Alan Robertson: Building A Legacy
To build a legacy is to leave something worthwhile behind for future generations; building a company is no different. At Duck Commander, we are investing in the future by instilling a solid work ethic and a godly heritage into the hearts and minds of our children and employees. This was not by chance; rather, it was a purposeful decision by my father to create a lasting product that not only revolutionized the hunting community, but also affected spiritual change upon the American culture.
The foundation of American business has always been hard work, ingenuity, and an open mind. The bedrock of our society demanded that hard-working men and women leave a foundation upon which their successors would build the future. Our country was built upon the blood, sweat, and tears of our forefathers—as was Duck Commander.
A Fishy Kind of Business
We all know that several of the early followers of Jesus were fisherman. Here at Duck Commander, we relate to the disciples. In the early days of the company, Dad was a commercial fisherman. For ten years, we were part of the original faith-based business—fishing was our bread and butter backbone. We spent a lot of time on our knees praying that God would bring the fish into our nets so that Mom could go to the bank and pay the bills. It was literally that simple.
Luke 5 is one of my favorite disciple stories. I like to imagine that Peter had a hard time casting his net on the other side of the boat when Jesus said, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Can’t you hear him say, “It’s ok, Master. Leave the fishing to the professionals.” But as faith prevailed and Peter cast his nets one last time, the miracle happened. I would have loved to watch a seasoned fishermen struggle with the haul of fish that Jesus brought that day! Isn’t that just like God?
As commercial fisherman, when you see fish flopping around in the bottom of your boat, you’re seeing dancing dollar bills. We were just like Peter. When we had a large run of catfish, we were excited, because it meant we could pay our notes, buy a new drill, and finish a project. Duck Commander was built on faith, and we were all a part of the process.
Normally, my brothers and I were the ones to help Dad unload the fish from the boat after he had put in a long day of fishing. I can remember a couple of times that we weren’t ready when he returned from the lake. Being kids, I’m sure we were messing around, being irresponsible, but Dad had a job to do and after fishing for hours, he finished the work alone.
Later, when we finally realized what had happened, Dad sat us down and walked us through the process. He reminded us that fishing was how we paid for things; we didn’t have much, but fishing was how we got it. He told us that he couldn’t build the company by himself; sustaining our business would take all of us, diligently working together to accomplish daily goals.
“Dad had grand plans from the start. We thought he was crazy, but in essence, he was discipling us.”Alan Robertson
He was showing us by example how to sustain a profitable business: work hard, pay your bills, buy supplies, sell the product. We learned by watching. We saw his diligence, we learned how to work, we set our hands to the proverbial plow, and we finished the job.
At the time, our daily responsibilities were grimy, stinky fish work, but down the road it meant a sleek, clean business with the ability to buy houses and raise our families. To sustain a company culture, it takes everyone involved, committed to the vision to accomplish the task.
Legacy and Discipleship: You Can’t Have One Without the Other
Like any discipleship, we didn’t realize that Dad was teaching us business principles while we were hauling fish. His discipleship created a legacy. To effectively sustain a business into multiple generations, people need to be involved in the early stages, at the bottom line. They have to catch the vision. It’s not enough to simply pass the torch and expect a culture to be maintained; on-the-job discipleship must be a part of the equation.
Generational consistency is the goal of every business owner: that which is created at the genesis of the company is meant to sustain the product into the future. Times and methods may change, but at the core of every successful business is a foundational legacy meant to be instilled into future generations of corporate leadership. The bedrock of American society is built upon the concept of legacy and succession. Discipleship and mentorship are crucial.
Just as my father taught us that hard work built Duck Commander, business owners must instill within their culture the need to preserve the foundational elements of the company. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses reminded the children of Israel to love the Lord, to remember the commandments, and to teach future generations how to serve. As business men and women, isn’t that what we all desire for our companies? Longevity, integrity, and prosperity? Aren’t these simply biblical truths put into practice? Why shouldn’t we focus on training up the next generation of corporate American leaders?
These questions can only be answered with the biblical principle found at the end of Deuteronomy 6. “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And He brought us out from there, that He might preserve us….’”
“The future of our companies lies in the training of our successors. Corporate succession is necessary.”Alan Robertson
Whether that means teaching our children how to fish or showing employees how to sustain a company culture, the responsibility of creating a legacy falls upon us. It’s going to take people boldly living biblical principles day-to-day to truly impact the future of corporate America. While there is still life left in me, I want to impact the next generation. Will you join me?
By: Alan Robertson
Alan Robertson is the oldest son of Phil and Kay Robertson. He helped build the foundation of the family business, Duck Commander. Recently, Alan has returned to the family business after serving in full-time ministry for more than 25 years. Alan plays a vital role in the family’s commitment to spreading the gospel of Christ through their love of hunting and the great outdoors. Alan and his wife, Lisa, are parents of two grown daughters and proud grandparents to two granddaughters and a grandson on the way.