Todd Horne joined Clayton Construction in Spartanburg eight years ago. Since then, the company has been named one of the fastest-growing in the state, with 32 employees and record revenues of $43 million in 2015 – up from about $8 million when Horne joined the team. Horne was brought on board to expand the company’s focus by seeking out clients in the private sector: retail groups, large industrial enterprises, health care and churches.
Horne is also serving as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce – a position he hoped to achieve by age 40 but managed to reach at 33.
“I felt like Spartanburg was ready for somebody young to come in, and if I did things right, I could be that person,” he said.
Along with Chamber president Allen Smith, 34, he is putting a youthful spin on leadership in Spartanburg, and showing potential residents and businesses that it is a city on the rise.
His numerous connections turned out in droves to vote for him via social media to be named the Who’s Who Wild Card, though he was rooting for his friend and fellow nominee Smith. “I think the world of him,” Horne said. “But it’s great for someone from Spartanburg to be recognized.”
How did you end up living and working in Spartanburg?
My dad was a Methodist pastor, and we moved every four to six years. I went to USC Upstate and planned to transfer to Columbia, but I stayed and never left. I’ve been in Spartanburg longer than I’ve ever been anywhere in my life. Spartanburg has become home.
When did you know you wanted to go into sales?
I always saw myself doing something like this. Moving every few years, you always have to meet new people, and I knew I wanted to do something that involved meeting people. It’s fun. People think about sales and it doesn’t always have a positive first impression, but I think of it as meeting new people every week, and if you do that, a lot of the time, things fall into place.
What do you think is the key to success in sales?
It’s not thinking about what’s in it for you necessarily, but thinking about other people and how you can help them. If you take that mentality in sales, things just happen.
What was your first job?
I started with Greenville Office Supply right out of school and worked there for four years in sales and account management. I loved that job. They supplied me with the tools to go out and sell. They spent money on their staff for training, and it had the family-owned atmosphere I like.
Why do you prefer family-owned businesses?
I don’t think I’m cut out for the corporate world. I like smaller, family-owned businesses. I’m a personable guy and I want to know the people I’m working for and have a relationship with them. The Claytons are like my second parents. Everyone who goes to work here, it’s like joining the family.
Serving as chairman of the board of the Spartanburg Chamber at 33 years old is a pretty big deal. It was a personal goal I set for myself to achieve before I turned 40 – I wrote that goal down back in 2011. So Allen and I are running the day-to-day operations of the Chamber, and there is nowhere else in the state where people in their early 30s are doing that. It shows that Spartanburg is willing to let young folks lead.
Why was it important to you to get involved with the Chamber?
I care for the community. People see Spartanburg as a good-old-boy network or a textile town, but we feel like that’s changing and we want to be part of changing that. We communicate with the leaders in the community who have been around a long time, and we let them know what we’re doing, and they’ve been nothing but supportive.
How does your Chamber work affect your work at Clayton?
It correlates with what I do day-to-day – meeting new people. The Clayton family has been so supportive of my community involvement. Not all companies are willing to let staff folks spend 20-plus hours a week doing something like this.
With so many commitments, do you think about work-life balance?
It’s very important to me. I’ve seen a picture of a wheel with family, social, spiritual and work, and you’re supposed to keep an even balance of the four. I make a conscious effort to do it, even if I’m not perfect at it, by any means. I could be doing something every night, but I want to spend time with my family and put my children to bed, so I do that as much as I can.
How has Spartanburg changed since you arrived for college in 2001?
Spartanburg has seven colleges, which is a lot for a city with 30,000 people, but back then, it didn’t have a lot to offer young people. Now there’s the brewery [Hub City Tap House], which was huge, and the Chapman Cultural Center. We’re about to open the state’s first co-op grocery store [Hub City Co-op], we have the $20 million hotel going in downtown with a rooftop bar [AC Hotel]. It’s been the perfect storm of everything happening at the same time. People move to places because of the quality of life, and you have to offer those things.
How does Greenville’s downtown revitalization play into what’s happening in Spartanburg?
Greenville has done a great job, but we don’t want to do similar things to Greenville. We want to be Spartanburg and have our identity. Greenville has done so many great things that have happened in the past 15 years or so, and now Spartanburg is at the start of that. People are starting to say, “I never used to go to downtown Spartanburg, and now I do.”
How has failure affected your career?
Anyone in sales is going to get knocked down and rejected. You’re going to lose a deal you thought you had a good shot at. Harry Clayton told me when I came to work here that this job is full of disappointment. But some will, some won’t, so what, move on.
What is your biggest topic of concern for your industry?
The workforce, especially in the field. The average age of (construction) superintendents is probably mid-50s, and you don’t see young people going into that field. So in five or 10 years, where is our workforce coming from?
What are you doing to address the problem?
It’s just like with industrial jobs. People might look at that as textile work, even though it’s not that anymore. People might think a superintendent in construction is digging or doing HVAC, but it’s really project management. So we need to let people know that these are on-site project managers who are managing subcontractors.
Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years?
I will definitely stay engaged with the Chamber, so I hope we’ll still be on the front end of community development, moving the community forward and taking that next step. We’ll raise what we have to raise to put this new strategy into place [a five-year plan set to be complete in October], so I hope in five years we’ll have achieved the goals we sought to do and we’ll be developing the next five-year plan.
Do you try to inspire other young professionals to give back to the community?
People have to make that decision for themselves, but people want young people to be engaged in the community. Young people have to get that sweat equity, work hard and show they can take on the leadership roles and take them seriously. There are plenty of avenues to get engaged, but you have to make the most of opportunities presented to you, because they can lead to opportunities and growth.