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Greenville Business Magazine

Making a (Mentoring) Difference

By David Dykes

Mentors, quite simply, are experienced and trusted advisers. 

Any of us who’ve had them might not have realized their value at the time. 

But upon reflection, we know.

Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority in Charleston, told our SC 25 Fastest Growing Companies luncheon in Columbia in October that in his career he has had the good fortune to have had several mentors.

“And I hope you’re playing a mentorship role for young people today,” Newsome told his audience. “I think it’s very, very important.”

Throughout the course of our interviewing (virtually during the pandemic) CEOs, company founders and executives at dozens of companies considered for fastest-growing awards, and asking how they’ve used mentors, it was crystal clear: Mentors more than helped. They made a difference.

At Hanahan-based MedTrust Holdings, No. 1 in the 2020 Top 25, CEO Josh Watts cites the importance of monthly meetings with an engaged group of business owners and peer leaders. 

“This unofficial advisory board has been so important in decision-making but even more important in learning from the others in the group as they address and tackle challenges around staffing/people, finance, legal, compliance, marketing, macro/micro economic trends, etc.,” he wrote in submitting his entry. 

The company’s core service is delivery of emergent and non-emergent interfacility medical transport (ambulance and wheelchair) with a coverage area spanning South Carolina, coastal Georgia and north Florida.

Vikash Patel and Will Stephan, founders of Greenville-based Logisticus Group, No. 2 on this year’s Top 25 list, say former mentors included co-workers at General Electric. 

Now, their mentor base includes local business leaders “who have been amazing and very helpful.”

“They advised us on many items/questions young startup companies are faced with,” they say. 

Founded in 2012, Logisticus is a privately owned limited liability company that specializes in transportations logistics, project management and technology. It has supported projects throughout North and South America.  
At No. 5 Sunny Days Entertainment LLC of Simpsonville, partner and CEO Melvin Wells says he depends on experienced people in product, finance and legal matters. 

“We bounce difficult questions off them for invaluable advice,” Wells says. 

To be eligible for the Top 25, a company had to be headquartered in South Carolina and in business for at least three years, and show revenues of more than $3 million in the last fiscal year.

The companies were selected using a calculation based on year-over-year growth of revenue and employee headcount over the last three years (2017, 2018 and 2019).

Along the way in journalism, I’ve benefited from the advice, and encouragement, of several mentors – teachers, editors and colleagues who were patient, counseled me, and let me make mistakes and learn. 

Perhaps most important, they caught me doing things the right way. 

That group included Don Carson, a journalism professor at the University of Arizona; editors Bob Albano, Tom Walker and Sheryl Kornman at the Tucson Citizen; Brad Tillson at the Dayton Daily News; Al Johnson and Ken Gepfert at The Charlotte Observer and Chris Weston at The Greenville News. 

Each made countless career contributions. I’ll be forever grateful.

On page 12 of this issue, Karie Kaufmann, an executive coach who works with growth-minded entrepreneurs, writes about being a great mentor and why it’s a worthwhile experience.

She writes that in our professional lives, we move through many different stages. In the beginning, she says, we are uncertain and seek all the help and advice we can acquire. 

A few years in, she adds, we have confidence and a rhythm that hopefully sustains into the horizon of our careers. Reaching this point, she says, makes us ideal candidates to mentor young entrepreneurs and professionals trying to navigate the waters we’ve sailed.

At this point in our careers, she says, we should consider becoming a mentor.

If you’ve reached that point, I hope you’ll accept the challenge. 

Because it’s a wonderful opportunity to make a difference.