Gone are the days where the wise men build houses upon the rocks. These days the wise contractor builds on a foundation that hasn’t been compromised by termites and other pests. If you’re in Alabama, chances are your home’s solid foundation is thanks in part to Cook’s Pest Control. If you’re really an Alabamian, you just sang that last part of the jingle melody that was on TV for so many years. So you know their name and commercials, but do you know their story?
Started in 1928, the business has grown to include more than 1,800 employees with branches in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi. Brian Cook, a fourth-generation owner of the pest control company, oversees operations, but it wasn’t just a business that was handed down for generations. It was a faith, too.
“Cooks has been dedicated to God, and we are entrusted to operate in His glory, so … we are compelled to live out those values of honesty and integrity,” Brian said.
Brian’s great-grandfather started the business, but it was his grandfather, John, who really got things going. When John retired, he handed the business over to his son. When the time came to hand the business off to yet another generation, Brian Cook was next in line.
However, Brian’s parents never pushed him into the family business.
“They said, ‘Look, you need to do what you feel God has called you to do, whether it’s Cook’s, whether it’s to be a missionary, whether it’s to be a doctor, whether it’s to go into engineering. The sky is the limit, but if you’re not doing what God has called you to do, one, you won’t be happy, but ultimately you’re not fulfilling your God-given purpose,’” Brian explained.
After college, Brian realized his calling was to carry on the family business. Instead of heading out into the mission field — to clarify, the kind of mission field where Christians go to Central America and butcher Spanish while spreading the Gospel — he decided to think of his own circle, the people he already knew, as his mission field.
“The idea is … who better to reach out to, care for, than those people who are already a part of our lives: the people we work with?” Brian said.
Love Them Like Jesus
So, in 2017, Brian did take over Cook’s Pest Control, and he took what his father and grandfather built and ran with it. Customers and employees became his mission field.
The company history has been marked with accolades for growth, but you may not see the behind-the-scenes. How do they really treat their employees?
We asked Ryan Tunison, a Cook’s termite technician, who started working at the company in June 2017. Three months later, he found out he had a bone structure issue in his right hand — ultimately his bone was shredding the tendons in his forearm, and yes, it was as painful as it sounds. He didn’t qualify for long-term leave yet, but the company held his place while he recovered after surgery.
“That’s one thing I really love about Cook’s is that they really are a godly company — focused more on serving people — and that’s why the profits come along with it,” Ryan said. “They were just willing to help me out any way they could.”
Ryan and his wife, Kristen, are in the process of adopting a child. In addition to tons of paperwork, they have several meetings set with their social worker — meetings Ryan absolutely cannot miss. Ryan’s supervisors have worked to set a schedule that will let him go to these meetings.
“We want our customers to have a superior service experience with Cook’s, but we can’t expect our employees to give quality customer service if we aren’t giving our employees quality service and support — a quality, safe and rewarding work environment, the best available technical training and the proper tools, and leadership decisions and actions based on our ethical mindset,” Brian said.
There are a lot of Christian bosses out there treating employees well, offering healthcare and retirement options, and focusing on ethical practices. It’s a nice change from the cut-throat nature of business, but Cook’s takes dedication to their employees even further, striving to ensure their people have the best training, the best work/life balance, and the best supervision of any company in the country.
Employees get everything from new technology to budgeting classes to Bible studies.
But there’s still that question: Why? When you can be a Christian, a great boss, a strong leader without going to these lengths, why put forth the extra effort, time and resources?
“People are so important that God sent His Son to die for them,” Brian said. “We sincerely care about people, and we’re commanded in the Bible to work as unto the Lord. So it only makes sense to do our best to focus on building a better organization and level of service in all we do, which definitely includes our coworkers.”
There’s a detailed book — “Employee Number 2: The Story of John Cook and Cook’s Pest Control” — outlining everything Brian’s father and grandfather had to overcome and all the successes they’ve seen over the years, but now it’s Brian’s chance to write a book of his own — the future of the family business.
“I think it’s always an iteration of doing the next right thing,” Brian said. “We have bold plans to continue moving Cook’s Pest Control forward. … There’s so much to reinvest in this business to continue to make it a better organization, to make it a strong, viable, meaningful business for the next 90 years. … For us, technology and tactics and your people and your processes might change, but your values are your one constant.”
That’s a book we would read.
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