Have you ever heard it said of someone, "She's never met a stranger"? This is true of our February Featured Leader Genma Holmes, but she takes it further - she is never NOT a girlfriend, to anyone she meets. This includes random people everywhere she goes, so don't hang out with Genma if you're in a rush! C-Suite Pics had a blast hanging out with Genma recently in Nashville, TN, where she owns and operates Holmes Pest Control - yep, she’s an exterminator! As you’ll find out from reading, though, she does a little of this, a little of that, and most things in between, all in a bodacious pair of cowgirl boots, with a spirit of excellence and a heart of gold!
What is your "day job"?
Job?! I have Jobsssss! My business that is planted on firm soil is Holmes Pest Control. I am the owner of Holmes Pest Control, an environmental pest control company that serves commercial and residential customers in Tennessee. I am an exterminator!
After killing bugs, I head over to the studio to produce a weekly radio show called Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes. Living Your Best Life is an uplifting program bringing real people sharing real stories about the lives they lead. My audience is mostly veterans and military families. When I am not at Holmes Pest Control or in the studio, I am typing away or pitching to someone for GSH Media. GSH Media is my job that relaxes me.
I am often asked why I am not the CEO. When I look at the organizational charts of NFL, NBA, and NHL franchises, the CEOs come and go, but never the owner. I learned years ago, being the owner comes with bumps and bruises but you stay put!
Who were your heroes, or mentors?
I was raised in a family of strong women who are super talented at everything they do and who allowed me to ask questions. Being around my mom and my aunts -- career women in every sense of the word -- makes me feel small when I see all they have balanced over the years. Their lives were about school, "schooling", family, and having careers within institutions that did not always value intelligent women. Seeing them stay focused and faithful helped set the tone for me to not give up on my entrepreneurial dreams and endeavors, even if my kinfolks did not always grasp my entrepreneurial spirit. They instilled in me the tenacity to withstand the roller coaster world of entrepreneurship.
And, let me not forget the menfolks in my life who helped ground me, as well. I have always had strong men in my life who were providers for their families. They were working folks. My grandfather, dad and uncles worked to provide for their families. My grandparents, who were of humble means but proud, helped lay the foundation for what it means to be an engaged citizen. They showed me by their actions, you do not just live in a community. You must help build and mold it, while preparing it for a future without you. My grandfather, MISTER Joe, was bigger than life to me. He was active in the civil rights movement and chartered one of the first NAACP chapters in Mississippi. He was fiery and passionate about equal rights for all. His most memorable lessons were not vocalized. I learned engagement and being hands on by watching him just be Mr. Joe.
When did you decide you were going to be an entrepreneur, that this would be your journey?
It happened by accident with the pest control. When my husband worked as a managing engineer at a manufacturing plant, he constantly complained about rodent issues. He had rat stories that left you speechless. The damages were in the thousands monthly, and the spoiled products were hundreds of thousands annually. I naturally asked why the pest control company was not doing a better job. He shared how difficult it was to get a company to provide good service. A few weeks after our initial conversation, I stumbled on the pest control company's invoice in his briefcase and was shocked at the amount charged for bad service. My follow-up question to him was if they are getting paid this much to do bad service, what amount would he be willing to pay for quality service? A light bulb went off!
I started visiting the local SBA and SCORE offices to research pest control companies and overhead costs. One of my SCORE counselors said, “It is great to do the research in this type of business, but you must get up close and personal to see the bigger picture." Hmm. I took his advice and called area mom and pop pest control operators who shared the good, the bad, and allowed me to see the ugly! The more they showed me, the more I saw opportunity. A great lesson I learned for future side gigs is that one must be willing to see if the good outweighs the bad. The pest control business is not glamourous. Period. BUT, few minorities, even fewer women, are owners or in management and bugs exist from sea to shining sea. This had me thinking, "We can do this!"
WE did not happen right away. Hubby joined later. With three small children, we needed to be wise about insurance. When hubby finally left his company to work full-time at Holmes Pest Control, his former employer became one of our largest customers at the time.
If you were not in pest control, what would life look like?
