March 09, 2022
More Than a Minute with Marty
Marty Osborn believes in brain power, and not just his own. He’s a student of life. Always curious. Always learning. Always looking for ways to solve problems and get better.
He reads voraciously so he can “borrow the brains” of great thinkers, and he enthusiastically shares the lessons he’s learned. Osborn could have been a great coach or teacher, but he went into business where he used his contagious enthusiasm to inspire a growing team of really smart people--carefully chosen and given the freedom to make magic.
Super-charged by passion, a desire to help people, and a work hard-play hard culture, Osborn, Steve Brindle, Paul Cowley, and their team built Advoco, an incredibly successful software consulting company in Greenville.
Marty’s enthusiasm and drive come from somewhere deep within—a power that started surging when he was a budding child entrepreneur growing up in Rochester, New York. Marty says he was always trying to sell something, and he honed his sales skills from a young age in both traditional and non-traditional ways.
“I had a paper route,” he said, “and I used to have to go door to door to collect subscription fees and tips.”
Marty learned early that capitalizing on connections helped increase sales. His grandfather was a bass fishing guide, and Marty “would try and sell frogs to him and his clients.” Back then, his sister Marla was his business partner. They joke that Marty was the “brawn” and his sister was the “brain.”
After high school, Marty went to New York City to continue his education, but he only stayed a year.
He found his way when he transferred to Clemson University and fell in love with the south.
After college, Marty moved to Greenville and started a business. He and his wife, Lisa, raised a daughter and a son in the suburbs. When he became president and partner of Advoco, Marty chose to raise the company in the city.
Marty says he’s worked for a lot of bad bosses, so with Advoco, he wanted to build the kind of company where he wanted to work. That meant doing things differently.
Marty put a lot of emphasis on hiring a diverse group of qualified people and trusted them to do their jobs. He admits it was hard on his ego at times, but the more he got out of his team’s way, the better the company did.
Osborn said it may sound corny, but love is a major reason for his company’s success.
“To us, love (L.O.V.E.) is living our values every day,” he said. “When we love our employees, when we love our community, when we love our customers, how can you go wrong?”
That philosophy worked out pretty well.
Advoco won Best Place to Work in South Carolina two years in a row, and two years later, the company earned another honor -- Forbes Small Giants: The Best Small Companies of 2019.
Working there comes with some pretty cool perks. The company has taken the whole team (spouses and college co-op students included) on paid trips to the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic as a reward for hitting their goals.
Then there’s the wine. Award-winning wine.
Marty and his business partners invited employees and clients to a vineyard in Sonoma. It was a different kind of partnership out there—having fun, building relationships while picking grapes and making wine together.
Marty looks downright joyful when he talks about his team and their adventures together. Listening to him, you know he lives by the tagline on his “Marty’s Minute” posts: Make Every Minute Count.
Writing, he says, is a way for him to reflect on what he’s doing. He gives his audience bite-sized wisdom from the titans of business and things he’s learned throughout his journey.
The titles of his posts are catchy—sometimes funny, sometimes prophetic. Who could resist reading a post called, “Do You Want to Be More Interesting at Parties?”
In “Having the Courage to Suck at Something,” Osborn says people are often so afraid of embarrassing themselves that they never try new things.
“If we just keep doing what we’re good at,” he wrote, “how can we ever get better?”
Marty, a huge Clemson Tigers fan, mashes up two favorite topics in “Don’t Turn Your Team into Bobbleheads.”
It’s a hilarious image that comes with a serious message.
“While bobbleheads are fun for desk ornaments, they do not make good employees or teammates,” Osborn wrote.
When people are afraid to challenge decisions, Marty says they just nod their heads and do what the boss tells them to do. Ultimately that’s not good for the team or for business.
The Tigers themselves are serious business for Marty Osborn. He says Clemson football games are semi-religion to him. Seven weekends a year, his tailgates are like family picnics and get-togethers with friends. Don’t invite him to a wedding on a weekend the Tigers are playing at home. Marty can’t be compelled to skip a game.
“To me, part of Clemson football really is family, and it's that time to get together,” he said. “I would never miss it for the world.”
Marty Osborn doesn’t waste a minute in his personal or professional life. He’s committed to family, fun, and sharing his life lessons. That outlook helped him build Advoco, now part of Accenture, from a startup to a huge success.
Just watch him change the world FROM HERE.