Matt DuBoise of Carolina Coops: 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business

An Interview With Jason Hartman

Jason Hartman
Authority Magazine

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This is going to sound redundant, but it starts with the leader, understanding how to be a good leader because if you don’t have that, you’re in trouble.

As a part of our series about 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt DuBoise.

Matt DuBoise and Gnon Choi officially started Carolina Coops™ in 2010. Carolina Coops™ began as an idea of how nice it would be to have fresh eggs available every day while living within city limits. Inspired by a love for animals, a talent for woodworking, and a unique business opportunity, the combination became a dream come true. Today they make the world’s best handcrafted chicken coops.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I guess you would say my career path is being an entrepreneur; owning my own business. Building chicken coops. I don’t know if there’s a story that determined this career path. Other entrepreneurs can attest to this, but it is a feeling you are born with.

Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?

My partner, Gnon, and I have been together for 26 years and our company Carolina Coops™ builds handcrafted chicken coops. None of this will be possible without her. She is the acting CFO, and the mother of our two children, my daughter is 8 and my son is 13. Gnon and I have been doing this particular business for the past 13 years, and our children have traveled everywhere with us as we build chicken coops across the country.

As president, my role at Carolina Coops™ is to make sure no one gets hurt and that the company grows. I also work with the sales team to ensure that customers get the best coop for their lifestyle. Additionally, I work a lot with marketing directly to make sure that people find out about us. Despite my love for building, I’ve realized my role has changed to where I’ve become a mentor, a counselor, and a friend.

As you can see, I wear many different hats, and no two days are exactly the same.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

For me, the most interesting story is when I met my mentor, Charles Glover. He had recently bought a chicken coop that Gnon sold. At that time, Carolina Coops had been around for 4 years and was still in the beginning phases as a company.

When we finally get his coop built, we we’re about three months behind schedule. At the time my delivery guy, Sean and I were down in Lenoir, North Carolina, putting Charles’ coop together. While puttinghis coop together, all day I worried that I was going to get an earful when Charles got home. I was nervous, but we got it done.

As we are finishing, I see Charles pull into his driveway on his motorcycle. I kid you not, when he took his helmet off, we made eye contact for the first time. He didn’t break eye contact the whole way walking up to me.

The emotional roller coaster he took me on next was incredible. From that point forward, he told me what his legacy is and that he wanted to help a hundred people be successful in business; and he wanted me to be one of those people. He knew things about me and this company no one had known about, I don’t know how he found them out, but it was just absolutely fascinating.

It kind of sounds dull when I say it, but that was one of the most interesting points in my career. Not knowing someone I was about to cross paths with which was completely unexpected, but everything he has said he’s been spot on.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It was in the beginning, Mikey our son, was maybe 2 years old. This is also about the same time we were transitioning from North Carolina back to New York and we had to deliver a coop to Macon, Georgia.

How hard can that be? Right?

At that point, we had delivered several coops around the Southeast and we end up at the customer’s house or so we thought. It was the completely wrong address. I’ll never forget how stressed out I was at that point. We were already behind schedule, and when we got there, the person that answered the door said, “I didn’t buy a chicken coop.” After cross-referencing the work order, we realize we’re in the wrong zip code. We missed our mark by two hours. At that moment, we learned the significance of attention to detail, checking zip codes, reading the work order carefully, and paying attention to the GPS.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes our company stand out is not just our products, but the people and everything behind it. We’re constantly improving and reinventing our coops. We’ve re-established what the mindset should be when it comes to backyard chicken coops.

First off, the thing that makes our coops stand out is the size. We make big, beautiful chicken coops. Size makes all the difference in the world of chicken coops and we are educating the consumer on that. Other companies, make tiny coops because they are inexpensive to ship and can be flat packed. This entices customers into believing this is the right solution when it’s not.

Secondly, we are chicken people and we are woodworkers. We combined these two to make that perfect marriage between form and function. They are assembled like a giant piece of furniture and functionally user friendly for both the owner and the chickens.

One story that stands out to me is how we acquired our marketing director, Ingrid, who was a customer first. She bought our most popular coop, the American Coop. She was so impressed by the design and function of the coop she called me up and said, “Do you need someone to do your website, do you need help with marketing?”

I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh. Yes.” What better story than when you can impress a customer so much that they want to come work for you?

