|Hard work and the support of family is what Roy Rich of E-Town Exterminating credits for his receipt of the Kentucky Pest Control Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Rich, 82, started the business in 1972. (Photo by Emma Kennedy)|
By Emma Kennedy, The News-Enterprise
With hardly any money to his name, a wife and two small children at home and no customers to boast about, Roy Rich went door to door seeking business.
It was 1972, before the days of email, websites or even cellphones, when sales meant cold calls and cultivating name recognition in small-town Kentucky.
Decades later, Rich still works at the business he founded, E-Town Exterminating, and recently was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Pest Control Association.
It all boils down to hard work and doing what you love, according to the 82-year-old.
“I just had to dream of something I wanted to do and I still love it,” he said.
Rich served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea and Okinawa, Japan, during the Korean War, using military incentives to pay his way through a business administration degree at Murray State University upon his return.
By 1967, he was working with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in weed and pest control, which is where his knowledge of, and love for, the industry grew.
“I worked with the state regulatory system in pest control and I got to looking around and saw these people being pretty successful,” Rich said. “I talked to a friend of mine and he said instead of going it alone, to work for a large company first.”
The next five years were spent working in management until Rich felt he’d soaked up enough knowledge to kickstart his own business in 1972 in Elizabethtown.
“As the city grew, I just started out from scratch. It was slow and I had zero accounts. I had to hit the streets and I had to really work because I didn’t have any business,” he said.
“I had never done that before and I had to go out and cold call and say, ‘Hey, I’m the new kid in town.’”
An eventual in with local real estate agents paved the way for contracting work to complete termite inspections before home sales, which kept the business busy as accounts trickled in.
“It was a different world, but I guess it was good the way I started because I didn’t have anything to work with,” Rich said. “I just had a lot of hope, and a wife and two small children at home, so I had to go get it.”
The chemical primarily used for pest control in homes when Rich started since has been banned, he said, making the industry much safer.
Rich was involved in discussions as laws and procedures were changing through roles as president and board member of the Kentucky Pest Control Association.
“It’s a lot safer today than what it was because you could take chloradine and get it close to anything and kill it, you know. But today, the chemical we use doesn’t have the residual life the other one does so it breaks down,” Rich said.
That does mean continued work in the pest control industry, however, with the newer chemical necessitating monthly service calls as opposed to bi-annual calls, he said.
Rich’s son, Shawn, stepped in as CEO of the business in 2003 and the company has grown from its original three employees to a staff of 25.
Rich maintains that the successful business he built wouldn’t be possible starting from scratch today with the difficulty in establishing connections because of competition and cost.
“It would be much tougher today, if I had to start all over,” he said.
“It could be done with hard work, but I was able to find a good CPA that started with me, a good lawyer and I was able to hire good people that were part of it. I had an outstanding wife that supported me because I worked long hours with kids at home and I had to keep everything zero.”
As for the lifetime achievement award, Rich said the success of his business also is owed in part to the community.
“This is my community, this is where I lived. Although I wasn’t born here, I came here in 1972, so this is where I’m going to be buried,” he said.
“People have been really good to me. It’s been a wonderful ride and I’m thankful every day that I get out of bed. I’m 82 years old, I’m still living, I’m in fairly good health and I’m able to go to work every day.”
Emma Kennedy can be reached at 270-505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.