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Greenville Business Magazine

Fastest Growing Companies Share Challenges, Lessons Learned

Nov 04, 2022 04:49PM ● By Donna Isbell Walker

South Carolina’s 50 Fastest Growing Companies represent many sectors of industry, but they all have something important in common: a dedication to excellence and an ability to weather the storms of the Covid-19 pandemic and maintain their foothold in business.

The leaders of these companies talk about their businesses and some of the challenge they’ve faced in recent years.

1. What is the one thing you want others to know about your company? 

A. iTrust opened its doors in fall 2017 and has quickly expanded over the past five years. We now serve as mental health specialists for approximately 5,000 clients in our outpatient office and 35 assisted living communities throughout Greenville, Anderson, and Oconee counties for geriatric mental health services. We believe mental wellness is achieved in combination with medication management, psychotherapy, and support systems within the community. – Steven Krozer, CEO, iTrust Wellness Group

A. While we are now over 1,000 employees, we still operate as a family. Everyone works together to support our customers and assist them on their life’s journey. I am also proud of the work our team does to support our local communities. On most weeks, our teams can often be found throughout Greenville volunteering at Habitat, SPCA, food banks, homeless shelter and various non-profits. This is an important part of our culture and our company supports each team member with paid-time-off for volunteer activities. Giving back to our communities is very important to us. – Steve Thibodeau, CEO, Global Lending Services

A. Change and innovation is the key to success. Sometimes, you have to pivot and change the model. Don't be scared of change, be looking for it. – Jeff Cook, CEO, Jeff Cook Real Estate

A. The mission of Solutions ITW is to help our partners succeed through the use of technology. We do that by providing software solutions that increase profit, enhance the quality of life for employees, and improve the customer/donor experience. – Elias Bustos, CEO, Solutions ITW, LLC

A. We focus on providing our clients with the intangibles – items like trust, reputation, integrity, and exceptional customer service. When any client contacts us, we respond. We communicate with our customers openly and frequently. – Thomas Robbins, business development manager, Robbins Construction Group

A. We are not in any way one of your typical accounting firms. We are modern, fun and innovative. We have all of the skills and experience, but none of those outdated features that come to mind when you think "accounting firm." – Brad Ebenhoeh, CEO and partner, Accountfully

A. We are a second-generation company that believes in being upfront in all we do. Our business is built upon the values of honesty and integrity. – McKenzie Jordan, president, Chancel Construction Inc.

A. We have an 11,000-square-foot heated and cooled training center where we have built miniature crawlspaces. We are able to train our crews and design specialists in a controlled environment so that we can maximize the team members’ learning. – William Cantey, CEO, Cantey Foundation Specialists 

A. We are a small and extremely scrappy team – 21 people who work well together can get a lot done. – Lanford Holloway, CEO and founder, TerraStride Inc.

A. When you walk in the front door, the first thing you see is the word “kindness” in big, bold, red letters written on the wall. We let everyone know that we run this company on kindness. – Matt O’Neill, CEO, Matt O’Neill Real Estate

2. What one thing would you do differently if you could start your company again?  Most important lessons learned?

A. I would have started our PHS Trades Academy sooner! Our country is suffering from a shortage of skilled tradespeople. In spring of 2022, we graduated our first seven HVAC technicians. This fall, we have 20 students enrolled who will be learning plumbing and HVAC. These students are full-time employees of Preferred Home Services who will have a guaranteed job when they graduate. – Chris DeCampli, co-owner, Preferred Home Services 

A. The first time we started the business, we made the decision to bootstrap the company and not to seek any funding to get started. This caused us to do the work in the cheapest manner possible, meaning we had to do all the work. As a result, we did the work of the business instead of growing the business and setting us up for success. While we have reached a point of stability, there was more stress than there had to be. If we were to start over, we would start by getting funding and hiring quality people to do the work of the business while we focused on setting the business up for success. – Elias Bustos, CEO, Solutions ITW, LLC

A. Decision-making is like a muscle, you have to work it to get strong at it. I really wouldn't go back to do things differently because I value the journey and lessons learned, but if there was one thing I would say is to trust your gut and to act on it decisively. Usually your first thoughts are some of the best. – Ben Leinster, CEO, AFF | Group

A. Not have my last name as the name of the company. – Larry Echerer, president and chief financial officer, Echerer Painting Contractor Inc.

