Interviewed for you…
18 Business Gators Share Their Insights and Wisdom From The Business Swamp!
It’s often said the fastest way to business success is through mentoring. However not everyone has access to a pool of successful business owners that they get together with to discuss business building strategies.
Coach Roy has tapped into his network of Entrepreneurs that are “making” it work and interviewed them for you. Those 18 Interviews are sprinkled throughout The Alligator Business Solution to support and emphasize the business lessons that are most likely to give you the competitive advantage in your market place.
Strategically woven throughout the book
This small business handbook comes with decades of business experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Written with the intention of making it as easy and straight forward as possible for you to succeed with your business, Coach Roy has strategically woven these interviews throughout the book to break up the left brained heavy thinking of business, systems, strategies and numbers.
You’ll have to get the book to read their stories, get their insights and be inspired by their wisdom. Below you can see for yourself that there are decades of business experience, success and wisdom that you won’t find anywhere else.
18 Special Businesses Who Dominate The Business Swamp!
My sincerest gratitude goes out to these 18 Business Superstars who offered their time and wisdom for this book.
Bob All – Owner & CEO – Custom Security Specialists
Custom Security Specialists installs and maintains residential and commercial security solutions. Keeping customers and communities safe and free from fear is a way of life at Custom Security, and employees are available 24/7, no matter what the customer needs. Currently the company has fifteen employees and does about $2 million in revenues.
From 1981 to 1986, Bob managed Home Safety Equipment Company on Hilton Head Island. In 1998, he formed Custom Security in order to continue providing the integrity, professionalism, and personal service that has become their trademark and foundation for success.
A family culture has developed over the years and continues now with daughter Robin All Blair as the company continues to grow. It is set apart as the company that cares for its customers and teammates as a family cares for each other.
Espy Lumber – Mike Reeves, President
Espy Lumber has been providing quality building materials for the Low Country since it was founded in 1958 by Wesley Espy. Initially, its primary business was to furnish concrete to the emerging resort developers.
In the 1960s, the population of Hilton Head grew and the business was broadened to include lumber and building materials. As a result, the company outgrew its original location. In the 1970s, Espy sold the concrete operation and continued to expand the lumber and building materials business.
In 1979, Espy was acquired by Rodman A. McLeod and H. Ross Arnold III from the Wesley Espy estate. During the next thirty-four years, until his passing in 2013, Rod guided Espy into becoming a leader of building supplies in the Low Country.
Rod instilled in each and every employee the importance of honesty, integrity, and hard work. The 1980s and 1990s brought continued growth and expansion. In 1998, a twelve-acre site was acquired in Okatie, South Carolina, and a second location opened for business in January 2001, with their headquarters being moved to this location.
Since the company’s founding in 1958, there have been many recessions, and the building industry has had recessions when the general economy did not. But Espy has weathered them all, including the Great Recession of 2008–2009.
Hilton Head Glass/Veronica’s Art Glass
Tom and Veronica Zombik, Owners
Tom and Veronica moved to the Hilton Head/ Bluffton, South Carolina area in 1998 from the small town of Chicopee, Massachusetts. In Chicopee they were co-owners of a family-run glass business.
After a very hard recession in the early 1990s, they concluded that bringing the company back on top would be difficult and that there really was little growth potential in that area.
They visited the Hilton Head area and loved it, so on the return trip they decided to sell their interest in the business in Chicopee, pull up stakes, and move to Bluffton, South Carolina, with their two young daughters, Jessica and Christine, despite neither of them having a job.
Tom quickly found work in the glass business because of his experience and expertise in that field, and Veronica started establishing her art glass business. Ultimately, they set a goal to start a custom glass and fabrication company like they had in Chicopee.
For four years they planned and did their due diligence about the area market, the location of the company, and the customers they wanted to target. They felt that Bluffton was the right place to start their new business due to its rapid growth and significant upside potential.
In 2002, they bought a building and called it Hilton Head Glass and Veronica’s Art Glass Studio. They specialize in all the fields of the glass industry.
