The CEO recalls that back then, Orlando had a much more small-town feel.
“It’s still a great place to live and raise a family, but it has a big-city atmosphere now. To me, it seems like Atlanta did 10 or 20 years ago, poised for big growth,” said Massey, chief executive to 1,600 team members.
Massey, a longtime philanthropist, is happily running the company at the age of 73, showing no signs of slowing down.
“I have never taken 10 seconds to think about retirement,” Massey told the Sentinel. “People say, ‘don’t you want more time to do whatever you want to do,’ and I tell them, ‘I already do that.’”
Massey Services and its CEO have been fixtures of the Orlando and Winter Park business landscape for decades. The company ranks as the fifth-largest pest management company in the United States.
“The future looks bright for us this year,” Massey said. “We have about 120 service centers now, and we plan to add three more in Greater Atlanta this spring.”
Like Orlando and Florida in general, Massey Services has grown every year since he bought it –including 1.5 percent annual growth during the depths of the Great Recession. In addition to Florida and Georgia, the company also operates in Texas and Louisiana.
The recession, Massey says, was just another opportunity to find growth in different ways. At the beginning of the downturn, Massey had contracts with major homebuilders. During the depths of the downturn, it had ties with property management firms. Individual home accounts still make up the majority of the business.
Over the years, a close friend was also a big competitor – Chuck Steinmetz, who ran Middleton Pest Control. Massey and Middleton ranked No. 12 and No. 13 among the nation’s largest pest control companies. Middleton was bought by Sunair Services in 2005, and then Massey acquired it in 2009.
Steinmetz has only good things to say about Massey.
“We were friends first, and then we become competitors,” Steinmetz said. “But our friendship actually got stronger then. We traveled all over the world together. He’s a brilliant businessman, and a very genuine person.”
Steinmetz also praised Massey for sharing his success with the community by donating time and money to many causes. Massey currently serves as chairman of the board at Rollins College Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship Program and on the board of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation.
And Massey’s stint on the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority from 2006 to 2008 earned him a reputation as a reformer, because he was appointed after scandal had rocked the agency. “You’ve made us think and look at things differently,” then-authority director Mike Snyder was quoted as saying about Massey when Massey left the authority.
Massey is selective about the people he hires and emphasizes company culture. “Our team members enter thousands of homes each day, so it’s important that they have the right image and attitude,” he said.
When he does decide to retire, he has a succession plan: His son Tony Massey, who has been president and chief operating officer for years, will become CEO. The company has plenty of long-term memory in place. Gwyn Elias, CIO, started in 1987, and Ed Dougherty, executive vice president of operations, started in 1992.
With the company’s 30th anniversary on Feb. 20, Massey is thinking more than usual about the company’s origins: He left his Memphis job at Terminix and took on bank loans to buy Orlando-based Walker Chemical in 1985 for $3.9 million, and changed the name to Massey. At 12.5 percent financing, he considered the interest rate ideal at the time.
Harvey and his wife, Carol, have been married for 50 years. They have three children, 10 grandchildren and live in Winter Park. He also spends a lot of time on his sprawling ranch properties in Lake County and in Montana.
“Things always seem to happen for me in February. I met my wife in February. I bought Walker Chemical in February. I’m expecting this year will be no different,” Massey said.