Not many CEOs can say they have pictures of themselves working as kids at the companies they now lead.
As a child, Sarah Grace Brooks spent her summers working at Louisiana Fire Extinguisher, answering phones and filing paperwork. The company, founded by her grandfather in 1949, prides itself as a one-stop specialist in the prevention, detection and extinction of fires. Although she now leads the company, following in the steps of her grandfather and father before her, she never thought she would return to the Baton Rouge company.
After high school, she attended the University of Mississippi, earning a bachelor’s in southern studies before moving to Tennessee to work with a historical society in Tennessee. In 2007, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, which led her to return home and work for the family company while she received treatment. She also returned to school, pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration at LSU.
After entering remission in April of 2017, she says she realized the company could “break the bar,” and began working to push it to new levels.
As one of the only female executives working in her industry in Louisiana, she says does occasionally feel the quintessential push-back for being a woman, as well as for being the daughter of the previous CEO, but she doesn’t let those thoughts get under her skin.
“I just let people think what they want to think,” she says. “I’m going to do what’s best for me, my company and my employees. I’m going to show you numbers and values that prove that you’re wrong about me and my ability to lead.”
By 2018, the company that started with three employees during the post-war economic boom had grown to 45 employees. Louisiana Fire Extinguisher originally focused on service and maintenance, but in 2019, began pushing for commercial installation work as well, leading the company’s workforce to nearly double this year.
While the company previously mostly did jobs that were worth $5,000 to $20,000, it’s now handling contracts worth $500,000, $1 million and above, Brooks says. Last year, the company handled roughly $7 million worth of sales, which has grown close to $10 million this year.
“That’s where the growth is, that’s where we need to go. Instead of mom-and-pop, we need to think bigger,” Brooks says. “I think my grandfather would be really excited to see how far we’ve gone and what we can do with the little company he started.”
Connect with Sarah Grace Brooks on LinkedIn.