Bobby Jenkins: Exceptional Award for an Honorary Alumnus

Bobby Jenkins: Exceptional Award for an Honorary Alumnus

By Elizabeth McGuire

Bobby Jenkins has networked with many accomplished and wise Central Texans over the years, but the most powerful gatherings in his life have happened when he was rubbing elbows around his own dinner table. First as a child, then as a parent, dinnertime was the most important tool in shaping the man Jenkins has become and the company he has built. As he tells it, his family’s nightly meal is where he learned everything he knows about communicating, listening, and appreciating other people’s perspectives. On May 6, Jenkins joins the ranks of other notable Austinites when he will be recognized with the Exceptional Award for an Honorary Alumnus of Leadership Austin at our annual Best Party Ever.

Today Jenkins’ company, ABC Home & Commercial Services, is known as much for the services it provides customers as for the goodwill it provides the entire community.

A native of San Antonio, Jenkins spent summers working for his father’s pest control company. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 1983, Jenkins joined ABC full time. He eventually landed in Austin, where he managed 7 to 8 employees. Today Jenkins employs 680 people across Austin, San Antonio, College Station and Corpus Christi.

DSC_0288%20EditOutside of work, he has served on numerous boards including Austin Chamber of Commerce, Caritas of Austin, United Way, Austin Gives, and Texas A&M’s Agricultural Development Council and Mays Business School Development Council.

Jenkins is the current vice-chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which recently unveiled a 15-year strategic plan to dramatically increase the number of college graduates by the year 2030.

He is also the current board chair of the American Heart Association and co-founder/board chair of Recognize Good. Jenkins is a co-founder and board member of Moss Pieratt Foundation, which honors his grandson and raises awareness and research money for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC).

For the past three years, ABC has been the title sponsor for Austin’s beloved Kite Festival. This year the event benefited Communities in Schools.

ABC has been in business for 60+ years. Tell us about your start there.

I started working in the business in junior high…as a helper, a janitor, a warehouse guy. Then in high school I started running a route. The first area I serviced alone was the projects in San Antonio. The government projects was an interesting place to learn a.) how to do pest management and b.) to learn how people live and to learn more about folks. It was phenomenal experience.

After graduation I moved to Austin in 1983. Our business has continued to grow and evolve and morph into what it is today: not just a pest control company but a service company that provides a broad spectrum of help.


In May 2008, Bobby and his brothers rode to Canada to raise funds for Caritas of Austin.

I have brothers in Houston and in Dallas who run ABC companies–all the same family and all the same name of the company–but all separate ownership. We literally have the state of Texas divided up into three areas and we don’t cross into each other’s market area. Our mother is the keeper of the map. My brothers and I are as close as three brothers can be, and this business model promotes family harmony first and yet there’s a lot of business synergy. But we don’t share money.

All three of us went to Texas A&M like our Dad. All three of us married Aggies. Between the three brothers we have 8 kids and all went to A&M. We now have several of the kids who are actively engaged in the business and several who we hope will become actively engaged in the business.

It’s the quintessential family business yet we are each able to do our own thing. It has worked really well for us.

DSC_0958When did you know you wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps?

Growing up in my family, we had dinner together every night, no matter what everyone was doing or what activities we had. It was either going to be an early dinner or a late dinner, but we were all going to sit around the table together. My Dad would go around and ask, “What happened in your day? And your day? And your day?”

And he would share what happened in his day. So we knew all about ABC. We were emotionally bought in and understood exactly what Dad did. I always saw that it was a neat way to make a living. I was the oldest son and I always thought I would go into the business. And lo and behold it’s the only job I’ve ever had.

You’ve seen Austin grow and change. What has changed the most and what has stayed the same?

Even in 1983 you knew Austin was a growing, dynamic place. It has changed a lot yet it hasn’t. It’s one of the most welcoming towns I’ve ever been to. Moving here as a young businessperson, people were unbelievably friendly in 1983, and they still are. In this town, if you want to come in and make a contribution, this city welcomes you with open arms. That’s unique. It’s not about, “Who was your Dad? Who’s your family?” It’s more about, “What do you want to do? How can you contribute to make Austin a better place?”

For such a big city, we still have a lot of the same core values from the ’70s and ’80s. It’s still progressive, friendly and entrepreneurial. I’m pleased and proud that Austin still has the same feel.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

Seeing people grow in their careers and seeing people become successful in what they are doing. I have folks who have worked here for over 30 years, who have been here since essentially Day 1. I’m really proud of that. The vice president and part owner of the company is Matt Burns, and we have been best buddies since 4th grade. We went to elementary school, junior high and high school together. We were roommates at A&M and now we’ve worked together this long. It’s unbelievably unique. We are best friends today yet we work side by side.

I’ve got several other people who have worked here for 30 years. We are built for the long haul. We are looking at how we can make this a multi-generational organization.


Award ceremony at Kite Festival.

What business lessons have you applied to your family life or community work?

It’s about balance, time management and priorities. Home always comes first. In my family we continued the dinner tradition all the way through with our kids. I wanted to have the same communication, relationship and understanding of what’s going on in each other’s lives. I’ve told people that our dinner tradition has been the best thing we’ve done. It’s the main thing that kept us connected and bonded as a family.

So in a business setting, I’m always willing to have the discussion. To bring people to the table and let everyone have the opportunity to share their perspective…to discuss issues and chew on ideas until we come up with solutions.

What makes a good leader?

A good leader is willing to get his hands involved in whatever needs to be done…working elbow to elbow. A good leader includes everybody who has value into the conversation. He’s often a facilitator and brings the right people together and leads the group into coming up with the best solutions.

A leader needs to be passionate about the task at hand, but needs to have a servant’s heart, and someone who says, “I do with….”




Any advice for Austin leaders?

Be willing to listen to a variety of people and opinions. One of the things I’ve learned, in customer service in particular, is that everyone has a perspective. It’s never one size fits all or black and white. There are two sides to every story. I know those are trite sayings but for me those are thoughts that really do resonate.


Working the Kite Festival.

Where does your devotion to community service come from?

There are so many reasons why it’s good for businesses and individuals to be committed to giving back to the community. There are so many levels that win. A business or individual wins just from the altruistic feelings of giving and helping others. Obviously the organization that you give to benefits from your time, effort and resources.

As a company there are multiple wins that are very powerful: When people who work at ABC hear from the community, “Wow, ABC is a really philanthropic company.” it makes employees take more pride in the company. When employees have the opportunity to volunteer together, that teamwork is immeasurable. When companies volunteer and give back, people are more productive, turnover is reduced, job satisfaction goes up. That ripple effect is mind boggling.

I grew up in a really close family, and every day I witnessed my Dad’s priorities: family first, then business, and then community. So that was drilled into us. I could not have had a better role model.

What are your hopes for our community?

What I hope we are creating in Austin is a culture of giving. When you read the stories of what people are doing in the city, it is absolutely inspirational. The more we tell these stories, the more the momentum builds.

People move here for a lot of reasons, but I think somewhere on that scale, people think, “There are a lot of good people doing good work and giving back.” And they want to be a part of it.

I love hearing the stories, and I really love sharing them. Every time you hear some of these things you’re in awe of the amazing work that selfless people with giant hearts are doing. You just want to go out and shout it from the mountain top.