In ancient Greece, Atlas was a mythological figure upon whose shoulders rests the entire world. In the world of pest management, Tom Evans’ shoulders are strong enough to bear the weight of all the industry’s issues.
Before you laugh away the notion of likening this brusque, witty industry insider to a swarthy Titan, consider all he has done for pest management. For 20 years, he served in the promotional department of Chicago, Ill.-based Velsicol, marketing heptachlor and chlordane. He was a major player in the chlordane cancellation hearings in the 1970s. Since 1980, he has been with Southern Mill Creek Products of Ohio (SMCP) in Cleveland, Ohio, currently serving as chief executive officer.
Sandwiched between his professional duties, however, is his commitment to industry associations, particularly at the local and state levels. In fact, many Ohio pest management professionals (PMPs) credit Evans with nearly single-handedly turning around the Greater Cleveland Pest Control Association (GCPCA).
Because of all that Evans takes head-on, working persistently until it gets done right, his peers have made him a 2001 inductee of Pest Control magazine’s Pest Control Hall of Fame. In fact, perhaps the Atlas role is not altogether apt, as the mythological man was given the world to hold as punishment. Evans, instead, takes weighty issues gladly.
“Tom’s priorities are family, religion and this industry,” Bill Birkner, area manager, SMCP.
Evans, a native of Chicago, Ill., joined Velsicol in December 1960 as a consumer products representative based in Columbus, Ohio. It was in Columbus where Evans met his wife, Roseann, whom he married in 1964. They have three grown daughters-Maryrose, Maureen and Bridget Anne.
The Velsicol Years
“Tom Evans has not only been a leading figure in the industry, but a strong proponent of the growth and change that we see today. While at Velsicol, he helped pioneer the changes in termiticide that were necessary in bringing it within reach of the total pest management industry. He promoted the technology and the standardization of application methods that are still used today with other termiticide products,” Ben Williams, emeritus chief executive officer of B&W Sales, and former Velsicol co-worker.
“When I joined Velsicol, they added a new department, with strictly promotional duties for chlordane and heptachlor to the pest management and lawn industries,” recalls Evans. “In August 1970, though, they moved me back to Chicago, as a marketing manager. In 1971, I was charged with establishing a pest management group within the company.”
In 1976, he became director of marketing for Velsicol, and in 1979 he became the company’s management information systems manager. During his Velsicol tenure, Evans was an integral part of the chlordane hearings.
To combat some of the negative health claims, he implemented such events as sponsoring health screenings for PMPs at a National Pest Management Association (NPMA) conference-thereby, showing the fitness of those who were working closely with the chemical on a daily basis. It is considered to be the first extensive health study of the industry.
Evans resigned from Velsicol on his 20th anniversary, and joined SMCP soon after as vice president of sales. He became president of SMCP in 1988, nurturing it from a one-office to 10-office company.
Power to the People
“Tom has really served the industry. He is quick to identify problems, but he will also always work to solve them. He’s a doer, and we have been lucky to have him on our side,” Patrick Callahan, president of Speckoz, Inc., a coalition of independent distributors of which SMCP is a member.
“When I first joined SMCP, we started various awards for supplier sales representatives. It’s critical that a representative works with us, not for us,” explains Evans of his involvement in so many recognition award programs. SMCP’s illustrious Kubula award was actually known as the Salesman Most Contributing to our Progress (SMCP) when it began in 1988. However, when Don Kubula passed away in the early 1990s, Evans renamed the award to recognize him as the “consummate supplier salesman.”
Feel-good recognition aside, Evans points out that he believes SMCP has been successful because its employees get personal with their customers.
“We do so because our customers, the PMPs, work so closely with their customers,” he notes.
Evans also believes in networking with peers, particularly through associations. While still at Velsicol, he helped found and organize the Ohio Turf Foundation. He also became involved in the Ohio Pest Control Association (OPCA) at that time.
In 1993, Evans helped the OPCA begin a scholarship for member PMPs, their families or employees to attend The Ohio State University by giving seed money from SMCP.
“It’s a way of recognizing past presidents, members, etc., in one fund on behalf of OPCA members,” he explains. To date, the OSU Scholarship Fund stands at $58,000, and a general university fund has since been added for those students wishing to attend a different school.
A mainstay fixture at many industry conferences, from the Purdue meeting (which he has attended for more than 25 years) to the United Producers, Formulators and Distributors Association (UPF&DA) gatherings to NPMA’s National Legislative Day, Evans states simply, “Gathering and disseminating information is crucial for people and their business. A lot of times, doing so on neutral ground is beneficial.”
In the meantime, however, Evans is pleased with the concept of the Pest Control Hall of Fame-and is enjoying the honor of being inducted.
“I am very excited about this,” he enthuses. “So many people have brought us a long way, and I think we should celebrate our success.”