Environmental Management Services: From a Garage Startup to Nationwide Coverage

A couple years ago, when Made Possible By was just an idea, I had lunch with Terry Bobo (Thanks Dan Newton!), founder of Environmental Management Services. Shortly thereafter, he introduced me to Kristal Flury, EMI’s HR Coordinator, point person on community engagement and a 20 year veteran of the company. EMI was one our first customers. It’s been a privilege and inspiring to learn about business, life and community impact from these great people. Kristal and I visited to talk about EMI’s history and one of their most recent awards. I think you will too will be inspired by the story.

Team photo EMI

Good afternoon, Kristal. EMI is a local company that provides services throughout the United States. Where did EMI start?
Terry and Lonnie Bobo started the company from their garage in Edmond in 1983.

Well, from an entrepreneurial perspective, the garage-based startup is always fascinating. Did they start out with a lot of capital?
I don’t think so. Terry had an idea and a lot of expertise. Lonnie was supportive. So, they just set up shop and got to work.

“Never burn a banana. They smell horrific.”

Environmental clean-up is a unique business. I can imagine the required expertise must be unique as well. What was Terry’s background?
Well, he’s a Chemist. He went to school at Auburn and graduated with a Chemistry degree. But it wasn’t just Terry’s expertise that helped him grow. It was Lonnie’s support and family support. Lonnie’s dad, Robert Nichols, was the accountant for many years. This support really allowed Terry to do what he does best, chemistry and operations.

That education sounds like it lends itself well to Environmental Cleanup. But, what exactly does EMI do?
We have 52 employees that cross the nation to do hazardous and non-hazardous waste cleanup. We work for the transportation industry cleaning up spills on our highway system or rail transport; we help medical providers; schools and colleges; pigeon droppings are toxic an we clean those out of buildings, etc. Really, if there is a spill of anything hazardous or, non-hazardous, anywhere, we clean it up.

O.K., give me some examples.
For the sake of our clients I can’t say much but I will say, never burn a banana. They smell horrific. We had to clean up an overturned truck full of burning bananas and we have employees that still can’t eat a banana. We also do underground storage tank removals, asbestos testing, lead paint testing. Sadly, we even test for chemical residue from meth labs.

Let’s shift gears. You implied that EMI is a family run business but, being around you leads me to believe that the business is run like a healthy family.
That’s true! We love each other. We care for one another. We have lunches together. We throw baby showers. the team came by and helped my family clean up our place after a tornado…really, when one of has joy, we all have joy. When one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting.

Terry just cares for people. You know, in 35 years of business, we’ve had one layoff. We do everything to avoid them.

“When one of us has joy, we all have joy. When one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting.”

You won Guthrie’s Business of The Year for 2018. What does that mean to each of you at EMI?
We’re honored for sure. Terry is so humble and just goes about the business doing what he does because it’s the right thing to do. But, it is an honor and it’s more of a testimony to the team we have and the hearts we have for one another and the community. We’re grateful.


What motivates EMI and Terry to invest in the community?
Terry has such a kind heart. He does everything he can to make those around him better. He loves to share his experiences, knowledge and expertise. EMI moved to Guthrie in 1987 and he’s committed to help this community and all the communities we serve become a better place.

From experience, I know you do. How do you go about that?
We partner with and support the organizations, events and causes doing work we love. These type of investments range from investments in kids and schools to local food banks. It’s really a privilege to be able to help as we can.

Both you as an individual and EMI have been actively involved in the United Way as well, correct?
We have. Since 2003 EMI and our employees have contributed significantly to the work the United Way provides Logan County. It’s been a great way for the company and our employees to rally together to make a difference locally.

I know you invest financially in numerous communities and organizations, but you also provide equipment, labor and expertise to those in need. Tell me about that.
As I said, Terry loves to lend his expertise. On numerous occasions we’ve sent our crew and equipment to help with disaster cleanup resulting from tornados in Mulhall, Oklahoma City, Carney etc. We also send our crew and tanker trucks out to refill fire rigs during wildfires. Finally, we’re able to give away usable salvage from our Product Distribution Program. This includes things like paint, light bulbs and occasionally food supplies.

We look for ways to lend what we have to make a difference and are grateful that we can do it.

