Mikee Johnson

January 25, 2010 

His job: President/chief executive officer, Cox Industries

Age: 37

Family: Wife, Cyndi; one child, Brady, 10

Education: Bachelor's degree in English and political science from Furman University; MBA from USC; working on MBA in family business from Kennesaw State

Community/professional involvement: Board chairman for 2010, Orangeburg Chamber of Commerce; board member, Boy Scouts of America-Indian Waters Council, United Way, March of Dimes and Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association; president, Southern Pressure Treaters Association; lumber and timbers chair, American Wood Preserving Association; S.C. membership chair, Young Presidents' Organization; Eagle Scout

His story: A lifelong resident of Orangeburg, he is the grandson of Bill Cox Sr., who co-founded the manufacturer of treated outdoor wood products. But Johnson passed on joining the family business. He worked Morgan Stanley where by his third year he was named an associate vice president.

Johnson joined Cox in 1999 as director of corporate development. He became CEO in 2007. That year, Johnson accompanied Gov. Mark Sanford to the World Economic Business Conference in China where he became a founding member of the World Economic Forum Growth Champions.

What saying does he live by? "Life is experiential; the rest is just for show." That means to him "that life is about experiencing the world around us and that material possessions will not fulfill us."

His life changed when ... He joined the family's business after being asked by relatives. "They figured if I could manage other people's money, I could manage theirs."

How did he recover after failing at something? "I had an acquisition fall through half a dozen times during my early days with our company. I was reminded of a story I heard about Henry Kissinger sending an aide back to rewrite the same memo four days in a row. Finally on the fifth attempt the aide came back and exclaimed, 'I cannot do any better than this!' Kissinger coolly responded, 'OK then, I will read it now.' "

What can S.C. businesses do better in opening up foreign markets? And how does the world view South Carolina? "Keeping an open mind about the possibilities - who would believe you can ship a container of lumber from Orangeburg to China for the same price as Orangeburg to Richmond. ... Once we put an effort forward to make our products available globally, we have been met with nothing but success.

"As far as how the rest of the world views South Carolina, for better or worse, we are really just another state close to Mickey Mouse."

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