Page 1

Business Black Box

Quarter 1 • 2017



Q 1 2017











Business Black Box Q1 2017

D E PA R T M E N T S 08














44 48




















Business Black Box Q1 2017


Photo by Shawn Stom/FishEye Studios


Q1.17 OUR STORY... Whether planes crash or crews overcome obstacles to successfully complete flights, airlines go to the black box to discover secrets, answers, and missing information to explain what happened and learn for the future. That’s the mission of our magazine, our connect events, and our interactive platform. News of businesses succeeding, failing, merging, hiring, firing and more are reported everyday, all over the Upstate. But in business, the real power is not just hearing the news, but about going behind the scenes, discovering, connecting, and learning from those that made it happen. At the heart of every event, every blog, every magazine issue, and every documentary Business Black Box produces, you’ll find a relentless passion for connecting, advising and growing Upstate business.









CHANGE OF ADDRESS When contacting us about changing your address, please provide us with both the old and the new addresses, as well as any other informational changes. The post office will only forward Business Black Box for 60 days, so make sure you let us know as soon as you have your information ready.

When available, back issues of Business Black Box are available for $9 by mail or for $7 for pick-up through our office.



FREELANCE OPPORTUNITIES Local talent is what keeps us moving. If you’d like to write or photograph for Business Black Box, please contact the editor at or by mail to Business Black Box , c/o Freelance Opportunities, 18 S. Markley Street, Suite B, Greenville, S.C. 29601.




Business Black Box is a registered trademark of ShowCase Publishing 2017. Content may not be reproduced without written permission of Business Black Box. Excerpts may be reprinted, provided that credit is given to the author and to Business Black Box magazine.

Annual Subscriptions are $20 and include four issues of Business Black Box. Think someone you know would like to receive Business Black Box? A complimentary gift card will be sent with each order indicating who the gift is from and when the recipient will receive their first issue. If you have a question about your subscription, call us at (864) 281-1323, ext. 1010, or reach us via email at



Business Black Box (Vol.9, Issue 1) is published four times per year by ShowCase Publishing, 18 S. Markley Street, Suite B, Greenville S.C. 29601 phone (864) 281-1323; fax (864) 281-1310.



REPRINT / PHOTO / VIDEO REQUESTS If you’d like to request a copy or a reprint of a photo or an article you’ve seen in Business Black Box, or of a video we’ve done for your event, please contact us for info and pricing at info@ or by mail to 18 S. Markley Street, Suite B, Greenville, S.C. 29601.



Business Black Box hosts events monthly from Business Connect networking held at local businesses to sponsoring events for other local organizations. If you’d like to find out more about hosting an event with Business Black Box, or about working with us to sponsor your event, please call our sales team at (864) 281-1323, ext. 1010, or email sales@

GET MORE BUSINESS BLACK BOX Whether you are looking for a story we did in 2010, or are curious about what is in the current issue of Business Black Box, check out our online digs at


Business Black Box Q1 2017




B B B A DVISORS A team of experienced, connected business leaders from different regions of the Upstate, who advise us regularly on trends, changes, growth, and progress in upstate business.


1 2 5



9 6


10 8 12



13 17




Amy Wood, Anchor, WSPA


Chip Felkel, CEO, The Felkel Group 2.

11. Tony Snipes, Business Coach & Entrepreneur 12. Coleman Kirven, Commercial Banking Executive, The Palmetto Bank

Julie Godshall-Brown, President, Godshall Staffing 3.

13. Todd Korahais, Operating Partner, Keller Williams Realty

Andy Coburn, Attorney, Wyche Law Firm 4.

14. Terry Weaver, CEO, Chief Executive Boards International

Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten At The Top 5. Tiffany Hughes, Director Of Marketing, Meyco Products 6. Michael Bolick, CEO, Selah Genomics


Greg Hillman, Director, SCRA/SC Launch! 8. Ravi Sastry, VP of Sales & Marketing, Immedion 9. Jil Littlejohn, President, Urban League Of The Upstate 10.

15. Sam Patrick, Chief Revenue Officer, EDTS 16. Matt Dunbar, Managing Director, Upstate Carolina Angel Network 17. John Deworken, Partner, Sunnie & Deworken 18. Nigel Robertson, Anchor, WYFF 19. Douglas W. Kim, Shareholder, McNair Law Firm, P.A.


Business Black Box Q1 2017


HAPPY 2017! I know some of you are happy that 2016 is gone and are fully invested in seeing how 2017 will play out. For our New Year’s resolution, we are growing the magazine in a different direction for our ninth year. While we understand that the Upstate is lucky enough to have multiple sources of business news, we also realize that what we do best—tell stories of leadership and innovation—also happens to be what we love to do. So, we’ll continue to shine a light on leaders and leadership, focusing on their stories of successes, failures, trials and victories and what they have to teach all of us. A few of the spotlights for this new format are our new department pieces: Dear Younger Me and Take a Hike with John Warner. In Dear Younger Me, we take a leader of today and have them write a letter to their younger self and look at what they would tell themselves. For this issue, we have selected local advertising legend Joe Erwin because of his rise through the ranks from the mailroom to leading Erwin Penland and most recently, Endeavor—as well as all the lessons he learned along the way. For Take a Hike, we have the successful serial entrepreneur John “Swamp Fox” Warner—InnoVenture, Concepts to Companies and Accessible Diagnostics some of his recent successes—to take a leader in the community on a walkabout around the area and looking at what makes them a leader. For this issue, Warner will be walking with William Brown of Legacy Charter School and digging into his passion for making sure kids in Greenville’s Woodside neighborhood have access to the education and tools they need to succeed. In addition to these new pieces, this new, more directed focus on leadership will be a part of the existing pieces we have like the features, Next Gen, Trailblazer, 11 Questions and the columns. So what? You may ask. That’s a fair question, and the biggest reason is that we care about business leaders and finding out what makes them tick and telling their stories. We want to learn about the Mark Kents who are behind the Kentwools of the Upstate, or the Craig Browns behind the Greenville Drive’s. And we feel like our readers do, too. A lot can be learned from telling their stories. We are excited for what 2017 is bringing and we hope you are too!

Editor, Business Black Box | 864/281-1323 x.1024 8

Business Black Box Q1 2017

Photo by Shawn Stom/FishEye Studios


R A N D O M & R E L E VA N T

THE STATE OF AMERICAN JOBS According to PEW Research in their study, “The State of American Jobs,” many in the workforce now view the constant learning of new skills and job training are the keys to long term job security. 54 percent of adult workers view training, education and learning new skills as essential in a constantly changing workforce, while 33 percent view that training and education as important, but not essential and then only 12 percent view continuing education in the workplace as not at all important.

12% of adults don’t think developing new skills is important, despite trends indicating that employment is rising faster in jobs requiring higher levers of experience.



of adults think it’s essential to develop new skills throughout their career, with 35% saying they don’t have the training for the work.

Information based on 2016 data

33% of adults don’t think developing new skills is important.






What would you do if you lost something important to your personal identity? (p. 20)

What would you say to your younger self? Follow Joe Erwin’s example. (p. 26)

“Take a Hike” with John Warner around the Woodside neighborhood. (p. 32)

Business Black Box Q1 2017

4 Go on an Honor Flight with Black Box’s own Jordana Megonigal. (p. 34)

5 Find out how a small startup is making a place for itself in a market dominated by giants. (p. 50)

R A N D O M & R E L E VA N T




2016 Upstate South Carolina Announcements


Brand new companies announced in the Upstate.

$271,615,000 In brand new capital investment.


Jobs created by the new companies.


In square feet of construction for the new companies.


New international companies coming to the Upstate.


New jobs created by existing industries expansion.


In capital investment announced from existing industries.

*Numbers courtesy of Upstate Alliance.

$30.9 Billion Value of export sales for the state


Business Black Box Q1 2017

R A N D O M & R E L E VA N T



Life in Greenville



What: 128th Annual Meeting Where: TD Convention Center Greenville S.C. 29601 When: January 31, 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The Chamber’s annual meeting is the largest business gathering in the Upstate, bringing over 1,300 business and leaders together from across the region to celebrate and network. Annual awards will also be given and celebrated. For more info: events/2017/01/31/all-chamber/128thannual-meeting/

Courtesy of CoWork Greenville, this site offers a handy database for anybody who lives, works or is visiting Greenville. The site is set up in an easy to navigate way and you just need to click on “Life,” “Work,” or “Visit,” to easily find lists and recommendations for what you are looking for.



What: Battle of the Ages Workforce Summit Where: Spartanburg Marriott When: February 1, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Do you have generational difficulties in the workplace? Come to the Spartanburg Chamber’s Battle of the Ages Workforce Summit in which employees and employers alike will help bridge the generational gap between the Millennial workforce and their older counterparts. For more info: Battle-of-the-Ages-Workforce-Summit-1305/ details

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ”


What: 2017 Automotive Summit Where: Hyatt Regency, Greenville, S.C. When: February 20-22 The South Carolina Automotive Summit will link you with experts and leaders in the automotive industry to learn and network. Through sessions, networking and previews, you will be in the know for what the automotive sector has in store. For more info:



Business Black Box Q1 2017


R A N D O M & R E L E VA N T

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE Did you make a 2017 resolution as a company to give back to your community? There are over 10,000 charitable organizations in S.C., but here are just a few of the causes that you can get involved with:





Provides services to anyone in the community who would benefit from them including, individual and marriage counseling, child therapy, violence prevention issues, and intervention in school, the home and the workplace.

A non-profit organization the connects, leads and inspires veterans and veteran’s families, and helps connect them to resources and encourages local, community involvement in helping our heroes and their families.

Miracle Hill Ministries helps feed and shelter homeless men, women and children throughout the Upstate and offers addiction recovery programs as well. They have grown to include nine facility locations and housing throughout the Upstate.

Meals on Wheels Greenville serves nearly 1,500 homebound residents each weekday by providing hot meals Monday through Friday. Not only do they provide food, but through their volunteers they are able to track the wellbeing of their clients.

*These are just a few causes around the area, please check out our friends at the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations (SCANPO ) to find other ways to give back. Visit them online at



K N OW ?

8% The percentage of those that actually manage to follow through on their New Year’s resolutions every year, according to Statistic Brain.


Business Black Box Q1 2017





Timeglass Time is a precious commodity and keeping track of it in a day is a vital thing for most people. Timeglass is an app that allows you to keep track of several different timers at the same time and build routines on different timers. Being able to track several things in real time is essential in your daily juggle.




We cover the people you know... and those you need to know. Ad sales don’t drive our decisions... great content does. Journalists that go deeper. Belief that innovation and trailblazing trump status quo every time.




Production Hours


Individual Photographs Used

68 Photoshop Layers

image converted to grayscale and colorized


Business Black Box Q1 2017

blending modes applied




Jen Wetzel

Rhett Bingham, Fisheye Studios

Kenworth Reeves


AD Together, we can build hope and faith by bringing life-giving water to the unreached around the world.


BOYD CYCLING Made in Greenville, S.C. •

Photo by Shawn Stom/FishEye Studios

Founded by former professional cyclist Boyd Johnson, Body Cycling has been making high quality wheels for cyclists since September 2009. Boyd Cycling crafts their wheels locally—and by hand—just off of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.


Business Black Box Q1 2017


Business Black Box Q1 2017


by Jordana Megonigal

“We never realize how little control we have.” For Kenworth Reeves, a serial entrepreneur by heart, control played a major part in his life. He seemed to have it all—successful businesses, an idyllic family, and a “look” that seemed to allow success to fall in his lap.

