Sharee Ashford of Mosquito Squad of East Atlanta: “I learned that the first thing you should do when you realize you’re in a crisis is to not panic”

With my experience in the U.S. Army, I learned that the first thing you should do when you realize you’re in a crisis is to not panic. Getting overly flustered will cloud your ability to think clearly and analyze what you should do next in that moment of chaos. Assess the situation and if this […]

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With my experience in the U.S. Army, I learned that the first thing you should do when you realize you’re in a crisis is to not panic. Getting overly flustered will cloud your ability to think clearly and analyze what you should do next in that moment of chaos. Assess the situation and if this crisis is one you had already planned for, activate that plan. Additionally, don’t be reluctant to call for help or lean on a team that can assist you and your business. Like I mentioned before, it’s life and things might go wrong at one point or another but there’s ways to get through it.


In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharee Ashford.

Sharee Ashford is a female entrepreneur and franchise owner of Mosquito Squad of East Atlanta. Ashford was in the U.S. Army for six and a half years and continues to serve in the Army reserve to this day. As a sole business owner of a company predominantly dominated by men, Ashford hopes to encourage other women to join this field and build women’s representation in the home-service industry.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up in the Atlanta area, Decatur to be exact. I am the youngest of three and I think that speaks a lot to my ability to keep myself busy. Much of my childhood was spent either focusing on school or enjoying outside. My mother is a federal civilian employee and that allowed my sisters and I to have a lot of opportunities to travel at a young age and experience different cultures. That grew into a large passion for me and continues to be an interest of mine to this day.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

The past year and a half have been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. While we faced a number of unexpected challenges in 2020, many Americans pivoted during the pandemic, including myself, and took the extra time at home and fewer commutes to launch a new business. For years I had dreamt of becoming my own boss and running a company that would not only service my community, but also create new job opportunities. It was not until the pandemic hit that I finally had the time to explore my options and as of April 2021, I am the franchise owner of Mosquito Squad of East Atlanta. At Mosquito Squad, we provide homeowners and businesses with mosquito and tick control services. As North America’s leader in tick and mosquito control, Mosquito Squad offers top-of-the-line services that will help take control of the yard and outdoors, as well as protect families from deadly mosquitoes and ticks.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I commissioned into the US Army as a Health Services Officer. I am passionate about Civil Service and Public Health so this role naturally aligned with me. During that time, I had the opportunity to occupy leadership roles and personally advise a Company Commander. The military definitely challenged my inner leader and demanded that I constantly step outside of my comfort zone. I have also been in a few different places, including Savannah, Atlanta, San Antonio, and most recently Panama City Beach, Florida.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

I have taken away so much from my military service. The biggest thing is the power of servitude. Joining the military itself is an act of service and within that I have been given the opportunity to serve my soldiers. I never knew that it would become so important to me to simply mentor others even outside of my role as an Officer.

We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

I have heard so many stories about acts of heroism within the military ranks. It is so inspiring to see the core values in execution. The first thing that comes to mind is a few years back a soldier lead groups of children to safety during a mall shooting in Texas. It was very apparent to me that in that situation he wasn’t looking for accolades or recognition because shortly after he went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) because of all the attention he was receiving for being a modern-day hero. I can see that being very stressful when you are only doing what you feel is right and not for public recognition.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

The reoccurring themes that I find in all stories about heroism that resonate with me are sacrifice and resilience. The ability to sacrifice immediate gains and the ability to sacrifice self all in the name of protection and advancement of others. I think heroes innately do the difficult task that most people wouldn’t volunteer to do and that in itself is noble.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?

Being in the U.S. Army, I learned to not sell myself short. Women can do things just as well as men and when I decided I was going to become a franchisee, I knew that being the sole owner was the best option for me. I learned how to be a leader and how to provide your team with the necessary tools and resources to excel at their jobs and I was excited to apply my background to this new business venture with Mosquito Squad.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful for my family and everyone that supported my choice to go into the Army and dedicate my time to civil service.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?

A crisis is when something occurs that affects one person or a multitude of people in a negative and dangerous manner. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent crisis we can all relate to.

Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?

Most people don’t like to think about or plan for bad things to happen, but they do. It’s life. That’s why it’s important for business owners to plan for things to not go as planned ahead of time. Think about how it can affect your business, revenue, staff and personal life. Oftentimes, it’s encouraged that business owners meet with financial professionals, accountants, and others that can help create the best plan for that specific business. Should something happen, you have the resources and tools in place to help you get through the crisis.

There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?

With my experience in the U.S. Army, I learned that the first thing you should do when you realize you’re in a crisis is to not panic. Getting overly flustered will cloud your ability to think clearly and analyze what you should do next in that moment of chaos. Assess the situation and if this crisis is one you had already planned for, activate that plan. Additionally, don’t be reluctant to call for help or lean on a team that can assist you and your business. Like I mentioned before, it’s life and things might go wrong at one point or another but there’s ways to get through it.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?

Discipline and unwavering determination are two traits I believe you need to get through a crisis. While it is naturally hard to get through a crisis, it is up to you as the business owner to push your company and team across the finish line and back to normal. Don’t stray away from your plan and stick to what you know. If you need support from other professionals, get it and allow them to fill in the gaps that will help you overcome this temporary roadblock.

When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My mother comes to mind when I think of these things. Just being able to bounce back from setbacks and pursue higher pillars of success is admirable. It wasn’t until I got older that I understand not everyone has that ability to remain resilient during setbacks.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I think the biggest setback I had is when I attended military training out in Texas. I was there for about three months and in that time, I ended up getting hurt and not being able to finish the course. While it was a physical setback, I can say that the mental setback was more impactful than anything. It delayed a promotion and simply felt like defeat. After leaving early, I returned the following year and completed the training and eventually was promoted. The promotion wasn’t the biggest factor for me. It was about finishing what I had started successfully. Being able to do that was very important to me.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Assess the Situation
  2. Develop a Plan
  3. Galvanize/Seek Assistance
  4. Work Together
  5. Celebrate Victories

I have found that my biggest challenge in dealing with a crisis is attempting to do so alone. These steps take me back to my initial military training. Me and a team of three other soldiers were sent through an obstacle course that challenged us as a team and our ability to work collectively. As we approached a seven-foot wall with a 200-lb loaded litter (stretcher), we had to determine not only how we were to get the litter over the wall, but ourselves as well. We first had to assess the situation. Upon initial assessment we found that none of us stood taller than 5’9”. However, we pushed forward and developed our plan. We successfully hoisted two soldiers over the wall to receive the 200-lb litter as the other two soldiers pushed it over the wall. After successfully receiving the litter, the two remaining soldiers had to find their way over the wall. One soldier was hoisted and posted on the wall, while pulling the last soldier up and both successfully jumped down to the other side. Working together was the only way we could have successfully accomplished this feat. Not working together would have been at the demise of us all. While at that moment of accomplishment we were not able to celebrate the victory, we found it important to acknowledge what worked and what did not.

Ok. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the movement I would push for is teaching entrepreneurship as a viable career path at a young age. In the environment I grew up in entrepreneurship was spoken about as if it was only reserved for an esteemed few as opposed to being a viable option for anyone who desired to pursue the opportunity.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

This list has the potential to be long! I am a huge Queen Latifah fan. I admire how she has transcended so many industries in a seemingly flawless way. I would love to soak up the energy that is her.

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoSquadofEastATL/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mosquitosquadco

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mosquitosquadco/

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

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