Kendra Harouff – Pye-Barker Fire & Safety
- Written by: David Harry
- Produced by: Andrew Wright & Cherie Scott
- Est. reading time: 4 mins
Kendra Harouff says it could be a birthday or engagement announcement appearing in Pye-Barker Fire & Safety’s monthly newsletter. It could also be a list of promotions and awards, or an article encouraging employees to support community activities, such as a local food bank.
Whatever the topic, Harouff says her aim is to make Pye-Barker employees feel like family.
She’s led HR at the company, which provides fire protection and life safety systems and equipment, since 202. She’s helped Pye-Barker increase paid time off while also increasing company contributions to benefits plans, including health insurance and 401(k).
Harouff says these efforts are especially important as the company continues to grow. Under the guidance of CEO Bart Proctor and Chief Operations Officer Joseph Hightower, Pye-Barker has expanded from an Atlanta-based company to one that operates in 31 states. Each time there’s been an acquisition, Harouff has joined Proctor and Hightower in visiting the new companies to reassure employees and welcome them to the family.
“What’s unique about Pye-Barker is it originated as a family business and that’s important to its feel and culture,” she says. “There have been more acquisitions, but they’re all part of the family and we keep the feel even with 4,000 employees.”
Widespread and close-knit
Founded in 1946 by John Pye and Ben Barker, Pye-Barker Fire & Safety began by selling equipment such fire extinguishers in an Atlanta store. In 1972, Thomas Lumsden, who was hired in 1947 to manage the store, bought the company. He eventually passed on the business to his three sons and grandsons.
In 1990, Pye-Barker expanded into welding and first aid supplies and began acquiring regional competitors in 1996. The company has made more than 100 acquisitions since 2018—including buying Ogden, Utah-based Mountain Alarm in December 2021. Pye-Barker’s products and services include providing fire detection systems, sprinkler systems, extinguishers and other life safety equipment. Its customers include the transportation company CSX, Chick-fil-A, Costco and Boeing.
Harouff leads a team of 20, including four recruiters and staff that handle benefits and onboarding. Most employees in her department work in the company’s Alpharetta, Georgia, office, with some HR staff based in Ogden.
To better support the HR functions—including employee outreach and access—as the company grows, Harouff added Workday software and platforms to the HR operations in early summer 2022.
Workday standardizes and automates processes, including reporting hours, payroll and attendance. It also provides an app for employees to access paystubs, available PTO and payroll and benefit documents, including W2 forms and insurance cards.
Harouff says Pye-Barker’s goal is to create a culture that results in more than 90 percent employee retention. However, she knows the workforce is shrinking and workers aren’t always easy to find, let alone recruit.
But the company and industry offer lucrative careers and steady work. That’s the message she and the company will deliver to high school and college students beginning in spring 2023 with a new apprenticeship program.
The program was still in its planning stages when Harouff chatted with Vision in December 2022, but she says it will be rolled out in the Atlanta area and three other locations. It’s more than just installation and maintenance work, too—Pye-Barker also needs engineers and designers for its alarm and sprinkler systems. Apprentices will be mentored by senior leadership and the programs are expected to take 12 to 18 weeks, depending on the occupational area of focus.
In addition to helping with recruitment generally, the program looks to help the company attract women, minorities and other groups of workers who historically haven’t been as aware of the industry and its opportunities, Harouff says.
“We have some great females that have risen up and they’re in leadership positions today having started as apprentices out in the field,” she says.
Satisfaction in serving
Harouff has worked in the HR field for more than 20 years. However, the Toronto native says it’s not the career she envisioned as she was getting her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Toronto in 1997.
In fact, she was working in the cruise ship industry when she was tasked with taking on HR work. However, she quickly discovered she enjoyed it.
In 2001, Harouff became an HR manager in Lawrenceville, Georgia, with Cintas Corp., which provides uniforms and equipment including floormats, cleaning supplies, and first aid and safety products, to customers. In 2008, she joined Ceridian as an HR midmarket sales representative.
Two years later, Harouff became HR director for Allgood Pest Services. In 2017, the company was acquired by British-based Rentokil Steritech, and her HR role was expanded to cover the Southeast market.
Harouff says the family atmosphere made it an “easy yes” to join Pye-Barker in June 2020.
“As a company grows by acquisition, it’s easy to lose focus on what the values are. We work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen at Pye-Barker,” Harouff says. “I enjoy the service environment. I enjoy making people happy, taking care of people in the field and supporting them.”
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