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.