Until he didn’t. But for Reeves—whose life took an unforeseen turn in early 2016—those words cinch up the meaning of the entire last year; a year he has spent reevaluating the idea of control, success and even his own identity.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

Reeves grew up as a bachelor—alongside a single, workfocused father he learned to enjoy life and all that it offered. But an uncertain childhood moving from city to city produced tumultuous teenage years, and a more uncertain outlook after graduation. Soon he narrowed down what he wanted to do—and it included working in the family business. Alongside his father, Reeves started Reeves Construction in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the age of 19—a company focused on disaster relief reconstruction. He soon grew accustomed to a life of travel and independence. “That was my first real high dive into business,” Reeves says. “I had no idea what I was doing. I never went to college; at that point I knew how to go out and talk to people and make things happen.” Although he knew he didn’t know much about the business world, more and more, Reeves realized that there was power in connecting with people and creating relationships—and that he was really good at it. “I started to realize, as I came out of adolescence and got comfortable and confident, that I loved connecting with people,” he says. “I didn’t really know what connecting meant back then; as a 21 year old kid, I wasn’t able to articulate that. I just loved being around people and I know people valued that.” In return, Reeves was constantly praised from those relationships, and he grew accustomed to be able to make things happen because of it. “People said ‘You’re awesome’; ‘You’re great’; ‘You have cool hair’; ‘You can do this.’ It was just constant. It wasn’t vanity, really—I just knew people liked me. It was a drug I couldn’t get enough of; I was constantly consuming this validation,” he says. That validation, he notes, played right into his confidence at work, and that confidence played directly into his successes.


“It became part of my identity,” he notes, “I knew I could start something and it would just work.” The power to turn heads in a room—whether through confidence or through his looks—became trademark for Reeves as he built his career, but it was never more evident than when he started his second company, WPI Entertainment, which ran large-scale corporate events for companies. Essentially, Reeves was being paid to work a room; to know the people in it and how they could connect, and once again, it paid off. Soon, Reeves found himself in a room in Brooklyn at a party hosted by rap artist Ludacris, with a “who’s who” of the music industry, and quickly realized there he didn’t truly want what he had spent so much time building.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

“My friend—a high-end music producer—said, ‘Everybody you need to know is in this room’, so I started to do what I do and at that event I had a moment…an epiphany,” Reeves recalls. “I thought, ‘If I keep doing what I am doing, the goal is to end up here, right? If i keep doing what I am doing, I’m going to be just like the guy i am talking to.’ The problem was that that guy was miserable and lost. He hated his life. And I realized that where I thought I wanted to be in that room, I didn’t really want anything to do with it.” So, Reeves shifted his focus through the entertainment industry from music and branding to arts, producing large-scale art events instead of the brand promos that initially got him in that room. When the recession hit, he went back into construction, and after a while got into real estate, as well. His rule to business, even when he felt out of his range, was to simply “show up.” “I know that hard work now pays dividends over time,” he says. “I still don’t know what the hell I am doing—I just work my tail off and now it is working for me. I just show up time and time and time again. No expectations; just be genuine.” Then, in 2015, Reeves partnered with a friend to start a new project—the 13 Stripes Brewery, which would find its new home in the burgeoning Taylors Mill. While the first year was spent doing what he did best—meeting people and selling the idea—the end of the year brought about a change he never expected. Only a small dot of missing hair in his beard signaled the imminent events. Alopecia Universalis. Quite literally, a total loss of hair. That was the eventual diagnosis, although in the beginning, the symptoms were small.

“Here I am—I had this real estate company, and this brewery that I own now; I’m in the community, and then I wake up one morning in January and I am missing part of an eyebrow. Like literally, part of it is gone,” Reeves remembers. As he lost more hair, he increased his resolve to find a reason why. “I start doing all the tests—I do allergy tests; I do blood work; I do the urine samples. I do toxicity tests; I do traditional; I go to holistic doctors,” he says, but the results were non-existent. “Everybody came back with great news—they almost felt bad—‘Hey, I hate to tell you, you are healthy.’ ‘Hey, you aren’t allergic to anything.’ ‘We don’t know what is causing it.’ ‘It’s a fluke.’” Each response brought no answers and more questions, while at the same time, the confident, positive businessman was fading—his ability to “show up”, dwindling.


Business Black Box Q1 2017


Business Black Box Q1 2017

“I made a lot of friends and a lot of connections because of how I approached things. I would walk into a 1,200 person room and want to meet all of them; it’s what I was good at,” Reeves says. “But as I started losing the hair…the look…the brand…I thought, ‘Can I still do what I am good at if I am losing such a critical piece of what makes me good at that thing?’”

Still, questions remained. “If you show up, can you own your insecurities and share things that make you uncomfortable? Can you connect on different levels, more than just being a cool guy with cool hair and dresses sharp and has a business? Is there more to the life than those things?”

It was through these realizations, and the support of his friends— some of whom shaved their own heads in a sign of unity—that Reeves was able to bounce back. He began to realize that his desire to know people was never so strong as his desire to be truly known. And while he acknowledges that it was hard, at first, to “show up”—to walk into groups of people and be virtually unrecognizable; to turn heads; to feel so self-conscious, Reeves continued to do so, working through his insecurity meeting by meeting. “Every time—I have to walk Whether your story is in and own it every time, every meeting, just happening to you, or every situation.”

It began a year-long wrestling match between Reeves and his concept of identity. In reciprocation, he stopped “showing up” and instead went into hiding. He cancelled meetings. He stopped attending conferences. The brewery, previously on hold for some permitting challenges, remained on hold. As he lost more and more hair—he began to doubt his abilities to do anything. “It was just this slow death; this slow loss of identity,” he says. “I was scared, I was embarrassed. Ashamed. I was just filled with insecurities. I mean, I don’t even know if I can sell beer anymore. I don’t know, can I? Can I be the face of this company without having the look that seemed to work? I don’t know if this is going to work, I don’t know what this is going to look like yet.” But even while he was doubting himself, there was a stronghold that pulled him back to life—his family. His wife, Allison, while supportive, was lost in how to navigate Reeves illness and emotional depression. Many times, he would find himself coming home and retreating somewhere, alone, with a glass of tequila. Then, he realized what his response was doing, and what it was teaching his kids. “I think what changed it for me, was looking at my kids and seeing myself. That really started affecting me,” he says. “It’s not easy seeing dad changing; dad losing confidence; dad looking different; dad not all that present. But then I realized I was teaching my kids how to respond to own their trials and tribulations and heartbreaks. I think someday, we will be able to look back and say, ‘Dad didn’t handle that so well.’”

its those secret dark places that are eating you up,

YOU CAN RUN AWAY FROM YOUR STORY, but the shame wins. The lies win. The ‘I am not enough’ wins, The ‘What ifs’ win.


He realized it was time to come back, and reach into the community he had been a part of for so long, for support. Without it, he says, the isolation was too dangerous.

Now, with 13 Stripes scheduled to open in early 2017, the questions that remain don’t seem to carry the weight they once did. “I think my confidence is actually stronger now,” he says. “Now I’m the guy who has been in 14 wars—What can you do to me?” While insecurity still surfaces from time to time, Reeves has come full circle in his acceptance of what the future with alopecia might hold for his life—a far cry from his earlier life as a centerpiece of every event he attended. “Could I see myself in the same room, with the same people, but without my same look? I don’t know, and that kind of affects me,” he says. “I felt the weight of my insecurity. But now, I’m getting to this kind of sweet space where I’m okay, but I still see my reflection and it catches me off guard that I am bald.” Still, he decided, rather than running from his own illness and his own struggles with identity, to fully accept and own it as part of his own story.

“When you’re alone, that’s when those bad ideas start to grow. It’s like mold—cold and wet; isolated, and it grows. But if you let it in the sunlight and air, it dies.

“Shame can eat you up,” he says. “You can either run from your story—whether that’s the story that is just happening to you, or its those secret dark places that are eating you up—you can run away from that, but the shame wins. The lies win. The ‘I am not enough’ wins, the ‘What ifs’ win. Or, you can just say forget it; I am going to run to it and embrace it and all that it is.

“I realized,” he says. “I need people.”

“Me? I am going to embrace it.” n


Business Black Box Q1 2017


(as your current friends, brother and mother will continue to call you forever, so don’t even think about trying to convince them to call you “Joe”), It’s 1979. You’re 22 years old and about to finish Clemson. You’ve worked hard, and are thinking you want to work in sports promotion or advertising. That job offer at Old Dominion is tempting. Great deal and a strong sports program; I know you’re close to saying yes, but you’re right to give the advertising idea time to play out. Soon you’re going to meet a couple of people who will change your life. Bob Reuschle at Henderson Advertising—truly one of the hottest agencies in the country right now—is going to give you probably more attention than you warrant, being fresh out of school and with a degree in political science, no less. Bob will take the time to talk to you about a job in media (which, admit it, you aren’t even sure what that means), and more important, give you the sense that there really could be a place for you in this industry. And then you’ll meet Bill Leslie. Leslie Advertising is doing some sharp regional work, and growing. You’ll find Mr. Leslie fascinating, fun, and kind. A little bit scary at times. You’ll appreciate all of that enough to go work for him, but what you’ll recognize years later is that he showed you up-close, day-to-day, what a leader is. How to be simultaneously strong and openminded. How to be both uncompromising and generous. How to change someone’s life by treating them with respect. Your mother won’t immediately appreciate your choice of jobs. Try to understand where she’s coming from. When you tell her your first job is in the mail room, she will be devastated (she


Business Black Box Q1 2017

might even cry). All her work as a single mother after your dad passed away 10 years ago…you’re going to tell her all that sacrifice was for the mail room? But then your advertising and PR skills will kick in, and you’ll explain to her that it’s just a starting point—which is true, you end up shifting to the media department on your first day—and that in no time you’ll surely be moving into a VP slot. Which brings me back to another big lesson from Bill Leslie. Your audacity—that assumptiveness you’d simply call confidence? Yes, it’s helped you make some good choices so far, but watch that. Sitting back with your feet on your desk, like you own the joint, don’t be surprised when Mr. Leslie walks in to knock them off in front of everyone. You won’t like that. But you won’t forget it, either. He’ll take you down a notch a time or two in front of everyone. Those are good lessons that you’ll be better off for learning the hard way. Not everyone gets to have a boss, a leader, and a mentor who cares enough to be straight with you, even when it’s brutally painful. Just know that this same man will drive you to the airport for your first job interview in New York, proud of what you’ve accomplished and learned on his watch. One more thing before we end this 2017 note from Joe to 1979 Joey—because a look back without it would be incomplete. You know the other person who’d be proud of you? Your dad. Losing him at age 12, when he fell ill at 39 and passed away so quickly, has shaped just about everything about you.

