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Greenville Business Magazine

Recognizing The Most Influential

Jan 09, 2024 11:07AM ● By David Dykes

Once again, it’s our privilege to introduce the people we consider to be South Carolina’s most influential. These are leaders, pioneers, innovators, artists, and so many others who advocate for change and envision better ways to do things.

The selection of 50 men and women in the regions of the Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry and – for the first time – the Grand Strand, is a result of staff research and community nominations.

We also are celebrating another year of entrants to our Hall of Fame.

It’s a great way to start the new year by identifying those who have found a purpose and are making a difference.

In compiling information on our honorees, we also asked questions to get better insight on a variety of topics, such as the one thing they love about South Carolina, the advice they would give to a young professional or colleague, why community involvement is important, and insight on doing business in the state.

Here are excerpts from their responses:

One thing you love about South Carolina:

“I love the water in Charleston. Charleston reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Eastern North Carolina and feels like home.” – Brooks Melton, president and CEO, Beacon Community Bank.

“My family and I love Folly Beach. We love the ‘local vibes,’ fishing from the pier, eating at Taco Boy, and just enjoying time together in such a beautiful setting.” – Michael Smith, executive director, Charleston Symphony.

“It’s the most beautiful state – from the creeks and marshland to mountains and farmland – South Carolina is stunning.” – Alyssa Smith, executive director, Charleston Wine + Food.

“What I love most is how people engage and treat each other. Having lived in and experienced other areas across the country, there is something special that South Carolina embodies and shares as a common quality.” – Natasha Lee, CEO and co-founder, Floyd Lee Locums.

“Sitting on my front porch with a glass of iced cold tea.” – David Stenström, vice president, manufacturing Americas/plant manager, Volvo Cars Charleston.

Advice you would give to a young professional or colleague:

“Do something you love and surround yourself with great people.” – Samuel Mylrea, CEO, Gigpro.

“Soak it up! Take in all the knowledge you can regarding your career and never be too proud to ask questions.” – Kathleen Cartland, executive director, Charleston Area Sports Commission.

“Take opportunities when they present themselves. Be willing to get uncomfortable, as this is often when you learn the most. Dive in, ask questions, and learn from those around you. Knowing your business and the people in your organization is crucial to finding solutions. Tackle challenging projects and take intelligent risks.” – Barbara Melvin, president and CEO, South Carolina Ports.

“Do your best work - every single day. Without fail.” – Stephanie Yarbrough, partner, King & Spalding

“Always do the right thing.” – Tim Grow, shareholder, Elliott Davis.

Why community involvement is important:

“We have a responsibility to help others and we do that through our involvement in the community.” – Bart Daniel, attorney, Nelson Mullins.

“Because I’ve seen firsthand the impact a group of people can make when they band together.” – Brian Turner, president and CEO, Preservation Society of Charleston.

“It is incumbent for us fortunate ones to give others a chance at success. I want everyone to succeed regardless of career path. Helping someone gives me a great feeling.” – Jimmy Yahnis, co-owner/executive VP, The Yahnis Company.

“As so much has been given to me over my career, it is imperative to give back through service to community.” – Marc Marchant, CEO, LS3P.

Insight on doing business in South Carolina: 

“It’s a relatively small state so build relationships by networking which can help develop your business.” – Wayne Gray, senior vice president, Synovus.

“South Carolina is still a state where a person’s word means something. Commitments made are expected to be upheld.” – Harold Cushman, president and CEO, Dargan Construction Company, LLC.

“Doing business in SC is to recruit and retain skilled, talented employees, and treat them well.” – Marilyn Fore, Ed.D., president, Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC).

“South Carolina is growing as more and more visitors become residents. Our business and others are expanding services and developing new synergies with community partners.” – Page Kiniry, president and CEO, Brookgreen Gardens.

Advice to a startup company:

“I would encourage them to take advantage of all the programs that are available to companies at the state and local level. These programs are designed as a support system which has proved invaluable to a number of companies that have located in our state.” – Jeff McKay, executive director, North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA).

“Put one foot in front of the other day after day. Each day will get better! When I started my first office, I was told my office was never going to last. I used that as motivation to have those people eat their words.” – Renny Diedrich, broker-in-charge/COO/co-owner, RE/MAX Southern Shores & RE/MAX Professionals.

“Never underestimate the importance of having sufficient liquidity to give your business more than enough time to succeed.” – Andy Lesnik, president, LHWH Advertising & Public Relations.

“Be prepared for copycat competition if you bring a novel idea to the market. Make sure you stay cutting-edge.” – Calvin Gilmore, entertainer/owner, Gilmore Entertainment.

“Have thick skin and make building a team and treating them well the number one priority.” – Steve Palmer, founder and CVO, The Indigo Road Hospitality Group.

“Build a culture of family within your company – network with other companies and legislators. Partner with local technical college to hire qualified employees and serve on advisory boards pertaining to the industry.” – Dr. Marilyn Fore, president, Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC).

Book you would recommend to a colleague:

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins. – Jody Chastain, president and CEO, The Ritedose Corporation.

“Competitive Advantage” by Michael Porter. – Mark Williams, founder and president, Strategic Development Group, Inc.

“Waterfronts, Cities Reclaim Their Edge” by Ann Breen and Dick Rigby.  – Michael T. Dawson, chief executive officer, River Alliance.

“We the Possibility: Harnessing Public Entrepreneurship to Solve Our Most Urgent Problems” by Mitchell Weiss. – Daniel Rickenmann, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina.

“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. – Mark Rapp, jazz musician, executive director, ColaJazz Foundation.

My secret to success:

“Enjoy working with people and relationships created through business.” – Mark Cooter, partner, Cherry Bekaert Advisory, LLC.

“Treating people the way you want to be treated.  I have always tried to treat everyone I meet equally, no matter how varied our backgrounds or experiences might be.” – Michelle Seaver, president, Greenville, Spartanburg and Cherokee counties, United Community.

“There’s no substitute for hard work.” - William W. Brown, president, Legacy Advancement.

“Embrace a growth mindset, learn continuously, treat people well and work diligently.” – Matt Dunbar, co-founder and managing director, VentureSouth.

“Love and develop people well; seek and give accountability; and focus on purpose and ‘why.’ Look to serve others.” – Will Huss, chief executive officer, Trehel.

As we start the new year, let’s celebrate, and congratulate, all of our Most Influential and Hall of Fame honorees. You’ll find individual profiles in this issue. 

And when you see one at work or in the community, don’t hesitate to say, “Well Done.”