Nancy Gump-Melancon never intended to take over the business her grandfather started in 1956. In fact, she tells the Business Journal that if it weren’t for two surgeries she underwent when she was 19 that forced her to miss a year of college, she would never have joined. But her dad, Barry Gump, the second-generation owner of Andy Gump Inc., asked her to help out during her time off and, as Nancy put it, “that was 35 years ago and I never looked back.” After starting out on trucks and learning how to manage dispatch, Barry appointed Nancy to handle the company’s special events business in 1989. She took over in 2015 after her dad retired following 23 years of the pair working together.
What got you into the Andy Gump family business?
I really thought I really wanted to be a mom, that was my goal. But I had two surgeries, and I was supposed to start my third year of college. I couldn’t go back to school because it was the middle of the semester. My dad saw an emerging market after the 1984 Olympics called “special events,” and he wanted me to help. I thought, okay, I’ll help you for three to four months and go back to school. That was 35 years ago. I always tell people I went to Barry Gump University; he taught me to be humble and kind, and to work with people and to find the win-win.
What are the pros and cons of working with family?
It’s hard because it’s kind of like you live your life in a fishbowl, everybody watches you. Everyone assumes it’s handed to you, and the truth is you have to work harder than anyone else. At times, it was hard, because I was not only trying to please my dad, I was trying to work with several other managers. It’s also hard because I’m a woman working in a man’s world. You know, in our industry it is predominantly men that run the companies. Even today, I get some of that. (But) I know that we’re a great family business so I don’t worry about it.
How did you approach work-life balance when working for your dad?
I had said to my dad, when I started working, that our relationship is more important to me than the family business. And if it gets to the point where it’s too challenging, I’ll walk away. I wanted him to know that our family meant more to me. And, I let him know that I wanted to be a mom. So what I did was I worked three days a week in the office, and two days a week at home, but I had all the files with me. So I really worked like 60 hours a week, but I would have the kids with me.
What’s next for you and the company?
I’m not going anywhere. I’m pretty young and I still have a lot to do. My dad had always said to me, Nancy, it’s not just about raising the bar for Andy Gump, it’s also about raising the bar for our industry. And that was very important to him, and it became very important to us.
How do you plan for issues of succession?
We are truly a family-owned business, even though my two children do not want to be involved in (it). That’s what my husband and I are working on right now is trying to put a trust together to protect Andy Gump as its own entity and we will have key people in the business that will run it, but it will remain Andy Gump. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve been here 67 years and we plan to be here for 67 more.