Henry Erwin was your baseball coach, your unofficial scoutmaster who came on every camping trip, the man who loved to cook and was great at it (and this will have such meaning for you many years from now). You learned so much from your 12 years with him, and then after, learning to live without him. Let that continue to guide you as you journey forward: 1. Trust your instincts. Listen to those you respect and who care about you, but when it’s time to make a decision, make it, and do what you know in your heart is right. 2. People have said you’re a natural leader; it’s what has you thinking of starting your own company, or even running for office someday. So lead. But remember you can’t be a leader if nobody follows. Keep the focus on everyone around you, and work to be someone people will want to follow. 3. You’re a person who cares about what others want, what their goals and dreams are. Listen to them, try to put yourself in their shoes. Make people’s time with you feel genuinely special. That’s not always easy, but I can’t overstate how fulfilling it can be. 4. Remember that work can be joyous and what an honor it is to do great work. Deadlines and pressures and sleep deprivation can make you forget that. Just one word: don’t. 5. You can’t say thank you too much or too often. You’ll be trained to do this in any environment where you serve customers, but remember the real lesson: thank others always—for what they do for you and for others. A closing note of reassurance: at 22, your dream is to lead a great team of people. Perhaps a company, perhaps through politics. You envision a really special assemblage of men and women doing something important, and having fun and making money while doing it. Not having money growing up, financial success is understandably important to you. But it’s not primarily about the money—the main thing is that you know you don’t want to succeed in a vacuum. You want success, joy and great work, shared with others. Creating something special together. So Joey, I have good news for you. You’re on the right track.

Joe Erwin is the co-founder and former President of Erwin Penland and The Erwin Center for Brand Communications at Clemson University. He was recently appointed to serve as Chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Foundation Board. In May 2016, he opened Endeavor, a coworking community for creative services professionals.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

by Geoff Wasserman


CLOSING THE GAPS Several years ago, a series of “minor competitive trash-talking” decisions during an after-school dodgeball game for my son culminated in his first—and only—“incident.” Amidst the commotion he fell, broke his hand, and had to have his arm “set” in a cast to realign and heal. Having grown up playing hockey and a veteran of broken bones, I reassured him of the healing process. “Setting the break in a cast gives it a chance to bring both parts back into alignment,” I explained. As most parents would, I seized the opportunity for a couple life lessons. “During that period of rest, the gap between the two bones disappears and the limb is restored. But it’s accompanied by enough pain, loss and time to reflect on how you ended up here through the small decisions along the way.” This concept of resting, realignment and closing gaps stuck with him—and me. So did the other life lesson: pebbles start avalanches because no one pays attention to pebbles, until one day something transformative happens because of the slow widening of a gap. For leaders this happens when we’re willing to ditch the narrative of our life and recognize that one of three gaps has emerged: 1. The gap between expectation and reality. Every relationship has both expectations and reality—the distance between the two is what we call conflict. Confronting the gap can bring realignment to an organization and certainly to any relationship. Customers, vendors, kids, spouses, employees all will at some point have various points of frustration with you. At the core of the frustration, you’ll find a gap between unmet expectation and reality. 2. The gap between rewarding and fulfilling. A great leader once said that there’s a difference between job and work. Your job is what you do until you discover your true work in life. When you discover the work you’re passionate about spending your life


Business Black Box Q1 2017

doing, you’ll never want to retire, you’ll just eventually adjust your schedule. This type of gap can show up when the leadership starts taking on compromising work , the stuff that looks profitable but that’s outside core competencies, or customers that may not align with your values. It’s healthy for a leadership team to periodically step back and ask if the rewards for your hard work and investment also carry fulfillment that aligns with your purpose. If there’s a significant gap, it might be time to redefine what really matters and challenge your narrative of what’s pressuring you to compromise. 3. The gap between the story of you, and the authentic you. Most leaders I’ve known, at some point, struggle with isolation and loneliness. Truth is, most leaders will at some point struggle with isolation stemming from the conflict between the desire for transparent relationships, juxtaposed with the fear of loss—“If this customer knew we weren’t really sure we could pull this off… if this employee knew we were struggling financially… if this friend knew about my personal struggle…” Several years ago, I joined a peer accountability group with seven other CEO’s/ husbands/fathers. While the mutual advice has been transformational, I discovered a rare freedom of being in a room, free of guilt, shame, loss, or ramifications from sharing the truth about struggles, knowing others have been through something of comparable weight. The leader of one of the largest organizations in his industry once told me, in the midst of the biggest crisis of his life: “Driving down the road, I pulled over and pulled out my phone, scrolling down for seemingly hours. That’s when I realized, among thousands of contacts and followers…I had no one in my

life I could call who I didn’t lead, to confide in for fear that if I shared the truth, they’d exit my life.” One of the greatest gifts a leader can receive is a trusted, safe environment where they can be authentic and transparent. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. At some point we all struggle with identity. There was a kind of leader you envisioned being when you started your journey, but along the way customers and employees entered and exited your life. Pressures forced compromises, and in the fast pace of “trying to keep up” maybe you fell into the trap of comparison between you and others, or between where you aren’t on the journey and the expectation of how far you should be by now. Piece by piece, identity started chipping away until there it was: The gap between the authentic you and the story of you that you allowed struggles, successes and perhaps the perceptions and voices of others to shape and mold. The good news about these gaps is this: They shrink significantly with a bold decision, a little time and commitment to stay the course. This year, my hope for you as a leader is you’ll carve out the time and do it—I used to say “find the time” but as you get older, you realize sometimes you have to get a sharp knife and cut deep into your schedule to carve away a piece for yourself. When you do, I bet you’ll rediscover what I did; the real, authentic you, and perhaps reset, realign and close some gaps holding you back from the quality of life you deserve.

ABOUT GEOFF WASSERMAN Geoff founded Showcase Marketing in 1999, serving for 18 years as CEO of the Southeast-based branding and advisory firm, and serves as chief brand officer for clients. He’s also the CEO of Business Black Box Magazine, as well as ghostwriter and author for several business and ministry leaders.

let’s do something that matters today GREENVILLE CHAMBER’S 128 TH ANNUAL MEETING JANUARY 31, 2017 TD CONVENTION CENTER Presented by

Please join us for the region’s largest business event and networking opportunity!

Annual Awards for Business & Community Leaders 2016 Successes A Look Ahead at 2017

- Register today at -



HOW LEADERSHIP HAS MADE IT A VITAL PART OF THE UPSTATE’S ECOSYSTEM By Reba Hull Campbell A visitor to Rock Hill’s downtown in the 1970s would have found a mall-like shopping experience with two blocks of Main Street covered to compete with outlying shopping malls. But fast forward to today, and Rock Hill’s downtown—actually the city as a whole— has bounded into the 21st century with a revitalized downtown corridor, nationally recognized recreation facilities, plus diverse arts and cultural activities. But these advances didn’t just happen, and they certainly didn’t happen in a vacuum. Rock Hill’s Mayor Doug Echols points to the city’s longstanding spirit of collaboration between public and private sector leaders as the key to the city’s renaissance. Echols credits Betty Jo Rhea, the city’s mayor in the 1980s and ‘90s, for starting the city on its path to becoming the progressive and prosperous community it is today. “Among other things, she pulled together community leaders representing mostly the public budget entities in the community to meet on a monthly basis and share information,” Echols said. And today the leaders of those same groups continue to meet on a regular basis to share information. These long-time information-sharing gatherings became the jumping-off point for the ongoing strategic planning that Rock Hill’s city council has engaged in for more than 10 years. Echols says these meetings have grown over the years to include hundreds of people who have generated thousands of ideas to help clarify residents’ expectations of their community. In addition, the city gathers input from residents through a formal written and online survey every three years. “We’ve been doing this for five or so cycles representing 20-plus years of input,” said Echols. The council then takes these ideas, identifies patterns and themes, and uses this input as the starting place for the planning and budget process for the next year. Echols notes there is even a city staff person whose primary job responsibility is tracking the plan, ensuring its elements are being carried out, measuring results, and keeping council and the public informed about progress.

City council links the budget process directly to the strategic planning process, which Echols says is a key strength of the city’s processes. Rock Hill’s budget year starts on July 1, so planning for 2017 started when the 2016 budget went into effect this past July. When council has its planning retreat each January in preparation for the budget each year, the members invite key senior staff to not only attend, but also participate in, the retreat. The input from community gatherings and the survey that took place over the course of the year help guide the council in establishing the priorities for the coming year. After the retreat, staff then gets to work to put a plan behind the priorities set by council and identifies measureable results. Echols points to an example of a priority that council established to increase police response times in certain parts of the city. “It’s nice to be able to say we want to accomplish this, but as we dig into the planning process, that idea begins to translate into whether we need more police officers or if the need is to create smaller geographic areas of coverage to provide shorter response time,” he said. It took some time for this approach to evolve. “The process was not as smooth in the early stages, but the council bought into it because they realize we have to operate a group,” he explained. “Does that mean unanimity all the time? Absolutely not. But I believe we get the big things done. We work together to find the funds or the resources to get it done.” But it’s not just the city budget that gets tied directly to this long-range strategic plan. Echols says that any major council meeting agenda item comes with an attachment establishing its relationship to this strategic plan. This ongoing and long-range planning process helps eliminate some of the surprises and keeps the council focused on the longrange vision. “We are eliminating some of the needs that just creep up and keeping focused on moving forward,” said Echols.

ABOUT REBA HULL CAMPBELL Reba Hull Campbell is the deputy executive director of the Municipal Association of S.C. that represents all 270 South Carolina cities and towns. Reba has spent more than 25 years in communications, government relations, fundraising and campaigns around S.C. and in Washington, DC. When not working to promote the interests of S.C. cities and towns, Reba is a writer, traveler and frequent bicycle rider on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.


Business Black Box Q1 2017



Runs directly through the heart of Rock Hill, connecting it with Charlotte to the North.


Intersects with the northeastern part of York County, providing direct access to Spartanburg, Greenville and Atlanta in addition to the Inland Port.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport

Located just 30 minutes away, Rock Hill has easy access to a large airport.

COMMERCIAL CENTERS Otarre Development In 2000, this two-lane road became a seven-lane giant that now sees an average of 30,000 cars per day and has a booming retail, restaurant and consumer services sector.

Cherry Road Corridor Since the ‘60s, Cherry Road has served as the city’s main commercial corridor and with some dramatic transformations it still maintains that place. It now plays host to multiple locally owned businesses in addition to several sports tourism sites, such as the Rock Hill Tennis Center and Winthrop Coliseum.

Medical Corridor The Piedmont Medical Center of Rock Hill offers a variety of medical services and employs nearly 380 physicians, 1,400 full- and part-time staff and over 200 volunteers. The Piedmont Medical Center not only impacts and offers care to York County, but their neighbors in Chester and Lancaster as well.

Old Town/Downtown The historical downtown area of Rock Hill is home to several local businesses, retailers and restaurants and has enough to offer both residents and visitors. Entrepreneurs and smaller businesses find it particularly attractive to be right in the heart of Rock Hill.

Textile Corridor Located between Winthrop University and downtown Rock Hill, the Textile Corridor is being renovated into mixed-use development sites. The most notable was the 2007 renovation of the Rock Hill Cotton Factory which brought over 300 jobs to the area.

Photo courtesy of Reba Hull Campbell.


