Home BUSINESS CEO PROFILE Harvesting Opportunity

Harvesting Opportunity

443
0

David Guidry’s family farm sowed the seeds
for a successful business

David Guidry grew up a farm boy in
the tiny town of Palmetto, just north of
Opelousas. That’s Cajun country, and
indeed all four of Guidry’s grandparents
spoke French. Although he didn’t
realize it at the time, growing up on a
farm was good training for his future
career as a businessman. Now that he’s
the president of Guico Industries, a
manufacturing company that makes
customized precision machine parts for
the oil and gas industry, he can cite his
rural upbringing as a cornerstone to his
entrepreneurial career.

“When I started the company, I had
no background in anything. None in
sales, none in machines,” Guidry says.
“But just by living on a farm, I learned
a lot about entrepreneurship. You have
to decide when to purchase a cow, to
calculate the tradeoffs of hay versus feed,
to know how to take advantage of a short
growing season. Even though it’s business
on a small scale, working on a farm
taught me a lot.”

The products made by Guico (a
contraction of “Guidry Company” and
pronounced like the similarly spelled
national car insurer) generally have
to do “flow control.” That includes
complex oil-drilling equipment like well
heads and blow-out preventers. Guico
also counts the Department of Defense
and the Coast Guard among its clients. The firm has experienced a boom
in business since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, because it builds
hydraulics that hook up to bladder systems. These systems provide various
functions in military camps, such as the refueling of vehicles and the supply
of water to soldiers’ showers.

Guico manufactures machine parts in its two plants—one a 44,000-squarefoot
campus in Harvey and another half its size in a rural community called
Natalbany on the Northshore, near Hammond. In addition, Guidry owns a
side business named Harvey Specialty, based in Houma.

“Harvey Specialty is what they call in the oil field business a ‘rope, soap and
dope’ operation. We sell pretty much everything to the oil field,” he says.
“It’s like a retail outlet for oil field hardware. If they need valves they call
me, or even something like a microwave oven for an offshore rig.”
Guidry got into the oil business during the boom years of the late 1970s
and early 1980s. His graduating high school class had only 23 people in it,
and he went to Louisiana Tech in Ruston for three quarters until he realized
that the conservative city was “no place for a beer-drinking Catholic.”
After returning home, he enrolled in vocational school and became a
marine electronic technician who went on rigs and boats to attend to
radar and communications systems.
He and his brother, a machinist in the
industry, couldn’t help but notice all the
opportunities available in the oil patch
during those boom years and wanted to
get in on the action. After finally securing
a hard-won loan at high interest rates, they
opened up Guico Industries in 1982.

The young company was finding its
footing and doing pretty well but suffered
a shock when the price of oil plummeted
four years later. “It was bad. We lost 80
percent of business and hit bottom,”
he recalls. Because of strained finances
and differences of opinion as to where
to take the company, Guidry bought out
his brother and became the sole owner.
“I started to search around for other
cities to do business in. It was difficult,
but I learned I didn’t have to limit
myself to Louisiana. I could do business
nationwide.”

That’s the time when Guico expanded
into servicing the military, getting its
foot in the door by supplying steampower
systems on Navy ships. With the
new direction, it wasn’t long until the
company was “blowing and going” again.
Over the years, Guico has experienced
its own series of booms and busts, the
most recent one resulting from Hurricane
Katrina. That led to the decision to move
some resources out of Harvey and to open
up the Natalbany manufacturing site. Guidry had realized the company
needed to diversify into a location with a more stable labor pool and lower
overhead costs. He also realized he liked it on the Northshore.
“I used to live on the West Bank, but now I have a 90-acre ranch in
Hammond. We’ve got four-wheelers and horses,” he says. “It tends to be
where I spend most of my free time.”

Guidry is divorced but maintains close relationships with his four children,
two of whom work with him at Guico. He is also close with the rest of his
family.

“My parents are gone, but there are six of us left. We still go to the farm
and celebrate Cajun traditions,” he says. “We hunt duck and quail, go
shotgunning [skeet shooting], and do the boucherie, which is when you roast
a hog. We roasted a 120-pound pig last Halloween. And we’re all great
cooks. We have gumbo-cooking contests and see who can make the best red
beans and rice.”

As a successful businessman, a leader of his community who is on the
boards of almost a dozen corporations and nonprofit organizations, it’s
clear that Guidry is still tightly linked to the farm boy he once was.