The Business Times Company was named the 2017 Small Business of the Year by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Earlier this year, small businesses were nominated for the award by Chamber members. From those nominations, five finalists, and the winner, were chosen by an anonymous selection committee comprised of businesspeople that work exclusively with small businesses. This year marks a quarter-century of this award. TBTC was chosen from a group of five finalists that included AnnaBelle Events, Harold’s Doughnuts, Tompkins Homes & Development and TrueSon Exteriors.
TBTC consists of four divisions: Columbia Business Times, COMO Living, City Magazine and Business Times Interactive. In 1999, they started their publishing company by purchasing the Columbia Business Times. Their existing company, Premier Marketing Group, was able to focus resources and grow revenue by adding the publications to Premier’s cluster of radio stations. When Cumulus Broadcasting bought Premier in 2004, Dave Baugher and Al Germond retained the publishing arm of the company and developed it as TBTC. Since that point, it has been able to thrive in an industry of constant change.
“Technology is changing everything about the magazine business,” TBTC President Erica Pefferman said. “We’re not just magazine publishers anymore; we’re creators of great content. That content is now disseminated and consumed through many channels beyond paper. As a company, we’ve changed our entire mindset. It’s no longer print first. It’s great content first, and then we decide what platform(s) it lives on.”
As much as Pefferman and her team focus on their product, they put just as much emphasis on internal operations. They have had to constantly find new ways to address challenges like attracting and retaining millennial employees. Pefferman says her team adopted a new way of thinking. Instead of the things like the traditional clock-in and clock-out system, they switched to an “objective-based” system. This allows employees to have a more fluid work schedule, more flexibility to work from home and work towards objectives instead of spending mandatory time in the office.
“The leadership style that our team adopted was one that puts culture and quality first,” Pefferman said. “We believe skilled and happy employees create very happy clients and readers. We have created an environment that supports this style. This has helped us create a reputation for being an amazing place to work, which has brought us top-tier talent. This pool of talent has enabled us to grow significantly and cultivated happy clients.”
Pefferman and her team also looked at their marketing differently. Instead of spending money on traditional methods, she has utilized her employees to be part of the plan. They encourage their employees to be part of non-profit organizations of their choosing. This outreach keeps employees involved in the community and gets TBTC exposure in ways that are not possible with traditional methods. This has been one of the biggest things to distinguish them from their competitors.“Anytime a company makes an effort to be involved in the community, it shows a dedication to not only making Columbia a better place to live, learn, work and play, but it also shows the dedication to making their
“Anytime a company makes an effort to be involved in the community, it shows a dedication to not only making Columbia a better place to live, learn, work and play, but it also shows the dedication to making their employees well-rounded individuals,” Columbia Chamber of Commerce Matt McCormick said.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce was established in 1905 and is a voluntary, member-supported organization of business, industrial and professional people who are dedicated to developing, promoting and maintaining a sound and healthy economic climate for Columbia. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is recognized as a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the United States Chamber of Commerce.