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, and no. While we have our mass production line, where we make our three standard coops, we also have another division that create and build custom coops which are always exciting. We have learned so much from our custom coop customers that we’re able to incorporate those great things, the function and the beauty, and put them into our mass production coops. Because of that, it’s helped pay for that research to build the best coop for the best price.

We’ve even had some A-list clients interested in custom coops. Not only are we going to continue building big, beautiful custom chicken coops, but we also are building coops for people that are world-famous; actors, TV hosts, musicians, and even professional athletes, to name a few. We have some really cool custom coops coming up.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Without a doubt, my father, none of this would be possible without him. What he’s instilled in me from the moment I could walk to always being a leader, working hard, being honest, taking it on the chin, take care of people. He’s still here, thank God, helping me with that. But the interesting story is, I am so grateful that I got to meet Charles Glover.

He came at me from a very business point of view where he had no problem telling me the things that were hard to hear, but he was being honest. I loved that he took the time to learn things about us so that his conversation with me at that point, was very effective.

I’ll never forget when he literally took my hands and said, “Matt, your hands should never look like this. This is not where you are valued the most.”

It was at that point when he said, “You need to open up and share with the world, what you do.” That we started heavily focusing on our YouTube videos. I feel like if it wasn’t for that conversation, we would not be where we are now because our videos are what help people to learn about us and having backyard chickens.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There are so many different ways to define success. We have been very successful in all the ways possible as a business. The biggest success to me is that we can pursue something you can’t put a price tag on; to be 100% free to do what we want and that I don’t have anyone telling us how to run our business.

Because of this, we now have the opportunity to have several success stories that will bring goodness to the world.

One way we are bringing goodness into the world is still in the making. We’re going to be donating a coop to a jail out in Mendocino, California very soon. Ten years ago there’s no way that would’ve been possible, but I know our customers are proud that when they buy from us, they’re not just buying a great coop, but they’re helping contribute to that possibility to help other people.

We have this opportunity to be a part of that, where we’re going to go out there and help them put one of our coops together. They’re not only going to learn how to build, but they are going to learn skills they can use once they are released. Additionally, will be able to watch their chickens grow, learn to garden and be able to go out and collect those eggs every day.

Another success story that brings goodness into the world is that we have been able to donate a coop for Make-a-Wish to a boy whose wish was to have a chicken coop. We are proud that we were able to do that for him.

We also have the opportunity now to start a nonprofit, with the goal to help many kids. Through our nonprofit, we hope to touch the lives of children who can benefit from learning about chicken keeping.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?

You know, I love that question because I have heard we are no longer a family business. A customer told me, “Matt if you have a receptionist, you’re no longer a family business.” And I disagree with that 100% because my son is in my office or an office next to me because he’s homeschooled. This family is all over this business. The sacrifice we’re going through right now to continue growing this business is tremendous. We’re living on site; many people don’t know that.

Family businesses are different than regular businesses because at a corporation, for example, you are able to separate yourself from work life and home life. Sometimes, as an employee of a regular business, the emotional attachment is not there. At Carolina Coops™, no one cares more about the employees than the owner of a family-owned business.

In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family-owned businesses have?

The advantage we have is we can push our employees to be the best they can be. We don’t just talk about their performance at work, we get to know our team on a personal level and they really do become part of the family.

We have the ability as human beings to talk, to take the time to talk to people, relate, and understand what’s going on and it can make all the difference in the world to that employee. We’ve been able to help employees buy vehicles and even a house! That’s an advantage that I have is being able to be very creative in the benefits that we can offer to our employees.

What are the unique drawbacks or blindspots that family owned businesses have?

The unique drawbacks to owning a family-owned business is the emotional attatchment. It can be the best part and also be the worst part because you can’t shut it off when you go home.

Now I understand why in The Godfather, you don’t talk about business at the dinner table. Gnon and I don’t really get to talk business until the end of the day when everyone’s gone home. Then we’re sitting at the dinner table, talking business and words an exchanged, we may not see eye to eye or something will be brought up than I was unaware of and emotions can sometimes run high.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?

The most common mistake, I’ve seen a family business make is they get greedy. They start bragging about their numbers, especially today with social media. That tells me they were not meant to own their own business.

Yes, it’s nice to make money. However, I don’t care if a customer came to buy $200 worth of hemp or a $200,000 chicken coop, I get the same amount of gratification because they chose to buy from us rather than our competitors. I can guarantee you every true entrepreneur understands that. If you’re in business just for the money, it will catch up to you sooner or later.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?

