Silver & Gold achievements a major feat

Celebrating longevity is a noteworthy tradition. Most people mark birthdays with enthusiasm and anniversaries generate reflection.

Amazement often occurs when time has passed faster than expected or when what critics said would never last, does.

Longevity is sometimes difficult to explain. A centenarian was asked his secret for a long life. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Just keep breathing, I guess.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 49 percent of new businesses will survive five years or more, 34 percent survive more than 10 years, but only 6 percent will surpass a 15th anniversary.

In a nation where fewer than half of all marriages survive, it seems equally impressive when businesses stand a test of time that includes not only market conditions, but government regulations, taxes, tightened financing rules, ever-changing technology and even surviving the elements of nature.

Ask around. The most successful long-term small businesses – those with fewer than 500 employees – share a common theme: having a quality product, customer service and keeping employees happy and dedicated to the mission at hand. When pressured, some business owners admit that a dose of good luck does not hurt.

“In this area we have a lot of people with entrepreneurial skills,” Nicholls State University Dean of Business Administration Shawn Mauldin said. “It is a business sense that may not exist in other areas.”

Mauldin said that successful companies in south Louisiana have been able to transition from generation to generation because of a strong family loyalty and lack of corporate structure that often brings with it internal competition. As a result greater opportunity seems available new as well as established ventures.

In the Tri-parish region, some businesses opened their doors for the first time this week. Many are setting pace for their silver or golden anniversaries. Yet, a few have been around so long that no one recalls when they were not present. Any thought of their absence would be unconscionable.

In Terrebonne Parish, Chauvin Brothers Lumber of Chauvin opened in 1875 when timber, rather than oil, was a predominant business for the region.

Starting out with a small general store on Bayou Petit Caillou 137 years ago, Albert Eloie Chauvin set the stage to expand interests into the seafood and building materials – with the help of four subsequent generations – and established one of the longest lived family-owned businesses in the state. Their secret: personal service to customers and involvement in the community.

For 152 years, St. Mary Parish families have been served by the Ibert’s Mortuary in Franklin. Valentine Ibert addressed a need for the region in 1860, and his decedents continue the tradition by stating that their business is large enough to provide the same service as corporate funeral homes, yet small enough to provide familiar, individualized attention.

The oldest business of the region is located in Lafourche Parish, about four miles east of Thibodaux, and carries a history that reaches beyond the confines of commerce.

Laurel Valley Plantation is today viewed as a historic site drawing tourists, historians and even ghost hunters.

When Etienne Boudreaux received a land grant in 1783, he established what would become one of the largest surviving sugar plantations.

During the next 237 years, the plantation outlived war, changes in how farming would be conducted in the south, natural and manmade disasters and even the nature of its existence. Survival for this business might be described as simply doing what is necessary to survive.

“Obviously, some of these entrepreneurs have no formal education, yet they are very effective in what they do,” Mauldin said. “If it is an aptitude for business, it makes you wonder what they possess that even people that are formally trained may not possess.”

Twelve years into the 21st century, quality products and customer service are the repeated themes among most business owners’ explanation of longevity.

For those businesses that have survived hurricanes, the worst floods of their respective eras, oil spills, and economic depressions and recessions, the answer for longevity does not come easy.

Some say it is resiliency while others call it determination. For all the common element of longevity is, they just keep breathing.