Spotlight: Lance Hightower and Donna Foster— Hilton Displays' Most Senior Employees
In checking with the human resources department on the top five most senior employees at Hilton Displays, the findings provided the following employees: Donna Foster, Lance Hightower, Gerald Forbes, Brandon Hilton, and Charlie Blakely.
Lance’s family owned a small mom-and-pop grocery store in Greenville, South Carolina, from 1971-1989. While in college at Greenville Tech, Lance assisted his father in running the store. Unfortunately, in 1989, the store dissolved and closed, leaving Lance without work. His friend owned a body shop and needed extra help; Lance took the job and went from running a grocery store to painting cars. After a few years, the body shop job ended, and Lance found himself applying for a job with the help of the SC Unemployment Insurance Office. He met with Hilton Displays’ Plant Manager for an interview. When Lance returned home, there was a voicemail from Hilton Displays offering him a job. Long story short, Lance accepted the offer and has been at Hilton Displays ever since.
Lance started working at Hilton Displays in 1993, and he is the most senior, full-time employee of 29 years. With no previous signage experience, he began his journey in the assembly department but soon worked his way up to Purchasing Manager. His expertise encompasses assembly, plant management, installation, selling, purchasing, responding to phone inquiries, and basic accounting. He said, “The only thing I can't do is bend neon.” Regarding his responsibilities as Purchasing Manager, Lance said, “If it came into the building, I bought it. Now, I’m responsible for purchasing signage parts and shop equipment.”
Since he has been at Hilton Displays, Lance has seen the company grow and evolve. The most significant change he has seen is the size of the company. He began his Hilton Displays career in a smaller building with fewer employees, and now the company is housed in a 60,000 square foot building with over 147 employees.
His advice for young professionals: "Take the good with the bad and just deal with it." Lance had tough days when he was overwhelmed and wanted to quit. However, he remembered that the short-term satisfaction of leaving would not help him meet his long-term goals. His wisdom, along with working at Hilton Displays for three decades, has made a lasting impact on the company as well as his colleagues.
While Lance is Hilton Displays' longest tenure, full-time employee, Donna Foster is technically the company's longest-term employee, with five more months than Lance. Donna is semi-retired and works part-time in Hilton Displays' accounting department.
Donna began her career at Hilton Displays in May 1993. Like Lance's story, Donna also found a job opening at Hilton Displays through the SC Unemployment Insurance Office in Greenville. With prior experience as an accountant, she could adjust quickly to her new role in the accounting department. When asked as to her employment longevity at Hilton Displays, she said, "The company felt like family. We went through hard times and good times together. This made every employee feel like a part of this family and made you want to stay together."
With her long tenure at Hilton Displays, Donna has seen many changes within the company, the largest is the growth. In 1993, there were 21 employees, including fabricators, installers, art, and office positions. Today, the accounting team consists of 8 team members, and Hilton Displays has grown to over 147 employees. As a part-time employee, Donna's primary goal is to assist with various projects in the accounting office.
As to her advice for young professionals, remain loyal. "I think people appreciate loyalty. I also think that if you are loyal to a company, that company will be loyal to you. If you are fortunate enough to find a company with a boss that makes you feel like a part of the family, then you are blessed" When asked about her thoughts on employment longevity, she said, “Never give up. Personal satisfaction of a job well done – it’s like working a puzzle. Sometimes it is difficult, but after it is done – you have a beautiful picture."