The best advice I would give another CEO or founder is to believe in your staff. Sometimes you have to envision it as being a football coach. You have to be able to identify who’s a quarterback, who’s a wide receiver, who’s a lineman and a good coach sees their talents before even the players do. It’s the same thing with owning a business.

The advice to other CEOs is that your most valuable tool is your employees. Secondly, think of your business like a machine. Make sure you do your upkeep and preventative maintenance.

It may be small, but take the time and go say hi to them. Make sure that they know they have an important role in the business. We have about 25 employees now, and I don’t know how larger businesses do it.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?

Being a good leader means you realize it all starts with you. Every bad thing that happens falls on your shoulders. Everyone looks up to you as a leader, you have to know your role. As a leader, you have to be able to recognize your role can changed and evolve overtime. For example, I started building chicken coops with my bare hands, now I have a team assembling coops together and I mostly oversee production and help out on the floor when I can.

Another trait that comes with being a leader, is being able to identify strengths and weaknesses in people, learning how to communicate the right way, and being able to listen and take criticism.

Here is our main question. What are the “5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business”?

  1. This is going to sound redundant, but it starts with the leader, understanding how to be a good leader because if you don’t have that, you’re in trouble.
  2. Being able to know when to stop — no matter how busy you might think things are, knowing when to stop and take the time to listen to your employees and reflect.
  3. You have to have the guts to risk it all because if you don’t risk it, you won’t succeed. I know so many people are so scared to fail, but I’ve always said the biggest failure is not trying something. The biggest risk is not taking a risk.
  4. Surround yourself with the best people- you can’t run a highly successful family business if you don’t realize you need everyone, no matter what position they’re in. Whether it’s the person that’s going to come in and start cutting the boards, the CFO, or your marketing director, you need to be surrounded by the best people to be highly successful.
  5. Lastly, you have to have a family that no matter what, they’re going to be there by your side. Whether they agree or disagree, are they willing to be by your side. Are they going to support your final decision? It’s not a family business if you don’t have that. At one point, we had a road crew all the way out in Los Angeles missing two walls to a chicken coop. It was so ridiculous. What did we do? I went to Gnon, I said, “Road trip.” Within three hours, we were in a truck with two kids and an 8-week-old puppy, headed from New York to LA to help finish this project. I don’t think many families would do that. In the end, we were successful we had such a good time along the way.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I would love to talk to, it would probably be Henry Ford. The reason is he was a great businessman. What I love is he took an invention, the car and he had to figure out how to make it affordable for everyone.

I can now understand, as I’m trying to implement mass production with my chicken coops, that it is so challenging. It’s not just deciding what machine are we going to use or make, it’s what type of person are you going to hire to run that machine? There are just so many decisions you have to make. Many times, as a business owner, you just don’t know what that answer is.

Henry Ford perfected the assembly line. He came up with an idea that no one had thought of before, and I would love to hear more about things that probably no one ever got to hear come out of his mouth.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The backyard chicken movement is growing because people realize that no matter where they live, in the city, the suburbs, or out in the country, you not only can produce your own source of food, but you should produce your own food. I want to be part of something that gives people the option now to realize you can be self-sustainable again, regardless of what society tells you.

I just love being able to do everything from educating children about chickens and educating adults too. We have been able to incorporate a shed into the chicken coop to maximize ease and efficiency for chicken owners.

We have built coops for assisted living facilities to use chickens as therapy. I love being part of that. Having chickens is so therapeutic and what’s funny is how many people don’t realize how therapeutic chickens are until they get them.

Our coops make people realize that you can have chickens when you thought you couldn’t. That’s because we make it easy for people, we make it beautiful, and we protect your flock. We have continually solved problems with our chicken coops. We make them predator proof and are built to last so having chickens becomes a sound investment.

I just love the positive aspect having chickens can have on someone’s life and our coops help make that a reality.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

People can follow us further by checking out our website at carolinacoops.com. Every week we do a live video podcast that streams on YouTube called Video Chicken Live, which is such a great way for people to learn what is ongoing on in the chicken coop owning community. Recently we talked about the avian flu. We are real people talking to the experts, educating people on what’s going on and maybe even calm their fears down.

You can also find us on Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and Facebook, but my favorite way is by picking up the phone and give us a call. We’re always here to talk about whatever they want to know.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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Jason Hartman
Authority Magazine

Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar