Jan. 8, 1961, is a date Lonnie Alonso and his family won’t soon forget. That was the day that he and his family boarded two flights in Havana and flew to freedom in the United States. Fidel Castro (Cuba’s prime minister 1959-1976 and president 1976-2008) and his band of communists were becoming more entrenched in the country, and the Alonso family believed they had to leave.
“We left everything behind,” says Alonso, president of Columbus Pest Control in Ohio.
That included his father’s business, National Fumigating Co. Still, there are no regrets.
“I’d never go back as long as the communists are in charge,” he says. “We don’t support anything that supports Castro and his dictatorship.”
Once the Alonsos arrived in the U.S., its patriarch, Orlando, took a job as a termite technician at Columbus Pest Control. Owner Joe Mooney died in 1969, and two years later, his widow sold the company to Orlando Alonso. Mrs. Mooney financed the company’s acquisition, and Orlando Alonso made payments. A short time later, Orlando Alonso endured a series of heart attacks and two strokes, which left him bedridden for years. That’s how Lonnie Alonso, at age 21, found himself running the company. Later, he became president.
“We built the company’s succession plans on life insurance and my father’s death,” Lonnie Alonso says. “There was never any consideration about him having a stroke and being bedridden for nearly nine years.”
Orlando Alonso died in 2002.
Lonnie Alonso has been running a successful pest control company for several years, but he’s working on his own succession plan. He and his wife have two sons — Brian, 30, and Andrew, 27.
“We’re working on their training and bringing them along,” Lonnie Alonso says. “We’re also working on a plan for when we go out to greener pastures.”
The Alonsos have a plan stating that if anything happens to one of their sons, the other son will acquire the company through a life insurance buyout.
“That’s part of the bigger picture, the transition from me to them,” Lonnie Alonso says. “My health will push me one way or the other. But when the boys show me they’re ready, I don’t want to be in the way.”
Still, at 58, Lonnie Alonso is in good health and more than willing to work.
Part of Lonnie Alonso’s simple philosophy for success is that he always believes there’s a customer for every business and a business for every customer.
“Regardless of the size of the company, we all have a role in the industry, and we have a nice niche here in central Ohio,” he says. “Customers come to us for various reasons. If we treat our customers well and achieve the results they want, they’ll refer us to other customers. We stay the course. I’m pleased where our business is.” pmp
Mix served as editor and publisher of PMP for 20-plus years. You can reach Mix, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005), at firstname.lastname@example.org