Don reached across the table, patted my hand and smiled at me, with his cheeky grin and twinkling eyes. His hand trembled a bit, as it often did these days. And then he told me a love story. As he talked, my chest tightened and my cheeks flushed as I struggled to keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks. He was animated and talking fast as he told me about how he started the business, how it grew, how he carefully found and groomed wonderful people, who had spent their entire careers working right beside him as he developed patent after patent and product after product. He told about his two adult children in the business and how important they were and he spoke of great pride in his up-and-coming grandson and his future hopes for him. His words began to tumble out faster and faster as he implored me to help them to do all that could be done to make sure that the company could grow and take advantage of the multitude of opportunities he could constantly see just out on the horizon.
You see, Don knew he was going to die, so much earlier than he had ever dreamed. Recently diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Don was still struggling to figure out how he could cram all that he had wanted to do with his life, and primarily his business, into the time he had left.
However, there was one thing that Don didn’t need me to do. He didn’t need me to help him or his family to secure the company for the future. Don had already taken care of that. He carefully planned for the safety of the business and for the needs of his family. His estate plan was up-to-date and clearly reflected his wishes. His successors had already been hard at work on a strategic plan, family governance policies, and building a strong leadership team that meant that his son and daughter could afford—not just financially, but also in regard to business leadership—to take the necessary time to be at Don’s side day by day as this horrible disease finally claimed his life.
This is why A+ Manufacturing, from Gonzales, Louisiana won the Galliard Family Business Excellence Award in 2012. Their business was well poised to survive, even thrive, through some of the toughest challenges that any business can face.
Today, A+ Manufacturing is thriving under the care and leadership of Don’s daughter, Sheila Harvey. Keith Mayeaux, Don’s son, is now devoting much of his time to helping other small businesses to navigate the hurdles of family governance just has his family has so successfully done. And Don’s grandson, Justin, is flourishing as he follows in his grandfather’s footsteps. Don would be so proud to see his love story continue to unfold…his legacy lives on.