JA Business Hall of Fame: BRENT BOLES
Rachel Lock | Photographer
However, the title that suits Brent the best and has been evident through every endeavor, is that of mentor.
Born and raised in Topeka, Brent Boles always considered it home. Even though he resided in California for several years right out of school, when it was time to raise a family, he didn’t have to think twice about moving back home.
“Sometimes leaving Topeka is the best thing for people to really appreciate how great this city is,” Brent said.
Taking a job in the sales department of Schendel Pest Services, Brent soon found himself on a trajectory to entrepreneurship. He bought out one of the owners and spent the next 12 years growing the business, opening 10 offices in five states.
While growth is good, sometimes it becomes an issue of diminishing returns. Brent recognized that as a company with 150 employees, Schendel Pest Services was no longer a small business. This meant complex regulatory compliance and skyrocketing employee benefit costs. It also meant he spent more time dealing with legal issues than working with customers and mentoring employees.
“The whole reason I got into the business was to work with customers,” Brent said. “I lost my passion when I could no longer do that.”
So when ServiceMaster offered to buy the company, Brent accepted the offer. However, that wasn’t the end of his entrepreneurial spirit. Having become involved with Schendel Lawn and Landscape two years earlier, Brent once again found his passion for building a company and working with customers.
Under his mentorship, Schendel Lawn and Landscape has quadrupled in size and has expanded to Lawrence and Manhattan. While that growth is gratifying, Boles says his true reward lies in being able to provide an excellent customer experience for his clients.
During this business transition, his level of mentorship has also changed. No longer focused on simply securing his own future, Brent now searches for ways to create opportunities for those around him. His business pursuits include investments in everything from wineries and restaurants to commercial real estate, all based on a desire to build a better community.
But that desire goes beyond his personal investment in Topeka. For the past four years, Brent has spent equal time in his businesses and in the community and has become a driving force for change, especially in Downtown Topeka.
“Being part of the downtown transformation is the right thing for businesses in Topeka,” Brent said. “It is at a critical stage right now, and we need to keep the momentum going.”
One of the things helping to drive that momentum is Top Tank, a competition designed to foster that entrepreneurial spirit, which recently offered one lucky winner $100,000 to establish a new business downtown. Brent is one of the six sponsors that put up the money to bring a new business to the area.
“Take a lesson from people participating in Top Tank,” Brent said. “They believe in this city and want to create growth. This fire. This passion. It is being driven by millennials. We just need to help them make it happen.”
In addition to the various business endeavors and entrepreneurial projects Brent is involved with, he served as Chairman of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, where his focus was to support young professionals and give the small business community a voice.
“I had just sold my business and needed something to do,” Brent said. “I got involved in the Chamber and GO Topeka and began to see all of the work being done by so many in the community. It opened my eyes to the need for more of us to become involved.”
So rather than slowing down and reaping the rewards of his hard work, Brent plans to roll up his sleeves and keep pushing for progress.
“I have no excuse for not doing my part,” Brent said. “I owe it to my city.”
That doesn’t mean the recovering triathlete (he competed for 20 years) won’t take some time to cook and drink wine, two of his favorite hobbies.