At the Helm: An Interview with Bill Rau
Generation of family ownership: Third.
Revenue: Approximately $65 million.
Number of employees: Approximately 53.
First job at this company: Opening newspapers, at age 14. We used to have from 6 to 12 sales a day. My father collected folded-up newspapers from the neighbors, and it was my job to unroll the newspapers so he could wrap items to be taken or shipped. I remember getting slapped on the head numerous times when I stopped to read the sports page or comics.
Most memorable thing I learned from my father: [The value of hard work] and that there are always ebbs and flows, so don't let the problems get you down or success get you high. Move on and keep on doing everything you do.
Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: That family matters, and not let petty arguments get blown out of proportion. She was the center of the family.
Best thing about this job: I don't have a job. I come here for many hours, but this isn't work. The best part is that I learn something every single day. We recently had a plumbing issue. I imagine that the plumber, who’s about 55, knows 99.9% of everything he needs to know. After working here all these years, I probably know 5% of all I need to know. It's a wonderful job where you'll never get bored of learning.
Our greatest success: Making a small to midsized regional antique business into what is becoming the largest art and antique gallery in North America
Best advice I ever got: Trust your instincts. Thirty years ago I was on a buying trip in Scotland, and I found some great buys. The last one was a table I liked. However, I thought I might have paid way too much and worried that my father would kill me. The day it arrived my father sold it for a far larger markup than normal. I told my dad about my anxiety and he assured me that I had been trained well and that I had good instincts, and I should trust them.
Quote from our company's mission statement: ''Anticipate all client, coworker and vendor expectations." It's getting that mental modeling of all things that can go wrong. The cost of fixing something is always 10 times greater than doing it right the first time.
On my wall: One of the first Panama Canal bonds published by the French government. These were a failure for anyone who invested, but I think it's important to remember your failures as well as your successes. I also have some cash notes from Zimbabwe that range from $10 to $1 trillion, when they had hyperinflation. Now they use the U.S. dollar. In theory I'm a Trillionaire.
One of my greatest accomplishments: Buying out my relatives in a friendly manner. I've seen families disintegrate and I'd rather live a life where everyone loves each other. When you're buying out family members in a business of nebulous value, it's not like you're buying IBM stock with an exact value, so it's more difficult.
Best thing about working in a family business: The road to the top is a lot shorter.
Worst thing about working in a family business: The road to the top is a lot rockier.
Advice for other family business leaders: Work out a buy-sell when everybody still loves each other. That's when it's fair to everyone, because sooner or later, not everyone in the extended family will love each other.
Philanthropic causes our family supports: We started a foundation, Rau for Art, because we know that's what gets cut first in certain educational climates. We support a number of art schools in southern Louisiana, and we also have a contest for art students, with the winner receiving a college scholarship.
Book I think every family business leader should read: The Little Red Book of Family Business, by David Bork.
I realized I had emerged from the previous generation's shadow when ... I was given a lot of responsibility at a young age and just took over. There was no momentous occasion; I don't even remember when I became president. But I don't know that you ever get out from under the previous generation's shadow.
Future succession plans: My oldest daughter, in her late 20s, just joined us. It's my hope and prayer that she takes over and brings the business to levels I could only dream of.