Trailblazer: Rich Hagins

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An entrepreneur at heart, Richard Hagins became a “start up” after ending a full career in the military. Now widely successful and locally well-known, Hagins continues to capitalize on a culture of partnership, giving back, and mentoring to other minority-owned companies.

You can probably think of a moment—a time in your life—when someone else reached out and helped you. It may be a teacher, a coach or a boss—but at some point, someone took you on and taught you something that helped you reach your potential.

For Richard Hagins, CEO and President of US&S, the mentality to give back is a part of his DNA. His grandfather, the Reverend Amos E. Hagins, first taught him to give until it hurt and to help others. Entering the Navy helped Hagins continue that lesson and make it a part of his life.

“When I was in command, people sent their children there with me, and it was my responsibility that they came back safe,” says Hagins of his Naval career.

But after retiring in 2000 as a Commander, Hagins wanted to do something new, and laid the groundwork for what would become US&S—a company that would soon be known for its facility support services. With its main contracts being with the Federal government, US&S manages grounds, janitorial and renovation work. Originally starting with two people, today Hagins has about 100 employees across the Southeast, Pittsburgh and Oregon.

Recently, US&S, in a joint venture with E2 Consulting Engineers, Inc., landed a Department of Energy contract to provide infrastructure and base operations for the National Energy Technology Lab (NETL)—a $99 million contract that will include work in Albany, Oregon, Morgantown, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and create 175 to 180 jobs.

“E2 and US&S are a great marriage,” says Hagins, who likens business partnerships to marriage and dating. Businesses should “date” first, he says, to get a feel for matching core values and work ethic. Then, you can see if you can create something great.

In any case, the partnership is good for those outside of US&S’ walls, too. It—and many others—are key to his business development and his goal of giving back to the business community.

“It’s great for minority and women-run businesses to see this,” says Hagins, “It’s a game changer for a small business like us and is great press for Greenville.”

Partnerships like the one with E2 Consulting are vital, and not just for what it promotes to the community. Partnerships are important to Hagins because of what they represent—the potential they hold, but also what they’ve already built.

As an example, Henry Harrison of American Services helped partner with the young US&S and gave it vital experience and relationships that were key to its growth. When US&S was named 2012 Small Business of the Year, Hagins notes, “That wouldn’t have happened without that collaboration and those companies taking an interest and mentoring us.”

Not originally being from Greenville, it has been these relationships that have helped Hagins become attached and involved in the local community such as being a part of the Chamber of Commerce and serving on the board for the Blood Connection.

In return, Hagins is constantly looking for ways to pay it forward—and is active in mentoring other businesses in order to accomplish great things and benefit the community as a whole.

Today, that means mentoring and interaction with three different Upstate companies: The Jordon Companies (JCC), Visionary Services and Chanticleer Service Solutions.

“As we continue to grow, we have to reach back and help other small businesses grow,” he says.

But it doesn’t just mean that businesses alone are important—the community as a whole needs people to give back, too. So, in addition to mentoring local businesses and their leadership, Hagins is also heavily involved with the 100 Black Men of America, an organization that helps troubled minorities by giving them opportunities to rise above their surroundings and negative influences. By showing them a positive example instead of the negative ones they are constantly surrounded by, it helps them want to achieve more and become a vital part of growing the community for the better.

“What they see is what they be,” says Hagins, quoting a motto of the organization.

And no matter how far US&S climbs up the mountain, Richard Hagins will always look for opportunities to take a glance back and offer a helping hand to others. It is—and will always be—part of who he is.

“That,” he says, “is Rich Hagins.”

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Jordana Megonigal
Jordana Megonigal is a journalism professional with 18 years of experience in the field. She is Publisher of ShowCase Publishing and Business Black Box magazine. In the Upstate community, Jordana is a member of the Small Business Council (Greenville Chamber of Commerce), a board member for Compass of Carolina, co-chair of Greenville Women at Work, communications chair of Mission 1:27 (Taylors First Baptist Church), and serves as a Guardian ad Litem. She is also Executive Director of The Bootstrap Engine.

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