Here at City Wide Exterminating, we have a deep commitment to the customers we serve. As a part of that community commitment, we want people to get to know us a little bit better, and getting to know us means first and foremost getting to know the people who make the company what it is. In the first of our staff interview series, we talk to our President, Ashley Morrison about what it’s like to grow up in a pest control family, being a female business leader, and what makes City Wide so special to her.
Hi Ashley! Let’s jump right in. First question: how long have you been in the pest control industry?
Well, my dad has always been in pest control, so in a way it’s kind of all I’ve ever known. Before starting City Wide, my dad would take me on ride-alongs with him. As most parents know, kids don’t always behave or listen so there were times I’d get in trouble. I’m pretty sure I stressed out my dad but we both remember those times fondly and laugh looking back. What I found most interesting about my dad’s job was the flexibility of his schedule but I honestly never saw myself following in his footsteps. When he first started City Wide in 2000, I was working in the nonprofit sector, which was initially where my heart was. After several years growing personally and professionally, I came to work with my parents in 2010. Every job has their moments but I truly feel blessed to work with my family and I can’t see myself anywhere else now.
What was that early experience like?
I started off answering the phones and scheduling services for my dad. I took some of the processes I learned in the nonprofit side and implemented them at City Wide. We began creating written procedures and found inefficiencies which we shored up quickly. Over time I worked as an Office Manager and ultimately transitioned into operations. My role in operations really allowed me to build out more process improvements. We also started creating goals which gave us a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Last year my dad retired and I was appointed to President. Aside from actual field work on a daily basis, I’ve been lucky to work in nearly every capacity of running a small business. Being able to touch so many different parts of the day-to-day operations over the years has provided me with many different perspectives which has allowed me to see through the eyes of nearly every position.
How did those different jobs starting out inform what you do today?
Well, I have been in the industry 10 years and if you can believe it, most people will tell you they’ve had several decades of experience in this line of work. I think I’ve learned a lot in a small amount of time and we have had many of those “learn from your mistakes” moments. What we have learned is that our number one goal as a team is serving our customers. I am fortunate to have been on the front lines with our customers from the beginning. I believe it has made it easier for me to relate to and understand our customer service team now. I will say I wish that I had more experience in the field because that’s where the pest action is, but I continue to learn and grow from our outstanding team we have in place!
What is it like growing up in a pest control family?
Honestly, there was a lot of work-talk at the dinner table as a kid, and there still is at our own table now as my husband Dylan works at City Wide too! One of the things I really picked up during those dinner work-talks is how my dad’s main priority was his relationships with every customer. The way he talks to people and how he relates to people…every conversation sticks with him. We still get text messages from customers about how great he was. Because my dad treated people right, business really grew through word of mouth. I realized quickly that when you do what you say you’re going to do and treat people the way you want to be treated, the growth of City Wide just sort of naturally happened. Valuing the customers as people first, not just as customers we do a service for, is the most important lesson I learned from growing up in a pest control family business.
You were in the NPMA’s (National Pest Management Association’s) first Executive Leadership Program. What was that like?
It was a phenomenal program. Because we were the first class, we were kind of the guinea pigs on how to build the program. This allowed us to give our input and really forced us to work together as a class of ten industry leaders who wanted to help each other. It was a 2-year program and it was totally invaluable, partially due to the deep relationships I formed there. I have life long friendships with people who are like minded and will always take my call if I need them. I don’t know many industries who care the way people in pest management care.
I want to pivot a little; what is it like being a woman leader in what is typically a male-dominated industry?
Personally, I love it. I love a good challenge, and it’s actually been a really good thing for me and my family. I have 2 daughters, and it’s never occurred to us that we can’t make it in this industry or any other industry for that matter. Because of the conversations and dialogues that have happened over the years I feel like it’s been a very simple experience.
There have been, on occasion, some authoritative issues, but honestly I let those things propel me forward. It’s a challenge, but I don’t back down from challenges, and I can only attribute that to the conversations that have been had before that have made this path possible.
How would you categorize your experience as different from others?
The biggest difference: I’m not the typical second generation that walked into an established business. I’ve had boots on the ground from day one. We needed to start hiring people outside of the family for the first time, we wanted to change direction a bit, and we wanted to grow. I’ve had to help establish and expand all of those processes along the way which is something I feel has been very special for me. My parents allowed me and my brother the opportunity to make changes along the way so we could grow and evolve with the times.
What’s your favorite part of running the company?
Honestly, my favorite part is working with my whole team. The people that I work with really make the job great. Outside of the people, I’m also a numbers nerd, so naturally I love reports. I’m very strategic – the numbers side of it and making the method is something I really love.
What do you like to do outside of the job?
We have 3 young kids so basically everything we do revolves around them. We have a 9-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 7-month-old, so a lot of our free time is spent doing the things they like. I do really enjoy photography, and the whole family loves to kayak and be outdoors. Dylan and I also like to travel, but with the 7-month-old we’ve had to cut down on that a bit, at least for now.
Describe City Wide in one word.
Culture. Both internally and externally. Internally we focus on team-building, and it’s something that we work hard on and are proud of. We truly have a great team. Externally we have a little saying to describe our culture: “The bugs are just the means that get us there”. We are always looking at how we can better serve our customers based on their personal needs and how we can help them and make their lives easier. The culture we have at City Wide is a direct reflection of the way we serve our customers and our community, which is something I am extremely proud of.