Doing business in Metro Charleston Get to know Jeff Nickles

Jeff Nickles, founder and president of Production Design Associates

The first gig Jeff Nickles’ company got was packing lights for a cover band in Charleston.

Now, 25 years later, his Production Design Associates is the largest production company in the state.

Nickles, its president, has moved the company from his garage to a 15,000-square-foot building in North Charleston, hired a staff of more than 40 and pulled down a handful of big-name clients.

It’s worked with Boeing Co., the PGA Championship and the White House, among others, offering services like lighting, audio and staging for events.

A: Production Design Associates (PDA) is a leader in providing lighting, sound, video, staging, sets and trained technicians for events and system installations in the Southeast. Founded in 1991, PDA has worked with an impressive list of clientele, including many talented leaders, celebrities and innovators.

A: The production industry is constantly evolving. When you work in a tech-driven sector, you can expect many changes and advancements. Imagine how you would feel if you bought the iPhone 6 and the next day you hear about the release of the iPhone 8. That’s how we would feel if we paid $15,000 for a new projector only to learn the next generation unit is being released in a week. It’s hard to keep up with the latest technology, but we work hard on being early adopters to new production technology innovations. We have seen so many great changes in the industry. The gear is getting smaller, lighter, brighter, faster and now uses less power – it makes our job easier.

A: We have experienced more national clients coming to town, and we’ve been privileged to earn their business, but we’re most proud of the relationships that have withstood the test of time and companies that have trusted us from the beginning, including Boeing, CNN, MUSC, College of Charleston and Charleston Wine + Food.

A: Richard Branson has always been one of my favorite business leaders. He has continuously been an outsider, someone who doesn’t conform to the regular rules of business. He does things his way, and seems to enjoy life to the fullest. And he owns an island in the Caribbean – that’s my kind of role model.

A: My favorite leader is my former pastor, Gary Philips at John Wesley Methodist. He is a caring, kind, humble and thoughtful individual, and he has inspired me in many ways throughout the years.

A: Do the best job you can and be yourself – from my dad.

A: “To surround yourself with inventive and perceptive people.” Our 25-year success comes from our collaboration — I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of many talented folks.

A: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. It sums it all up – why some succeed and others don’t. It’s about your culture and mindset.

A: The Business Journal, R.W. Baird Reports, Biz Bash,

A: Setting the strategy and direction for the company. I also am heavily involved in capital expenditures and hiring.

A: I believe staying focused. There are so many distractions. Take technology for instance: People have their smart phones, their tablets, their laptops, their desktops — all with email, apps and social media to keep up with. Just keeping up with social media can be a full time job.

A: Procrastination. In the past, I have waited too long to make difficult decisions. As an entrepreneur, we tend to be overly optimistic about things and believe things will change for the better, and sometimes, they just don’t. My advice: If you need to make change, don’t wait.

A: I would say my biggest success is founding a company that has grown and supported people and their families for more than 25 years. Our largest recent success has definitely been our growth in the political arena. From the White House, Fox News and CNN, we’ve worked for some incredible events and individuals. This year alone, we worked with every presidential candidate.

A: Educate, share, involve. I believe we need to invest in our people. We do that by training them, sending them to trade shows, and even hiring consultants to come in and conduct training seminars — not just specific to our industry, but also to improve our daily business skills.

A: Great business can be defined by its relationships. It can’t come down simply to revenue, but should be defined by the satisfaction of your clients and employees. I believe that a great business should also give back to the community.

A: I was born here and appreciate our way of life. I would have to say the best thing about doing business here is the people. Charleston is an innovative, creative and kind community. It’s been a pleasure growing our business here. I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else.

A: It would probably be that Charleston is still a secondary market. We don’t get the music acts, the conventions or the trade shows that Atlanta or Charlotte gets.