Fabick Celebrates a Century of Family Ownership

By on September 18, 2017

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  John Fabick was what people today would call a serial entrepreneur. After starting a livery stable with his father, he became an undertaker and then one of St. Louis’ early auto dealers.

In 1917, he would add the product line that became synonymous with the family name. A century later, John Fabick Tractor sells heavy equipment from 37 locations in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.

That’s not counting a couple of joint ventures that have occupied much of CEO Doug Fabick’s time recently. One supplies pipeline equipment worldwide; the other rents generators, air conditioning units and related products along the Gulf Coast.

Both joint ventures are based in the Houston area, which was hit hard by flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey. Both had to mobilize far more equipment than usual to meet their customers’ emergency needs.

The Energy Rental Solutions business had to beg and borrow generators from wherever they could find them, including Fabick’s lot in Fenton. Refineries, hospitals and office buildings all needed industrial-size equipment on short notice.

Then, a week ago, came even more demand from Florida. “You throw Irma on top of Harvey, and we’re busy,” Doug Fabick says. “For any major crisis anywhere in the country, we have the ability to take equipment anywhere it’s needed.”

Doug Fabick, 49, is a great-grandson of founder John Fabick. That makes him a rarity: Fewer than 3 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the fourth generation.

Fabick attributes the family’s longevity in business partly to smart oversight from Caterpillar, which has veto power over the top jobs at its dealerships, and partly to deliberate succession planning. When Doug’s father, Harry, was ready to hand over the reins in the late 1990s, five cousins — all potential successors — met with a consulting firm and reached a consensus on the next CEO.

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