I’m always inspired by companies that have figured out how to survive the ups and downs of business. What advice would Terry offer a new or relatively young business?
I spoke with Terry about this very subject. For him, life and business is really simple when you, “surround yourself with the right people” and, “Do your best to pay for things as you go, do not have debt to service.”

Kristal, thank you for your time. It’s an honor to share your story, we appreciate your work and wish EMI another successful and impactful 35 years.
Thank you. It’s been a joy to be a part of this company the last 20 years.

About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.

Billy Clark: 8 Thoughts on How to Make a Difference in Your Community

Billy Clark has been in the car business for over 35 years. After 5 years as Eskridge Chevrolet’s General Manager he semi-retired from the car business. Under his leadership, Eskridge Chevrolet was named Guthrie’s Business of The Year in 2017. And, Billy was just named Guthrie’s Citizen of The Year for 2018. Fortunately, for his community, he’s really not retiring. He’s just freeing up time to do more of what he loves: invest in the people, causes and community he loves. Here’s a bit of his story and what he’s learned about making a difference.


You’ve been in the car business for quite sometime haven’t you?
My whole life really. I’ve been doing this for 35 years.

You’re wrapping up your tenure in the business, transitioning out of the General Manager role at Eskridge Chevrolet.
I am. It’s time. My 10 years at Eskridge have been amazing and rewarding.

How so?
Well, a couple reasons. First, I work for an owner’s group, the Eskridge family, that truly cares about people—their customers and the communities they serve. Their values really align with mine. Second, I was able to be a part of a community that cares for one another. I really fell in love with Guthrie. I’m blessed.

Sounds like the perfect fit, Billy. Why leave?
Ha! It’s just time. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve treated people right and that’s given me the opportunity to have options. So, the number one reason is, I’m ready to keep making a difference in different ways, apart from the day to day operations of the dealership.

One more question about the dealership. Eskridge Chevrolet was Guthrie’s Business of the Year. How did that feel?
Honestly, it was probably the highest honor I’ve had professionally. I just try to go about my business and do what I can the right way. I don’t do what I do for any sort of recognition or reward. But, I have to admit, when my peers in the community voted our dealership as Business of The Year, it felt amazing. Kind of like the culmination of my work. I teared up.

Also, I like to think we raised the bar for community involvement. We’ve been able to do so much. It wasn’t always easy but we love it. I think we were out in front and that our involvement got other businesses to get involved too.

“Relationships will make or break you. Align with the right people.”

O.K., Billy, what’s next?
Some days, I have no idea. I have the general stuff figured out but, the details are a bit foggy. I know I’m called to make a difference. So, that’s it. I’m transitioning out of the dealership to have more time to invest in the community.


You were just named citizen of the year. How does that feel?
I’m still shocked. Also, honored. It’s still sinking in. But, it was confirmation that the next steps I’m taking are the right ones.

Billy, it is well deserved. After running the business named Business of The Year and then being recognized as Guthrie’s Citizen of The Year, what can you share with us about how you go about investing in your community, people and making a difference in general?
Well. There’s no real formula for me.

[Long pause]

Here’s what comes to mind:

  1. Just treat people the way you want to be treated.

  2. If you say you’re in, go 100%.

  3. I’m married to the right person. I’m really blessed to be married to Maggie. She loves to give and do even more than I do. She’s my inspiration.

  4. Don’t overthink stuff. Just do it, do what you can. Take action.

  5. Show up, give your time. Say yes.

  6. Relationships will make or break you. Align with the right people.

  7. Time is the hardest thing to give. But, the most rewarding.

  8. Keep your eyes open, look for ways to give. And do it, time, money, whatever you can.

Billy, it’s exciting to think that you’re just getting started. We commend you for the impact you’ve made and look forward to your future. Thank you.
Thank you.

About Made Possible By
Made Possible By is the new way community minded companies manage and share their grant, sponsorship and charitable gift requests. Made Possible By is reinventing the community investment process for companies with an easy to use, online toolset that saves them time and money and helps them earn community and customer trust. Learn more at our website or blog.

Jameson Real Estate. An Entrepreneurs Journey to Impact

I met James 6 years ago. My family had just moved to Guthrie and we crossed paths often—the way it's done in small towns. He was in the middle of his first business and starting his second. James has strong convictions, and he's vocal. He's also an accidental, astute, and now, seasoned entrepreneur. He's also committed to Guthrie, America. So much so, he moved from the edge of town to the center in order to connect with the community and make a difference. Grab a beer or fruit smoothie with him from Guthrie Nutrition sometime, you will enjoy the visit. In the meantime, read on to learn more about his journey and vision for community impact.