Business Black Box Q1 2017



InGreenville, Greenville,“it “itisisthe thebest bestofoftimes, times,ititisisthe the In worst of times..., it is the spring of hope, it worst of times..., it is the spring of hope, it isis thewinter winterofofdespair.” despair.”Greenville Greenvilleisisa atale taleofof the two cities. two cities. WilliamBrown’s Brown’spersonal personalfinancial financialplanning planningoffice, office,Family Family William Legacy,Inc., Inc.,isisininthe theshadow shadowofofthe theprestigious prestigious Poinsett Club, Legacy, Poinsett Club, wherethe theleaders leadersofofGreenville Greenvillegather gatherdaily daily the bull table where atat the bull table forlunch. lunch.AAshort shorttwo-mile two-milewalk walkaway away are the neighborhoods for are the neighborhoods thedead deadTextile TextileCrescent Crescentalong alongWoodside WoodsideAvenue. Avenue.The The ofofthe onlinereal realestate estateguide, guide,NeighborhoodScout NeighborhoodScout notesthat: that: online notes

32 32

BusinessBlack BlackBox Box Business Q12017 2017 Q1

“TheWoodside Woodsideneighborhood neighborhoodhas hasa agreater greaterpercentage percentageofof “The childrenliving livingininpoverty poverty(61.4 (61.4percent) percent)than thanfound found 95.8 children inin 95.8 percent ofof all allU.S. U.S.neighborhoods… neighborhoods…with withjust just1.71.7percent percent percent adultshere herehaving havingearned earneda abachelor’s bachelor’sdegree. degree.This Thisis is ofofadults a a lowerrate rateofofcollege collegegraduates graduatesthan thanfound foundinin 98.8 percent lower 98.8 percent of of America’sneighborhoods.” neighborhoods.” America’s


Few people strolling past the trees, shops and restaurants along Main Street and then down into Falls Park to see the waterfall have any idea that the Woodside neighborhood exists, but William does, and he had the audacity to do something about it. He bought the Parker High School building the school district shuttered when the textile mills closed and reinvented it as Legacy Charter School. A huge banner hanging on the front of the school shouts, “Go to college: START HERE,” so no one can possibly miss the point. Legacy achieves that mission. If Legacy didn’t exist, most of its high school students would attend Berea High School. Their 2015 South Carolina School Report Cards show Berea has a slightly lower percentage of students in poverty than Legacy, and Berea students tend to do slightly better on most performance indicators. The 2015 Report Cards also show dramatically different outcomes. 76 percent of Legacy’s 2014 graduates are enrolled in college versus 34 percent of Berea’s graduates. William and I toured the Woodside neighborhood around Legacy to explore why. “What opens up a kid’s soul is what makes a difference,” William instructed. This animates William’s passion for helping children in poverty succeed not just in school, but in life. William’s admonition applies to the leaders in his community, to the educators in his school, and to the young scholars in his classrooms. True education has to be internally motivated; scholars have to want to be educated and work hard for it. The best proof of what scholars learn at Legacy isn’t how they score on their final exams, but what they learn about themselves that empowers them to perform at a high level throughout their lives. For William, the non-negotiable, essential core of Legacy is accepting as an article of faith that all children can succeed. William followed up after our visit to make sure I noted that Legacy is a team effort. That’s true, no one can take on a mission this massive alone, but William has shuffled his team more than once when people thought it unreasonable to expect all children to succeed regardless of the circumstances they come from.

made it out, but that’s what they are—exceptions. Statistics tell us that the weight of poverty—daily being hungry, daily wondering where you’ll sleep tonight, daily dealing with the dysfunction around you from teenage pregnancy to imprisonment to unemployment—is more that almost any child can overcome alone. William charges that we have a moral obligation to help these children. Beyond that, it is in our self-interest to help them. We all benefit from living in an community of highly skilled people, from the mechanics who tune the computers in our cars to the surgeons who operate on our hearts. If we don’t help these children, the plague of crime and despair that destroys their neighborhoods will find its way into ours. William says he doesn’t care what our motivations are, as long as we help.

Words do create mental images, and William lights up when he talks about how we label these children. They enter the school system behind in language and social skills compared to children from more privileged families. Children growing up in poverty have other skills highly tuned to their environment. Rather than see these children as capable, we test them to document their deficits and then label them as “special needs,” which is a clearer reflection of where the children have been than of who they are. We misinterpret these labels to believe they determine the MEETING POINT: trajectory of a child’s life. Children can read THE VILL AGE GRIND their environment, and whether adults expect them to be scholars or special needs, the adults tend to get what they expect. In the Woodside Neighborhood,

61.4% of children are living in poverty. NeighborhoodScout

William and I paused on our trek a block from the school to consider the drugs, prostitution, and other horrific things happening in the mobile homes and dilapidated housing in front of us. “The people on this street want to have hope,” William said, “but it’s been beaten out of them.” For children who grow up here, what realistic hope do they have to rise above their circumstances when almost no one they know has gone to college? There are exceptional examples of the few who

As we come up to the parking lot beside the school, William glances at the school buses. He notes the school is about giving children choices. He didn’t want to be in the transportation business, but for his scholars whose parents don’t have cars he realizes that choice is where the bus takes you, so Legacy is in the transportation business by necessity. While passionately visionary, William is also stubbornly pragmatic about what needs to be done to accomplish the mission.

Reaching the end of our visit, William takes more on his shoulders as he contemplates, “I must do a better job of convincing people who don’t know this poverty exists that it is their responsibility to help these children which will have a direct impact on the lives of those who help by giving them a feeling of significance.” Parting William says, “I’ve noticed no one lives forever.” This is William’s charge to you, dear reader. Celebrate and enjoy the amazing renaissance of Main Street, then join William on his journey down Woodside Avenue to leave a legacy by helping to give his scholars hope and a path to better lives.


Business Black Box Q1 2017


Learn lessons on leadership gleaned from a special trip with a generation of heroes.

It’s close to six in the morning when I head into Greenville-Spartanburg International airport, but the place is already buzzing with activity. It’s October, and it’s dark and chilly, but the traffic in and out is already picking up. And rightfully so. In just a few hours, 200 people will board a plane to fly to Washington D.C.—including 91 World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. It’s the 17th trip out of the Upstate for the Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to, according to their website, “transporting America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.” The organization started in 2005, and since that point has flown more than 160,000 veterans to Washington D.C. to see the many memorials and landmarks that many have never laid eyes on. Today, the Honor Flight has 130 hubs in 42 states, and Honor Flight Upstate is one of them. And on this day, October 27, 2016, I am honored to be on a flight out of Greenville. I will learn more on this day than I ever thought possible. And not simply about history—but about what it means to exhibit true leadership.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

KEEP TWO THINGS ALIVE: A DREAM AND A BUCKET LIST. To be honest, going on one of these flights has been on my bucket list for a while. The legacy of the U.S. military in my family is strong—Army, Navy, Marine Corps and National Guard all closely represented through my immediate family, and that’s leaving out the swarm of Citadel graduates that can be found throughout. I nearly signed up for a stint in the Navy myself—outweighed only slightly by the fact that the college I really wanted to attend only had an Army ROTC program, and apparently, I had already drawn allegiances. When I first heard about the Honor Fight, it was an almost magnetic draw—I knew I would have to go on one. Someday, I thought, I would sign up to be a guardian—one of the volunteers who travels alongside each veteran, taking care of any needs they might have throughout the day. That “someday” would be sooner than I thought, but it was something I kept on my list, waiting for the opportunity to arise. It propelled me to do something, even if it wasn’t time for that journey yet.

WHILE YOU DREAM, SHOW UP. In the meantime, I began working on an event called RECON—our own hat-tip to the veterans of the Southeast—that focused on purpose-based career transition for veterans. In its first year, we had attendees from five states attend, showing us how needed an event like RECON was. Connecting veterans to the local business resources in the Upstate became our own personal mission—a way to help the more than 400,000 veterans in the state of the South Carolina find their purpose, not just a job. It was through RECON that I began meeting people from all over the Southeast who were already invested and involved in veterans’ issues and organizations. From the local group at Upstate Warrior Solution to transition officers at military bases and leaders of nonprofits who offer therapies for PTSD—each one was literally showing up to help another generation of veterans. Many were veterans themselves. Others, like myself, were not; they were people unconcerned with the “popularity” of veterans issues and, rather, concerned with the needs of the people themselves. They were—are—people who show up. Interestingly enough, it is through RECON that I was offered the chance to go on the Honor Flight. Obviously, I said yes.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

The a


’s gra


her, C

pl. Eu

gene O. Bo os



THE LEADERSHIP THAT CAME BEFORE YOU SHAPED THE PRESENT. It is now 7 a.m. in the morning, and there is activity throughout the airport. Local media hover, waiting to interview some of the chosen before we load onto the plane. There is a constant hum of activity—guardians and volunteers are ensuring that everyone has their information, their bags, their shirts. An orchestra, made up of homeschooled elementary and middle-school children, is playing patriotic tunes while guardians are signing in and connecting with the veteran they will shadow for the day. Eventually, a Navy vet stands up and begins singing along. He will sing throughout the day, and later tell me he took voice lessons in the Philippines from the same man who coached Pavarotti. But at this moment, he’s singing to 30 or so school-aged children.

“There were piles of clothes, because they would make all the people take off their clothes before they walked them into the chambers,” he says. “And they didn’t take many children, so there were a lot of tiny kids’ clothes there.

I’ve thought of this before—the dichotomy of what we learn in school, pinned against what some really lived through—mainly in terms of how my children relate to an event like 9/11. They learn about that day as a point in history, while those of us who lived it can still relive it on command. They’ll never grasp the emotions that ran through the events of that day and the ones that followed. They’ll never fully understand what it meant.

The closest he gets to talking about the war again is telling us how much fuel weighs, and how much his plane weighed, and how far he could get in that plane when he was in the air. But never again about France or Germany.

And just like that, I’ll never fully understand what these men and women went through. But this is my opportunity to try. I have the opportunity sooner than I thought. My seatmate—I’ll call him “Mr. J”—is a WWII vet and fought in the advances in Europe. (I’m protecting the true names of these veterans as I now have a deeper sense of how personal many of these stories are.) In the air, I learn more and more about Mr. J—how he lives so very close to me; about his children and grandchildren; his late wife and how she kept him in line. Most of the conversation is lighthearted. Until he tells us his story. Mr. J was Airborne in World War II, as is proudly advertised on his hat. He tells me he was drafted the day after his eighteenth birthday and ended up in Europe. He’s been to Auschwitz, he says, and he begins to describe his time there.

“I kept a pair of little girls shoes…” he begins to say, but his voice breaks, and he begins to tear up. I do, too. He doesn’t talk again for quite a while, and when he does, it’s not about the war. It’s about his wife. Or his daughter. How he volunteers with Mobile Meals in Spartanburg. His yappy dog that won’t leave him alone since his wife passed.

There is plenty else going on in the plane, however, to keep one’s mind moving in a different direction. There is a branch song singa-long; if the number of voices singing along with them mean anything, it’s that we have a plane with a far greater number of Marines than anyone else. Or, I’ll later learn, maybe “they’re the most vocal.” The cockpit is left open—a far cry from the post-9/11 regulations I’ve become accustomed to—and a number of our passengers will take the time to go up and look over the shoulders of the pilots. They’ll chat about weight, and fuel, and the dashboard, and the differences between the planes of today and the planes flown by the Greatest Generation. This is their history—all of it—and they own it. But I’m reminded that their pasts created my future, and my present. Their technologies gave birth to what we use today; their experiences shaped the generations that came after them. I am a product of these experiences—these men and these women, and my present reality is, too.


Business Black Box Q1 2017



When we land, I’m not expecting what happens as we walk through the gate. Before I ever see it, I hear it—a loud roar of cheers coming from the crowd outside. The crowd is enormous; as far as I can see there are people here solely to welcome these vets to D.C. There is a band playing…posters…balloons…children…adults. A tunnel of humanity meant to filter through the plane’s occupants. Once I get through, I turn around to see our vets’ faces light up with excitement as they walk through, shaking hands, accepting words of thanks from the people of the tunnel. Not one of them shies away. Not one of them tries to temper the conversation. They are not only willing participants in this celebration, but they are accepting of the honor that the masses of people are trying so hard to offer.

