“I am able to identify with and better serve the needs of my clients because I have sat on both sides of the desk,” said Darrell Jones, a business consultant with the North Charleston Area SBDC for nearly three years. Having worked in commercial banking – as both a lender and credit analyst – for almost 20 years, he has an in-depth knowledge of the interworkings of the financial industry. After a lengthy stint as a “corporate man,” Darrell became an entrepreneur with a knack for mining promising ventures. Looking back, Darrell describes his career path as a series of serendipitous choices that ultimately led him to the SC SBDC. “I didn’t begin my career with the aspiration of becoming a business consultant. Yet, in hindsight, I see that every unexpected twist and turn of my professional journey was a slow, magnetic pull, drawing me to where I am today.”
Question: What experience do you possess that qualifies you to be a business consultant? DJ: Complementing my expertise in financial management is my first-hand experience as an entrepreneur. Influenced by the success and passion of one of my clients, I purchased two BP franchises before building my own independent store. After eight demanding years as the owner/operator of these three businesses, I joined forces with my accountant and launched a mortgage origination business. In less than one year the demand for our services was so great that to keep pace we needed to hire more staff. Since neither my business partner nor I was willing to make the commitment that this move would entail, we agreed to close-up shop. My next venture was a family affair; my wife and I purchased an import business wholesaling silver antiques and reproductions. This undertaking involved traveling extensively throughout Europe to consult with dealers, attend trade shows and collect exclusive merchandise. When our junkets overseas became more cumbersome than enjoyable, I decided to “semi retire”. As an avid golfer, I found my own version of Shangri-La: working part-time in a Kiawah Island pro shop which, in addition to paying me a modest income, entitled me to play all five courses at no charge. And yet, as much as I enjoyed working/playing at this world-class resort, I discovered that I needed something more mentally challenging. So, I dusted off my resume and began searching for another job. Fortunately, I happened upon an SC SBDC online posting for a business consultant/area manager. The job description read like my autobiography; five minutes later my application was on its way. Soon thereafter, Tom Lauria contacted me to schedule an interview. Our meeting went very well and the rest, as they say, is history.
Question: What motivated you to become an SC SBDC consultant? DJ: My knowledge and my passions are consistent with the services business consultants provide. The job description met all my criteria and I met all the criteria of the job description. It is a win-win scenario.
Question: What challenges/opportunities are unique to the business community you serve? DJ: Among the many opportunities in Charleston, we are establishing an SC SBDC presence in Monck’s Corner where Volvo is set to open its first North American manufacturing plant in 2018.
Question: Based on your experience, what is the best piece of advice you would offer aspiring business owners? DJ: They need to fully appreciate the level of commitment that is required, be resilient and willing to place everything on the line.
Question: Since becoming an SBDC consultant, what is your greatest accomplishment? DJ: I am especially proud of being part of the team that won the 2015 National SBA Center of Excellence Award.
Question: What quote best expresses your philosophy toward work/life/success is? DJ: I have two. 1.) Loyalty has to flow down before it flows up. 2.) I never say someone works for me; I say they work with me. You can’t have an effective team without mutual respect.