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Columbia Business Monthly

Q&A Roundtable Advice for entrepreneurs from CEOs of fastest-growing companies

Nov 10, 2021 12:10PM ● By Kevin Dietrich

Businesses that make it into the list of the fastest-growing companies in South Carolina have gotten there through hard work and determination. They also have learned a few lessons along the way, lessons that could offer insights to other business owners.

We asked our winning companies to share their advice to other business owners and entrepreneurs. Here’s what some of them had to say. 

Q: What one thing would you do differently if you could start your company again? What are the most important lessons learned?

A: There are so many lessons learned along the way, but one of the most important lessons I learned is to take time out to document processes and procedures. This guarantees a smooth transition of duties to new hires when bringing in staff. – Karen R. Jenkins, President and CEO, KRJ Consulting

A: It’s never as good as it looks, and it’s never as bad as it looks. Always remain balanced. The importance of adaptability and never staying static – always look for the next opportunity to meet a need. Don’t have an ego; good ideas are good ideas, no matter who or where they come from. Diversity in team members can be your greatest strength or greatest weakness. Get to know your team and what motivates them. –David Stockard, CFO/COO, Palmetto Fortis Marketing LLC,

A: There are so many things that we would do differently if given the chance to start over. However, the mistakes we have made along the way have made us much stronger as a management team and a company. Reflecting on how we have evolved over the past 10 years is always very rewarding, even reflecting on the missteps and the corrective actions taken. – Brandon Schneider, CEO and Owner, SEJ Services

A: We might have made an acquisition a part of our start-up as opposed to initiating the entire enterprise organically. – Jay Flanagan, Chief Strategy Officer, Luxor Scientific

A: Fully decentralize decision making from the start: “Let the inmates run the asylum.” – Charles Wall, President, SC Steel

A: Perfection prevents progress! Do not think you have to know or understand every detail to begin. You do not have to be the expert in every subject. Hire to your weakness. Go all-in sooner, Jump, and know the nets will appear! There are seeds of greatness inside of you! Trust in your ability and idea sooner. – Brandon Kinder, President, bioPURE

Q: What are hiring strategies that have worked for you in the past?

A: Turnover is a very expensive and time-consuming process at all levels in the company. Therefore, we need to make sure we hire the right person for the role the first time. Interview 10 before you hire one; employee-referral bonuses; personality assessments before offering a position; and (having) hiring committees are just a few ways that we maintain a sound hiring strategy. When the right people are in the right roles, it is truly amazing how things fall into place. – Brandon Schneider, CEO/Owner, SEJ Services

A: I cast a wide net by using multiple recruiting sources and then quickly convert the potential candidates into associates by getting to know them deeper than any resume can define. We determine the type of job and required pay rate they are looking for, their shift availability and area in the Upstate they can work. We then match this up with our various client needs and place them with the best overall matches. – Gary Brons, Owner/Strategic Partner, PrideStaff

A: We hire people who are passionate about winning. – Jackson Burnett, President, Vapor Apparel

A: We treat our employees like family. We cannot pay as much as the big boys in the automotive industry; however, we can be a fun and fair place to work. We give bonuses and free lunches on a regular basis. – JoAnne LaBounty, President, Spartanburg Meat Processing

A: Palmetto GBA focuses on promoting our brand in a manner that will be attractive to potential employees. We utilize social media to highlight associates’ accomplishments, our community giving initiatives and the many benefits of working at Palmetto GBA. We also have a robust internship program, attend job fairs and career days as well as utilize talent supply and demand market analytics. One of our best referral sources are our associates. – Joe Johnson, President and COO, Palmetto GBA

A: I think the secret to recruiting/hiring is culture. Establishing a strong culture takes time but can be one of your best recruiting tools. I like for candidates to visit AFF and interact with our team so they can experience what we're about. It's usually clear early on whether it's a good fit. – Ben Leinster, CEO, AFF | group,

A: Our team is our best recruiting vehicle. We are always searching for and recruiting talented people that fit within the FLEXSPACE culture. We invest in people that want to be challenged and understand the importance of being selfless. In order for FLEXSPACE to continue to thrive, we need people that believe in our vision and see how they can play a part in the growth and success for everyone. - Beth Brown, Marketing Director, FLEXSPACE

A: “The best hires I have made have simply come from work-based trials. Most people can talk the talk, but it's one thing to walk the walk. I hire based on who I think will bring the work ethic required to be successful in my organization; it's up to them to prove they belong.” – Brandon Coates, CEO, SteelCore Industrial, Construction & Welding Supply.