It takes a while to move so many people through the welcome and onto the three chartered buses waiting to take us to our destinations: the WWII memorial, the Navy memorial, Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Korean and Vietnam Memorials. The National Park police are there to escort us through the city—the only way we’d be able to make it to so many locations in just a short few hours. As we pull up to the WWII memorial, an overcast sky threatens rain. We unload the busses to another throng of students—interestingly, a group from Legacy Middle School in Greenville, whose annual trip to the Capitol just happened to coincide with this Honor Flight. But there is something else special here: the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office has sent up their rifle and drill team for a special ceremony, to honor their own Upstate veterans. In it, they create a Battlefield Cross, presenting the flag to our oldest veteran, as is custom. With only 10 minutes remaining, it begins to rain. The tourists around the area begin to scatter, but not one veteran moves. They are fixated on the ceremony in front of them. They straighten hats or tighten their jackets’ collars, but not one moves. Only after the ceremony ends do we hurry back to the bus, but many still hold out in the cold rain to take a moment to walk the memorial grounds. Because of the rain, we are diverted from our original itinerary, and instead head over to the Navy Yards. There we will tour the Naval Museum, with artifacts from battles and wars as far back as the country’s origins. For someone as Type-A as myself, the diversion is naturally unwelcome, but if it is to anyone else, you’d never be able to tell. We spend an hour in the museum, walking the nooks and crannies, visiting everything from old ships’ bells to miniature replicas of ships of war, listening to the stories that naturally rise to the surface—of war, of ships, of places visited, friends lost and found, and lessons learned.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

SOMETIMES, JUST BE QUIET. Our next stop is Arlington, where acres upon acres of white headstones dot the landscape. Each headstone is, of course, representative of a human soul, which only adds to the gravity of the place. We drive through the grounds, heading directly to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where we’ll attend the changing of the guard and a wreath ceremony. Although there is a large crowd in attendance, there is an odd hush—you can still hear the muted traffic from beyond the cemetery, and a few birds around the area, but otherwise, the quiet seems heavy. The soldier guarding the tomb—the Sentinel—is one of the most elite positions in the world. Only the best of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment are considered, and the position is voluntary service. A 24/7 ritual of the highest form, the guard of this tomb has not been broken since 1937. In each hour, the Sentinel walks the span of the Tomb—21 steps…21 second rest….21 steps. At the turn at each end, a sharp click from the taps on their heels. That is the only sound he makes.

life, and he nods. There’s no more conversation; I simply squeeze the back of his hand and say “thank you.” I can’t say anymore. I’m surprised by the emotion that I carry. And if that’s true for me, I can’t imagine what it’s like for these men and women to be here. But I do know one thing—I feel better afterward; the acknowledgement of what time and history can do is cathartic. I hope it’s the same for them.

When the new Sentinel arrives, those taps click against the pavement cleanly. Today, there is one variation—as he passes by the line of veterans surrounding the perimeter of the memorial, his shoe issues a small scrape—a “salute” to the many veterans there today. You’ll only hear it if you’re quiet.

ADDRESSING YOUR OWN PAST ALLOWS HEALING AND GROWTH. After Arlington, we head to the Marine Corps War memorial— otherwise known as the Iwo Jima memorial. This stop has a lot of history for me, personally— not only did I grow up going to the Independence Day concerts held there, but my grandfather, a WWII-era Marine, was at Iwo Jima, in the fourth division. Before he passed in 2013, he never talked about the war—at least not to me, and not to most of the family who I’ve mentioned it to. We learned more about his personal impact with that war—in that region—in the last two months of his life than we ever knew. (“Back then,” Mr. J had told me earlier today, “they didn’t call it PTSD. They called it shell-shock.”) In our group, there is only one veteran who was at Iwo Jima. I hear through the grapevine that he doesn’t talk much about it, either. In other conversations I’ve had this seems to be a common thread—I get the feeling that WWII vets who were based in the Pacific are far more likely to not talk about their experiences. As I watch him at this memorial, I can see something in his eyes. It’s a lot like what was in Grandpa’s eyes if you ever mentioned the war, but I can’t identify it. So instead, I just walk up to him. “You don’t know me, but my grandfather was at Iwo Jima, too, and I just wanted to say thank you.” It’s all I can spit out, and I have tears in my eyes and in my throat, which ticks me off, because dang it, I’m a professional here. He quietly says, “Thank you. How is he doing?” I tell him he passed a few years back, but that he was well loved and had lived a long


There are more than 21,000 veterans on the waitlist to go on Honor Flight. If you’d like to be a part of helping them take this trip, or if you’d like to go as a guardian, check out their site at

LOOK BACK IN AWE AT WHERE YOU’VE BEEN; YOU CAN BE SURE SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY IS. Our stop by the Korean and Vietnam memorials, and to the Lincoln memorial for a group photo, is our final for the day. Here, the Vietnam memorial cuts a gaping line into its flat, landscaped surroundings—it’s long been known as symbolizing the wound it left on the nation. Names carved into every inch—the names of the fallen. Meanwhile, our Korean veterans will have their chance to see their memorial—an eerie system of soldier-like sculptures that seemingly melt into the landscape around them. Artistically, it’s one of my favorites. As the sun sets behind the Lincoln Memorial, we use the dying light to set a photo of all our participants at once time. It’s a complex feat—but the effort draws its own crowd, who begin to ask what it’s all about. The answer—”around 100 WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans”—typically silences the questioner. They’ll sit and stare at the group compiling on the steps in front of the giant seated Abraham Lincoln. Almost always, they watch in awe.

That night, we return back, and even though we are almost two hours later than our initial schedule, the airport is packed with a cheering crowd to welcome our veterans home one more time. Each is announced individually to the crowd, who cheers and claps, celebrating them and their return. We are all tired—it has been such a long day—but the faces of each man and woman as they are announced to the waiting throngs of people is amazing. They are amazing.


Business Black Box Q1 2017


There are two things to always keep alive: a dream and a bucket list. “I’ve always wanted to own my own business.” “I’ve always wanted to get my degree.” ”I’ve always wanted to travel to [insert location here.]” “I’ve always wanted to work with [insert company here.]” Life is short, and everyone has something bigger that they want to do or accomplish. And although you may not have everything in place to do it now, keeping the dream alive is vital. In the same vein, a bucket list is a musthave for anyone—it’s the short form of goalsetting, which allows you to constantly revisit your dreams and desires and work toward making them happen.


While you dream, show up. The bucket list is nice, and you might not be there yet, but don’t let it serve as your excuse to not try to get there. Show up. Take the necessary steps to get you close to where you want to be. This might look like volunteering with a local non-profit or taking that first class at the community center, but whatever you do, you’re making strides to get to another level.


Listen to the leadership that came before you; they shaped your present. In the business world, we call it mentorship, but at its most basic form, there is value in learning from the ones who came before you. Reach out to a local business person you admire or to the founder of your own company; ask them to coffee. Then ask them to tell their story. Listen to them; ask questions. There’s no better source of information than someone who has lived through it and is willing to tell the story.


Business Black Box Q1 2017



All of us are, at one point or another, worthy of kudos or praise or congratulations. It’s also common for us to try to sidestep that notice— to minimalize our accomplishments and how much work they actually took. Instead, learn to accept positive feedback gracefully, and become comfortable doing it. After all, the better you get at what you do, the more you’re going to face this situation.

All of us have a “past,” and all of us have made mistakes, or missteps, or even great choices that we revisit from time to time. There is great strength in addressing your own past— how you got to where you are today; who you surround yourself with; how you make the choices you make—and learning what makes you tick.

Accept the praise that you’ve earned.


Find the things to celebrate or honor, even when a storm is brewing. It’s’ easy to get distracted by impending challenges, and in those times it’s normal to want to hunker down and brace for what’s coming your way. But in those times, if you can look back into things worth celebrating— your success rate at getting through other stormy times—you’ll come out all the better for it.


Sometimes, just be quiet. Mindfulness and meditation have garnered a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason—there is an internal strength that can be discovered in the stillness. Many great business leaders have moments of introspection that have helped them break through to another level—it all starts with being quiet and reflective.

Addressing your own past allows healing and growth.

LESSON #8 Look back in awe at where you’ve been; you can be sure someone else already is. Many people will tell you not to look back; only to look forward. But there is power in being able to see where you’ve been and the successes that have gotten you to where you are now. It’s okay to look back in awe and be proud of where you are and who you’ve become—after all, you are the leaders of the next generation, who is watching you for cues.


by George Fletcher


LEADERS NEED GOOD MANAGERS Understanding a dynamic city like Greenville means embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to management consultant Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. A manager is the implementer, the one who makes great ideas work. Leadership has many definitions, but it is most often associated with a set of personal characteristics and/or a specific initiative. Good managers often have to wear the leader hat. Greenville has been blessed with great historical leaders. The turn of the 20th century brought the textile leaders who, by the mid ‘50s, had made Greenville the “textile capital of the world.” Charles Daniel not only built one of the largest construction companies in the country, but also recruited and built the new industrial South Carolina. Buck Mickel, Tommy Wyche, Max Heller and others pioneered the public private partnerships in Greenville, which led to the Hyatt, the redesign of Main Street, the Peace Center, Falls Park, the Governor’s School. They provided the model that is still used for projects today. I have two of Buck Mickel’s famous lists. The first was written about 1980, and contained a list of 33 projects. For each project, he had the name of someone responsible and an estimated cost. The second list had 58 items and was dated April, 1996. Buck passed away in 1998, but his lists are still relevant.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

Buck Mickel always believed that a city should have the “next big thing” coming out of the ground. Leaders in the community today obviously agree. The new Public Works facility on Fairforest is the first step in building a West End Park. The Northpointe (Wade Hampton and Stone) and Camperdown Projects (Broad and Falls Street) are progressing. Verdae will soon have 10,000 residents, and condo and apartment projects are spring up across the city. My short time on City Council has reintroduced me to the other side of the management/leadership equation. The dayto-day management of the City (and County) is often under-appreciated. For example, • •

Public safety is always a top priority. Infrastructure to accommodate the “next big thing” often has a two to four year window to complete. Maintenance of the buildings, parks and infrastructure cannot be postponed. Affordable housing and public transportation are ongoing and underserved needs. The management of special and seasonal events give the city its vibrancy. The City of Greenville employs over 900 people in a diverse array of services. Like a business, employees are the lifeblood of the city.

And then there is the economy. When the economy tanks, projects can be postponed, but the city must continue day-to-day operations. Since the 2008 recession, there has been a continual increase in economic activity across the county. It is difficult to maintain staffing and services at either end of this cycle.

City planners are wrestling with national trends. I attended the Smart City Summit in Austin where the largest companies in the country were demonstrating what the Internet of Things would bring. Autonomous cars. Shared vehicles. Public transportation. Big data. Changes so disruptive that IBM, Cisco and others believe it will be a $34 trillion dollar market. Finally, development and change brings inevitable conflict. I recently sat through a Design Review Board hearing where both sides passionately debated a proposed building adjacent to Falls Park. The DRB could only consider the building design and not the location, but it was a classic case of private property rights vs the public access to a park. Unlike our recent national election, it was a civil debate where people disagree agreeably. I understood both sides of the argument. As city officials try to resolve this and other conflicts, please recognize the broader context in which they work. Recognize as well that management’s responsible is solving problems and “doing things right.”