Tom does all the mirror, glass, table tops, shower enclosures, and commercial custom glass. They focus on the residential market because people are always upgrading their homes. Veronica does stained glass, leaded glass, etched glass, and more. Tom and Veronica believe strongly in having a company that is diversified in order to survive in today’s market.
British Open Pub – Damian Hayes, Owner and CEO
British Open Pub is a family-friendly pub-style restaurant featuring authentic English food with additional American favorites.
It offers the finest ales and single malt scotches from the United Kingdom, in an atmosphere of good cheer surrounded by plenty of golf memorabilia. Blarney is invited, singing encouraged, and good humor admired.
International Dunnage, LLC – David Crenshaw, Owner and CEO
International Dunnage is an American and Turkish joint-venture company with sales offices based in Savannah, Georgia, and Istanbul, Turkey. All products are manufactured at International Dunnage’s state-of-the-art production facilities in Istanbul.
Quality is the highest priority, and International Dunnage has a full range of quality control processes. All L2 to L5 dunnage airbags are 100 percent tested and approved. International Dunnage offers excellent service with rapid and prompt delivery, as well as creative solutions for customer requirements.
The fully integrated production consists of extrusion, weaving, coating, and bag conversion, utilizing the latest technology and equipment. Quality control is carried out at every stage of production under strict conditions of ISO 9001, and all products are made to comply with AAR and RAC standards.
Island Tire & Automotive Services – Berry Edwards, Owner and CEO
Island Tire & Automotive represents a forty-year-and-growing Hilton Head Island tradition of family ownership. The company was founded in 1973 to serve the automotive needs of the rapidly growing island community and was founded on the basic principles of providing quality products, honest service, and exceptional customer convenience, and making a reasonable profit in order to sustain and provide for all of the Island Tire team.
Those same principles guide the owners and staff in everything they do today.
Island Tire believes that the customer is number one. The company is run by Berry Edwards III, who bought Island Tire in 2011. He previously owned an engineering and design firm with another partner.
In 2009, the partner bought him out, and he began looking for another business, finding Island Tire for sale in 2010.
Island Tire is proud to be a part of the American Tire Distributors Protection Plan Plus network, which is a network of locally owned tire dealers who uphold the highest degree of integrity, personal service, and technological innovation. Island Tire also offers a nationwide parts and labor warranty as well as a nationwide road hazard warranty on tires.
JCB of Georgia – Gayle Humphries, CFO
JCB of Georgia is your dealer for new JCB and used equipment for construction, agriculture, compaction, industrial, waste, and recycling industries in Eastern Georgia and Southern South Carolina.
As a JCB equipment dealer, the company carries a full line of backhoes, wheel loaders, excavators, skid steers, track loaders, Vibromax compactors, industrial forklifts, telehandlers, Fastrac tractors, off-highway dump trucks, utility vehicles, and attachments.
JCB also rents out equipment, provides maintenance services, and sells parts for JCB and other manufacturer’s equipment at highly competitive prices through their Grid Iron Parts Solutions subsidiary.
The company started in 2001 with fourteen employees servicing the Coastal Georgia and the Augusta, Georgia regions. As the business continued to grow and expand, it moved into its new facility adjacent to the JCB North American Headquarters in Pooler, Georgia, just outside of Savannah.
Gayle Humphries joined the company in 2004, and today it has twenty-four employees and annual sales of $11 million. Tony Reardon is owner and CEO.
The company’s motto is, “We take pride in our ability to provide complete equipment solutions to our clients while upholding the highest standards for customer service and support.”
The Landings Club – Jesse Ruben, CFO
The Landings Club on Skidaway Island is a private club dedicated to serving members with an active lifestyle and resort-class amenities in a vacation setting.
Located twelve miles from historic Savannah, The Landings Club offers members access to six golf courses, two marinas, thirty-three tennis courts, seven restaurants, five swimming pools, and an innovative fitness and wellness center.
