THE HEART OF THE ENTREPRENEUR: Brent Boles
Rachel Lock | Photographer
FOR A PERSON who enjoys working on cars, an auto-repair business may be a worthwhile venture. For someone who loves project management, starting a construction company might be the right path to take. Yet for someone who simply has a passion for working with people, one business isn't nearly enough. is rings true for Brent Boles.
Born and raised in the capital of the Sunflower State, Boles attended Topeka West High School. Following graduation, he donned the Ichabod blue and enrolled at Washburn University in pursuit of a communications degree. About four years later, in 1988, an opportunity on the West Coast that couldn't be passed on came knocking, and Boles answered.
"I had a job opportunity outside Topeka, and before I graduated Washburn—I was a semester away—I took the job in San Francisco," Boles said.
Boles worked for Viking Freight System, a transportation and shipping company owned by Federal Express that did a large amount of work in Silicon Valley. While he enjoyed the job, it wasn't the only thing that kept Boles in California.
A reunion took place between Boles and a young woman by the name of Angie, whom he had dated in high school. e two were married, Boles finished his degree, and about six years after Boles moved out to the Golden State, the couple was ready for a change.
"When it came time to start thinking about a family, Topeka just seemed like an obvious place we wanted to be, so we returned in 1994," Boles said. "Viking was one of the top 50 companies to work for in America, so it was a great opportunity, but Topeka was a place we kind of felt was calling us. It's home."
In answering his hometown's calling, Boles' entrepreneurial pursuits soon launched.
"I got involved at Schendel Pest Services and took a job in their sales department," Boles said of his rst job a er returning to Topeka. "Schendel was a very small company. We had less than 40 employees. We were pretty small in our footprint and relatively small in revenues."
Boles started with Schendel Pest Services in sales, but it didn't take long before he began moving up the company ladder.
"Within a few years, I was general manager of the company," Boles said.
Then, once again, opportunity struck.
"My boss, who is also my father-in-law, had a partner who was getting out of the business, and so I bought him out," Boles said. "I became a partner, and then we just continued to grow Schendel.”
Boles helmed the company for years, leading to the opening of 10 offices in five different states. Part of being a great business leader is knowing when to sell, and that is what he did with Schendel Pest Services in August of 2012.
"We had a lot of headwinds," Boles said of the business in the time near its selling. "We were no longer a small business.
As a mid-sized business with almost 150 employees, the company found itself in a more complicated business environment, facing issues such as benefits, insurance issues and regulatory compliance.
"I had lost my passion— to continue to grow the business—because I no longer had that opportunity," Boles said. "I was involved in more of the [legal] side of the business."
But the Schendel brand did not die with the sale of the pest services company.
"I had gotten involved with Schendel Lawn and Landscape a few years prior to that, and I looked over and said, ' ere's an opportunity to get more involved in that company, help grow it and be a part of something growing.'" Boles said.
The chance to build, to "take things and make them better" and to interact with the customer is what Boles said draws him to small business over mid-sized or large operations.
"I like to understand and truly be part of the brand identity," he said.
Boles' competitive nature became a key factor in his desire to grow Schendel Lawn and Landscape. It’s the aspect of business that requires a competitive air that Boles loves.
“It’s the challenge of taking an idea, whether that’s a new idea or an idea that already exists, and making it better,” Boles said. “When we started Schendel Lawn and Landscape, there were a lot of companies out there doing that kind of work. I’m a very competitive person, so I think it’s that drive to say ‘I think I can do it better’—that desire to win—is what I like about business.”
In addition to Schendel Lawn and Landscape, of which Boles is currently a partner, the Kansas City- based Spin Pizza franchise recently came to Lawrence as a result of Boles and three other partners founding Spin LLC with the hopes of bringing the popular franchise to other locations in Kansas. The Lawrence location opened in the fall of 2016, and as operating manager, Boles is working on bringing the franchise to Topeka.
Boles also owns Madsidy, LLC, a real-estate company he runs with his wife, Angie.
"I've been involved, this whole time, in commercial real-estate development, so that continues to be a part of my life every day."
Playing such large roles in so many dfferent companies is all a part of Boles' passion and mindset.
"It's that serial entrepreneur mentality," Boles said.
Topeka, he believes, is a great location for the serial entrepreneurship he loves.
"I think there's a lot of wants and needs in our community that aren't being met that small businesses could come in and fill," Boles said.
Boles has been involved with the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce in some capacity for decades. For the past six years, he has been on the board of directors, serving the past two years as board chair.
Boles said being a member of the Chamber grants him many opportunities to help others grow their businesses.
Although he loves the “people” aspect of business, Boles believes it is also the most difficult.
“The biggest hindrance to small business success is the ability to hire qualified, motivated individuals," Boles said. "I think as a small business, once you get through that, it’s ‘how do you get those co-workers and employees on the same page? How do you get them to understand the brand and what it is you’re trying to accomplish as a company?’ Too often I think people have great ideas, but I don’t think their ideas are shared with people around them, their co-workers.”
To attract the best and brightest, that competitive streak is needed once again. Boles uses the efforts at Schendel Lawn and Landscape as an example.
“We think we have a good culture, we have a good work environment," Boles said. "Our pay’s competitive. But in today’s world, you’ve got to talk about benefits and retirement plans and health care plans.”
However, it takes more than just a competitive nature to successfully run as many businesses as Boles has and does. Beyond his passion for growing businesses and working with people, Boles' ability to recognize and make the most of opportunities is this serial entrepreneur's driving force.