ABOUT GEORGE FLETCHER George Fletcher came out of retirement to win an at-large representative to Greenville City Council in the fall of 2015. His prior career spanned 37 years in environmental management and engineering. He has been deeply involved in the community, having served as Chair of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair (with his wife) of the Greenville County United Way Campaign and some 15 other Boards and Commissions. He has been recognized as the SC Engineer of the Year in 1999 by the SC Society of Professional Engineers and as Greenville Business Person of the Year in 2000 by Greenville Magazine. In 2005, he was inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Scientists and Engineers.




Business Black Box Q1 2017

Photo by Shawn Stom/FishEye Studios



With Greenville blossoming more and more by the day, it’s vital to have passionate people to help it thrive. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone with more passion and drive than Jessica Sharp. The Interim Diversity Manager for Greenville Health System is, without a doubt, someone you would want on your team, as energy and enthusiasm for Greenville’s future (as well as her own) is a breath of fresh air.

If you take a look at her never-ending list of involvement and activities, it’s easy to wonder how Jessica Sharp finds time to sleep. After all, she recently assumed the role of Diversity Manager for GHS, is pursuing a Masters degree, serves on multiple nonprofit boards, creates and organizes programs for women and youth development, and plans and coordinates events for community outreach and leadership—just to name a few. So, how does she do it? “I have really great time management skills,” admits Sharp. “I only commit to be a part of something that I’m passionate about and believe in. I’m super aware of my limits and not over-committing. I’ve gotten used to saying ‘no’ even though I don’t like to, but I’m always transparent. I think that is extremely important.” The Masters of Public Administration student always had dreams of pursuing a graduate degree, but wanted to be sure of her goals and direction for her future. She originally considered an MBA, but admits that she “will always be in non-profit. I can’t have a job where I’m not helping someone. You do a little bit of everything and learn a lot more.” For those interested in managerial or administrative careers, Sharp offers sound advice; “be prepared to work hard. Volunteer, intern—do something somewhere and do it for the right reasons, because you feel called to and passionate about it.” This philosophy translates to her new position as Interim Diversity Manager at Greenville Health System.


When the Chief Diversity Officer left, Sharp assumed the her current role transitioning from Diversity Coordinator. There, she handles an array of responsibilities ranging from employee issues and training to programs and patient services such as language barriers, disability and discrimination. “My goal is to ensure that all patients and employees have equal and quality access to health care and have the same opportunities and experiences with the health system,” says Sharp. Still, there are pros and cons to every job. Sharp is able to function in a role where she can serve those around her. “The best part about my job is that I’m not restricted to just one area or category of patient or employee. I get to do a lot of good for a lot of people,” she says. But the job isn’t always easy. With a sigh Sharp admits, “diversity is really hard. People are very different, which is good, but with that, they have very different thoughts and opinions which is difficult. Diversity is changing all the time—it’s not a one size fits all idea. The world is changing and people are changing and how we handle those situations has to change along with it.” She is already planning for the future of the diversity program. With the collaboration of a new Director, she hopes to expand the department with what they offer—an “intentional outreach strategy” focusing on more training and community events.

Fun Fact: Jessica considers herself an ambivert. “Most people assume I’m very extroverted but I frequently need time to myself.”

With her abundance of hard work and desire to continually serve and improve the community around her, it is no surprise that Sharp has been honored with an array of awards, including Best and Brightest Under 35 and Talented Tenth’s Top 10 Young Professionals. But when asked about the type of award that she would be honored to receive, Sharp was quick to respond. “I would be incredibly honored to receive an award that is given to people who truly care about making Greenville better and really investing in it. I really care about Greenville and want to make it better as a whole but really for those who are underserved and marginalized. “We have an obligation to help other people,” she continues. “A lot of people may not feel that way, but do it for whatever reasons drive you—religious, spiritual, however you see it. We want to make not just our community, but our country a thriving place. We’re judged by how we help the least; life is about helping others. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life and it’s my responsibility to give back. Greenville is special because it’s exceptionally philanthropic and we can make that expand to other places.” Her love for her community and passion for serving and inspiring others shines through everything she does. If you pass by her, take a minute to speak to her about Greenville and her hopes for it’s future— who knows, she probably has a list of ways you can get involved!


Business Black Box Q1 2017

by Tressa Gardner


OUR INNOVATION ECOSYSTEM Over the last few years, a remarkable burst of entrepreneurial activity has taken place across South Carolina, across multiple industry sectors. At the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT), we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with many of the people and organizations responsible for what is now described as the Innovation Ecosystem across our state. The groundwork for much of this activity was years in the making, but now is paying dividends in every part of the state. SC’s network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), located at educational institutions in every region, supports budding inventors with ideas that range from personal care products, to inventions that improve safety in the workplace. Since its inception 20+ years ago, the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) has supported hundreds of companies that have created thousands of high-skilled jobs. After receiving initial financial support from SCRA’s SC Launch program, these companies have received an additional $395 million in investment. SCRA’s network of Resource Partners, such as the SiMT, offer additional resources to those trying to grow their businesses in South Carolina. (http://www. The Legislature helped to spur additional investment by passing The South Carolina Angel Investor Tax Credit in 2013. The SC Angel Network has invested nearly $20 million in over 50 companies to date. Incubators and accelerators, such as Charleston’s Digital Corridor, The Harbor Accelerator, and USC’s Columbia Incubator,


Business Black Box Q1 2017

offer programs throughout the year. But growth isn’t just happening in our bigger cities. Incubators in rural parts of the state receive additional startup help and support from Clemson University’s Technology Villages program. The Gould Business Incubator at SiMT has hosted multiple events, including a Startup Boot Camp that drew more than 50 participants from as far away as Georgia. Currently, 22 startups and small companies are “incubating” at the Gould Incubator. In 2015 they generated $12M in revenue that went into our local economy.

The Hub ( exists as a one-stop-shop for information on resources and events happening across the state. Do you have a great idea? Do you need help? There are many sources of support for you, across the state of South Carolina. Check out the Department of Commerce’s resource locator: http://sccommerce. com/sc-business-network/resourcefinder. And, make plans to attend an Entrepreneurship Event at the SiMT, on February 7th.

Our research institutions, and their technology transfer offices and research foundations, have assisted undergraduates, grad students, faculty and SmartState Chairs with the creation of new products that will improve the lives of millions of South Carolinians, and Americans. In early November, five small companies from across the state pitched their products to a team of judges at the SCBIO LIVE conference in Greenville. The SiMT Team is proud to have worked with three of the five, and their products will be truly life-altering for those in need. The SC Department of Commerce has been instrumental in promoting these activities, through the development of the SC Innovation Plan, and the creation of the Department of Innovation and the Innovation Challenge grants. The initial grant awards went to multiple organizations from the Lowcountry, to the Pee Dee, to the Midlands and Upstate, to support entrepreneurial activities, incubators, and accelerators. This summer, the Innovation Hub, an online tool for the state’s innovation community, was announced.

ABOUT TRESSA GARDNER Tressa Gardner is Associate VP of the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT), Florence, S.C. Ms. Gardner connects business, industry, inventors and entrepreneurs to the advanced technical resources of the SiMT. Ms. Gardner received a Bachelor of Science in Economics degree from Francis Marion University and a Master of Arts in Economics from Clemson University. She served as Project Manager and Co-PI on numerous National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (ATE) and S-STEM grants to Florence-Darlington Technical College from 2003-2013, and joined the SiMT as Director of Business Development in 2013.




Business Black Box Q1 2017

Photo by Shawn Stom/FishEye Studios



If you’ve ever driven through Downtown Spartanburg, you’ve more than likely laid eyes on the Montgomery Building. In its heyday, it played host to an array of businesses that shaped the history of the entire community. Now it sits empty with scaffolding surrounding the once-flourishing historical structure, with windows boarded and pieces of the decorative adornments missing. But not for long.

Enter James Bakker, Principal at BF Spartanburg, LLC. This developer and his team have taken on the project and plan to restore and revive the historical 1924 building. As a developer, Bakker has gained experience in construction, architecture, design and finance. Bakker was drawn to the uniqueness, beauty, and location of the Montgomery Building, which was designed by architecture firm Lockwood Greene, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Montgomery Building is situated in the heart of Downtown Spartanburg and forms a bridge between two important sections of the downtown area. “It’s not everyday you get to work on something of this magnitude,” says Bakker. Bakker admits that when it comes to his profession, he is driven by a challenge. “Having something new every day is an adventure,” he says. “Through my work with the Montgomery Building, I have met interesting people, heard countless stories of Spartanburg residents’ family and personal connections to the Building, and learned a tremendous amount of history from the time period in which the Montgomery Building was constructed.” While he loves a challenge, he also understands that there are concerns and constraints with every project. The Montgomery Building is a special, one-of-akind building, according to Bakker. “Design is critical,” says Bakker. “We have to design our plans to fit with the historical fabric of the building. We’re governed by our own desire to restore with historical accuracy as well as our duty to comply with


When the Montgomery Building opened in 1924, it was the tallest building in the city of Spartanburg.

applicable building codes. Today’s modern building codes and design and construction practices have evolved significantly since 1924, when the Montgomery Building was built. Thus, bringing the Building back to life in a historically-accurate way while meeting today’s modern requirements poses an exciting challenge.” While the Montgomery Building sits atop his current priority list, Bakker is always on the lookout for new projects and ideas. Bakker says the most important thing about taking on a new project is “taking a longterm bet on the city. Is this where we want to be? What about location and walkability? Is the deal interesting or challenging? Am I passionate about it?” There are so many factors that are taken into account. But Bakker does not limit his interest to any one particular style of building or design. “I don’t have a singular or limited style. It’s more about the place and the history and current needs of the area that drive the desire to invest in a project,” he says. With so much on his plate, he has a limited amount of free time. Beyond the world of development, Bakker is also enrolled in Officer Candidate School for the South Carolina National Guard where he will graduate as a Second Lieutenant in August of 2017. He says that the experience of joining the National Guard has been both challenging and rewarding, and he is honored to serve our Country. When he does find a second for himself, he enjoys spending time with his wife and family. He also tries to sneak in some time for hunting, fishing and reading.

He admitted he never knows where he’s going to find his next idea or inspiration; most of them come from things completely unrelated to real estate. For example, he notices and keeps track of trends by traveling and taking in what’s happening around him, but also from his background in student housing. Bakker’s key advice in successful real estate development is to really get into the details. “I have learned the importance of understanding the nuances and details of a project and controlling what is within my power to control,” Bakker says. “Problemsolving is the biggest component of my job, and I have learned to expect the unexpected and then do whatever I can to keep everyone motivated and moving in the right direction. Some days bring great news and other days bring frustrating news, but I try to always be positive.” While his work with the Montgomery Building has been an opportunity to practice his own sound advice in patience and control, he smiles and says, “We’re almost there! If I can leave any last words, they would be ‘thank you.’ I can’t thank everyone enough for their hard work and support in keeping this project moving forward. It has been complex and slow but we’re working to ensure we get it right. While there have been plenty of sleepless nights, it’s really been a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing the Montgomery Building restored to its former glory.”


