You know the saying about the apple not falling far from the tree? Meet Cynthia South, founder of the South Company, and her son Mike Thomas. Both are full of energy, love creative challenges, and have a knack for communicating with impact. With this shared DNA it’s not surprising that they both pursued marketing careers; Cynthia in the health field, and Mike at the University of South Carolina.
Although both enjoyed success working for others, they had a dream….to come together and form their own marketing company; a firm that might someday become Aiken’s premiere agency. They acted on that dream in 2010 and their firm quickly grew beyond, to now serve some national/regional accounts, as well as Augusta Georgia and Columbia South Carolina.
During the six year life of their young business, client demand has boosted their staff from three to eleven employees. Their passion to use their own entrepreneurial know-how to serve small businesses is reflected by the fact that three of the last four Aiken Chamber Small Businesses of the Year were South Company clients, a testament to the business growth they helped them achieve. Since 2014 client revenue growth has averaged over 50% annually. Free cash flow has enabled them to purchase their office building in Aiken, and they are poised to open a second office in Augusta in 2016. The excellence of their work has been recognized by their peers. During the last two years the South Company won nine ADDY’s for advertising excellence in this region. And this creative momentum brought three international awards to this hometown company just this year alone. Their work culture is the secret of this success as noted by a South Company employee. “After 25 years of being in the work force, I have finally found my home. It is often said never work with family. But I think if you're doing it right... your work IS family. We are constantly exclaiming "We are South"… I'm just happy they gave me a key and let me in the door.”
Within two years of launch, South Company’s early success brought with it the usual challenges of managing significant growth. SCORE volunteer support was sought at this point. An Advisory Board was formed which has helped with the development of a strategic plan, receivables management, and help in determining where to reinvest cash in the business. Asked how SCORE had helped, this creative family team had this to say. “Their help was instrumental in helping us develop a shared vision of where we need to position the business to sustain our success. We needed someone to pull us ‘out of the weeds’ of the day-to-day challenge in managing our growth.”