Thomas McCloud ’51
Tom McCloud, third-generation owner of McCloud Services, South Elgin, Ill., died Jan. 8, 2021 at age 93 at a nursing home in the Kansas City, Kan., area. He is remembered by his colleagues and family as a compassionate industry leader with strong ties to the National Pest Management Association and Copesan Services, an alliance of regional commercial pest management companies with locations throughout North America.
Tom became involved in the industry at a young age. McCloud Services was founded by his grandfather, William Bailey McCloud, as W.B. McCloud & Company in 1904, and later taken over by Tom’s father, Walter McCloud. Though the company originated in the Chicago area, by the 1940s, it had branched out to offices in central Illinois, central Indiana, eastern Iowa and St. Louis.
Tom faced adversity early in his career. Walter passed away in a 1947 car accident at age 49, when Tom was just 19. At 21, Tom was forced to lead the company and instantly faced a difficult decision.
“Dad entered the business in his early 20s and immediately removed his father’s successor, a well-liked industry professional who was siphoning off McCloud cash to run his own pest management business,” youngest son Chris McCloud said. “Since my father was a relative newcomer to the company and industry, this move was not received well by his peers. Later, he realized that as unpleasant as this experience had been, it helped forge his own identity as well as an immediate sense of ownership and accountability.”
Tom furthered many of his father’s initiatives as a leader. Walter had served on the boards of several industry associations, and in 1940, he was president of the National Pest Control Association, now the National Pest Management Association. Tom followed in his footsteps, spending considerable time working with NPCA from the 1950s through the 1970s.
In 1954, Tom expanded McCloud Services further, adding Illinois branches in Decatur and Pekin. He was a bridge between post-World War II operators and subsequent generations, said his oldest son, Phil McCloud. “He was one of the youngest guys in the industry,” Phil said. “All the other dynamite guys were his grandfather’s age.”
Tom’s focus was always on building commercial accounts, said Phil. He rarely turned away work and was known for his honest reputation, which boded well when EPA began heavily regulating the industry in 1969. “My dad aggressively encouraged innovation and embraced new ideas and services that would provide more value to customers and help him grow the business,” said Chris.
For example, in 1980 he hired Pat Hottel as technical director, making her one of the first women in the pest control industry to hold this position.
Tom always lived by his moral compass, said Alfie Treleven, CEO of Sprague Pest Solutions, Tacoma, Wash., a fellow Copesan company. “His coworkers, partners, family and friends all knew his passion for doing the right thing, even if it took longer to achieve or the process was a little messy. Doing what you were doing right was the goal he lived.”
McCloud Services was an original partner and remained a stockholder through 2018 when Copesan was sold to Terminix. Tom became involved in Copesan in 1958 and a stockholder in 1971. “That’s when it all took off,” said Phil. “Because, quite frankly, you could do the best you want to do in your industry, but if you don’t have friends and you don’t have mentors and you don’t have an association to gather information from, you’re not going to be as good.”
Tom grew his business by learning from other Copesan companies and constantly accepting new clients from the alliance, until McCloud Services transformed “from a little company into a powerhouse,” said Phil. Tom also served as a mentor to fellow Copesan members, including Treleven and Clarke Keenan, former president of Waltham Services, a Copesan services company headquartered in Waltham, Mass. “He was a listener and sought consensus,” Keenan said. “He liked to challenge the establishment, and Copesan junior execs represented a good way to push the envelope.”
The McCloud family legacy in business continued with Phil, who said his earliest memory is of making bait for the company at eight years old. “I always knew, even as a little kid, that we had this wonderful company that made us different,” Phil said. “We owned something, and I felt important, even at the age of eight. I always was told by my dad that we were the Rolls Royce of pest control.”
He joined the company as a sales representative in 1972, eventually taking over as president in 1985. Phil described his relationship with his father as “like brothers,” and stressed that his father never pressured him to join the family business and gave him the freedom to craft his own identity as a leader. “After 1985, he wasn’t on the sideline; he was up in the skybox,” said Phil. “He said he would watch us, but he didn’t get involved. He let me run the company. I thought I was taking it from him as a responsibility, but I think he was letting me have it.”