I would be on the radio 24 hours a day. My show is my ministry. I love hearing the untold stories of our unsung veterans and decorated military heroes. I am in awe of their service to our country. I love bringing the “front porch” stories to the airways. It reminds me of my childhood when I would sit and listen to grown folks tell the truth and nothing but the truth -- that you would never read in print -- on the front porch. I can close my eyes and hear my grandfather's voice dismiss a version of history that was not quite his recollection of events. "Didn't happen that way," he would say with a smirk. "I was there. And this what really happened!" That is what I do now. Bring every angle of a story to my listeners. Oftentimes, they are hearing many of the guests for the first time.
Also, I have never ditched my love for fashion. My grandmother gave me those genes and they are embedded deep within. I worked in front of the lens as a model for years but nothing is as entertaining as taking others to every nook and cranny to shop for THAT outfit that you will never see on another. In order to make ends meet at times, I was a stylist. I can dress your shadow if you give me it's size. Friends became clients and yes, even my bug-free pest control customers would call me to style them for the CMAs or a gala! I have no shame sharing that because nothing is wrong with having options to make other streams of income. It makes for memorable conversations and keep the lights on.
What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned, that you hope another woman can learn from you?
The journey of an entrepreneur is adventurous but it is tough. There will be sleepless nights and second-guessing; many can survive that. But, many cannot handle the isolation you will feel because you are driven. That drive has been met with criticism by women and interpreted as ambitious. Ok. Having goals does not equate to anything less than ambition.
With that, though, it does get lonely at the top. And being at the top does not always mean financially. Being at the top at times for me has meant creatively standing out from the crowd. The downside to standing apart means you often will not have the protection of a group. I am not a group thinker so I had to learn to surround myself with tribes of mature women who love me, flaws and all, and accept me for me. They tell me my slip is hanging and allow me space when I’m going through a moment, a crisis, or dealing with a long-term project with major deadlines.
I encourage all purpose-driven women to find a passionate outlet that replenishes, refines, and is safe. My solace is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, a museum. I pour my heart into my volunteer work there, but I can also escape into an exhibit that energizes me quietly and spiritually. It is important to have a tribe of supporters and a safe place to serve.
If you had it all to do over again, would you do anything differently?
Hindsight is good. It is always good to learn from your past failures or blunders. But a do-over is out of the question. My life is perfectly imperfect. God made me uniquely and wonderfully made. That included me having misfortunes, making mistakes, missteps, and missed opportunities. Each mishap strengthens me to take a stronger leap of faith knowing that I am going to land upright. When wisdom became my sister, I learned to get a yardstick and measure those leaps so I can calculate the next landing better, but each step or leap is made on the belief that He has me in his hands.
What do you do for you that brings you absolute joy or peace?
Grand Prince (Alex) is my joy and my peace! God left me in perpetual awe when he introduced my precious Valentine sweetheart to me. He is my EVERYTHING. I pray for him, with him, over him, and around him. Daily! Whenever I am in my grandmother’s presence, I can look up and see her smiling at me. For years I would look back at her and did not understand her stare...until I became a grandmother! I catch myself studying Grand Prince and seeing family characteristics and traits of his big uncles and his mom in him. I can see what has been passed down to him from five generations and my heart gets so full. All I can do is smile.
When I go home to visit my grandmother, I take him with me as often as I can. I am at peace watching her watch both of us. When he gets older he is going to have memories of having a great-great grandmother, two great grandmothers, and a grandmother (Bam Mom) waiting breathlessly to spend time with him. Now, I know what that look on my grandmother’s face has been all these years...the joy of watching herself in one generation after another knowing they are rising and calling her Blessed!
What would you like your epitaph to be?
She led by serving others.
If you only had one word, what is it that you want people to remember about you?
Exceptional..yep, I said it. And I am not ashamed about that, either! Bloop!
If there is anything else you wish I'd asked you?
Yes. I cannot believe you have not asked me about my boots! You know I love my boots: custom made, Lane, Old Gringo, Double D Ranch, I love my boots...My boots are outward reflections of my inner being...determined and bold!
How can readers connect with you?
Come on over and hang out with me on Instagram and Twitter @bugsact!
Inside The Office is a monthly blog that features female executive, entrepreneurial and creative leaders from diverse industries sharing wisdom and insight from their personal and professional journeys.
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