Seventy-year-young Southern Elevator Company mocks the cliché, “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick,” with an exclamation mark!

At this venerable age, this leading independent service company, with branches throughout Virginia and the Carolinas, is revamping almost everything within the company. This spry and bold move is part of the remarkable vision for his company that established industry-leader, Rodney Pitts, is putting into action with the Southern Elevator Team. “By nature, our company has avoided unnecessary risk in building our debt-free business. 

Rodney and his team made the decision, after acquiring the company in 1991, to move away from new elevator installations and have worked diligently to create a balanced approach to managing their portfolio of services. “When I purchased Southern Elevator, it was a manufacturer and installer primarily, as well as a service company. Today we are the Regional Leaders in the Maintenance, Repair and Modernization areas, and have thrived as a serious alternative to the large international players.” This strategy has not changed since then. Nevertheless, as a student of the latest management techniques, he is always challenging his management team to higher levels of expertise and excellence.

For this, Rodney and Christopher Short, the President of Southern Elevator, have embarked on an adventure of change, with the full and enthusiastic participation of the management team designed “to transform a very good company into a great one.”

“Doing things, the old ways served us well in the past, but we’ve recognized that we are in a season of change and transparency in our industry” said President Short. “I have come from the ranks of the company and have a strong sales and operations background. However, I felt that we could greatly benefit from additional management team members that specialize in their areas of expertise.  This year we have added Jared Hilton, Vice President of Operations, and Joe Jensen, Director of Technology to our team to build a strong future for the Company.  I have never been more excited about our future as I am now.”

At the forefront of the changes at Southern Elevator is a new software platform.  Rodney Pitts shares his enthusiasm with the potential of this platform to help the company control every aspect of the business. 

Says Pitts, “The most important element of a company is its people. Over the years, Southern Elevator has curated a wonderful group of capable, down-to-earth employees who are a pleasure to work with. Having this caliber of employees makes other changes much easier than otherwise.”  Adds Christopher Short, “The beautiful thing about our team is how happy they are to embrace the kind of changes we are implementing. They are ‘all-in’ in their desire for us to achieve great things and believe strongly in the company’s core values.”

At the heart of the change in employee engagement is the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) that Southern Elevator is implementing throughout each layer of the company, including its unionized mechanic team. “The essence of this approach is to create trust, total accountability and group problem-solving skills that makes it safe for individual contributors to both offer ideas and ask for help “, says Rodney Pitts. “What we commit to has become so important, that each of us knows that for every commitment we make, we have to be accountable for a date-certain to accomplish it.” 

While this transformation is exciting, Short points out that the company has built a strong reputation long before the current initiatives. It counts among its clients both small private facilities and world-class operations like Duke Health, Duke University, International Paper and a national contract with First Citizens Bank as well as many other clients of high prestige. “We are known for being trustworthy”, Christopher Short says, “But we are not close to being satisfied with our performance. Plainly, we are interested in developing an ever-wider gap between our level of client satisfaction and the rest of the field. This is what our new initiative is all about — to be the best solution provider for our elevator services.”Rodney Pitts agrees. “Southern Elevator has done some remarkable things over its last 70 years and, especially since the acquisition in 1991.  But frankly, it is just a foundation to what we are about to do in our next 70 years,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes.

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