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Family businesses beat the odds

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Family businesses beat the odds

Stephen Hood
Correspondent
Published: Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Abby Tabor/Staff
Mike Acosta works a printing press Thursday afternoon in Bazet Printing in Houma.

 

 

Family businesses don't survive, according to the statistics.

The Family Business Institute reports about 30 percent of family businesses continued into the second generation, 12 percent make it to a third generation and about 3 percent operate into the fourth generation or beyond.

Don't tell that to Michael Acosta, owner of Bazet Printing, a fourth-generation business in downtown Houma. Acosta's business has been family owned and operated since its conception in a shed in 1878.

Don't tell that to Allison Rouse, granddaughter of the late Anthony Rouse Sr. and managing partner of third-generation Rouses Markets based in Thibodaux.

And don't tell that to Mike Voisin, CEO of Motivatit Seafoods, a second-generation oyster business established by his late father, Ernest, on a small farm in south Terrebonne Parish in 1971 and now based in Houma. The Voisin family has been in the seafood industry for eight generations.

Acosta said the secret to his company's longevity is “quality, price and service.”

The secret to Rouses' success is hard work, Allison Rouse said. “But it's passion that drives you to surpass expectations to keep growing and getting better,” she added.

Voisin attributes his company's longevity to “hard work early on and good family members to help us.”

SUCCESSION

 Voisin said succession was easy after his father died because he merely had to divide the company into two parts. He shares ownership responsibilities with his twin brother Steve.

Voisin said succession will be more difficult the next time around because there are a lot more family members to consider.

“The next generation is expected to participate in the business and to maintain a certain level of integrity and to participate in who we are,” he said.

All of Voisin's children have worked at Motivatit, and all but one still do.

“It's you, it's who your family is and who your family becomes,” he said.

Voisin said his business is taking succession planning very seriously, and it has requested assistance of a third-party consultant to help with the process. The consultant was brought in to analyze strengths and weaknesses and to build from within.

If no viable candidate reveals himself or herself, the company might bring someone in from outside the family for the survivability of the corporation, Voisin said.

“I'd like to see it go more generations and be successful,” he added.

As of now, he said, the company has not determined who the next CEO will be.

Acosta bought Bazet Printing from his uncle Emmett “Butch” Robichaux four years ago. Acosta said he plans for his daughter, Lindsey Acosta, to take over the company provided she learns the business.

“We have a long way to go between now and then. Hoping it will be Lindsey,” he said.

Allison Rouse, who has spent more than 15 years working in Rouses grocery stores, said the company has a plan for succession.

“It is a family business, and we plan to keep it that way,” she said.

Anthony Rouse Sr. and his cousin Ciro DiMarco founded Rouses in 1960. After DiMarco retired, Anthony Rouse's children took an interest in the business.

Anthony Rouse remained active in the business until his death in 2009 at 79. His two sons, Donald and Tommy Rouse, who had been operating the business for decades, then took over.

FAMILY DYNAMICS

 “When you fire a family member, you go have lunch with them on Sunday,” Voisin said.

Complicated dynamics are part of the bargain when operating a family business. Voisin said he has a good dynamic with his brother that makes resolving disagreements in a reasonable manner simple.

He said it is important to keep a healthy perspective.

“None of us mind working hard, but I'm always looking over my shoulder for the day I'll be shoveling oysters again,” he added.

Rouses encourages family members to enter the business, but it is not compulsory, Allison Rouse said.

“With such a diverse landscape in a full service grocery store, there is almost always a place for a family member to work in the family business, should they want to,” she said.

Family members working for Rouses are held to the same standard as all other team members, and promotions are determined by “hard work, dedication and motivation,” she said.

ADAPTATION

 To maintain success, many businesses have had to reinvent themselves because of technological advances or fluctuations in the marketplace.

Acosta said Bazet Printing has not had to reinvent itself. The technology the company used 50 years ago still works soundly and “doesn't break,” he said.

Bazet Printing has had the same customers for generations, he said.

The key to maintaining success in printing, Acosta said, is quality service.

“We not only sell rubber stamps, we will service them, we will go over personally and fix it for them or replace them,” he said.

Rouses employs more than 5,200 people and has 38 stores across southern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi.

Allison Rouse attributes the company's success to innovation, passion, a strong work ethic and the company's ability to employ the old with the new.

“Rouses tries to stay ahead of the curve. We believe it's not enough to change reactively with the times, you also have to seek out new, innovative ideas,” she said.

“Over the past 50 years, much has changed in the way people ‘make groceries,' but much has stayed the same. Finding the right balance is key,” she said.

Innovation and adaptation is a necessary part of life for Voisin, whose father started the business “with nothing but a conveyor, a single boat and a dream.”

From the small farm, the company moved into a processing plant in 1973 but expanded and began to focus more on harvesting oysters in 1975, moving into the current location on Palm Avenue in 1976.

Voisin said his business is continuously evolving and streamlining from the inside, but outside forces such as changing government regulations make sure the industry is relentlessly variable.

To maintain success, he said, a business must be willing and prepared to modify any situation.

“Things are easier now. We used to have to lift heavy oyster bags. Now there are machines for that. But shucking an oyster is basically the same.”