Campaus Find A Job For All
By Amy Gleason - Special Writer
February 25, 1987
Family business rarely involves the entire family, but at Comtronics, 820 Airport Rd., morning conferences are attended by the same people who used to sit at the Campau breakfast table.
Phil Campau Sr., is the president of the 27-year-old business and his management team is comprised of three sons Phil Jr., Joseph and John. Their 18 employees include Campau’s wife, Temis who is the executive secretary.
Citizen Patriot · John Stewart
Campau bought out his former partner of the electronics company in 1970 and changed its direction to concentrate on the security business. The firm continues to work in communications, and has sold two-way radios to many of the police, fire and school districts in the county. The company has also installed alarm systems in City hall, the Jackson District Library and other public buildings.
Joseph Campau came aboard in 1978, after working part-time for the company while he attended college. He is vice president in charge of the financial department and the firm’s comptroller. He oversees many of the day-to-day operations of the firm.
Phil Campau Jr. joined the company in 1981, after a four-year stint in the military. He is vice president of field operations, overseeing the technical staff.
John A. Campau, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1985, is vice president in charge of marketing, he handles the advertising and brochures and helps to plan the future direction of the company.
Temis Campau, mother of the Campau children, worked part-time as a secretary while the boys were growing up, and began working full-time two and a half years ago.
“I guess it’s every father’s dream to have his sons working for him. I was blessed that they all wanted to do that,” Phil Campau Sr. said. “If I had any daughters, I’d expect they’d work for me too. I think the business will carry on with their (his son’s) sons and daughters.”
Campau said it’s a myth that family businesses are a problem because there is too much closeness. “At first I thought it would get stale because we see each other too much, but I totally disagree now, after several years,” he said. “I find we’re closer. Each one knows what the other is doing, but everyone does their own thing.”
John Campau agreed. “Each of us has our own responsibilities. We don’t think we have to run to Dad for everything,” he said “We give each other privacy. The bottom line is that Dad is president, but we each have our own individual tasks. We stay out of each other’s way.”
Phil Campau said all of his employees are treated in an informal, personal way. John Campau said he would feel uncomfortable not identifying the president as his father to new clients, a habit other family businesses try to avoid for fear that it appears unprofessional.
John Campau, who worked for a North Carolina tobacco company before joining Comtronics, said he gets more personal satisfaction from working in the family business. “Now I feel all my efforts are going toward the family welfare rather than to a company that I have no intimate ties with. My brothers feel the same way – if we work real hard, we all benefit.” The Campau sons began working at the company when they were teenagers, their father said. They used to mow the lawn, burn trash and do odd jobs, he said.
“The benefit of working with family members is that you know how everyone is – their personalities are never a surprise,” said Phil Campau, who added that he could see only pluses in working with relatives. “But it only works if you give everyone responsibility,” he cautioned.
The all-clan management approach seems to have worked for the Campaus, who generally have a week’s backlog of work to keep them busy. Phil Campau reports that the firm has grown every year from the beginning. He thinks it is because people are growing more aware of the need for security.
“One of the great myths about this industry is that security systems are for the wealthy only,” he said. “People now realize it’s so untrue. The bulk of what we do are systems for everyday people.”
Comtronics’ customer base spreads from Kalamazoo east to Ann Arbor, and from Leslie south to the state border. They also monitor systems for small alarm companies that don’t have their own central station. Comtronics opened the first privately owned central station in Jackson in 1970. It was the 27th company to be licensed by the Michigan state police, which has now issued more than 1,000 licenses.
The security business is one of the most highly regulated industries in Michigan. The state requires that each firm be licensed by both state police and state fire marshal, and that employees have thorough background checks, including fingerprinting, Campau said.
While licensing helps security firms appear honest, Phil Campau says that one real advantage of family businesses is that customers tend to trust them more, especially when family members have lived in the community for a major portion of their lives. “You come off to customers in a more responsible manner,” he said. “They feel good about working with you rather than a corporate image they can’t identify with.”
Reprinted with permission from The Jackson Citizen Patriot
Copyright February 1987