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Boro Business Leader of Year offers advice
Hickman: Find mentor, build strong relationships
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Billy Hickman, recently named Business Leader of the Year by the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce, chats about his philosophies on business and community service. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Accolades and awards aside, Statesboro businessman Billy Hickman has spent a lifetime showing others that hard work, servicing your client and caring for those around you leads to professional and personal success.
    Hickman was honored last month with the Business Leader of the Year Award from the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce. Joining a long list of influential local business leaders, Hickman appeared genuinely humbled by the honor given him.
    Hickman is from what many now view as the last generation of "workaholics." He worked after school and during the summer while attending Statesboro High School and worked his way through Georgia Southern College graduating in 1974 with an accounting degree. Hickman sold boiled peanuts, pumped gas, cut grass at the Eastside Cemetery, delivered the Statesboro Herald, and even drove a school bus.
     Hickman is the managing partner of the Statesboro public accounting firm of Dabbs, Hickman, Hill & Cannon, LLP.

    A tireless community leader, Hickman currently serves on the Business Advisory Council of the College of Business Administration of Georgia Southern University, on the School of Accounting Advisory Council of Georgia Southern University, as a member of the Board of Directors of Ogeechee Technical College, and as a member of the Board of Directors for Excelsior Electric Membership Corporation.
Hickman has also served as past president of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, a charter member and past president of the Midday Optimist Club, past president of Leadership Bulloch, chairman of the United Way Campaign, chairman of a Day for Southern campaign, and former chairman of the Bulloch County Relay for Life campaign.
   The following are excerpts from an interview conducted with Hickman in his South Main Street office this past week.

Question: Did you have a mentor that proved instrumental in your development as a successful businessperson?
Answer: I really did. It was Earl Dabbs. He was simply great from a business standpoint. He lead by example and was highly successful. He always represented his clients as well as anyone could. He was organized, prepared, and in control. He was business oriented and client oriented. He felt that if his clients didn't succeed, then he didn't succeed.

Q: What advice would you give someone that has decided to open his or her own business?
A: Find that mentor. It doesn't have to be in your field, but it needs to be a successful business person that can help you along the way, provide you with an honest opinion of what you are doing both good and bad. You also really need to have an excellent banker and accountant. Those are two components that are crucial to a business owner's growth and success.

Q: You are the managing partner of a very successful public accounting firm. What does your firm do to maximize its potential?
A: We have had to become more efficient. We have to represent our clients in a more efficient manner every day. We have three offices - Statesboro, Savannah, and Brunswick - that work very closely together. For example, if one is light on workload, we can move work from one office to the other. We review work schedules every week, and look at time sheets every day. We want to make sure that every asset we have is being used to its maximum potential.

Q: If you had to pinpoint one thing that you feel is an absolute necessity to growing a long-term successful business, what would it be?
A: Relationships. It is all about relationships. I feel that people would rather do business with people that they like. It's human nature. I want to see the people that I like succeed. Following that principle, I want people to like our firm and the service that they get from us. If they do, and we provide them with wonderful, professional service then they will remain our clients and be part of our success. We remind our employees that our clients turn on the lights each day, and we have to provide them with the best possible service that we can so that they continue to turn on those lights.

Q: Do you see a difference in today's workforce?
A: It is different. The generational difference has taken a "lot" of getting used to, but in reality, I suppose our generation was quite a bit different from that of our parents. Honestly, it would appear that today's youth entering the workforce has a different vision when it comes to the workplace. Long hours aren't assumed anymore, and more family time is built in. Our generation has begun to accept that, and seems to be changing their expectations, but we will have to see ultimately how it turns out. I am glad that fathers want to spend more time with their families. That is a good thing to me.

Q: You are a Georgia Southern graduate and have given a great deal of time and effort back to the university. Why did you feel it was important to do that?
A: Not only am I an alumnus of Georgia Southern, but I feel very strongly that
Georgia Southern is the economic engine behind the enormous growth Statesboro has experienced the last two decades or so. I like all of the increased traffic and activity, and from what I understand most people here enjoy the benefits of the positive development. Clearly, I feel that I should support Georgia Southern and all of the positives that it brings to our community.

Q: Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?
A: I will be 75 at that time, so honestly I don't have a clue. But, I will tell you that I would like to be doing what I am doing now, and not be retired. I have built so many relationships that are business and friendships as well. I love that, and I don't want to stop. It is so cool to work with the second generation of a successful family business that you served as it got off of the ground so to speak. Success is truly doing what you love, and having that passion results in long-term friendships. I would love to do what I do for as long as I possibly can.

    Hickman is a 1974 graduate of Georgia Southern University with a bachelor of business administration in accounting. He joined Dabbs, Hickman, Hill & Cannon, LLP in 1974 and was admitted as a partner in 1983. The firm has 33 office members of which 13 are certified public accountants. Hickman is also a successful entrepreneur serving as a managing member of numerous hotel ventures in both Statesboro and Savannah. Hickman is married to the former Jo Ann Ray who is also a graduate of Georgia Southern University.