Pest Management Professional (PMP) recently caught up with Kim O’Connor, chief information officer (CIO) of Columbus, Ohio-based ServicePro. In October, she was named one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) by business resource The Software Report.
1. With your dad, Richard Deering, having run a lawn care and pest control business for nearly 30 years before founding ServicePro, you basically grew up in the industry. How has that experience helped you when working with your more than 2,000 customers worldwide?
As soon as I started to work in the business after college, I traveled the country for the better part of 10 years getting pest control and lawn care companies live on our system. What a way to get an education! I went to school at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, but I can safely say I learned far more on the road.
Growing up, I used to watch my father as he worked in his lawn care and pest control company. I was able to learn a lot about the business that way, from customer service to marketing and sales, all from his perspective. I cannot put a price tag on how much that experience alone enriched my working life. I also have met so many wonderful, intelligent business owners over the years — and I have learned from all of them.
2. You started with ServicePro the same year as its launch, in 1998. You provided a lot of training and support from the start. Is the CIO position you have today a natural fit because of an existing interest in communicating with software users, or did it evolve as a specialty/interest over the years?
I would say it has evolved. To be honest, I never really cared about a title — nor strived for one. Instead, I strive for whatever is in the best interests of our customers and the company. I go where I am needed the most.
I see ServicePro as an extension of my family, and I will do whatever is needed to help us grow and become the best solution for any pest control, lawn care and tree care company, whatever their size.
3. Were you surprised by The Software Report award win? What was the process like?
I was floored! And I am humbled. They reached out to our director of marketing, Ka Tsu, and there was a process we went through. We went through all the steps they gave us. I really did not think much would come of it, and I was quite surprised when they reached out to notify us that I made the list. I have never seen myself as a “SaaS executive”; I am just building relationships and growing our business one customer at a time.
4. ServicePro has long been an event sponsor of the National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA’s) Professional Women in Pest Management (PWIPM) group. Would you please expand a little as to why the team sees women as an important industry segment?
Women play a vital role in this industry, and I say that from personal experience. I count myself lucky to have met and worked with many women owners, managers, colleagues and peers that are some of the smartest, savviest rock stars in the industry. I could not do what I do without having met the amazing women whose paths I have crossed over the past 20 years. It is an honor for us to continue to sponsor PWIPM.
I’d also like to point out that ServicePro always has been committed to supporting women in leadership roles. We also practice what we preach: Nearly 50 percent of our leadership roles currently are occupied by women.
5. Any final thoughts?
I would like to thank PMP magazine for bringing continued attention to the contribution of women to this industry. I hope it inspires young girls to consider this essential industry, as it is a wonderful one in which to work.