Passing Of The Torch At Iberia Building Systems, Inc.
By Shanna Perkins | Photos by Jennifer Beslin
Since he was 11 years old, Freddie DeCourt worked at his father’s construction company, Iberia Building Systems, Inc. His father started the business in 1972 and added a design firm to the company in 1976. DeCourt eventually took the family business over. For 45 years, Iberia Building Systems was deeply interwoven in DeCourt’s life. Now, he has a new full time gig as the Mayor of New Iberia. But his company still remains a family business.
“My wife Janita and my daughter Natalie are taking over around here,” the Mayor says of Iberia Building Systems. “Janita has been here for 18 years and Natalie has been here for one month, but she grew up here. They have everything covered over here, and I’m at City Hall full time.”
Iberia Building Systems is well known for their commercial work, which is a vital part of the Iberia Parish landscape. However, they’re also well versed in home and residential work. Under DeCourt’s lead, the company completed multiple high-end residential projects – designing and building of homes, pool houses, outdoor patios and several home restoration projects. Historic restoration is another key element of the work done by Iberia Building Systems. They have completed six major restoration projects at the Shadows-on-the-Teche and a three-year project at Chretien Point Plantation in Sunset. With the addition of Natalie DeCourt to the team, the residential realm of the company is one they are looking to expand.
Natalie, who graduated from Ul with a degree in Arts and Humanities with a minor in interior design, was living in New Orleans prior to retuning to New Iberia one year ago. To say that Natalie never thought she’d join the family business is an understatement. It was nowhere in the plans. But, it was her idea. And since joining the Iberia Building System team, she’s taking on the role of filling her father’s shoes.
“They’re big shoes to fill,” the 24-year-old laughs. “But I never ever thought I’d work here. My parents certainly never expected me to. They raised me to go and peruse my own dreams, and I did. Then, I realized that my career path had been right under my nose my entire life. Currently, I’m taking over the relationships with clients. I’m learning everything that happens on job site, and that’s crucial to the entire process.”
Her father isn’t Natalie’s only predecessor. Her mother, Janita DeCourt, has been working at Iberia Building Systems for 18 years. She doesn’t share her husband and daughter’s passion for design, but she does have a keen eye for numbers and acute organizational skills.
“They’re both artists; I just do the paperwork,” Janita says modestly of her husband and daughter. “I run the office. I know everything that’s going on as far as how the construction company operates. I do payroll, book keeping, I order materials – I’ll do anything that needs to be done around here to keep the ball in motion.”
That ball has not only been kept in motion since Mayor DeCourt made his move to City Hall, it’s moving steadily forward. Both Natalie and Janita admit that not being able to go to him with every question was initially an adjustment, but they quickly learned how to resolve the issue that they day-to-day business presents. Something they accredit to making them a stronger team. Natalie is also enjoying handling interior design responsibilities on their projects; something she used to only assist her dad with has now become her responsibility, one that she loves.
The DeCourts don’t look at the changes in dynamic as hurdles to overcome. They look at them as a stepping stones for the future. The family is excited about the changing of roles within the business and all of the opportunities is will present for their current and future clients. They also anticipate the work that Mayor DeCourt will be able to do with his full focus on New Iberia. And he feels confident that he has left Iberia Building Systems in the most capable hands, his family’s hands.
“This was always a family business,” Mayor DeCourt states. “It’s been really cool to see this come full circle.”
Janita reflects her husband’s sentiment.
“I’ve enjoyed watching Natalie step up and thrive in this new role,” she says. “I hear her talk to our clients and it’s clear that she knows what she’s doing. She was really paying attention all of those years that we made her sit here. It’s a perfect balance between us. She handles the artistic and customer side, and I’ll just keep doing the bookwork. Of course, we miss Freddie, but he’s not too far away.”