Business Black Box Q1 2017


See how a company has taken on industry giants and carved out a place for themselves in a competitive market.

Being an entrepreneur and striking out on your own is daunting enough, and it can be even more so when you are going into a market that is already controlled by one or two large companies. Clear Touch Interactive is one such company, that started in the shadow of two larger industry giants and has not only been able to hold its own, but grow and take a segment of the market for itself.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

BACKSTORY Most businesses start by addressing a problem, and Clear Touch is no different in this regard. Among their staff, there is 15 years of industry experience in interactive technology and what Clear Touch calls, “the connected classroom,” which is the use of technology that can be integrated within the classroom by teachers and students, making learning more hands on, most commonly seen with Clear Touch’s interactive panels. Within the current industry, there were limitations to the technology according to Keone Trask, president of Clear Touch Interactive. For example, interactive whiteboards brought a heavy need for expensive support and upkeep. He provides an example from a different industry: Gillette. “Give them the razor, sell them the blades,” says Trask. “That’s what a lot of people felt about this classroom technology.” Connecting that to the classroom, a lot of the technology that was given to teachers and school systems—the razor’s handle—require them and school IT support to buy expensive projector bulbs, clean out dust from projectors and constantly recalibrate the screens, which often displayed fuzzy pictures. . “Existing solutions in the market utilized aging technologies, required time consuming maintenance and failed to increase engagement and foster collaboration,” says Trask. “That was the founding of Clear Touch Interactive; there had to be simpler way.” In 2014 at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Atlanta, Clear Touch debuted with a multi-touch flat panel solution and a plan to take the market by storm. Their panel solution improved existing technology, featuring a clear picture, ten points of touch, and multiple size options. By the end of 2014, Clear Touch had three employees, Trask, his wife Tamara, as Vice President of Operations, and Leo Gallant, Business Development Representative. Presently, at the close of 2016, they have 19 employees across the country.


Keone & Tamara Trask




Continental United States HEADQUARTERS

Greenville, SC




We had to show that other people were trusting us, that we were delivering product like we said we would.

CHALLENGES Clear Touch happens to share market space with two larger companies, Promethean and Smart Technologies who when combined account for 75 percent of the market share in interactive technology in education. “They say it’s better to be lucky than good, so we kind of nailed the good part,” says Trask. “We are bringing a better product, but we’ve also seen the business models of those two in particular; they have struggled, and that’s the lucky part.” Clear Touch has learned many lessons from difficulties the big companies have faced, with the most important the need to be agile.

KEONE TRASK “We want to be agile; we want to outsource where we can whether it’s marketing, whether it’s operations or manufacturing,” says Trask. “The challenge with them was that they build a lot of ivory castles and when you have 20 percent of your workforce that is just there to support one percent of the overhead and the payroll that it creates.” “While their position in the market is difficult to ignore, we focus on providing a better solution that meets the needs and requirements of our customers,” says Trask. “This focus enables us to be more nimble and agile in the market.” However, coming into a market against two large industry giants always has its share of challenges, such as making sure that you aren’t lost in the shadows. “The biggest challenge we had in taking on those customers was establishing ourselves,” says Trask. “We had to show that other people were trusting us, that we were delivering product like we said we would.” To address that challenge, they have set up a nationwide network of employees who are out in the field, demonstrating the product and engaging with their customers. “It doesn’t sell that well on a specs sheet or on a website,” says Trask. “One of the things we started very early on and continue to do is have every one of our staff members who are field-based or sales-based issued a vehicle, and multiple sets of demo equipment, together with all of the other company assets they need to do their job.” Other challenges include the pricing pressure they can easily put on the market. “Our competitors can drop the price very quickly and make up for it somewhere else,” says Trask. “We don’t have that luxury.” Next is something that Clear Touch has dubbed, “FUD” or fear, uncertainty and doubt. The bigger companies can spread the word about the smaller companies not having certain certifications or trying to scare customers. As an example, Clear Touch has heard rumors spread that say that smaller company’s products will burn down buildings. “We can overcome those but we have to prioritize which ones we have to overcome,” says Trask.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

For us, the biggest things we are investing in...evolve the product and evolve the technology. KEONE TRASK

SUCCESS In just three short years, Clear Touch has grown from three to 19 employees across the country. While that does present challenges, such as different state working certifications and regulations, it has given them the opportunity to engage with their customers. “For us, the biggest things we are investing in are continued growth, evolving the product and technology and we will continue to invest in people,” says Trask. For Clear Touch, it is the people that really have taken them to the next level. “The ideal candidates are the ones that get up in the morning and aren’t afraid to get on the phone, don’t take an extra stroll to get out of the door and are just high energy,” says Trask. “More importantly, they believe in the product and who we are selling it to.” With a remote workforce around the country, they address the possible challenges by constantly staying on top of communications with their workers and by having a leadership team that is hands on. “We get involved with many of the activities and planning and the thing that go into that,” says Trask. “We stay very connected with trade shows, events, etc.” Those activities are also the main engagement for potential customers, the focus being school districts. “We have activities from coast to coast,” says Trask. “Every locality we go into, every mile you drive down the highway, you are in a school system.” As a company, they are looking to expand Westward, however the Southeast is a hot bed of expansion and growth that they are able to easily tap into. “This is the largest growing area of the country, from a migration standpoint,” says Trask. “We have a lot of new school construction; we have a lot of new growth.” Growth in technology is another area Clear Touch is staying ahead of, but also remaining smart in what they invest in. “You have 30 kids running around in a classroom; it gets a little crazy,” says Trask. “The evolution of our product is going to continue to be the simplicity of the product, the usability. We believe buying technology to just buy technology is not a good strategy.” Instead, Clear Touch Interactive relies on not only having good technology but continually investing in people, both its employees and customers, and setting itself up to not only face the market giants, but to overcome them.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

by David Setzer


WHAT IS A LEADER? Leadership. It’s that mysterious word that gets bounded about in organizations around the globe. Business, political, nonprofit, social. Really anywhere more than a few people come together, at some point someone is going to throw out the L word. Leadership must be important because we spend a lot of time and money on defining, recognizing, diagramming, extolling, and teaching (even though some say it can’t be taught) leadership. We have institutes for the study of leadership. You can go to leadership seminars, take leadership courses, attend leadership boot camps, read leadership books, and listen to leadership podcasts. And, if you looked it up while you’ll find a generic definition “the action of leading a group of people or an organization” You’ll also find about a million other definitions and examples, so let’s go ahead and make that a million and one. What is leadership? I think the best definition I heard was a straightforward one years ago which simply said that “leadership is helping someone else get from point A to point B”. That someone, of course, could be a single person, a family, a company, or a society and the distance from point A to point B is naturally assumed is forward progress. Why is leadership so important? For whatever reason, it seems that groups of people rarely self organize to create organization, structure, or progress without someone (or a group of someones) taking the initiative to set a direction and organize resources to move in that direction.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

Without that focused effort things just don’t tend to get done—from organizing families to building countries. What does leadership look like (how do “I” become a leader)? This too I think can be easy to understand, you don’t have to make it complicated. Leadership comes down to one word and that’s responsibility. A leader takes responsibility for his/her self, surroundings, circumstances and for others. This is demonstrated in two simple ways: 1.

Start doing something. Develop a plan and take action. The first person you need to help move from point A to point B is yourself. What is it in your life that you need to make progress on? Develop a plan and start taking action. In the BEGINNING a leader doesn’t necessarily need followers. Many leaders found their inspiration and started charting a course that others wanted to follow. At some point though the old adage does ring true that a leader without any followers is just someone out for a walk.


Care about other people. This one sounds absurdly simple but it’s probably the most rare and hardest leadership trait to learn. True leaders are ones that helps others get from point A to point B, not use them to get there for themselves. I saw a great demonstration of this last week at our oldest daughter’s graduation. There was a senior walking around the group before the ceremony with

extra tassels and other regalia ‘just in case’ for those who forgot or lost theirs. This was a young man who took others needs into account, anticipated those needs, and took responsibility for doing something. If this young man takes his caring for others and starts moving the ball forward in his chosen field, he will find a long line of followers behind him. (note: he was the one voted by his peers to represent the student body as the commencement speaker). I absolutely believe that leadership can be learned. Yes, there are people who naturally possess some of the traits necessary for effective leadership (boldness, humility, ingenuity, compassion) but no one comes out of the womb a leader. If you want to grow your leadership capacity, then just start doing something. Move the ball forward in your life, your church, your company, or wherever you’re planted right now. Start taking responsibility, and caring about others and eventually you’ll look around and find a group following you.

ABOUT DAVID SETZER David Setzer has been an entrepreneurial coach and mentor to thousands of business owners in former communist Eastern Europe for 20 years. Additionally, he is the founder and CEO of Mailprotector, a global IT security firm based in Greenville, SC and co-founder of The Bootstrap Engine, an entrepreneurial greenhouse located in downtown Greenville.






Business Black Box Q1 2017

Photo by Shawn Stom/FishEye Studios


What was your first job?


What are some of the skills you developed early, that you’ve found to be beneficial or essential to your practices now?

I convinced my mother to buy me an old broken lawn mower abandoned in someone’s yard for fifteen dollars. I got it running and started a lawn mowing business. I was 13.

I developed the skill of understanding how complicated mechanical devices and systems work. Having the intuition to quickly understand complicated things like business processes or machine design is beneficial when I make something new at Synergy Mill or do that thing that entrepreneurs do.


What is your plan for yourself in the future?


Where did the idea to start Synergy Mill come from?

What are some strategies you use to keep yourself in check? With the help of some skilled and wise coaches, I’ve discovered myself through a journey of finding inner peace and contentment. It has taught me how to change the way I perceive and think about the world. It helps me keep boundaries that give me clarity and personal power, and I hold tightly to the platinum rule: treating others as they wish to be treated.




What’s your most difficult responsibility, and how do you deal with it?


What do you struggle with? Quitting. I struggle with quitting when I’m supposed to quit. I struggle with the limitations of being human and the pressure to fit in as much life as I can in the short time I have. What was your biggest failure as a professional and how did you recover? I made an expensive mistake when I delegated my business decision responsibility to a management team who had no experience or obligation to follow through. I didn’t lose my shorts, but I definitely lost the elastic out of them. There wasn’t much left of the wreckage to recover. I had to learn the hard lesson, walk on, and try again.


My little house was so full of tools it decorated itself in a tool theme. Besides, it’s tough to get a second date when you have a bandsaw in your living room. I figured there were more makers like me in Greenville that needed a dedicated workshop, so what kind of cool things could we come up with if we all got together? About five years ago, a group of us started the Greenville Maker’s Group with the intent of creating a makerspace facility. In March 2016 we opened Synergy Mill and I donated my workshop tools as a “makerspace starter kit.” What sort of community benefits come from a group like this? We’ve discovered that the tools get people interested, but the real benefit is people share ideas, help each other make new things, and begin friendships that would not likely have come about otherwise. For some people’s circumstances, starting a business has lower barriers than getting a job, and having access to capital to develop a product or a service can open up their opportunities again. For students under restrictive intellectual property rules or no access to a workshop, having access to tools like a laser cutter or a 3D printer can bring their ideas to reality, or help them figure out what they enjoy making.

Being responsible “for something” is different than being responsible “to somebody.” The most difficult, by far, is being responsible to the people who depend on my leadership and to the people I’m accountable to. I deal with it by continuing to develop my personal integrity to do what I say I’ll do, and putting extra effort into being a great listener.


