UBJ Feature: KeyMark Helping Paper-Heavy Industries Digitize Workflow

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(right to left) Stephen Middleton, Cameron Boland, Jim Wanner, Jami Mullikin, and Dan Christie of KeyMark. Will Crooks/Upstate Business Journal

By Mike McMillan

You may not understand what KeyMark does, but you’ll have no problem understanding how this company from Liberty has grown so rapidly.

In fact, this company thousands of miles from Silicon Valley is on the cusp of the tech industry and has even been poaching customers from Washington State, the home of Microsoft.

So what does KeyMark do? According to marketing director Greg Aiken, it helps take workflow digital — in other words, the company helps digitize paper-heavy industries. It’s a leading enterprise information management solutions provider in a rapidly changing environment.

“We’re the mortar connecting the bricks,” said Cameron Boland, vice president of operations. “We understand our clients’ businesses more than they do.”

Jim Wanner, the company’s founder and chief “expectations” officer, has steered the ship since 1996, leading the company to be named among Inc. magazine’s top 500 companies, and has consistently earned awards from customers — one actually having changed the parameters of the award so KeyMark wouldn’t win each year.

“We are the guys behind the scenes making sure everything runs efficiently,” he said.

The company first got involved with software space automated data entry — the ability to read machine print and handwriting on paper. It closed on a number of deals, including customers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

Jim Wanner, founder and CEO of KeyMark. Will Crooks/Upstate Business Journal

“We realized there might have been more in the industry than just automated data entry,” Wanner said.

Over the years, they partnered with companies like Watermark and Hyland Software, opening the door to business process automation. They worked with a number of other partners on the capture side, including a company that developed a process to capture documents much faster.

KeyMark realized the need for enterprise form management. Forms InMotion, one of the company’s core products, centralizes forms in a single place, making them easily accessible. The software helps not just in centralizing forms, but in allowing for ease of form completion, making notes, and getting signatures.

The company serves financial services, government, healthcare, and commercial customers. It has a contract to work with many agencies within South Carolina. But the clientele extends far beyond the Palmetto State. KeyMark has sold aggressively outside the area.

Wanner said marketing its products outside the region forced the company to be better than everyone. In addition, KeyMark has employees in 13 states and in Canada.

Wanner said one of the great assets of the company has been hiring bright graduates from Clemson University, as well as alumni from Furman University and Southern Wesleyan University. The company also has a strong internship program, with seven starting this summer.

“We have a lot of highly skilled people,” he said.

Those skilled people, along with Wanner’s leadership, have helped drive the company’s 461 percent growth since 2005. It has absorbed or acquired six other companies since 2006.

Another metric of the company’s success has been its Net Promoter Score. It has ranked 96 on a scale from -100 to 100. The score measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services. It has even beaten upstart electric automaker Tesla’s score.

The company has been a part of the Pickens County Commerce Park for 13 years. In that time, KeyMark has been integral to the community, having recently moved to its new facility next door. The state-of-the-art facility has 60 employees but could hold as many as 120.

As the company grows, it must contend with an ever-evolving industry that Wanner said is in the middle of tremendous change. KeyMark is growing to content services, and systems integration technology will be the next core technology. Much like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite, the pricing is also evolving to a monthly fee rather than buying a program or application outright.

“We’re in a transition phase,” Wanner said. “Our future is extremely bright.”

The platforms the company is working with will ensure affordability of its products to small and medium-sized businesses. They promise cost-effective solutions to problems.

Pickens County has been a strong partner with KeyMark, selling the land to KeyMark for its newest facility. In turn, the company has reached back out to the community and Clemson University. Wanner has been on Clemson’s computer science advisory board, and he’s been giving real-world advice on how the university can tailor its curriculum.

Meanwhile, the company has been invested in 10 local schools; even D.W. Daniel High School didn’t have a computer science program five years ago. Wanner said the company is carrying the banner for students to see there’s a future for them in computer science, including the number of careers that are available around technology companies.

They hope to inspire students, even those in schools where free lunches cover as much as 90 percent of the student body, that they can grow to be successful thanks to technology-based careers in local companies.

Wanner said the key to maintaining the company’s level of success has been the people. His goal, he said, was to train them, to give them a place where they can thrive.

“A lot of employees have a lot of tenure,” Aiken said.

Indeed, the company maintains a very low level of turnover — about 10 percent, and about 50 percent of the employees have more than 10 years of seniority.

KeyMark, while maintaining a customer-centric business model, still manages to keep employees happy with an environment that allows for freer processes for making decisions and implementing new ideas.

“It’s so empowering,” Aiken said.

The opening of the company’s new facility drew not just spouses and families of employees, but extended families and local politicians.

Boland said the company is always willing to invest in technology and equipment for any employee, whether it be a standing desk, extra monitor — or two — or any software he or she might need.

“There are no real roadblocks to performance,” he said. “The goal is to grow, and to grow here.”

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