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Four Columbia companies make the INC. 5000

Four Columbia companies make the INC. 5000

Columbia is a city of many accolades. It’s been noted as a great place to live, to attain higher education and to start a business. It’s even been listed as a great place to bicycle and to retire.

But Columbia also hosts four of the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in the United States, according to the Inc. 5000 rankings, which puts JobFinders Employment Services at No. 637, True Media at No. 2,366, Bluebird Network at No. 3,699 and Buchroeder’s Fine Jewelers at No. 3,

“Each of these companies aren’t afraid of change,” says Anne Williams, president of JobFinders. “They can and do adapt to different climates, whether on a client-to-client basis or the overall direction of their companies.”

But the most important element to enable JobFinders to adapt begins with the simple act of listening, Williams adds.

“Always listen,” she says. “Listen to your customers, listen to your employees, listen to your competitors and listen to your community.” For her clients, this means keeping up with them in the news on a daily basis, frequently checking in via email and phone and meeting in person at a minimum of once per quarter. But she also takes it a step further — into her hiring practices and even the industry as a whole.

JobFinders’ hiring process is very stringent and heavily relies on multiple references.

More than ever, Williams says, people like to evaluate employees before hiring them onto their staff. The Affordable Care Act has also had a significant impact on the growth of her industry because temporary hiring agencies do not have to provide health insurance for employees for up to 13 months; most companies must provide health insurance within three months.

“The temporary worker industry is especially growing,” Williams says.

More in store

For Mills Menser, the key is in his business model.

“I asked myself, ‘What’s the one thing we can be the very best at?’” Diamonds, he thought. “We’re in a time when customers demand category killers. They don’t want to choose from a dozen flat-screen TVs; they want to look at hundreds.”

Menser adapted to this philosophy by offering nearly 10 times the number of diamonds in store than most jewelers, as well as providing customization options by teaming up with Stellar, a CAD software that allows customers to design their jewelry in real time.

“Customer preferences of how and when they want to shop are constantly changing,” he says. “With millennials, customization was very important.”

Success in adaptation

True Media President Jack Miller says for him, adaptation and remaining nimble are just part of True Media’s culture.

“This company is completely different from when we first started, and it will be completely different five years from now,” he says. At its start in 2005, True Media had two employees, including Miller.

“That same year, YouTube was created, and Google was still very much in its infancy,” Miller says. “Basically, the Internet was not what it was today.” Now, with three offices in two countries and more than 60 employees, the key is still to look out for the next best thing. For True Media, this means catered lunch every Wednesday for a lunch and learn on a new technology or strategy that may have implications for their industry.

“As technology changes, we automatically have to follow those trends,” Miller says. “But that makes it exciting.”

Cash and capital

Bluebird Network, coming in as the 3,699th fastest-growing company in the United States, also has a strategy for quick adaptation.

“You need to have some dry powder,” says Michael Morey, president of Bluebird Network. “You need to have capital and cash that’s not committed anywhere else.”

He suggests that if a business plan calls for $10 million a year in capital expansion, then the business should have access to $20 million, “just in case.”

“If you want to catch a great opportunity, you need capital and cash sitting on the sidelines,” he says. In his industry, most things are capital intensive. For example, he says the communications industry had typically been focused on old underground technologies, such as copper wires. But when Bluebird saw a movement toward more bandwidth across wireless towers, it invested in FTTT (also known as Fiber to the Tower).

“The demand for wireless service is going through the roof, so companies supporting the bandwidth for those towers are also going through the roof,” Morey says.

“Even if you come up with a plan quickly, if you don’t have the money, you can’t go anywhere,” he says.


Anne Williams, president, JobFinders Employment Services, No. 637

Secrets of success:

1)    Awareness of the whole and how that works in relation to the end game. Every employee needs to understand [this].

2)    “We can’t do that” is something we never like to say.

3)    A short trip to the decision-maker and empowering staff to make the right decisions

A friend or family member is starting a business and comes to you for advice:

“Always listen. Listen to your customers, listen to your employees, listen to your competitors and listen to your community.”


Jack Miller, president, True Media, No. 2,366

Secrets of success:

1)    Cultivating a culture of growth. A good company can motivate its employees, but a good team automatically wants to do more.

2)    Adapt to new technology trends.

3)    Our company is just a good place to work. A lot of people spend more time at work than with our families, so we want this to be more than just a job.

A friend or family member is starting a business and comes to you for advice:

“Make sure you have a clear plan of execution and the right outside support, both personally and financially, as well as a good network to rely on for advice.”


Michael Morey, president, Bluebird Network, No. 3,699

Secrets of success:

1)    Right place, right time

2)    Access to lots of capital

3)    We have dedicated and innovative employees. We hire new employees that keep us looking forward and on our toes, and we have longtime, loyal employees that create continuity that makes our customers feel secure.

A friend or family member is starting a business and comes to you for advice:

“Cash is king. You’ll need twice as much money as you think you will. And don’t do it part time. If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing full time.”


Mills Menser, president, Buchroeder’s Fine Jewelers, No. 3,881

Secrets of success:

1)    A true hedgehog business model: What can we be the best at in the entire world? Diamonds.

2)    Hire eight, work them like they’re 12, pay them like they’re 10. Be slow to hire, quick to terminate.

3)    Err on the side of generosity with clients.

A friend or family member is starting a business and comes to you for advice:

“In most cases, businesses cost more than you initially project, take longer to get off the ground and present challenges that you do not anticipate. A person must have strong self-confidence, an intense work ethic and a good understanding of finance to succeed.”


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