Strength in families

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Published: December 28,2012

I grew up around a family business. My father was in the retail furniture business, and I always assumed that I would come back after college and work in the business.

Unfortunately, we had to close our doors in the 1980s so I never got the chance, but I have kept a deep appreciation for family-owned businesses.

I believe that they are the backbone of our state, and I am always excited to learn more about their success. Having a family business that passes down to generations is no easy task. According to the Family Firm Institute, only 30 percent of family-owned businesses make it to the second generation, 10 percent to the third generation, and 3 percent to the fourth. Some families stretch our thinking on succession planning.

For example, the Marinelli family of Agnone, Italy, has been making bells in its foundry since around the year 1000, and the Kongo Gumi corporation, a Japanese construction company, was under family control from 578 through 14 generations until 2006.

Laurel Machine & Foundry Company is one of those companies that has managed to successfully stand the test of time.

The company was founded in 1904 as a manufacturer and supplier of metal parts for the Lindsey eight-wheel wagon factory. LMFC is the Mississippi Manufacturers Association’s oldest member, and is a Tier 2 supplier for Nissan.

The company has more than 800 customers it serves across 33 states. Trent Mulloy, the current president of the company, represents the fourth generation of leadership.

Mulloy, who started working part time in the business at age 12, went off to college at Sewanee.

“My father never pressured me to come back to the family business,” Mulloy said.

“I believe that encouraged me even more to come back and continue on in the business.”

Mulloy noted that his leadership style was influenced significantly by his father P.E. “Gene” Mulloy, and Bill Chancellor, who was sales manager and worked with the company for 49 years. Mulloy said: “I grew up with Michael Howard and Emily Sanderson. Neither of their dads (Billy Howard Sr., Howard Industries; and Joe Frank Sanderson, Sanderson Farms) probably realize it, but folks my age watched from afar and learned a ton from them. Laurel, Miss., is very blessed to have leaders like these in our community.”

One of his core leadership principles is to follow the Golden Rule. He said: “We are here to make a profit, but at the end of the day, I am here to grow my family, my friends, my employees, my company, my community and my state.”

He also emphasized that, “I think that many of the old Southern ways are very important in today’s world — yes ma’am, yes sir, please, thank you, we appreciate you and handshakes while looking each other in the eye. In this crazy digital age, I still think there are many places for some of the Old South to blend with the New South.

“It is what makes us distinct.”

As a hands-on leader, Mulloy shares with future leaders the need to go and pursue some front line work in the field that you are pursuing. LMFC is in the business of heavy manufacturing and it does a lot of different types of production, such as iron casting, welding and CNC machining. For example, Mulloy said, “My dad and I actually wound up going to a local community college and taking welding classes at night for a semester to learn specifics that we knew about, but had no real hands on experience.” Under Mulloy’s leadership, the company established a formal business and quality system and led the organization through the ISO certification process in order to branch out and take on new and bigger customers like Nissan and Goodyear.

Trent and his family have made a big impact on their community and this state through their leadership. While they have a ways to go to match families like the Marinelli family, they will continue to be a positive force in our state for the foreseeable future.

Up Close With Trent Mulloy

Title: President, Laurel Machine & Foundry Company

First Job: “At age 12, I began sweeping the floors and taking inventory at our family business.”

Favorite Books: Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind by Alex Stone; Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by Arthur Herman; and Bill of Rites for The American Man by K. Cooper Ray.

Proudest Moment as a Leader: “When LMFC obtained ISO 9001 certification, which enabled us to step up to the next level in our capabilities.”

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