Paul Hardy tells his life story simply. It dribbles out in a slow, distinctly Southern drawl. He speaks of himself reluctantly and is quick to highlight the names of all those who helped him make his way in the pest management industry.
He offers no exaggeration of his accomplishments and displays the self-deprecating humor one expects from the modest man from Dothan, Ala.
Yet when an outsider looks back at the remarkable career of J. Paul Hardy, he realizes how many groundbreaking pest management strategies and products at least bear the in-direct imprint of his hard work and dedication.
Did you know, for example, that Hardy boiled down Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Management Operations into a series of 30-minute training courses for Orkin a month after he started with the company in 1961 — at the age of 19? That in 1988 he developed the first national cartelized training program for Orkin?
That he had his hand in creating the first pest management program to focus on treating the outside of the house rather than inside? That he helped introduce foaming machines to the industry? That this isn’t even remotely a complete list of everything he’s done?
Along the way, Hardy has criss-crossed the country — check that, the world — sharing the knowledge he’s gathered over more than four decades in the industry with PMPs, educators and consumers alike. Hardy has left an indelible mark on the pest management industry throughout a career that spans 44 years — and it all came about after a chance meeting with a generous PMP in a Florida orange grove.
Born in 1942, Paul’s parents owned a cotton farm and worked in the Bibb cotton mill in Columbus, Ga. But the pernicious boll weevil wiped out the family farm, and then the cotton mills closed. That’s when the Hardys moved to Leesburg, Fla., where his father worked in the orange groves.
After graduating from 9th grade, Hardy first worked in the concrete pouring and roofing industries. Later, he joined his father in the orange groves. Hardy worked the night shift spraying pesticides. He chuckles when he remembers the lack of supervision or oversight involved in the work at that time.
“I think back about the way we used to spray those chemicals, and I shake my head,” Hardy says. “You couldn’t do now what we did then.”
By a stroke of luck, Hardy found himself working in an orange grove owned by Sam Walkup Sr., owner of Walkup Exterminating and an area manager for Orkin. Walkup told Hardy — then just 19 — if he wanted a job with a future to see him. Hardy did, and it changed the course of his life.
“Sam hired me as a part-time termite technician for the Leesburg area,” Hardy says. “Sam, well, he advanced my age a little bit because you had to be 21 to work for Orkin then. For the first four or five years of my career, people thought I was older than I actually was.”
Hardy corrected the record in 1967.
He purchased his first Truman’s Guide for $17.25.
“Actually, my wife, Judy, bought it for me — I was making 75 cents an hour at the time,” Hardy says with a laugh.
After being intimidated by the amount of knowledge contained in it, he started taking copious, simplified notes on it. John Neal, who at the time led the Leesburg office, came in and asked him what he was doing. When he explained, Neal asked him to translate his notes into a 30-minute training course for the office’s technicians.
It was the beginning of a long career in education and innovation. Hardy worked his way up the ladder quickly within Orkin, doing nearly every job within the organization at every level. He started as a termite technician, became the resident expert on fumigation and ran a branch on his own. Hardy also earned the responsibility of training Orkin PMPs for Florida certification.
Before he knew it, Hardy trained nearly 2,000 PMPs in Florida from 1965 to the mid-1980s. He treasures the time he spent conducting the training and forging the many friendships that went with it.
“People always ask me how I know so many people in this great industry,” Hardy says. “Those training classes I conducted had a lot to do with it — I made great friends in that job.”
From 1971 to 1988, Hardy held the post of Southeast regional technical director while traveling around the country presenting at educational conferences, conducting media interviews for TV and radio, and writing papers for magazines such as Pest Control.
In 1988, Orkin offered Hardy the newly created position of national training manager. There was only one small catch — at the time, there was no standardized training manual for the company.
“They locked me in a conference room with five or six typists and every piece of paper dealing with our procedures that I could find,” Hardy says. “Along with Joe Malinowski, Joe Harlow, Ramiro Banderas and Mike Potter, we created Orkin’s centralized training manual.”
The story of the training manual is typical of how Hardy discusses his career. He never misses an opportunity to give credit to the people who helped him on projects while downplaying his own role.
“What has made me a success is finding the people who knew the answers and were willing to pass them on to me,” Hardy says. “I hope that I’ve been able to follow their examples and pass on knowledge to the next generation of PMPs.”
Each story Hardy tells — of his role assisting in developing the foam machine and the flow meter for pest control, expanding the use of borates for the control of subterranean termites and other wood-destroying organisms or designing and developing the termiticide-injection system that eliminated the need for bulk mixing tanks in termite trucks — includes the names of everyone who helped him accomplish his goals.
It’s a list of industry notables as long as his arm, and he’s honored that most of them are still friends. Not bad for a kid from Leesburg who stumbled into the industry by chance.
In addition to his work accomplishments, he’s also been married to the same woman for 44 years and has four children (Larry, Teresa, Wanda and Terry) and seven grandchildren (Aaron, Andrew, Candice, Derek, Dakota, Kelsey and Zackary). His family, in addition to his work, keeps his schedule full.
Hardy believes that despite all of his contributions and accomplishments, he still has much to do, so don’t throw him any retirement parties yet.
“I have lots to do, and I haven’t done it yet,” Hardy says, his Southern drawl giving his words a lyrical tone of joy. “As long as I feel I have something to give to the industry, I’d be crazy to retire.”