By Casey Watts, News Editor From living in multiple states and in various places, including a school bus and a camper, to owning his own business, Robert Totten of Totten Pest Control has experienced it all. It took about 13 years for a boy from a wandering family to finally find a place to call home. Totten spent two days in Texas, the state he was born in, before spending his childhood in multiple states. It got to the point where he could come home from school and his dad said they were moving, he explained. His father uprooted the family and they moved from Michigan to Tennessee in a school bus. That bus would serve as their home for a while.
Their next move was to Florida, which was a miserable experience for all of them, Totten explained. One faithful day, their station wagon’s rear window shattered and, “It sounds crazy, but many of the glass shards were shaped like Tennessee,” Totten said. They moved back to Tennessee after that and planted their roots. When he was 15, Totten got a job busing tables at an old restaurant named Bonanza, where he met his wife Nickie. From there, he had two sons with Nickie and worked various jobs before he found his calling. Pest control runs in his veins. When Totten was 6 years old, his father worked in his uncle’s business. Coincidentally, it was called “Totten Pest Control.” His uncle sold the business and it dissolved in the 1980s. Totten’s youngest son Tyler, now 23, used to write “own a pest control business” on a whiteboard when he was 13, Totten explained. That note stayed on the board for a long time and Tyler would often ask his dad why he wasn’t starting his own business. Now, with 18 years of industry experience to his name, Totten decided to take a leap of faith and left his job at Sherrill’s Pest Control. “It was a long run,” Totten said. “Vernon Sherrill, who owns the company, is a great man. I have the ultimate respect for him.” “I felt it was time to do something different,” he added. Thus, Totten Pest Control was formed in March 2018. One man and one truck do it all – from ants and spiders, to bedbugs and mice, Totten will do it all. He does not handle animals beyond rats and mice. If he doesn’t know a solution, he will find one and implement it as best and as safely as he can, Totten said. “I’m never going to lie to you – if I don’t know the answer, I’ll tell you ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you,’” Totten said. If he doesn’t know a solution, he knows people who will. He explained he has a network of people and companies he met through conventions who help each other when they can. But at the end of the day, it’s not the love of critters that keeps Totten’s interest alive. It’s his clients and his love of the community. “I’m always learning and meeting new people,” he said. He added that his long-standing clients became like extended family – they would send each other Christmas cards, ask about each other’s’ kids and pets and so on. As a service manager, he felt like he was losing sight of what was important – the customers. “I’m probably been happier now than I’ve been in a long time,” the Manchester resident said. Now, he runs his business out of his home office. Although it’s just starting out, he has high hopes for the future and will be looking to expand to possibly hiring an employee to help out in a couple years. “I’ll try to find people with the passion to do it,” Totten said. “If not, I’ll continue doing it myself until I can’t.” “I’m not going after a big $2-3 million company,” he continued. “You lose focus on what’s really important – the customers – at that point, when you’re focused on running a business.” “I don’t need to be rich. This is humble, he said looking around his home office and to Nickie. “I don’t need a large house; I need to make a living and support myself and my wife.” Totten walks subdivision daily to advertise and learn what type of pests he may have to deal with in certain areas. His truck can commonly be seen around town as well. Though the job is physically demanding, especially for 45-year-old, Totten is far from ready to give it up. “I don’t see myself doing anything else,” he said. Totten Pest Control can be reached at
or online at tottenpest.com. He services Manchester, Tullahoma, Winchester, Shelbyville and more.