New Beginnings and the Inc. 5000 List

October 13, 2020By Stephen V. Smith
WordSouth: The name that launched a company, became a brand and helped define 25 years of our lives.

This morning I’m enjoying a cup of coffee from a mug emblazoned with the WordSouth logo on two sides. It’s a few iterations beyond the BrushScript logo that launched the company almost 25 years ago (tasteful, right?), but the word itself is the same. Capital W, capital S, one word.

People sometimes ask us about the origins of that name, and it’s not a dramatic story. It was late 1995 and time to name our company so we could put it on that first contract, order business cards and reserve a web domain. The choice came down to WordSouth or WordSmith (get it?). I’m glad the former prevailed.

“Just look at that word,” I said to Michele a few minutes ago, holding up my coffee mug. “It’s just a word we made up, grew a company around, and raised our family on.”

And then we sold it. Right before being named to the Inc. 5000 list

Timing is a tricky thing, especially when trying to negotiate the sale of your small business. These things take time — so much time, more time than you can imagine. When Michele and I rang in 2020, we thought we might be only a few weeks away from closing a deal to be acquired by an Oregon communications company. Those weeks turned into months. Four, then five, then more. The acquisition process is a lot of work. We weren’t in a hurry, but we were quite ready to move to the next phase, the exciting process of integrating operations with our new parent company.

As they say in show business, timing is …

everything.

Who could have guessed that we would sign the paperwork to sell our company and then eight days later receive the email from Inc.informing us we’d made their list of America’s fastest-growing private companies.

As I read that email, first to myself then aloud to Michele, I realized in that moment we were standing with our feet in two very different worlds. On one side was almost 25 years of work, celebrating a significant milestone in the company that had consumed so much of our attention, so much of our lives.

On the other side, even as we marked this monumental accomplishment, we were no longer the owners of this company that had practically been our third child. Our relationship with WordSouth was different than it was the first 25 years, and would never be the same.

In a sense, being named to Inc.’s list was the culmination of our life’s work. The timing also coincided with a new beginning for Michele and me. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of another company, WordSouth will never again be eligible for the Inc. 5000 list. Likewise, we will never again be owners of this thing we created from nothing and had the blessing of building and growing for two-and-a-half decades.

It’s a fitting start to something new.

(Note: This article is part of a series by founder Stephen V. Smith reflecting on WordSouth being named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. The series can be found here in its entirety.)