Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with David Williams, President of Williams & Fudge, about his business and its role, not only in the wider business community of higher education billing and collections, but also right here in our area.
Williams & Fudge does business with institutions of higher education across the United States, but their commitment to personalized service for their clients and borrowers, coupled with their dedication to our area, is proof positive that nationally recognized corporations thrive when headquartered in the I-77 corridor.
We kicked off our chat by asking Williams to detail what inspires him in his work daily. He immediately focused in on his clients and how the firm serves others. “It’s two fold. We are able to work with the students — the borrowers — and talk them through their options to get their loans in good standing or help prevent their loans from defaulting. On the other side for our higher education institutions — more than 1400 in all 50 states — our team consistently visits our clients and works to educate them and share our knowledge. That educational component is something we really enjoy.”
He also touched on the firm’s dedication to Rock Hill and the inspiration they have derived from being able to return much of their success directly back into York County. “It’s very important to us to give back to the community that we work in. I grew up in Rock Hill and being able to provide those opportunities for employment to others and to then see the community grow, that also really makes us tick.”
That same commitment guided Williams & Fudge’s decision to renovate and claim the Old Cotton Factory as their new home in 2006. “It was a mess when we first visited, but after awhile we saw the possible potential of what renovating this space could do for both us and the city. When we had the grand opening, people who made Rock Hill what it was back in the textile days came out in celebration, some with tears in their eyes. I think this building showed people what can be done with urban redevelopment. Now we’ve got other tenants, next door Knowledge Park and University Center are beginning to flow and you can just feel the excitement.”
“The older you get, the more nostalgia you have for where you grew up. When you see things starting to happen — the excitement in people, in your own children — it really fuels me.”
While Williams & Fudge’s main operation at the Old Cotton Factory is their call center, over the last decade, call center agents have been only one of the areas of focus in hiring. With increased government regulations in the collections industry, much of the corporation’s compliance needs have been filled by technological advances, which require a tech-savvy team to maintain and operate. “Over the last five years, our compliance and technology departments have quadrupled. Our clients want and expect us to comply with both their business rules and the laws of a given state out of the gate — not confirm compliance through audits after the fact. New technologies make that possible and help drive our company forward.”
Though the firm is based in downtown Rock Hill, Williams sees the company as one that positively impacts all parts of our area. “York County has been able to provide a skilled workforce for us — the referral system we’ve mainly depended on over the years to fill open positions has helped us expand our team with people from Sharon, York and Chester, just to name a few. Since moving to our new offices about 10 years ago with 160 people, we’ve grown to 370 employees. We need call agents for our centers, but we also need computer programmers, developers, accountants. We work hard to provide a great work environment and culture, a place where people want to work, so they’ll stay here and build their lives and grow their families.”
Part of that great work environment is the culture of giving back that has also been a core element of Williams & Fudge’s philosophy from day one back in 1986. “Our main focuses are on our downtown community and on kids. We do a lot with the school district both financially and through service. We allow one hour of paid time a week for each of our employees to go to our local schools and read to kids or volunteer in other ways.”
“By getting involved with the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, The Arts Council of York County and the Piedmont Fellowship of Christian Athletes, we’re able to do so much for the betterment of our community. The new slogan we debuted last year — Work, Play, Give — really encapsulates our philosophy. We want to work hard, play hard and give hard.”
That same corporate giving philosophy also sets an example that Williams hopes will impact and influence kids, and hopefully stay with them into adulthood. “We want our best students to come back here after college — to see the opportunities for entrepreneurship and open their own businesses or work for established, local companies. You start with the kids, help people get started with their business and try to keep them local. Show them the opportunity that’s available in York County, because it’s true — there is a lot of opportunity here.”