When we hear the name Truly Nolen, the first thing that pops into one’s head is the iconic bright yellow mouse car with the big ears that move in the wind. Since the company’s founding in 1938, there have been over a dozen versions of this well known, moving billboard.
Truly Nolen is truly (sorry, couldn’t help it) a company on the move. And it’s not just their vehicles. Headquartered in Tucson, the company directly employs over 1,000 people. In the pest control industry, Truly Nolen has the largest geographic footprint of any company worldwide. Consider:
- 80 company locations in the United States
- 40 franchises in the U.S.
- 260 subcontractors in the U.S. serving their commercial clients
- 240 international locations in 66 countries
The Truly Nolen organization is a job-generating, independent business-generating machine. Besides the 1,000- plus employees at its corporate locations, the company fostered the birth of 540 independent businesses worldwide. Small businesses are the driver of every economy around the world, and Truly Nolen helps fuel that engine.
This is a family business. President Scarlett Nolen is the third generation of the family in the pest control industry. Her father Truly David Nolen founded Truly Nolen, and her grandfather Truly Wheatfield Nolen also had his own company in Florida.
When I spoke with Matt Wild, chief financial officer, my first question was: “What makes this business and your tremendous growth work so well?” His answer came pretty quickly. “It’s our core values; they underlie everything we do.”
On display everywhere, from their website to a 5-by-30-foot sign in the courtyard of the headquarters, the core values are a dozen principles that guide decisions and daily practices.
A perfect example are actions the company took in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Mark Ringlstetter, vice president of training and technical services explained:
For years, Truly Nolen offered clients sanitation services in support of their normal pest control services, usually eliminating rodent infestations, particularly in commercial sites.
In early March, as the pandemic and countrywide lockdown took hold, the company began a herculean three-week development and rollout of expanded sanitation services. Instead of just focusing on the protocols for rodent control, the expanded sanitation services complied with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control for sanitizing entire buildings, killing the COVID-19 virus.
It began with Disinfectant Sanitizer Virucide (DSV). The Environmental Protection Agency, on March 13, certified DSV as a cleaner that would kill the virus. Truly Nolen already had existing relationships with Nisus, the manufacturer of DSV, and Veseris, the distributor of DSV. Those relationships enabled Truly Nolen to ramp up inventory of DSV in a short time frame.
The company ramped up its efforts as well. They developed service protocols, training materials, client agreements, and communicated and disbursed all of this information and training to all locations, Ringlstetter said.
In early April the company held a virtual meeting with all branch managers and franchisees. They reviewed the expanded sanitation services and went through the newly developed training video and program.
This was done in just three weeks; very impressive because a normal timeline to introduce a new product or service is three months. The expanded sanitation services were ready to deal with the COVID-19.
The first step was to serve first-responder locations — fire and police. Truly Nolen sanitized these locations for free because they felt that these folks put their own health on the line to respond to emergencies. Ensuring their home bases were free of the virus was the least Truly Nolen could do.
From a business perspective, the company helped existing clients and new clients. Hotels, transit services and restaurants are just a few of the companies and industries now using Truly Nolen sanitation services.
As both Ringlstetter and Wild said, it is the core values and the teamwork among employees that enabled all of this to happen. They got more out of their system in a three-week time frame than it was ever designed to deliver.
This is the essence of what makes Truly Nolen successful for over 80 years. Its culture (and its yellow mouse car) make it iconic in Tucson and worldwide.
Ken Cook is the co-founder of How to Who, a program on how to build strong relationships and how to build business through those relationships. Learn more at howtowho.com.