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Southern Hospitality

There's no place like home for a software entrepreneur who hosts clients and staff at his 1,000-acre crawfish farm in Louisiana.

Software entrepreneur Joe Stough doesn't have to travel far when closing deals, holding management meetings, or hosting board retreats. In fact, the founder, president, and CEO of Syntex Management Systems doesn't have to travel at all. Stough, who works three days a week in Houston, where his 50-employee company is based, lives on a 1,000-acre crawfish and rice farm in Lake Arthur, La.

Here, investors, clients, and staff have all experienced business entertaining Syntex-style: duck and goose hunting in winter, sailing on Lake Arthur or through the southern Louisiana swamp, and horseback riding in summer before evenings of crawfish boils ("a Cajun tradition"), zydeco music, and games of horseshoes. Guests stay in a cabin/hunting lodge (left) Stough helped build, complete with a T1 line, wireless router, stacks of easel flip charts--and a hot tub. Last November, he invited a Parisian exec from oil field consultancy Schlumberger to the farm, where cattle and Labrador retrievers bred for duck hunting roam, to finalize a multimillion-dollar deal.

"Anytime you get clients in an environment where they get to know you as an individual, you become more comfortable with each other," says Stough, who writes off food, shotgun shells, the high-speed connection line, and "lots of Bud Light." "There's no question it builds relationships."

Last updated: May 1, 2004

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