While in high school, Brian Cook had in the back of his mind that he might become a missionary because of his love for God, people and experiencing other cultures. By the time he entered Samford University, he discovered that God was calling him to work in his family’s business, Cook’s Pest Control, based in Decatur, Ala.
Since graduating from Samford’s Brock School of Business in 2006, Cook hasn’t forgotten the role that Samford played in his personal and spiritual formation. As a result, he is one of the company’s strong advocates in the scholarships it is funding for Samford students. That philanthropic commitment also reflects his family’s values and places Cook among a growing number of young, recent alumni who are supporting Samford financially.
In its beginning in 1928, Cook’s Pest Control was known as North Alabama Termite Company. As with any new industry, Brian’s great-grandfather, John L. Cook, had to develop and adapt tools for the emerging industry. John was a pioneer in the termite industry, and as the years passed, he worked tirelessly to protect homes and commercial buildings from the “little white ants.”
When John died in 1950, his son, John R. Cook, made the decision to fulfill his father’s five-year contracts. Although the decision meant that he had to give up on his dream of being an architect, John soon learned that his architectural training at Georgia Tech was beneficial to the growth of the business. He decided to add pest control and changed the company’s name to Cook’s Pest Control.
“Under my grandfather’s leadership, the company went from just one employee to becoming the fifth-largest pest control company in the United States with more than 1,300 employees,” said Brian, now director of business development. “My grandparents had basic themes that they used in building the business: honesty, integrity, respect and customer satisfaction. They put in place the foundation that Cook’s is known for today. It’s a company that provides quality service and is a great place to work.”
Today, Cook’s Pest Control services Alabama, Tennessee, north Georgia and parts of Mississippi with 33 district offices.
“Even during challenging economic times, Cook’s has continued to retain customers,” Cook added. “In fact, we’ve had some of the best retention numbers in our history, and we are growing.”
Cook credits a lot of his preparation for working in the family business to Samford’s Brock School of Business. “When I enrolled in Samford, I had the peace and confidence that God wanted me to use my college years to learn and to glorify him through my work in the family business.”
While in college, Cook was able to learn how his grandparents balanced going on Christian mission trips, both local and International, while they continued their business. He learned through his classes what it meant to be a Christian business owner and how he could share his Christian faith with employees.
Cook’s grandfather shared his belief in God with employees during his years at the company, and it has become part of the company’s overall philosophy. “We believe the Bible and the gospel to be true. Therefore, we feel compelled to share the love of Christ with our employees,” Cook said. “I am grateful and thankful to work for a business with a Christian foundation. We are blessed in our business, and I believe it is my life’s calling.”
Cook said his Samford degree meant that the education he received was a rigorous one taught through a biblical lens with Christian principles at the core. Learning ethical business practices prepared him to think critically, plan strategically and lead relationally with character and integrity.
For those reasons, Cook’s Pest Control has developed a wonderful partnership with Brock School of Business over the past few years through the Cook’s Pest Control Scholarship, noted interim business dean James Reburn. Last year, the company established the Cook’s Pest Control/John Cook Sr. Scholarship in Entrepreneurship that is awarded annually to a student who most emulates the spirit of John R. Cook, who has remarkable entrepreneurship skills, and who demonstrates a passion for Samford’s Christian mission.
“We, as a family, have long had a passion to help students receive a quality Christian education,” said Cook. “I know from my experience that I am a better person because of my time at Samford. I gained the knowledge and built relationships there that have benefited me in business and in life. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to attend Samford.”
This story, which first appeared in Seasons magazine, was written by Kara Kennedy, director of external relations in Samford's Brock School of Business.
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