2019 SC 25 Fastest Growing Companies: No. 2 Sunny Days Entertainment
LEADERSHIP Melvin Wells | President & CEO
INDUSTRY Children's Toys
If someone were to make a movie about your company, what would be the story you'd want to tell?
The story would be about how to succeed in an environment that you are not welcome in. The toy business is dominated by Northeastern (around New York) and L.A.-based companies. Most of the CEOs and upper-level management are generational toy insiders, relatives, and have strong ties to Hollywood and the entertainment business. A toy company from South Carolina —or the South for that matter—has to work extra hard to work its way into this network.
What is the one thing that you would want others to know about your company?
We have never had an employee that has left in our USA operations over the seven years we have been growing. Hiring, retaining and treating people well is what makes companies successful.
Have you been able to find the talent you need in South Carolina?
South Carolina is loaded with talented people. I don't think there is any lack of qualified candidates in our state. I think the most important thing when hiring is to find the people that will fit your culture, are intelligent and are motivated. Having job knowledge of the tasks we need is way down the list. We would rather have people that fit well. We can teach them the job.
How do you manage fast growth? What advice would you give to a company in growth mode?
Cash, cash, cash! If you are in an industry that has intense cash needs and extensive terms with customers, cash is key. Your company needs to develop great banking or investment relationships. Also hire people that can expand in their roles. Never hire people for the job that you need—hire them for the expanded opportunities.
What lessons did you learn the hard way? If you could go back five or 10 years, what advice would you tell yourself?
Don't take your accounting functions for granted, and make sure you are aligned with an accountant or accounting firm that has the ability to manage your business across many geographies and has a great understanding of tax law.
What is the secret to your success?
I tell my associates the same advice I gave my children as they were growing up. You can't control politics, the market, your competitors, the weather or hardly anything else. The only thing you can truly do is to outwork your competition.