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Consultant Profile: Jim Johnson (J.J.), SC State Region Director

In June 2015, the SC SBDC named Orangeburg native and longtime community business leader Jim Johnson as director of the South Carolina State University region which spans seven counties. Upon taking the helm, Jim identified his top three goals: (1) providing superior customer service, (2) increasing awareness of the services provided by the SBDC, and (3) creating innovative programs that address the economic conditions unique to his region. For more than 24 months as region director, Jim has been working steadily to accomplish his stated goals. In the following interview, Jim provides a glimpse of the progress he (and the team of consultants serving the SC State Region) is making.

Question: What challenges/opportunities are unique to the business community you serve?
J.J.: Our office serves a rural region which presents unique challenges. For example, many people who live in our area do not have access to broadband internet. In today’s age of technology, this makes operating a business more difficult. Also of note is the region’s education system which lags behind the rest of the state. This means that consulting sessions are often devoted to providing instruction on the fundamentals of business.

Question: Based on your experience, what is the best piece of advice you would offer aspiring business owners?
J.J.: Hire a great team. The success of your company will hinge on the people you have around you. I also would stress the importance of self-directed professional development and keeping apprised of industry trends.

Question: Since becoming an SBDC consultant, what is your greatest accomplishment?
J.J.: Anything I’ve accomplished was a team endeavor. The outstanding consultants serving the SC State region consistently collaborate to provide better service to our customers. With that said, I’m proud of the new satellite center we opened in Walterboro at the Colleton Commercial Kitchen. Another “win” for us is our unique partnership with the Orangeburg County Development Commission, which was made possible through the One Orangeburg Initiative.

Question: What is the status of the Agribusiness Consultant Program?
J.J.: We have increased our capacity for Agribusiness clients by collaborating with the Colleton Commercial Kitchen. We also see more food-related businesses because of them. We partnered with South Carolina Community Loan Fund by facilitating their Feeding Innovation program first in Orangeburg (2016) and now in Colleton (2017). We are currently waiting on the USDA’s decision on our grant application. If approved we’ll have the resources to establish a Center for Food Marketing and Agribusiness at the SC State School of Business through our office. We also are working with the Ag Digital Technology outreach program to assist agribusiness clients in need of digital marketing assistance.

Question: What other initiatives are you cultivating?
J.J.: In addition to the aforementioned Agribusiness program, the SC State region is developing a contracting and supplier chain program, a small business internship program and a technology and marketing program. These initiatives are in various stages of development; each program, however, is well on its way to becoming fully functional.

Question:
J.J.: “Show up early, stay late, do your best, always say thank you, give people more than they expect and follow up.”
~ Shep Hyken (customer service expert, author, and speaker)