Jenkins brothers share the ABCs of growth


January 2, 2020

From left, Bobby, Raleigh and Dennis Jenkins stand in front of the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Bobby’s company. Photo: Anna Munoz

From left, Bobby, Raleigh and Dennis Jenkins stand in front of the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Bobby’s company. Photo: Anna Munoz

The legacy of Robert Jenkins Sr., a Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Famer (Class of 2005), clearly survives and thrives through his sons Bobby, Raleigh and Dennis.

Bob Sr. was inducted not only for his vast business acumen, but also for his generous spirit and selfless sharing of lessons learned with colleagues at association gatherings and during one-on-one chats. Bob Sr. also stands apart for the way he fashioned his legacy.

After growing ABC Pest Control from a small firm into a multi-franchise regional powerhouse, and during his presidency of the National Pest Control Association (now the NPMA), he sold ABC Pest Control to Waste Management in 1987. Yet he retained the ABC Pest Control franchise rights in Austin, Houston and Dallas — knowing that when the time was right, each of his sons could build their own companies there from the ground up.

Bob Jenkins Sr.

Bob Jenkins Sr.

Bob Sr. knew nothing about pest control when he purchased a one-truck company in 1965.

He relied on its existing technician, Jimmy Brown, to perform treatments, and on his wife, Sandy, to answer the phone (albeit with three boisterous boys in the background), while he knocked on doors to gain customers. He taught himself the ropes, relying on training materials from the national association, and becoming involved in local and state associations.

The “Jenkins brothers,” as they’re often collectively known in the industry, are business stalwarts in their own right. Each took his own path to ownership of his company; their father certainly guided them, but they had to earn their places and find their own ways.

For each, that “way” always includes maintaining a balance of work, family and community. It’s something the Jenkins brothers learned at home. This year, the brothers have generously agreed to share their knowledge with PMP readers in a monthly column titled, appropriately, “The ABCs of Growth.”

“I really am looking forward to working together on the monthly PMP column. My brothers and I consider one another our best friends. I know I will learn from each of them as we work on the column, and in the process, we also will have a great time,” says Bobby, the oldest.

Middle brother Raleigh stirs the pot a little: “I’m most interested to see what we’re going to say in each of the columns. I’m sure you’ll see a little controversy or disagreement with each of our viewpoints, but that might make it a better, more-rounded column.”

Dennis, the youngest, is the uniter: “I am most looking forward to sharing the secrets of our success and our difficulties from the past 30 years. We have learned many lessons the hard way — although I am sure I have more to learn — and I hope that sharing those will keep others from making the same mistakes.”

Stay tuned — you can read their inaugural column in the January 2020 issue. But to find out what makes each brother click career-wise in the industry, read on.

Bobby Jenkins

Bobby Jenkins

Bobby Jenkins

Except for one summer he spent as a camp counsellor, ABC is the only workplace Robert Jenkins Jr. has had. Before he could even drive, Bobby was working there. His first duties, since Bobby was 8 when his father bought the business, included keeping the chemicals shed clean and organized, and performing lawn maintenance at the office.

Before long, he graduated to filing and clerical work. When he was older, Bobby rode with ABC technicians and helped on the termite control crew, pulling wood debris out from under houses and treating apartment complexes.

Bobby also performed lawn services and sales several summers before college. By the time he entered Texas A&M in 1978, he had a residential route.

“Dinner conversations at our house often revolved around the business,” says Bobby, owner of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin, Texas. “We were a family that always had dinner together, no matter how late we ate. Each of us would go around the table and talk about our day, and Dad would share how things were going at ABC. I really believe that this daily process is what helped make us such a close family, and was the major reason all three boys eventually came into the business. Dad was really good at sharing all aspects of the business, and the one thing I always knew and felt was that he was intent on building a great organization that was going to grow.”

Bobby says he loved working for, and then later with, his father.

“I respected, admired and loved him so much,” he says. “He set an example that I wanted to emulate with how he treated the people he worked with, and his customers.”

Just as important, Bobby learned it is critical to contribute to the community.

“When I was younger, I looked up to Dad for his business success and how he conducted himself around people,” Bobby continues. “As I grew older and had a family of my own, I realized it was how he raised his children and put such a priority on his family that was so inspirational.”

Bobby’s wife, children and grandchildren are the center of his life, but he notes that the balance between work and family — and some time for yourself, too — can be difficult to achieve at times.

“You have to be very intentional with your priorities and budget your time and resources to achieve those goals. A written plan or budget of time and energy spent is very helpful,” he advises. “Also, as life moves along and we go from one phase to another, priorities can, and should change.”

