As a retired Navy commanding officer, S. Richard Hagins Jr., CEO of US&S Inc. (US&S), is accustomed to having lives in his hands. “When I went to out to sea, I was in charge of the safety and well-being of my junior officers; translate that into running a company and I’m still looking out for peoples’ welfare,” he says. “Taking care of our war fighters and the people who support this company is our main goal, because the people are what truly make the company.”
The duty to serve
After 23 years in the Navy, Hagins set out in 2003 to start a company that could deliver the same kind of assistance and support he upheld throughout his military career to a full range of federal, commercial, industrial and institutional clients. “US&S is a facility maintenance and support services company operating in the southeastern U.S., primarily in the federal market,” details Hagins. “We specialize in operations and maintenance, repairs and renovations, janitorial, grounds maintenance and staff augmentation.”
US&S’ success today is part of a longstanding tradition of service in the Hagins family. In 1979, Hagins’ grandfather, the late Reverend Amos E. Hagins, founded Universal Church Supplies Inc. (UCS) with a vision to operate a small, family-owned business to serve the local Christian community. UCS provided religious materials to area church congregations and more personal service than larger suppliers.
When Reverend Hagins started winding down his active role in UCS, readying for retirement, he turned to his grandson to carry on the business. When Hagins retired from the Navy in 2000, he focused on growing what his grandfather started and expanded UCS’ product offering to include church furnishings and religious gifts.
A natural evolution
In 2003, building on his family’s entrepreneurial foundation, Hagins established US&S. Initially, the company also served the church market, providing design concepts, architectural drawings, site design and construction. As US&S grew, Hagins realized the company’s potential in the government, commercial and industrial markets.
“When I retired from the Navy, I knew I wanted to be my own boss; I knew the federal market and how to talk to federal E’s,” he recalls. “As an electronic engineer, I set out on a path to take care of our troops and build on US&S. Since embarking on that journey, it’s been an interesting and very rewarding ride. Since I started the company we’ve been increasing in business every year.”
US&S began to target agencies of the U.S. Department of Defense and its prime contractors –familiar territory for Hagins. While the company continued to provide construction-related services, the direction of US&S shifted to more maintenance and support services, alongside an increased demand from clients.
Pride in people
Today, based in Greenville, S.C., US&S offers an unparalleled level of service, operating at client offices and project sites throughout the Southeast. From federal agencies, such as the Navy, Army, General Services Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Energy, to big commercial clients, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, US&S boasts numerous repeat clients.
“Our work ethic sets us apart, because we do what we say we’re going to do,” assures Hagins. “Also, our level of integrity and commitment to client service that’s set in a family business - I think our customers see and feel that.”
US&S now employs a team of 90 individuals, serving clients from Texas to Florida, Georgia to South Carolina, Alabama and beyond. “Our substantial base of long-term, repeat clients demonstrates the importance we place on building and sustaining relationships through the culture of our people and performance excellence,” says Hagins.
Hagins says he’s worked to build a company and culture to be proud of that’s deeply rooted in core people and family-centered values. “It’s about meeting and exceeding our clients’ expectations, but also about taking care of our people and creating an environment where people enjoy coming to work,” he shares.
This is one reason why Hagins felt it was his responsibility to keep his people working during the recession. “Through the downturn, we didn’t lose revenue, but we were growing so much and so fast that when things slowed down, our overhead was larger than it should be,” he details. “But, I made a decision not to lay anyone off and we lost money in order to keep people working. We’re a family-focused company, so I couldn’t take the opportunity for our employees to support their families away.”
Hagins admits he felt the pressure through 2009 and 2010, some of the leanest times US&S has faced. “We’ve learned to look ahead and foresee challenges before they get in the way of a project’s success and I see things going really well moving forward,” he assures. “There’s going to be growth in the energy and Veterans Affairs markets. We also have the opportunity to mentor two smaller businesses and change the lives of the business owners, which is something I really enjoy doing.”
By investing in peoples’ success, on both the client and employee sides, US&S Inc. has a solid foundation for further growth.