Morris & Dickson Co. Since 1841: The Story of an Enduring Family Business
Once a main-street shopfront dispensing tonics, Morris & Dickson Co. of Shreveport now competes with the major players in pharmaceutical distribution. Since 1841 presents an in-depth case study of a family business that has weathered wars, fires, recessions, and the sudden death of four chief executives. How did it survive? By grit, gumption, and the loyalty of its extended business family. More
Once a main-street shopfront dispensing tonics and extracts, Morris & Dickson Co. now competes with major players in the pharmaceutical distribution industry. Since 1841 presents an in-depth case study of a family business that has weathered wars, fires, recessions, and the sudden death of four chief executives. How did the Louisiana firm survive while regional competitors disappeared? By grit, gumption, and the loyalty of its extended business family.
Author Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald received open access to decades of historical records in company archives. The Dicksons, the family that has run the business since 1899, also encouraged interviews with dozens of employees, many with more than forty years of service. “The result,” Fitzgerald said, “is a historical portrait enriched by many voices.”
“All business leaders can learn from enterprising families like the Dicksons how to adapt an organization to industry change without going against your core values,” wrote Dr. John A. Davis of Harvard Business School in the foreword. “This book is proof that it can be done.”
At age 175, Morris & Dickson has encountered all the issues that strain and often destroy family businesses: succession troubles, heavy estate taxes, stockholder unrest. The company nearly died twice but rose to its feet in the 1980s and grew like gangbusters. Rebuffing every buyout offer from competitors, Allen Dickson and his sons built a regional conglomerate grounded in advanced technology, respect for the customer, and economies of scale. Stalwart employees and a culture of initiative sustained them through a destructive tornado at corporate headquarters in Shreveport in 1996.
Brothers Skipper, Mark, and Paul Dickson led the business into the 21st century with a winning growth strategy based on a single warehouse, software-driven efficiencies, and a reputation for speed and accuracy. Championing independent pharmacies and harnessing new technologies, Morris & Dickson proved its mettle day after day, especially in a crisis. In 2005, the company delivered medical supplies to Gulf Coast hospitals in the final hours before Hurricane Katrina arrived and within hours after she left.
Morris & Dickson continued to expand its reach, and by 2016 was delivering goods overnight in fourteen states and providing pharmacy-specific software to customers in all fifty states.
In publishing Since 1841, company president Paul Dickson aims to present an in-depth case study of a fiercely independent, privately owned firm that has evolved with its industry, triumphed over tragedy, and prospered over a remarkable span of time.
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