When the late Charles Fenstermaker Jr. founded C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates LLC in 1950, he established a culture of family within his own family unit and his fledgling surveying company.
The company began its life in New Iberia and moved several times before settling in its current compound at 135 Regency Square in the early 1980s. When his grandson, Charles Fenstermaker, was named president in February, it marked the third generation of the family to lead the surveying company that has been a mainstay in Lafayette’s business community for almost 70 years.
“I don’t necessarily think it was his intent, but he sure made a hell of a foundation for us to grow a company,” Bill Fenstermaker said of the company's founder, who fought in World War II. “It’s important because we know all facets of the business and we know exactly what the employees do because we’ve done it.”
This legacy of family working its way through the ranks began with Charles Fenstermaker’s father and uncle, Bill and John Fenstermaker, who are chairman and CEO and vice chairman and vice president of business development, respectively. Charles Fenstermaker started as a surveyor with the company in 1996 just as his father and uncle did when they started before climbing up the ranks in 1971 and 1982.
“I started in the field and worked all through college,” Charles Fenstermaker said. “I then worked on survey work out of the office, then HR, then ran the Houston office that John started."
Said John Fenstermaker: “My dad was a firm believer in starting at the bottom and working your way up, and so am I. My son is working as a surveyor and cutting his teeth while he works to get his degree.”
The family affair that Fenstermaker has always been also has been integral in its success and expansion.
As family members work their way up the corporate ladder, many want to work at running a branch of the company. This has led to new branches in New Orleans, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Houston and Midland, Texas, for a company that now employs about 275 people and now provides engineering and environmental consulting along with surveying.
“The growth of the company has really enabled multiple family members and generations to be in it,” Charles Fenstermaker said. “It offered us the luxury of everybody has a different sandbox part of the time and different family members aren’t all crammed into one office.”
This belief of family working alongside employees has allowed the Fenstermakers to know what many of the jobs entail before taking positions of leadership and has led to employees being considered almost family members.
According to Bill Fenstermaker, a large portion of the company’s workforce has been with them for decades and are nearing retirement. He believes instilling this belief that family members are no different from other employees has helped them find and retain workers.
“We really are proud of our employees, and we hope that they can achieve success here and we hope that whatever they want to achieve in life that we can help them here,” Bill Fenstermaker said. “As we grow, that can become more difficult, but we’re still a family company and we care. We like to be on the same side of the table as everybody — not across.”
Troy Wayman, president and CEO of One Acadiana, said the Fenstermaker family’s legacy of involvement branches out into Lafayette far beyond their company’s actions. He said while the company has been successful, the family has been “outstanding corporate citizens, giving their time and resources to many organizations and causes.”
“From Bill serving as chairman of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce in 1994, to his son, Charles, now serving on the executive committee and as co-chair of the transportation and infrastructure committee of One Acadiana, each generation has provided exemplary leadership," he said. "We are extremely proud and grateful to have them involved in our organization."
In essence, for the Fenstermaker family, there’s something special about the work they do and they said they believe the family’s involvement from the bottom to the top allows them to better serve their clients.
“I have three boys … I hope that they come work here, but I also want them to work outside of the company and see the rest of the world,” John Fenstermaker said. “It really is a big thing when one of us walks into a meeting with a client.
“It really means a lot more than when we just send in a business person to meet with the client because it means a lot more because it shows that we care and we do. We want them to be successful, because it also helps us.”
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