When Kent Satterfield is asked how to be successful in business, he pauses in thought, and then replies simply, "Finish what you start."
Recognition by the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina as a Distinguished Alumnus on April 16 was not a culmination of achievement for Satterfield. Rather, he sees it as another step in the long marathon of a life dedicated to business and to bettering the lives of our citizens and communities.
"Receiving this award is humbling - and gratifying," he says, "more gratifying than I would have imagined."
Satterfield, the low-key, but intensely involved chief operating officer for Dixon Hughes PLLC, the largest accounting firm in the Southern United States, is a 25-year veteran of the firm and oversees its 21 offices and the production of some 1,200 employees.
"I basically live on the interstate highways," he says.
He joins three other recipients of the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award: Nicole Ringenberg, vice president and controller of Monsanto Company; Emory Wayne Ruston, managing director of Promontory Financial Group, LLC; and Robert H. "Hal" Turner, chief executive officer of Pac-West Telecomm, Inc. The award is given to alumni with outstanding achievement in business, academia, government, or not-for-profit organizations, and for outstanding service to the business school.
"It's a pretty impressive group to be associated with," says Satterfield. "But truthfully, I really see this award being as much for Dixon Hughes as it is for me."
Others see it just a little differently.
"As a business leader in our state, Kent is a beacon of light followed by so many," says Raymond Schroeder, president of Greenville-based Interim Healthcare. "Through Kent's mentoring and example I have developed an attitude of supporting and giving back to my employees, my community and to many worthwhile causes. Simply watching how Kent lives his life for others has caused me to follow a similar path."
By many, Satterfield is seen as one of the Upstate's top go-to people when something needs to be done.
"I learned firsthand about his particular interest in increasing the capacity of local organizations," says Robert Morris, president of the Community Foundation of Greenville. "Kent's financial knowledge and leadership has had a profound impact on several boards including United Ministries, Piedmont Healthcare Foundation, the North Carolina Outward Bound School, Greenville Hospital System and the South Carolina Association of CPAs."
Satterfield is also on the board of the Community Foundation and serves on its finance and investment committee. Additionally, he and his wife Linda are actively involved in Greenville's St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
"Kent quietly gives back in a number of ways," says Ken Johnson, executive director of the Greenville Symphony. "It has been readily apparent to me that Kent's colleagues hold him in high esteem and have a rich appreciation for his leadership skills and his business knowledge. But Kent understands that being successful and being responsible for a successful business aren't enough."
Of particular note may be Satterfield's impact on the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, a non-government-supported organization that provides free medical care to the working poor and to those who, as he puts it, are the "unlucky people who haven't benefited from the economic prosperity that many of us enjoy."
Interim Healthcare's Schroeder says "Kent has the highest level of honesty, loyalty and integrity of any person I have ever known. He is an exemplary husband and family man -- a person who lives his life to give back to others."
Students at the Moore School of Business have benefited by Satterfield's willingness to share as well. He served on a school advisory board, the Friends of the Accounting Department, and has spoken to the accounting fraternity on many occasions. He has also personally endowed a scholarship for students attending the school of business.
"I'm a native South Carolinian and went to public schools from elementary through college," Satterfield says. "It took me years into my career to realize that I wouldn't be where I am except for what I learned at the University of South Carolina. When you apply yourself you get a spectacular education."
And what does he tell the USC students he meets with?
"Have passion for what you do. Work hard. Say please. Say thank you. Finish what you start. Associate with good people. Care about what you do and care about people," he says. "None of this is earth shattering, but do these things and you'll be successful in business and in life."
Simple; but these are words - and deeds - that have become Satterfield's hallmark. As has his commitment to face each challenge with a positive outlook.
An avid distance runner, Satterfield has completed numerous marathons including those in Boston, New York, and Berlin. And he completed the grueling JFK 50-mile race with his wife Linda to celebrate their 50th birthdays and her successful fight against cancer.
"Sometimes things are hard or not going well, but you have to hang in there and finish," he says. "With a marathon you start and don't stop until you're finished. That applies to career success, too."
As well as it does to success in life.
About Dixon Hughes:
Dixon Hughes is the largest accounting firm based in the Southern U.S. and ranks among the nation's top 20. With a staff of over 1200 located in eight states, the firm provides a wide array of assurance, tax and consulting services to clients of all sizes.