Take more opportunities to mentor and coach the next generation so they can have the wisdom to make better mistakes than I did. I made mistakes by not trying things, but learning from mistakes doing things is a better path to improvement. Synergy Mill is a fantastic place to transfer that knowledge and wisdom.


Has Synergy Mill been successful? What have been the challenges behind getting it off the ground? Thanks to friends like NEXT Manufacturing, Synergy Mill has been successful in giving people access to tools, materials, and meeting space. We structured Synergy Mill as a nonprofit because we wanted it to be a launchpad for profitable ideas, and we’re seeing that happen. We are proud to have been a big supporter of one of our members’ crowdfunding Kickstarter that raised more than $87,000, and they plan on keeping their manufacturing local to the area. That’s an economic “win” for Greenville. A big marketing challenge is moving people’s thinking from “Joey has a neat idea!” to, “I’m going to make something today at Synergy Mill.”

What is one of your favorite hobbies, and what is it that you find most fulfilling in it? I’m a musician, but I’m between bands right now. Getting together with my mates playing piano or shredding loud guitar clears my mind and lifts the spirits. I composed the underscore music for the TEDxGreenville 2016 video series and I feel accomplished that I was able to contribute the fruits of my hobby to the TED community. 59

Business Black Box Q1 2017

by Ted Pitts


LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: A GAME WINNING STRATEGY “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” –Vince Lombardi Like most Lombardi quotations, this applies to business as well as to the 1960 Green Bay Packers. Business owners must build their companies with strong leaders just like a coach fills his team roster. Any business owner, like any good coach, can tell you that having the right leaders in the right places on your team is the real key to success. When I talk to business leaders across the state, regardless of their company size or industry, they will all tell you that workforce challenges are what keeps them up at night. They worry about finding the right people with the right skills to get the job done. To be successful, business owners must recruit workers who not only possess specific skills and talents, but whose qualities will enhance the group as a whole. “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” – Vince Lombardi As we work to move our state’s workforce forward, leadership is a key issue that cannot be overlooked. Businesses must plan for the development of strong leadership and management talent inside their company. Certainly, many employees arrive to companies with leadership experience and personal qualities already in place. Equally important to identifying leadership qualities in potential employees is cultivating these abilities within the existing team. We hear a lot about the “skills gap,” “soft skills,” and the need for certifications


Business Black Box Q1 2017

and training. The items are a priority, but the need to develop strong leaders and managers should not get lost in the workforce conversation. Good management doesn’t just happen, it must be prioritized and planned. Our military has long understood leadership and invests a vast amount of time and resources into its development. Many large businesses have refined leadership development into a science over the last several decades. These successful operations understand that the key to sustainable success is the cultivation of leadership at all levels. I encourage all business leaders who don’t currently have an active leadership development program to spend some time creating and implementing a system tailored to the needs of your company. Every employee can be a leader in their own role, so this program should not only apply to your senior staff and executives, but should also involve middle management, first line supervisors, and others. These efforts could be as simple as identifying a book that becomes required reading for managers or improving lines of communication. Data shows that regular feedback, while useful for individual development, is rare: SHRM reports that only about two percent of employers deliver continuing and consistent feedback to their employees. Ensuring that employees are aware of the mission, concrete goals, and direction of the company is also integral to creating a cohesive, motivated team. Whether encouraging networking, providing opportunities for professional development, or simply reminding

employees of their value, business leaders can play an integral role in shaping a culture of leadership within their companies. The bottom line is this: leaders are an asset to any company, and business owners are uniquely positioned to cultivate these skills at all levels; to “make” leaders. When each employee is operating from a place of self-motivation and drive for success, the team will be stronger as a whole. “Individual commitment to a group effort— that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

ABOUT TED PITTS Ted Pitts became President and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce in January 2015. Prior to that, he served as Chief of Staff for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley working during her first term in office. Ted also served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing Lexington County. Ted comes from the business community where he was a successful commercial real estate broker. Ted serves as a Major in the South Carolina Army National Guard. A graduate of Presbyterian College, Ted serves on the Board of Trustees. He and his wife, Christina, have three children and call Lexington home.

Greenville Maintenance Services, Inc. provides full maintenance services for commercial properties including commercial sweeping, parking lot maintenance, facilities maintenance, and general contracting. Founded by two commercial property managers in 1993, we offer over 75 combined years of property management and construction experience. Contact us today and let us be your eyes and ears for your commercial property in Upstate South Carolina, western North Carolina and northeastern Georgia.



(864) 235-1090

by Leslie Hayes


SHOE SIZE AND CHEESE: A GUIDE TO COMPANY CULTURE You have been kidnapped! You stepped outside for air at a New Year’s Eve beach party and friendly pirates grabbed you and carted you off to their ship for a trip around the world. You’re going to be gone for a year— with no computer or cell phone! Egads! What will happen to your company? When you are, at last, released, what will you find the first Monday back?


Imagine that you could see your employees before they saw you. Would everyone be working steadily? Would they have built the clientele? Would your team be serving your customers in the way that you would have done? Would net profit have increased during the year? Been stable? Declined? Multiple leadership factors would impact the scenario above, but the one we’ll dive into today is culture. One good definition of culture is the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. A strong organizational culture is much more likely to sustain and to achieve stated goals than a weak culture—even if its values are questionable (think the Nazi regime). Paradoxically, while a strong culture can sustain even in the temporary absence of a leader, it takes dedicated leadership to build the culture in the first place. In any organization, the only factor that cannot be copied by competitors is the unique mix of people in the organization at any given time. Many leaders focus on the product or service offered—attempting to out-innovate or out-perform the competition—and this focus is essential; however, it cannot come to the detriment of the focus on culture. Every leader should be able to answer the following questions:



What size shoe do we wear? Think of a company as having a shoe size, say size seven. Size seven shoes come in a wide array of colors, heights, widths, styles and purposes—but they are, in the end, size seven. What shoe size does your company wear? Do you demand individuals of the highest intellect? Are you laid back and accepting of personality quirks? Do you expect extreme professionalism or intensity that includes long hours on a regular basis? None of these characteristics is good or bad, and each will attract certain people, but it is up to the leader to determine the shoe size of the organization. Do our shoes match your briefcase (or backpack)? Imagine you established a casual, open environment where employees routinely displayed body art and jewelry, dressed in flip flops, and set their own hours. Now, let’s imagine that your company provided wealth management advice. Does your shoe size support your service? What if you design toys for young children but have a corporate office full of breakable displays and a benefit selection that does not include any parental leave? Will the best toy designers be likely to be comfortable there? How (and how often) do we shine our shoes? The leader must be a culture champion and must enlist fellow champions in the cause. Instead, in a strong culture, every team member can, on demand, fill in these blanks: • Our organization exists because…. Profits are great—and even necessary—but they won’t build a lasting culture. We exist to make

Leading is hard, and many leaders I know become overwhelmed, and eventually consumed by the job, but they do not have to stay there. Wise leaders know that one way to lighten their load is to share it—through a strong, self-perpetuating culture that supports their vision. What is your company’s shoe size? Does it match your product or service? Do you shine it up regularly and intentionally? And have you recently given out some cheese?

ABOUT LESLIE HAYES For Leslie Hayes business is people. She tested a Harvard education and graduate leadership degree with over two decades of practical experience and currently serves clients of The Hayes Approach in the Upstate and globally. Leslie’s expertise, humor, compassion and realism keep her in demand as an HR expert, coach, educator and author.

1. Retrieved: December 18, 2016 from 2. This analogy did not originate with me, but, unfortunately, I cannot remember where I first heard it. If it was from you, please let me know!


Business Black Box Q1 2017

money rarely wins at the end of the day. We benefit the world by….Not only do most of us value a purpose, we value a purpose that adds value. I might like to design software anyway, but I feel even better if I realize that my software goes to businesses who help others have jobs. My important job is to….While we all do many things each day, we also have a few tasks that are critical to the organization’s purpose. Every team member needs to know these critical tasks and prioritize them first. I know I belong to the team because…. Benefits are great, but it’s the traditions that matter. I have a client where the management gives out cheese at Christmas, and whether the employees like the cheese or not, being on the list to receive it matters. What is your cheese?





Andy Kurtz, CEO, Kopis

You know those big book business plans that you always mean to read? The ones that you start over and over again without ever making it past the introduction? Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is nothing like any of those. Instead, it provides an actionable, predefined framework for growing your company, walking business leaders through a series of forms and exercises. The best thing about Scaling Up is that it’s completely customizable—a hundred different CEOs could read the book and take a hundred different paths to success. The overarching recommendation Harnish makes is to take an iterative approach to the exercises in his book, beginning where you’re weakest and perfecting his procedures there before moving on. My team and I started with Harnish’s meeting cadence, setting up daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual meetings, each with a different focus. For example, at our daily meetings, the focus is specific obstacles. What is standing in the way of an incredible 24-hours? Yes, the framework does get this specific. Next, we tackled the Scaling Up forms. By far, the most revolutionary forms were the One-Page Strategic Plan and the Face and Pace. For the One-Page Plan, you first address the core values of your business—things that should never change no matter what. Would you lose money to uphold this value? If the answer is no, it’s not a core value. Next, you sketch out your 10-year goal, allowing yourself to dream, and then you look three to five years out. Finally, you outline your next 365 days, coming up with five to seven major objectives, and you develop a quarterly plan, choosing your number one goal for the next three months. Even though it’s more work upfront, by the end your daily goals feel more motivated.


Business Black Box Q1 2017

The Face and Pace is a functional accountability chart—who is responsible for what? According to Harnish, every line item on your profit and loss statement should be owned by someone. Frankly, we struggled to complete this form, putting it off for a while because it was painful. We saw areas where no one was responsible and areas where we had overlapping responsibility. Specifically, we realized that two members of our leadership team, Adam and Kevin, were providing similar functions in different areas. When we did complete the chart, it didn’t follow the book’s framework at all, but it did accurately describe us. Of course, with any practical guidebook, outcomes are everything. The meeting cadence has given us a structured way to address common goals. I was originally afraid of the daily huddle, but now I can’t imagine trying to run my business without it. I think any business leader knows that there’s a disconnect between what’s really going on day-to-day and what should be going on. The daily huddle immensely improved communication. Adam describes the effect of the daily huddle as the difference between going into battle with couriers versus two-way radios. Overall, the One-Page Strategic Plan and the Face and Pace Chart have given our team more ownership while also putting up guardrails, providing context for decision-making. Just as important, the framework has made me more willing to delegate responsibility. The Face and Pace exercise went from being discouraging to being exciting, once we restructured to match the framework. Recently, the Kopis Leadership Team met to review the yearly budget for 2017. I brought the administrative budget, Kevin brought the operational budget, and Adam brought the marketing budget. We have never had a clearer view of what our year could look like, where we have risks and opportunities, and what we need to do to make it happen. I’d recommend Scaling Up to any business leader at any point—but especially as you are reflecting on past performance and making plans for your new year. Like some of the best personal planners, the framework in the book has an uncanny ability to be both prescriptive and a process of discovery simultaneously. I am now on my third read through. With each iteration, our process becomes more refined, and our team gets more clarity—as though we have cellophane wrapped around our heads and each year we get to remove another layer.

Business Black Box - Q1 2017  

Upstate South Carolina's Business Magazine

Business Black Box - Q1 2017  

Upstate South Carolina's Business Magazine