How did you become an entrepreneur?
Well, it started out as an accident. I was an employee for an oil and gas land/lease company. In 2007, the company restructured and began to focus on their core business. But, they had a problem and I guess I was the solution.


What was the problem?
They wanted to divest a small training business they owned and they offered it to me. I said, "look, you guys know what I make, you pay me. I don't have the money to buy much of anything at the moment.” But, they saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself at the time.

I think laughter and candidness helped the negotiations. After more detail and discussions than anyone cares about, it worked out. They wanted out of the training business and I got into it...

What did you learn from your first business?
Out of the gate the business did great. It generated a lot of cash. But, I didn't understand all the details of accounting, tax liability, processes etc. I did a great job marketing the business and training people. But, I wasn’t a great business operator at the time.

Hire a good accountant. Learn how to operate the business, not just do the work you do to make the money.

Fortunately, I partnered with a strong accountant near the end of the first year. It was expensive. But, not having them could have cost me the business.

What happened next?
Well, we had the real estate crisis around 2008, the credit crunch, whatever you want to call it. It wasn't directly related to oil and gas but it hit that too. My business slowed down. But I thought it was also an opportunity.

How so?
Well, it's a funny story. Houses in my home town were affordable so I called a realtor. She didn't know how serious I was so she directed me to another realtor, Patricia Cornforth. As I said, houses were affordable. I bought my first three properties that day and that's how I got into real estate.

Since then, you obtained your Real Estate license and you and Patricia opened Guthrie Real Estate. You've since got your Broker’s license and rebranded as, Jameson Real Estate.

A moment ago you said you found opportunity in a “down market.” Explain that and, what advice would you offer to others facing their own crisis?
It just seemed that there is an opportunity amidst every crisis. I've learned to look for them. When things get bad, I look for opportunities. Fortunately I’ve found them. But, if I had been scared I wouldn’t have even looked. So, just keep looking and working.

When things get bad, I look for opportunities.

Congratulations on the hard-won experience. At every stage of your business ventures you've been for your community. You were part of the founding team of Red Brick Nights and you invest in the local schools. Why?
There are a few reasons. In general, I love my community. It’s a hell of a place—unique even. I just want the town and the people to do well.


Tell us about Red Brick Nights.
You know, there are a lot of community parties. But, Red Brick Nights is the only one that is centered around the community, Oklahoma artists, and the town. Also, it’s an environment that caters to families and kids.

How so?
North Church sponsors a great kids’ area. This is unique to Red Brick Nights. The music is curated by Justin Fortney and features amazing talent from in and around Oklahoma. It’s an event that’s big enough to feel electric and small enough for my kids to run and get an icee and come back on their own.

How did it start?
Guthrie has a tradition of community based festivals and is a sleeper community for musicians. We had a couple of ladies that started a monthly music event several years ago, Christie & Shirley Clifford and it unfortunately ended. A few of us had the idea to restart that and rebrand it and it just rolled from there.

Did the business community and other community organizations embrace the idea?
Absolutely. Without the support of Meghan Vance with John Vance Auto Group, The City of Guthrie, Long Hair Repair, the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce and a dozen other businesses we couldn’t pull it off. The business community sponsors it and our city government supports it. The entire event is only possible with the support of the businesses, volunteers and civic leaders.

What about Schools? You’ve invested in the local schools, public and private alike. Why?
I don’t care where you stand on the school funding issue. The issue aside, the problems aren’t the kids fault or the teachers. So, let’s just get some damn supplies into the classrooms. If we won’t invest in our own children, who will?

If we won’t invest in our own children, who will?

Enough said?
Enough said.

What made you get on the City Council.
I realized I can’t live in a bubble centered around me. So there are so many cool things going on in the Guthrie community and so many challenges. I just want to be involved and help our community move forward.

Thank you James. Any closing thoughts for entrepreneurs and difference makers?
If you want to leave things better than you found them, you’ve got to get involved with people. People aren’t easy. I’m not easy. But, making a difference isn’t easy either. Get involved with the people around you.