For instance, Bobby says it was critical for him to be home every evening when his children were young. But as they grew older, he could spend time on other activities in the evening from time to time.

Sometimes, the children of pest management professionals (PMPs) feel pressure to go into the family business. Bobby says it has never been that way in his family. In fact, right before his college graduation in 1981, his parents encouraged him to take a job in the oil industry, as it was a good opportunity.

“But as often can happen, we lost our manager in El Paso. Dad needed me to go there and run that office,” Bobby adds. “So before I had even walked across the stage, I headed to El Paso — and have never worked anywhere else.”

When Bobby looks at the future, he says he’s filled with excitement and optimism.

“This is such an incredible industry, and the services we provide are so critical to our customers,” he continues. “Consumers today don’t want to do many things on their own, they don’t have the time or interest in learning about what we do. They would much rather contact a professional and have the problem solved and not worry about it.”

The biggest hurdle these days, Bobby says, is a no-brainer: labor. But it’s a hurdle we can conquer together.

“To attract quality people to our industry, we need to demonstrate to them that this is a great career, and that what we do makes a positive impact on our customers and in our communities,” he says.

Raleigh Jenkins

Raleigh Jenkins

Raleigh Jenkins

Like many second-generation PMPs, Raleigh Jenkins, owner of ABC Pest Control in Houston, Texas, was “raised at the office,” spending summers and afternoons doing yard work, cleaning the warehouse and eventually riding with technicians. One of his earliest memories of being there as a kid was to come in on a Saturday morning and stuff billing statements.

“Naturally, when you looked at the massive pile of statements that needed to go out, it was overwhelming, so my brothers and I would start competing as to who could do it the fastest,” he says. “We found the task would be completed much faster when we made a game out of it.”

Unlike his brothers, though, Raleigh didn’t think he’d follow in Bob Sr.’s footsteps for a career. Early on, he decided he wanted to become a rancher.

“Being the middle child, I felt I had to blaze my own trail,” he continues. “Dad encouraged me to pursue that dream, and in the summer of 1979, after high school graduation, I went off to work at the Wilderness Trails Ranch in Durango, Colo.”

He returned that fall to attend Texas A&M University, confident in his major of farm and ranch management. Raleigh met his wife, Kimberli, his senior year of college “and convinced her of the dream that a dude ranch would be a perfect life.”

The newlyweds went on to the University of Houston, where they both earned degrees in hotel and restaurant management. Ultimately, they ended up as managers of the Lazy Oaks Guest Ranch in Bandera, Texas. But then Raleigh had a change of heart.

“I remember clearly how I thought I was living the life, walking across the campus of the dude ranch with several of the wranglers, lugging our saddles, kicking up the dust with our boots,” he explains. “And then I looked across the way and saw Kimberli maybe not living the same dream — lugging a mop and toilet brush, going from room to room cleaning toilets and making beds.”

He and his wife woke up early every morning to round up the horses and prepare breakfast, and stayed up late every night to entertain guests. The couple began to re-evaluate their priorities. They wanted to be more about family and less about work. They knew that transitioning to ABC would help greatly in achieving that balance.

Raleigh says he often thinks back to how his father guided the original ABC Pest Control, and how the lessons learned from that experience are still being implemented in his
life today.

“Being the lead person in a family business is an art, not a science,” he surmises. “I am blessed to have my wife, my children, and their spouses all working in the business. Working in harmony with one another takes transparency, patience and grace.”

Dennis Jenkins

Dennis Jenkins

Dennis Jenkins

Dennis Jenkins holds the distinction of being the only one of Bob Sr.’s sons who was fired from ABC Pest Control. But it wasn’t for poor job performance. Dennis, who began running a route at age 16, got caught for dropping his physics class to take an easier home economics course his senior year of high school.

“When Dad found out about me doing that without his permission, he fired me,” Dennis recalls with a chuckle. “The funny thing was that I was on an after-school work program and did not have the last class of the day — and they never checked on my ‘job’ because it was with my dad. So, I got out of school early for the remainder of the year.”

It wasn’t long, though, before Dennis was back in the family business. He and fellow “Aggie” Jennifer married between their sophomore and junior years at Texas A&M, and moved to San Antonio after graduation in 1986. She taught school, while he put his entomology degree to use as a termite control salesperson at the San Antonio ABC Pest Control office. Soon, Dennis was promoted to commercial sales manager.

