All-American Pest Control President and CEO Erin Richardson has made history. She is the first woman to hold these executive positions at a third-generation business and Inc.5000 company. In these roles, she has instituted a variety of changes, which has helped the company prosper in recent years.
As President and CEO of All-American Pest Control, Erin Richardson has instituted a four-day work week and a “variety of strategic bets that fueled the company’s growth and reputation.” She bought the business in 2012, and has put it on a fast track to expansion and growth.
Erin Richardson is a member of the Tennessee Pest Control Association and National Pest Management Association. She and All-American Pest Control are also active in the industry both on the state and national levels. During her tenure, she has expanded the family business, and helped it gain recognition from industry publications. PCT Magazine named All-American Pest Control in its Top 100 List, which lists down the “top 100 largest pest control companies in the nation,” and Inc. 5000 has included the company in its list in 2019 and 2020.
While she runs a family business, Erin Richardson was not handed anything at All-American Pest Control. She had to work her way up from being the company’s business development manager, before she became the vice president of sales and marketing. In 2012, she climbed up to the position of president.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Erin Richardson: I never thought I would work with my family in the pest control business. From a young age, I considered myself an artist and despised the thought of working a 9–5 job. After graduating from college in 2001, I tried my hand at jobs in various industries, including social work, family counseling, event planning and graphic design. Then, I got the pest control bug and began to see how I can help to continue to improve and grow our family business.
In December 2012, I purchased the business from my father, and I currently serve as president and CEO.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Erin Richardson: When I was just starting out, I wanted everything done yesterday. The more I demanded of myself and others, the more stagnant our results. It was a vicious cycle that I knew I needed to escape because giving up was not an option for me.
Thankfully, I began to realize I desired more out of life and work than this. I wanted to create a culture that made a positive impact on our team members and their families. As I began to prioritize team experience, I began to find more meaning and purpose in my leadership role. My change in mindset affected every aspect of our company, and since then growth has become easy and fun.
I wanted to create a culture that made a positive impact on our team members and their families. As I began to prioritize team experience, I began to find more meaning and purpose in my leadership role.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Erin Richardson: When I was just starting out with All-American Pest Control, I helped with sales and customer service. One busy day, I was on the phone handling a customer issue, and a trainee looked at me from across the room and whispered to me that the caller told her he was Al’s — my dad and owner of the company at the time — “lover.”
I put my caller on hold, reassured the new trainee that the caller was likely a jokester friend and told my dad to answer the phone and say he was a ballet instructor — we wanted to have a little fun with the jokester on the line. All would have been funny and forgettable if I hadn’t given my dad the line of the disgruntled customer that I had put on hold. Oops!
Lesson learned: Take each and every call seriously and don’t transfer the wrong calls when planning a joke!
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Select meaningful values: My family’s beliefs and work ethic inspired my team’s core values, including reliability, remarkable service, teamwork, respect, thoughtful innovation and servant leadership. These values drive our culture. We hire, train, coach and retain team members around these core values.
- Build trust through alignment: For a service-based business, just as important as attracting and retaining the best talent is attracting and retaining the best customers. We make sure to communicate who we are as a company, and that helps to attract the best customers which in turn makes our day-to-day work more meaningful and enjoyable.
- Refine strategy: We define an impactful strategy as one that scares our competition, delights our customers and thrills our team. If the strategies or priorities we are considering don’t elicit an emotional reaction, we need to continue to refine and focus our ideas until we land on projects that will make the biggest difference.
- Narrow your focus: We have expanded our service offerings in efforts to grow, but now we are narrowing our service offerings to a small, very focused niche market. While canceling service lines is difficult and scary, each time we stick to what we know and do best, we win.
- Share the love: There is a great team behind every great company, and there are servant leaders leading all great companies. Model and grow servant leadership within your business. Share the vision, set big goals, create space for work-life balance, hold everyone accountable, say thank you and celebrate often.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Erin Richardson: The best team members and leaders desire results and relationships. If they can go anywhere and do anything, why wouldn’t they gravitate toward businesses that are financially successful while making a purpose-driven dent in the universe? It’s a win-win for the company, the team and the local or global community. Great companies get results while creating lasting relationships and positive impact.
The best team members and leaders desire results and relationships. If they can go anywhere and do anything, why wouldn’t they gravitate toward businesses that are financially successful while making a purpose-driven dent in the universe? Erin Richardson, CEO of All-American Pest Control
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Erin Richardson: We focus on the lifetime value of a lead. We are in the relationship business, meaning we are here for the long-run and we will be here for years to come. After a lead is generated, only a certain percentage will be ready to say yes within the first phase of the sales process, but don’t give up on them. We continue to build relationships with all leads for months and years after first contact through integrated marketing efforts. This is how we maximize the value of all leads we generate and ultimately convert them into great customers.
We are in the relationship business, meaning we are here for the long-run and we will be here for years to come.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Erin Richardson: I know the best way to continue building trust with customers is to hire and grow great people. We hire great people aligned with our core values, we train them well and we empower them to provide remarkable service.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Erin Richardson: For more information on All-American Pest Control, visit our website or follow on Facebook and Twitter by searching for the handle @AllAmericanPest.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!