Team at the Children's Christmas Parade. Courtesy of Arrow Exterminators

Arrow Exterminators, the nation’s second-largest family-run pest control company, actually grew during the pandemic, CEO Emily Thomas Kendrick said.

“We were extremely blessed from a business perspective to be deemed essential not only by the states we do business in but by the federal government, as well,” Kendrick said.

On August 10, Arrow picked up its trophy for top large workplace during the the AJC Top Workplaces award ceremony.

When other industries were forced to shut down as COVID-19 spread, pest and termite control companies were deemed essential services. They were in high demand because of concerns about food and health safety, and that affected Arrow’s bottom line.

The 59-year-old company saw annual revenue jump from $250 million to about $380 million between 2020 and 2023. During that same time, it also expanded from 126 offices to 171 and added about 800 employees to its 2,500-person workforce, Kendrick said.

Not that there weren’t plenty of adjustments made, she added. Only the administrative team and office managers were allowed in the company’s buildings. When possible, service team members treated only the exteriors of homes and businesses, but wore personal protective equipment when they needed to work inside, Kendrick said.

“Within, like, 24 hours, not only did our team wrap their brain around it, but we made all the modifications we were putting in place even better,” she said.

Although the residential side of the business continued to do well, commercial business fell off at first when companies shut down, said Tim Pollard, president and chief operating officer.

“But they figured out in a short time that, if I’m going to stay in business, I’ve got to do something different,” he added.

When restaurants started pivoting from sit down service to take-out, “they still needed our services, and that part of (our) business picked back up, as well,” Pollard said.

Kevin J. Burns, chief development officer, added: “Our business really didn’t just putz along. We were hiring all through the years of the pandemic.”

Grateful management launched a program called “Comeback is the Giveback,” sending each Arrow office $1,000 to help a worthy charity in its community, Kendrick said.

“We were just very, very lucky, and not everybody was,” Kendrick said. “We felt it was incumbent upon us to give back to those communities. "

Family business legacy

Despite its growth, executives said Arrow has never lost the feel of a family business — and that’s been intentional.

“The family culture is what separates us from our competitors,” Kendrick said. “It always has and, as long as we’re in charge, it always will.”

Arrow Exterminators was founded in Atlanta in 1964 by James S. “Starkey” Thomas Sr. and his wife, Imogene “Jean.”

The company is still owned and operated by members of the Thomas family. Kendrick is the founders’ granddaughter and has worked at the company since 1998, the last 13 as its president and chief executive officer.

Management’s commitment to employee’s stepped up during the pandemic. During the first two years, employees who tested positive for COVID or who needed to take care of a sick family member were given time off in excess of their earned paide leave, said Shay Runion, Arrow’s chief human resources office and senior vice president of professional development.

Promotions and raises also continued, and management ramped up communications with its employees across the country.

Another perk the company offers is twice yearly luxury getaways that recognize top-producing service professionals and inside sales specialists, and reinforce family culture.

“The culture is so important. It has to be part of everything we do and every decision we make, because we’ve seen when the culture is lost,” Kendrick said, “it is almost impossible to get it back.”

About Arrow Exterminators

Founded: 1964 in Atlanta by Starkey Thomas and his wife, Jean

Ownership/leadership: Remains family owned, with Emily Thomas Kendrick the third generation Thomas to run company. Her father, Joe Thomas, is chairman of the board.

Home office: 8613 Roswell Road, Building 4, Atlanta

Locations: 171 service centers in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia; more than 100 location acquisitions since 1988

Training: The company’s 3,250-plus employees receive training at Arrow University. This includes managers and new employees, and technical training.

For more information: