For more than 80 years, Bowco Laboratories in Woodbridge, N.J., has been serving customers in the pest management
industry. Frederick Bowers, who founded the company in 1932 developing chemicals for controlling bed bugs, broadened its services into pest control. When he secured the Rutgers University account, the company, which has 35 employees, took off. Bowers’ son, George, also worked in the company before his death in 1966, leaving the elder Bowers and George Bowers’ sons, Barry and Robert, in charge.
“I entered the business quickly, around age 15,” recalls the 63-year-old Barry Bowers. “I wanted to play professional baseball, but my grandfather said, ‘No, you’re going to kill bugs.’ My grandfather died in 1980, so my brother and I ran the business from that point on.”
When Robert Bowers died in 2005, Barry Bowers became president. Barry’s daughter, Heather, who’s vice president, represents the fourth generation; but there are no legal documents that signify Heather Bowers will become president when Barry Bowers steps down. But that’s just business at Bowco. When Frederick Bowers passed away, Robert Bowers moved into the position of president because he was the older of George Bowers’ two sons. No papers, that’s just the way it went. Robert Bowers’ passing moved Barry Bowers into the top post, with no documents deciding who would take over.
“To me, many things have changed, and many things haven’t,” Barry Bowers says. “The rule of thumb for us is to take care of our customers. That’s one thing I’ve always stressed. I take it personally.”
Barry Bowers believes that if he pays his employees well, they’ll be loyal to the company.
“We’re educating our technicians more thoroughly nowadays, but customer service has always been the same,” he says. “Education is the key for the employees, along with learning how to speak to the customers.”
Several employees have worked for Bowco for more than 40 years, and five of them even went to high school with Barry Bowers. An 84-year-old office employee still comes to work twice a week. While Bowco has increased revenue each year, it’s controlled growth.
“We grow at our own pace,” Barry Bowers says. “People want to buy us, but I’m not ready to do that.” pmp
Jerry Mix was editor/publisher of PMP until his retirement in 2004. Contact Mix, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005), at email@example.com