National Interstate Insurance
Alan Spachman, Founder (retired)
In 1989, National Interstate Insurance opened its doors with the idea that customer service and personal attention mattered. Clients were more than mere claim numbers; they were people, with real lives, real questions, and real needs. The company was built around its customers, and in the process became one of the leading specialty property and casualty insurance companies in the country.
Today, National Interstate has more than 570 employees, including operations at VanLiner Insurance Company in Missouri, each of whom is committed to providing the highest level of personal service, the most efficient claims processing, and the best products.
As a leading specialty property and casualty insurance holding company, it offers more than thirty different insurance products, including traditional insurance, innovative alternative risk transfer (programs for commercial companies, and insurance for specialty vehicle owners).
These products are available through a variety of distribution channels, including independent agents and brokers and affiliated agencies. Its insurance subsidiaries are rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company.
Headquartered in Richfield, Ohio, National Interstate also has operations in Kapolei, Hawaii; Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; and Fenton, Missouri; and offers customized insurance options for:
- Passenger transportation companies
- Truck transportation companies
- Moving and storage companies
- Alternative risk transfer insurance programs for commercial risks
- Recreational vehicles
- Transportation and general commercial businesses in Hawaii and Alaska
Alan Spachman founded the company after spending a year developing the business plan for NIC and raising $5.2 million from thirty investors. He invested $600,000 of his own money, which was his total life savings.
Covert Aire – Mike Covert, Owner
Covert Aire is a family-run business, owned and operated by Michael and Theresa Covert, that is local to the Bluffton/Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Savannah market. The Coverts have four daughters.
Covert Aire covers the entire South Carolina Low Country and Midlands, the Sea Islands, and the Sand Hills of Georgia, and has recently expanded to northern Florida beaches.
Factory trained staff are nationally certified by organizations such as NATE, EPA, NIULPE, ACCA, ASHRAE, and other certifying organizations. Covert Aire says that if it “heats, cools, or refrigerates, we fix it!”
Reclamation By Design – Pat and Ron Strimpfel, Owners
Reclamation By Design is a custom home builder located in Bluffton, South Carolina. Pat and Ron have been building in the South Carolina Low Country since the early 1980s. Their goal is to provide clients with a pleasant building experience at a cost-effective price.
Ron is a master carpenter and a builder with extensive background and history in the construction business. Their motto is, “Crafted by hand, inspired by history.”
Pat had her first business at age fifteen, back in a small town in Ohio. Ron was one of ten children and has worked from a very early age. They got married out of high school and started a construction business, building their first spec house at aged twenty.
However, they didn’t like the cold and snow, so they moved to the Hilton Head/ Bluffton, South Carolina area in 1978 when they were twenty-two years old. They used the profits from that spec house to buy a lot in Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head and built another spec house. They made $30,000 on that house, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Today, they have a crew of six, and their company grosses about $4 million in annual revenues. While Ron is the artistic design person, does the work, and supervises the crews, Pat takes care of the administrative side of the business.
What is unique is that they have been both business partners and husband and wife for forty years, which is a great testament to them that they have worked and lived together successfully for so long.
Port City Logistics – Billy Robinson, Owner and CEO)
Port City Logistics was founded in 2001 and provides strategic warehouse space and transportation services. It is a leading logistics company in the Southeastern United States.
Billy Robinson and his partners bought the company in 2004, when the company had $1 million in revenue and five employees. In 2013, it had grown to $22 million in revenues, 164 employees, and 1.6 million square feet of warehouse space in six buildings.
Over the years, there have been plenty of challenges and problems, but, as Billy says, “those problems made us better and stronger.” Their motto is, “On time, on budget—the perfect logistics fit.”
Sweetener Solutions – John Curry, Founding Partner
Sweetener Solutions, which manufactures high-intensity sweeteners (HIS), started in 2002 with three employees and $200,000 in sales the first year. Backed by a group of investors and equity partners, it gradually grew to reach $1 million in sales in 2012.
