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Family Business Incorporates Community Commitment

Of the four kids, two weren’t interested but two entered the chemical business their grandfather founded. It was just to support their community service work. They were having a hard time in school and couldn’t decide on a career direction. They never planned to run the company. Making money was just a means to other ends like running a crisis hotline and teaching meditation in prisons. Bruce filled barrels at night while he worked for seven years as the director of an alcohol rehabilitation program. Mark was the abbot of the Cambridge Zen Center for 15 years and did manual labor in the family firm. Another case of “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves?”

Both men became hard and able workers, advancing through the ranks. Bruce Houghton, president, and Mark Houghton, executive vice president, of Houghton Chemical Corp. in Alston, MA have incorporated their social philosophy into all aspects of their business lives. But they’ve also made six acquisitions in the past decade and recently were named small business of the year by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Houghton manufactures and distributes chemical products. The company provides profit sharing and full benefits for its workforce. It matches employee’s charitable gifts and has a work schedule designed to allow any employee to take off an hour at a time for community service. Houghton was recognized for “their growth and profitability combined with providing customer service that exceeds expectations, a deep respect for the environment, professional growth of their employees, and the betterment of the communities in which they do business,” according to chamber vice president Ed Pignone.

“They’re free-thinkers,” says their father, Proctor, who remains chairman of the board.

One of the great things about family businesses is the extent to which they can exemplify and accommodate the owning family’s values and passions. Wise family owners work hard to run good businesses, but they recognize that the business and its profits are the means, not the end – and even more importantly, it’s the owners’ responsibility to define and communicate their goals.




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