Fred Bursch to retire from Bursch Travel, a business his father started 65 years ago
Longtime employee Lee Hurd named president and CEO and Lara Deppisch, Fred Bursch's daughter, named vice president. Deppisch will eventually take over the business, making her the third generation owner.
Over the past 65 years, Bursch Travel has seen many changes. What started as an Alexandria travel agency with one office and about eight employees has grown into nearly 20 offices with about 80 employees in five states.
And now, more change – big change – is happening.
Fred Bursch, who has led the company for the past 44 years, is retiring. However, he will stay on as chairman of the family-owned business, which was founded by his father and mother in 1956.
Plans are in the works for his daughter, Lara Deppisch, to take it over. After seven years of leading the company’s digital marketing efforts, Deppisch was recently promoted to vice president.
“We’re still in business after 65 years and now to see it go into the third generation of ownership is pretty amazing,” said Bursch, who will turn 70 in October.
In his Facebook post on Aug. 5, Bursch made the announcement of his retirement and his daughter’s new role. He also said he was excited to announce that the new president and CEO of the company is Lee Hurd.
“Lee has worked for us for 33 years, it was logical for her to become president and CEO,” said Bursch. “We couldn’t find anyone more qualified and respected by the rest of our team and others in the industry.”
Hurd said she loves working at Bursch Travel and that there are many reasons she has stayed for more than three decades. But her biggest reason, she said, is what she calls the “amazing culture.”
“Our team is a family and when it comes right down to it, you are always there to support your family, even when things are difficult,” she said. “I love the travel industry with all my heart, but I love my coworkers and Fred’s family even more.”
As the new president and CEO, Hurd said her short-term goal is to make sure the business gets through the COVID-19 crisis and shines at the finish line.
Long-term, she looks forward to continuing the family culture while making sure the company is in a progressive and professional position to serve their clients as best they can.
“I also want to make sure our strong culture is one that impresses our younger employees. We need to keep them engaged and excited so they can grow into new positions as the Baby Boomers start to retire,” she said. “We are celebrating our 65th anniversary this year and I want to make sure we are positioned to have 65 more successful years”
Passion for the business
Bursch said he will be working with his daughter on a daily basis with the behind-the-scenes aspect of the business before she fully takes over.
“She has a passion for the business and she’s prepared to step up,” he said of his daughter.
Deppisch said she is honored to work at the business started by her grandpa and at times, can’t believe how fortunate she is that she gets to do what she loves with the people she loves.
“Bursch Travel has quite literally been a part of my entire life and there are many employees that have known me since the day I was born,” she said. “To me, they are just as much a part of my family and I’m happy to work with each and every one of them as I am to work with my dad.”
She also said that she has always been incredibly proud of what her grandpa and dad have built over the last 65 years and that she will have to work tirelessly to live up to the high standards they’ve set.
“Thankfully, though, I don’t need to take over in the immediate future. I have a lot to learn and I get to apprentice from the best of the best,” she said. “Lee has been a leader at Bursch for over 30 years and knows every part of the travel business. I will be leaning on her, our management team, as well as my dad, heavily, to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I am excited to see where we can bring the business during our third generation of ownership.”
Bursch noted that he has had several offers to buy the business but he is happy it is going to be staying in the family.
“It will be fun for me to sit back and watch what they will do,” said Bursch, also admitting it might take him a while to wean himself away from the business. He also noted how thankful all the employees are that “our work family was not sold to some mega-travel company that would change our culture.”
He said the team is committed to supporting the new leaders in whatever way is needed to keep the company going and keep it successful.