“I loved this portion of the business as well, and I enjoyed working with the crew on complex accounts,” Dennis says, but admits, “When he gave me the position, I was thinking ‘I’m a manager! Boy, I can’t wait until the big money starts rolling in!’ But soon it was pretty obvious that sales was more lucrative than management.”

In 1987, Texas implemented a law requiring pest control firms to have a verifiable training program for all technicians. The state offered little guidance, other than requirements for hours in different categories, he says.

“I was given the task of putting this training together. I searched for as much material as I could to cover the categories, and basically made up what I could not find from my own education and experience,” he continues. “I remember using NPCA slides and tapes, and a camera to make them into a VCR tape. Dad wanted each of his franchise offices to have a copy, so I had eight VCRs in a loop and would run around the room to make the copies all at once.”

After Bob Sr. sold ABC San Antonio to Waste Management, Dennis became ABC’s Texas director of training and quality control. A year later, the corporation purchased Simmons Pest Control in Nashville, Tenn., and sent Dennis — with Jennifer and their three-week-old daughter, Marsha — to run it at the age of 25.

After a year there, Dennis was given a large raise and a bonus plan, but something wasn’t sitting right with him, he says.

“The day after getting the raise, I turned in my resignation because I had always wanted to go to Dallas to start my own ABC Pest Control,” he says. “I knew if we didn’t leave then, it would only get much harder to leave.”

Bob Sr. resigned his position with Waste Management as well, and he and Sandy came to Nashville to help Dennis move.

“We left Nashville the day after Marsha’s first birthday,” Dennis recalls. “Dad came to help load the truck, but threw out his back carrying his first box, so I loaded the truck alone while Jennifer and Mom packed up the boxes. We headed out and as we drove, Dad stated that he wanted to stop in Hot Springs, Ark., to ‘talk and gather our thoughts’ for a few days.”

The six-day side trip meant Jennifer had to reschedule teaching interviews in Dallas. Dennis used the time to pick his father’s brain about how to run his own company, but in the back of his mind he assumed Bob Sr. would stay on to help get him started. But Bob Sr. had a different plan — one that would require Dennis and Jennifer to fly solo faster. As the family got back on the road and approached Dallas, Bob Sr. instructed Dennis to drop him and Sandy off at Love Field so they could fly back to San Antonio.

“I remember pumping gas into the moving truck and our car, and telling Jennifer that we were taking them directly to the airport as soon as we got to town,” Dennis says. “She and I were both freaked out, as we knew nothing about DFW and had no place to live and no plans for where to stay the night. We dropped them off at Love Field and waved goodbye, then drove down Mockingbird Lane to I-35. When we got there, I looked left, which was the direction heading to San Antonio, and turned right, knowing we were never going back to San Antonio.”

It was a bumpy start, but Jennifer found a teaching position and Dennis began finding his way as a newly minted pest control franchise owner.

“I vividly remember heading down Marsh Lane after dropping off our daughter at daycare and having my mind totally blank until I hit 635, a major roadway in DFW,” he says. “I would think to myself ‘OK… left? Right? Where am I going?’ as I went in search of clients.”

It was a humbling experience, Dennis adds: “Some lessons were taught by Dad, and some were learned on my own. Dad passed away in 1998. I still miss his counsel and advice.”

As the immediate past president of the NPMA, Dennis is spending 2020 getting back into a normal routine at ABC Pest Control.

“My team has definitely figured out how to grow the business without me. I think they are glad to have me back, but you would have to ask them,” he quips.

But Dennis grows serious when looking at the industry’s future. “The buying and selling frenzy we are in is both affirming and concerning,” he says. “It is very affirming as an industry that businesses are sought after, and that the purchase prices are continuing to climb. Yet it also saddens me to see family businesses and private corporations being sold. I hope and pray that we will still be encouraging young people to enter the market, and that they will see the fantastic opportunity here.”


About the Author

Heather Gooch

Heather Gooch is the editor-in-chief for PMP magazine. She can be reached at or 330-321-9754.

Leave A Comment

  1. Al. Hoffer says:

    Great article good to read thanks

  2. Jim Hailey says:

    I have been in the industry for over 35 years. Have met and shared stories with all three of the brothers,even played golf in Marble Falls at a meeting they were sponsoring. Could not ask for better people than they are! I credit there up bringing.

  3. Phil Lovotn says:

    Some of the best times in life are around the dinner table. Loved the stories of this wonderful family and the legacy left by Bob Sr. I’m blessed to own a Pest Control company in Johnson City, Tennessee and manage it with many of the moral lessons my Dad taught me some 44 years ago, from around the dinner table.