As Truly Nolen of America celebrates its 85th anniversary in the pest control industry in 2023, three of the company’s board members — Scarlett, Michelle and Vickie Nolen — are also members of the Nolen family. Scarlett has been president of the company since 2019; half-sister Michelle is the company’s director of operational administrative support; and Scarlett’s mom, Vickie, is the widow of company founder Truly David Nolen. To celebrate International Women’s Day with an industry angle, we interviewed this trio for their insights.
Toby Srebnik (TS): What it is like for family members who love each other to also work together every day?
Scarlett Nolen (SN): “While I think working with family can often be very tricky, I believe we have a great formula that works for us. The three of us have a unique and valuable perspective generationally and from an experience standpoint that allows us to complement one another. Even though there would be an apparent hierarchy outside of work, when it comes to business matters we are peers and everyone respects each other’s positions. Growing up with the company being such a part of our family, it’s been an unspoken rule; there is a clear distinction from when we are in business mode versus family time.”
Michelle Nolen (MN): “Women associate with their group’s success, their team’s professional growth and collective achievement over individual accomplishments. It is easier to work toward our universal goal of healthy, sustained growth since we have a shared value system. Our family bond – our trust in each other’s ability and integrity, coupled with our humility and family pride — allow us to really challenge and push each other (and the company as an extension) in an authentic way. We encourage each other in life and there is no start or stop with inside-outside work. It’s just family.”
Vickie Nolen (VN): “We have respect, trust and love for each other and navigate between the two. With technology today, we can FaceTime and speak whenever the need arises. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see each other in person, as often as I would like.”
TS: How do you navigate today’s Truly Nolen Pest Control being a women-owned business in a generally male-dominated industry?
SN: “When I first formally joined the family business, being a female in a male-dominated industry was truthfully quite intimidating — I can understand why some women would be reluctant. Now, years into the business, I could not imagine it any other way and feel very at home. Although there are definite dynamics to navigate, there can be an absolute advantage of being a woman in the pest control industry. For starters, in residential services, statistically women are more often the decision makers when it comes to home services. Being a female, I am potentially able to relate to our customer base more than my male counterpart is, or at the least, be perceived by the customer in a more approachable light.”
MN: “It is critical to normalize seeing women and non-binary persons in all roles across the company and industry from the field to the board room. Career pathing allows people to grow and evolve in ways they may not have considered for themselves. Many women come into our company in entry-level administrative roles; we have then seen many shift gears and move into training, accounting, sales, and managements positions very successfully (often surprising themselves). Visibility and active mentorship is necessary to grow our industry and expand its diversity.”
VN: “While the majority shareholders are women, it takes all of our people to make the company successful and that includes men. Treating each other with mutual respect goes a long way in removing barriers and creating an environment for women to achieve their potential in a male-dominated business will help create equality.”
TS: What is one memory each of you have of Truly David Nolen that they you think bears repeating in relation to International Women’s Day?
SN: “It is incredible to think about how the world has changed and evolved over the past 85 years — and the company along with it. My dad was a man ahead of his time in many respects — often championing women in this field and minorities decades before it was trendy. In the 1950s, Dad fired white women who would not sit at the same lunch table with their Black peers. In the 1980s, my dad offered gay couples benefits, in often only reserved for straight couples during that decade. I believe being a champion of the underdog, whether it was women in a male-dominated workplace or a minority, in society came from being an underdog himself, as someone who survived polio.”
MN: “I loved going to the office with my father when I was little — mostly for the unfettered access to office supplies. I would help him go through P&L reports and he would teach me how certain numbers were more revealing that meets the eye. He always treated people as people and understood as a leader it was important to stand up for those who did not have a voice and to help them get one. He was proud to support people of color and women and to offer the same benefits to same-sex couples as hetero couples. He normalized that and led by the example of his actions.”
VN: “My husband would always say, ‘When you don’t know what to do, follow the Golden Rule.”
TS: Lastly, what is one piece of advice each of you would share with both young girls and women today that may have helped you throughout your own careers?
SN: “Advice my mother gave me earlier in my career, was ‘backbone, not wishbone.’ I would tell women that anything that you perceive as a disadvantage, find a way to make that your strength. I am one of the youngest presidents in my arena, and while my millennial status has been met with eye rolls and evident trepidation, I find it to be a great insight into the population with the most spending power as well as the overwhelming majority of our employee population. When met with an adverse scenario, because there will be many as a woman, when possible, try to educate, not alienate.”
MN: “You don’t need to be perfect to make progress. You accomplish more and better with others, and it is more rewarding. Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable — that is usually what you need to work on. Have healthy boundaries so you can take care of yourself. Find your joy and expand it.”
VN: “Follow your dreams with honor and integrity. Also, when you are having a very bad day, remember, tomorrow is another day!”