In 2013, its patience and perseverance paid off as sales jumped to $6 million. It now has eleven employees. The future looks bright, with sales projected to reach $20 million in the next five years. Initially, the company was in a small 1,000-square-foot space but has now moved to a 15,000-square-foot facility.
Each of today’s high-intensity sweeteners has taste and function limitations. Sweetener Solutions sources the world’s best-quality HIS to manufacture sweetener blends using proprietary, state-of-the-art technology. When compared to any stand-alone sweetener, its blends provide superior taste and functionality.
The unique sweetener blends provide the taste profile and desired functionality to match customers’ food ingredient needs. Each of its sweetener blends is offered in bag-in-a-box quantities or can be portion-packed to customers’ exact batch specifications.
The product development of recipe-specific HIS blends provides improved taste, reduced carbs and calories, and significant cost savings for customers. Sweetener Solutions enables customers to reduce sugar/high fructose corn syrup, reduce calories, save money, and reduce commodity risk, all the while maintaining great-tasting products.
Most of the company’s applications work well in liquid applications (fruit drinks, flavored milk, yogurt, and tea are the easiest). The HIS can save customers 15 to 35 percent of their total sweetener costs, and HIS production requires significantly less water and carbon dioxide than sugars and can shrink customers’ carbon footprint.
Calfkiller Brewing Company – Don and Dave Sergio, Owners
It all began in 2001 with two brothers who dreamed of having some sort of business together. Coincidentally, they were also beginning an aggressive home brewing hobby—expanding their palettes and those of their families.
Growing up in a family construction company, the brothers converted a horse shed in Don’s backyard into a home brewery using 100 percent recycled materials. They then began brewing Calfkiller beer in 2004.
The brothers loved their beer and enjoyed serving it at family functions, friends’ weddings, and other festivals and contests. They became known for making great beers and decided to pursue a side business producing Calfkiller beer on a larger scale.
From 2006 to 2010, the brothers fought legal battles, raised families, worked full-time construction jobs, and honed their Calfkiller beer-making craft. They collected old dairy and brewing vessels and constructed a building at night and on weekends, again using recycled materials.
Today, they continue brewing Calfkiller beers on the brewing system they pieced together. The duo are always adding equipment when possible, continuously dreaming of the future, but never losing sight of the beer that is being brewed today.
Peacock Cabinetry, Inc. – Terry Peacock, Owner
Peacock Cabinetry, Inc. is a full-service design firm, specializing in custom cabinetry and space planning, and committed to superior personal service with the goal of exceeding expectations. Terry is originally from the Eastern Shore of Maryland but calls Savannah, Georgia, her home.
She started in the cabinetry industry thirty-four years ago with Wilmington Cabinet Company, earning $5/hour and helping customers with their cabinet selections. Over time she learned to make design drawings and moved into sales.
During this time, she went to art school and also had a part-time stained glass business. She blends her artistic talents with her technical knowledge and has become a kind of “kitchen architect.”
Prior to starting Peacock Cabinetry in November 1999, she worked on commission selling cabinetry for eleven years. Her first customers came from builders who she knew since she had worked in the industry for so long. She went to SCORE, and they helped her write a business plan.
To get started she needed a line of credit and approached numerous banks, all of which turned her down because at that point the company had no collateral and no track record. Finally, she found a local bank willing to help and got a $5,000 line of credit.
She only used it twice in that first year and immediately paid it back. It helped that her initial customers, the builders, were willing to give her a 50 percent down payment on the job order.
Her husband, Hunter, has been instrumental in helping her shape her business philosophy, particularly in staying debt free. Peacock Cabinetry also has a division that sells and installs security safes, and Hunter handles this side of the business.
Terry attributes a lot of the company’s success to Hunter. As she says, “I certainly could not have made this business what it is without his hard work.” Her company now employs eleven people and has four install crews with whom it subcontracts. Annual gross sales are about $3 million.
Olio Tasting Room – Penny Willimann
If you visited the home kitchen of Olio Tasting Room proprietor Penny Willimann, you would discover her counter is barely visible under all the bottles of olive oils and balsamic vinegars lined up in neatly organized rows.