A. I (half) jokingly tell people that I would not open a business with 24/7 hours! I would have delegated authority sooner by investing in leadership positions before they were actually needed – an "if you build it, they will come" concept. – Ryan Thorne, founder and CEO, Thorne Ambulance Service

A. I do not have any regrets about how we started and ran the company, but one thing I would do differently is to start the company sooner. An important lesson we have learned is about hiring people.  Do not dwell on people whom you know are having issues. They are simply not a good fit for the company. Act sooner to make the change, as bad hirings often sacrifice a company’s growth. Be decisive and move forward. – Jane Zhang, CEO, STAR EV

A. Nothing! Every step we took along the way landed us right where we are today. – Susan Lindsey, owner and CEO, AMEC, LLC

A. Build all of our offices larger and include extra parking.  We outgrow everything within a few years. – Mary Lou Parisi, co-CEO, Eye Health America

A. When I started ProGrin Dental, I was 26 years old with tons of energy. I thought building a business was a sprint, but in all actuality, it’s a marathon. Rome was not built in a day, and it’s far more important to build it the right way than the quickest way. – Brent Ayers, COO, ProGrin Dental

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, owner and CEO, SEJ Services

A. The one thing I would do differently if could start over would be to start with more capital. One of the most important lessons learned was that it takes a diverse group of talent to build a company. – Jason Walter, CEO, National Land Realty

A. Our company is based on promoting new technology that provides solutions to problems that clients do not view as problems. While the return on this investment is significant and easy to demonstrate, we underestimated how resistant to change people are, even when the solution offers so much value.  When selling new technology that has long sales cycles, it can present challenges with cash flow.  If I started over, I would make sure that I offered a good or service that is easier to sell that would help turn cash while trying to educate the market on the new technology. – Todd Jessup, president, FLEXSPACE

A. Important lesson: "Take care of the people and they will take care of the business." – M. Jill Cox, chief executive officer, Warehouse Services Inc.

3. What has been your biggest challenge in 2021? 

A. There are several challenges facing our clients and, therefore, are our challenges as well. If I had to pick one recurring challenge for our clients, it is finding employees. Lucky for our clients this is what we do every day. We are always on the lookout for awesome employees; we are in a better position to solve this problem for them. We have invested in our recruiting model, which matches our seasoned recruiters with the best recruiting tools in the industry. – Gary Brons, owner/strategic partner, PrideStaff of Greenville

A. The biggest challenge for us since the start of the pandemic has been dealing with massive labor shortages. A lot of people who worked in dentistry exited the industry when Covid hit. We’ve had to get a lot more creative with our employee benefits and recruiting strategies. – Brent Ayers, COO, ProGrin Dental

A. Staffing and supply chain issues have been our greatest challenges, just like anyone else in 2022.  Being in growth mode, these resources are critical, and we must work hard every day to be ahead of the challenge. Daily diligence has allowed us to be in front of these issues. – Jim Tindal and Todd Prochaska, partners, Butcher Shoppe International LLC/New York Butcher Shoppe

A. Personnel, no question. The market has been really tough in terms of bringing talented players on board. The competition is very stiff and we are finding that qualified candidates are choosing larger, longer-standing firms with brand recognition. These firms have the luxury of offering salary and benefits packages that are difficult to compete with. – James Jordon, president, Jordon Construction Company

A. Time is the most precious commodity, and therefore our biggest challenge of 2021 was keeping up with the growth that we have seen in both the market and our headcount/volume. We had to stay laser-focused on day-to-day tasks while also carving out time to build our team and strategically plan for the future. It is a great problem to have but a problem nonetheless in that you need to have double vision. – Chris Sands, founder and CEO, Sands Investment Group