Q: Are you currently hiring? If so, what positions are available and what skills are required?

A: As an organization that has a three-year plan to deliver $1 billion in revenues, we are actively pursuing great people to join the team across multiple positions. If you are a dynamic individual, Blue Sky will find a spot for you. – Curt Nesbitt, CEO, Blue Sky Specialty Pharmacy

A: Kopis is always looking for talented software engineers with varied skill sets, and do hope to add to our headcount in that area before the end of the year, provided we find the right fit. We also have desires to add to other areas of the company as well. Those interested can visit to view open positions and requirements. - Britany Ochalek, Marketing Manager, Kopis

A: We are always looking for skilled salespeople! – David Stockard, CEO/COO, Palmetto Fortis Marketing

A: We look for driven people that want to work hard and invest themselves into an organization that will value their contributions. – Beth Brown, Marketing Director, FLEXSPACE

A: As a staffing company we are always hiring. We recruit light industrial and office clerical associates to place with some of the best companies in the upstate. Our Light Industrial division works with positions typically found in a warehouse or manufacturing environment including but not limited to assembly, forklift, machine operations, and pick and pack. We also hire higher skilled associates such as CNC, fabrication and welding. Our Office Clerical division works primarily with accounting, call center, customer service, executive admins, receptionist and sales support. – Gary Brons, Owner and Strategic Partner, PrideStaff

A: Yes, production and digital marketing. – Vapor Apparel, Jackson Burnett, President

Q: Do you have a mentor base? If yes, how have you used it?

A: Each summer, we offer internships to college students. Opportunities are available throughout the company with a mentor guiding the intern through the program. In addition, we have two management training programs for new leaders. Senior leaders participate in the sessions. In addition, one-on-one mentoring takes place within teams. – Joe Johnson, COO/President, Palmetto GBA

A: Mentors have played and continue to play a vital role in my life and our business. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a mentor in 2005 was that you cannot feed your family and your ego at the same time. This has kept me grounded and constantly seeking education/information from those who are further down the path than I have reached. Mentors have opened doors to partnerships, other relationships, and have been a sounding board for ideas, struggles and so much more. – Brandon Kinder, President, bioPURE

A: A principle that I live by is to embrace growth, and one of the best ways to grow is to seek out wise, humble counsel. Experience is helpful, but more important is how someone approaches decisions, especially difficult ones. I have a handful of guys that I try to meet with throughout the year to help keep me grounded and moving in the right direction. – Ben Leinster, CEO, AFF | group

A: Yes. It is not a traditional mentor base filled with executives that hold similar positions. They are individuals from Blue Sky, friends, family and a few industry peers. If it is a decision that significantly impacts business, I like to get multiple viewpoints. Again, some of the best mentoring I get is from the people on the team. I have “Coffee with Curt” twice a week where I learn a lot about the organization, good and bad. These discussions help drive decisions and changes within the organization. – Curt Nesbitt, CEO, Blue Sky Specialty Pharmacy

A: I've had mentors and coaches for the past 20 years. I'm a big believer in copying success. – Jason Walker, CEO, National Land Realty

A: I have had the advantage of having my Harvard Alum as a resource. Also, as a member of WPO (Women Presidents’ Organization), I have a large group of peers that I can call on. The Spartanburg Chamber is also a fantastic resource we take advantage of. – JoAnne LaBounty, President, Spartanburg Meat Processing Co., Inc.