This obsession in her kitchen grew over many years and ultimately inspired her to open her first Northern Virginia tasting room in Old Town Alexandria in 2011 and her second in Middleburg, Virginia, a year later.
“I wanted my friends and neighbors, cooks and novices alike, to discover what I already had—that quality oils and vinegars are a game changer for your diet, your taste buds, your health and, of course, for your dinner parties.
I wanted them to try the products in the store before they buy so they could truly understand the difference.” This notion inspired the tasting room concept.
These days Penny splits her time between her “three” babies—the stores and her two small children. She can often be found in the stores “chatting it up” with customers, and occasionally you might find her four-year-old quietly snacking on bread and balsamic dip at the counter.
She loves to hear from her customers about all the great ways they use the products. Send her your favorite recipe to [email protected]
Since opening, Olio Tasting Room has expanded its product lines to include pastas, sauces, teas, sea salts, tapenades, specialty condiments, and more.
“We aim to source locally when possible, to know our producers, and to buy foods with ingredients we can pronounce. Olio products have graced the kitchens of many happy clients near and far, as well as exciting spots such as the Italian embassy, Salamander Resort and Spa, local wineries, gourmet shops, restaurants, and even a few wedding tables.”
UniSource Mortgage Services, Inc. – Bill Fletcher, President
UniSource Mortgage Services is a privately owned mortgage brokerage that was founded by Jim Fletcher in 1996 (opened for business in January 1997). The goal of establishing the company as a dynamic brokerage was a family affair from the start.
Jim’s youngest son and daughter-in-law, Jonathan and Sharon Fletcher, were among the company’s very first employees as loan originator and loan processor, respectively. Jim’s oldest son, Bill, joined the company in 1998.
The company initially served clients in South Carolina and Georgia, but as the company grew, so did its territory as it expanded to include five other states (Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee).
Following the 2008–2010 recession, the company reduced its footprint to South Carolina and Tennessee. The company’s headquarters are located in Bluffton, South Carolina, and Bill Fletcher currently serves as the company’s president and chief operation officer while Jim, a former certified public accountant, serves as the company’s chief financial officer.
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“Roy’s messages based on the use of analogies of alligators and swamps to the starting and running of a small business are simple and straightforward. Their value is that they are memorable, logical, actionable, and realistic. A good read!”
Ray Wenig President & COO, Salt Marsh Angels
“The Alligator Business Solution is the book I wish I had when I took my first stumbling steps into self-employment two decades ago. I’ve read hundreds of business books, but not one of them was as comprehensive as this one. Roy Austin covers everything from preparing to start your business all the way to really understanding your financials. All of this information, plus the included case studies and encouragement from the author, will save you from the often fatal mistakes made by new business owners. Reading this book is like having your own mentor working with you step-by-step as you navigate the difficult and often lonely road of owning a business.”
Bonnie Jo Davis
“This is a great handbook for anyone in business. Full of practical information and strategy that will allow you to evaluate your business.”
Heather Bragg Owner, Bragg Media
“The Alligator Business Solution offers vital information for small businesses in a clever and entertaining manner comparing their survival to that of an alligator. I especially enjoyed the quotes prior to each chapter. In addition, the examples of local small businesses whose ideals have enabled them to survive and thrive over time were very beneficial.”
Lisa F. Lanier Chief Financial Officer, Precision Cutting Service
“I really enjoyed reading Roy’s book, Alligator Business Solutions. I found that it was well organized and easy to read. I liked that it presents different business concepts and accounting terminology in a fresh and simple way with practical applications. Because of the way it is organized with short chapters, I was able to read a little bit at a time and then think about what I read as I went about my day as a small business owner. I appreciate that it is a thought provoking book and instead of just attempting to provide all the answers and solutions it helps equip the reader to find the best answers and solutions that match their unique business situation. I highly recommend you read this book whether you are involved in business for your full-time occupation, have a casual interest in business or are somewhere in between.”