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Point of View: A father’s final lesson

Kevin Voisin is CEO of Ignite Marketing, www.ignitedelivers.com, in Houma, La.
By Kevin Voisin
April 01, 2014

“None of us escapes this life alive. None of us can hope to survive, but we can live.” These two simple phrases have been the greatest advice to me in dealing with the loss of my father, Mike Voisin, a captain of the oyster industry. Amazingly, these were his own words of consolation after the death of his own father, Ernie Voisin. My grandfather was a master plant designer, inventor and pioneer of commercial high- pressure processing. I always knew my father was remarkable, but in the year since his death I have a clearer understanding of what made him uniquely capable of rallying an industry and inspiring so many people — this inspiration is something I now share with others as how to “Fish Like Mike.”

My father grew up surfing on the shores of California. This gave him an understanding that, in life, you can’t hold back the waves, but you can leverage their power and energy for the ride of your life. The pioneering of high-pressure processing and the founding of and participation in so many influential and important seafood institutions was my father’s way of riding the waves of an ever-changing market and regulatory environment. Every problem was a challenge for my father.  “Fishing Like Mike” is rising to challenges — not complaining about problems. 

Few people know that my father’s earliest major accomplishment in oyster fishing was to sink Motivatit Seafoods’ only boat. He spoke vividly about the shock of pulling up to the dock to see only part of the wheelhouse peeking up above the water line. It was in that moment he realized that he had failed to set the pumps correctly — or at all. The processing plant was born, in large part, as a solution to his being less than gifted on the water. Without his failures at the harvest level he may never have had the success he did in processing. This early disaster and failure led to much success, but it tempered my father with the strength and perseverance that later allowed him to manage the fallout from a host of regulatory nightmares, floods, hurricanes and the BP oil spill. “Fishing Like Mike” is seeing the opportunity in disaster and having the strength and faith to seize it. 

“Remember who you are.” I heard these words every time I left for a date, every time I left the plant for a trade show, before major sales calls and at the crossroads of most major happenings in business and in life. Dad had a way of looking you in the eye and saying it so the words transcended your ears, shuddered through your heart and almost recoded your DNA. Those words told you that you were great and that you needed to live up to that greatness at the same time. Fishing sustainably, giving a fair measure and high standards of quality and ethics were never in question for dad — it’s who he was. In my marketing career I have often thought that great branding could be boiled down to these four powerful words.  We get so focused on what we need to do that we often forget all about whether or not we should be doing it in the first place. “Fishing Like Mike” is knowing who you are and remembering it at every crossroads. 

A reporter for the Washington Post once told me that in his Rolodex under “seafood” he had only one card: “Mike Voisin.” This wasn’t because my father knew everything, but because he knew people who did and was willing to share what he knew openly and freely. The more information he gave away, the more flowed back to him, until he became the hub of an entire industry. He saw beyond the rising-tide-raises-all-ships cliché and realized there was in fact only one ship, and the industry manned it together. As companies grapple to understand the value of social media and industry collaboration, they could learn a lot from my father. Sharing vital and valuable information freely doesn’t make you weaker — it makes you matter.   

“You’ve always thought you could run the show. I finally agree with you — now run at this and don’t look back.” These are the last words my father ever said to me and they carry a powerful message to me personally and about managing life and business in general. Go all in and “Fish Like Mike.”

Kevin Voisin is CEO of Ignite Marketing, www.ignitedelivers.com, in Houma, La.


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