Editor’s Note: This is an extended conversation with Shay Runion, who is chief human resources officer and senior vice president of professional development for Arrow Exterminators. An abridged version appears in PMP’s Anniversary issue.
Shay Runion started her career in the pest control industry in 2001, working with Dow AgroSciences (a legacy company of Corteva Agriscience) with a focus in the termite business. She has been an Arrow team member since 2006 and notes that she has loved every minute of her time with the company.
Runion currently serves as chief human resources (HR) officer and senior vice president of professional development. She is a strategic business partner as a member of the executive and strategic planning teams at the company. Her duties include the management of the organization’s HR strategic initiatives, objectives and functions, which include HR, benefits, payroll, recruiting and the company’s intern program. She is also the executive representative for Arrow’s professional development, which encompasses Arrow University, Arrow’s training arm of the company, as well as the technical services and government affairs departments.
Runion graduated from Auburn (Ala.) University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. She earned a master of sciences degree in HR development from Villanova (Pa.) University. Runion previously served on the Georgia Pest Control Association (GPCA) executive board for over four years, and is the second female in GPCA’s 66-year history to serve on the executive board and as president.
Runion is involved in several committees for both GPCA and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), including the Professional Women in Pest Management Council, the Recruitment and Retention Committee, the Workforce Development Steering Committee, and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Steering Committee. She enjoys coaching and mentoring Arrow team members as well as others in the industry. In 2020, the GPCA honored Runion with its inaugural Women of Excellence Award, and in 2016, she was named a recipient of the NPMA Women of Excellence Award.
Runion says she enjoys strategic planning and implementing initiatives that make Arrow a Top USA Workplace. Most recently, she was honored by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as a recipient of a HR Hero Award for her outstanding accomplishments in the HR field.
Q. What drew you to the pest control business? I worked for a manufacturer and was placed in the pest management business. Coming from an agriculture background, I loved the similarities of the people. The entrepreneurial spirit in this industry has always been appealing to me. I love that we are protectors of health and property for our customers.
Q. Looking back, do you have a favorite job you held during your career? My favorite role thus far is my current one, because my main responsibility is to protect our culture. Whether that is through strategic initiatives to help make us a Top Workplace, or through training, my role is to help our team members grow in their career and to love their time here.
Q. If you had to pick just one characteristic as to why you’ve been so successful, what is it and why? Grit. Growing up, my parents were excellent examples of hard work and perseverance. I believe that I bring those qualities to work each day, along with direction and a strong commitment to our goals.
Q. Do you consider yourself in introvert or extrovert? Do others agree? I think I range quite a bit between being introverted and extroverted. Most people probably assume I am an extrovert, but I do value one-on-one interactions more than group settings. I enjoy being alone and having quiet time, too.
Q. Can you think of a time you handled a tricky customer or employee situation? What did you do? Tricky situations are par for the course in my HR role. I have always said that when I retire, I could write a book about some of these situations! The most important part of tricky situations is to listen. I love to provide solutions, but sometimes team members or customers only need to have someone listen to their concerns. I work hard to make sure I am giving them the time they deserve to express their concerns.
Q. Any rules you live by when dealing with customers and team members? We have no idea what people might be dealing with in their lives. Being kind no matter the circumstances will always pay off at the end of the day. Do everything with a clear conscience.
Q. What do you feel your role is in mentoring others into leadership roles in the company? Mentoring others is so fulfilling. I love being able to help others reach their full potential through professional development, helping them realize the opportunities available, or just by providing a word of encouragement.
Q. Have you ever been so afraid of success that you didn’t go for it? Everyone has a different definition of success, and for me, it means growth in my career. It also means being able to be challenged and being truly happy in what I do. I have always been fairly courageous when it comes to my career and goals. I love to be challenged, so in most cases I have at least given it an honest try.
Q. The fear of failure can cause people to stop trying. Can you recall failing at something, and how you were able to move on? Failure has not been a deterrent for me in my life. I definitely have had my share of them and have learned to get back up, dust my britches off and try again. I think if you look at failures as opportunities to learn, then your perspective changes.
Q. Have you ever had a big win, promotion or success that ultimately didn’t lead you where you expected? When the Arrow leadership presented the HR opportunity to me, I had never once in my life thought about a role like that for myself. I was a true ag science/bug girl. After almost 11 years in this role, however, I have learned that it all comes down to the people, our team. Learning the “HR world” was a challenge, but I was also at an advantage vs. other HR professionals. I had a keen understanding of operations. I always tell our HR team, think about how this initiative will affect our team that is in the field, crawling under houses today or treating lawns in 100-degree heat. If it isn’t worthwhile for them, then we need to rethink it.
Q. Is there a specific time in your career when you were down? How did you battle back? I think at some point, everyone hits a wall. Life happens and you just get tired. It is always fun to talk strategy with my team and work on a project that takes a lot of creative thought; I feel that the process reenergizes me.
Q. Have you had to work through a professional plateau? All the roles I have held at Arrow have been brand-new positions at the company. I have been able to put my signature on the role and make it my own. I understand that some people feel they hit a professional plateau. I encourage you to get creative with your role and see what new things you can do that are beneficial to your company, but also keep you engaged.
Q. How have you managed to balance your personal life with work? I work on it daily. I am fortunate to have a very strong support system at home. My husband and three boys are very supportive of my work, and my parents also step in and help us tremendously. I include my family in as many Arrow activities as possible, and they also see my work family as an extension of ours.
Q. What is your routine for self-care? I have not been a very good example of this! Being a wife and mom of two teens and a two-year old, sometimes you are the last one to get to do anything for yourself. I made a commitment since we had our little surprise blessing that I needed to do a better job of this, because I need to be around for a long time.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure? I enjoy reading, but I don’t have a lot of alone time to do this. However, it is a great stress reliever for me, so my goal for 2023 was to at least read one book a month. Not business- or work-related or self-help, but just a good ol’ tearjerker, mystery or ridiculous romance. I am killing it this year! I have read about 25 books so far, and I keep a list of suggested ones.
Q. Anything else you want to share?I have been married to my Auburn University sweetheart, Jeff, for almost 20 years. We have three boys, Zeb (16), Eason (14) and Judd (2). Jeff is a high school baseball coach, and the boys are talented athletes in baseball and basketball. We spend a lot of time at the fields and courts. We have four-wheelers and dirt bikes and enjoy anything outdoors. I love music and hiking, but mostly, I just love being a boy mom.