Arrow Exterminators was founded in Atlanta in 1964 by James S. (Starkey) Thomas Sr. and his wife, Imogene (Jean). The couple’s oldest son, James (Joe) Thomas Jr., joined the company in 1972 and took over its leadership in 1978 after Starkey Thomas’ death. Emily Thomas Kendrick continues the family legacy.
The AJC talked with Kendrick about her life and career.
Describe how you rose to the top and when you took over
“I started at Arrow 25 years ago after graduating from Vanderbilt. I held multiple roles throughout the company before being named COO in 2003 and CEO in 2012.”
What do you believe is unique about your management style?
“I’m very much people-oriented. I’m a big believer that leadership starts and ends with people. Period. Great leaders are going to surround themselves with highly competent, smart and honorable people who are smarter than they ever thought about being. After painting an extremely compelling vision for the future, a great leader is going to sell that vision to all team members every single day, lead by example, hold the team accountable, thank them often, and reward them well. My fellow team members would tell you I’m very people-oriented, passionate, empathetic and like to have fun. I love people! My entire life, I’ve 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 individuals. 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. If I can be half as good with people as they are, I will consider myself a success.”
What is your most vital attribute as a leader?
Note: For this answer, she deferred to Shay Runion, chief human resources officer and senior vice president of professional development.
Shay: “Emily is a passionate leader who cares about each team member. She can rally the troops unlike any leader I have ever watched in action. She is a transparent leader whom people are willing to go above and beyond for. She inspires each of us to be better team members, family members and community members.”
How do you stay on top of your game and ahead of your competitors?
“Like most business leaders, I spend time learning about other industries and how they manage their businesses. I am part of a business networking group, Young President’s Organization, where I learn from other business leaders. We must understand our competition, but we focus mainly on the future and our strategy to grow our business, provide opportunities for our team, and take care of our customers.”
Credit: Ana Laura Araya, Special
Credit: Ana Laura Araya, Special
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
“A scuba diving instructor or an accountant.”
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?
“Golfing, spending time outdoors hiking and biking and scuba diving with my husband, and traveling.
What is your favorite book, song and movie?
“My current favorites: ‘Book is Culture Rules’ by Mark Miller; the song is ‘Tick Tick Boom’ by Sage The Gemini; and the movie is ‘Tommy Boy.’”
Share a little about your family
“I have an amazing family. My husband, Hugh, is the best, and we have a blast together. I have two adult stepsons who live in Atlanta and Wyoming, where Hugh grew up. We have a granddaughter (Timber, age 17) and two grandsons (Ben, age 17, and Teddy, age 7). I’m very lucky to have my family I am very close to here in Atlanta. My mom and stepfather live in the same high-rise as my husband and me. My dad and stepmother live around the corner from us. And my sister and her husband and kids live 10 minutes down the road from us.”
Emily Thomas Kendrick
CEO of: Arrow Exterminators since 2010
College: Received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology in 1998 from Vanderbilt University