Meet Wes Carter, President Atlantic Packaging

Third generation family business leader

I joined the family business, Atlantic Packaging in 2002, working under my father. My grandfather had started it as a newspaper company in 1946 and later expanded into printing, paper and distribution.

Over the course of 70+ years, our company has expanded and evolved to include 25 locations, 1,200 employees, thousands of clients and annual sales topping $600 million. As the president of a thriving third generation family business, I quickly learned that working alongside my father comes with many advantages, but it is not without challenges.

I recognized the value of having a professional network of support

I heard about Vistage from a friend and I was immediately interested. At the time, I was not involved in any executive leadership or development programs and I recognized the value of having a professional network of support.

My friend introduced me to Chair Kirk McMillan, who was starting a Vistage group in Charleston. During our first meeting, Kirk was engaging and relatable and we drew a lot of parallels as entrepreneurs and family business owners. I realized after talking to Kirk that joining Vistage could be game-changing not only for my business, but for my development as a leader. I had already had a taste for how lonely it can be at the top and I was in a place where I could benefit from executive advisory, support and guidance.

I decided to join Vistage in 2018..In just two years, I have gotten far more out of it than I ever anticipated.

Our group naturally melds well together, and members are ready and willing to provide honest and unbiased feedback when processing big business decisions. More importantly, no one has a hidden agenda; they’re there to simply offer help and advice. Vistage has quickly become more than just a professional organization — we are trusted friends who are there to celebrate each other’s wins and grieve each other’s losses.

Vistage has helped me gain a higher level of awareness and compassion

First and foremost, my group has been instrumental in helping me refine my communication skills as a leader, particularly with my father. Kirk, specifically, has been a sounding board and has effectively coached me through some challenging conversations because he understands the sensitive dynamic. I’ve become a more thoughtful and effective leader now that I’m equipped with new communication tools and skills.

I’ve learned to take the necessary time to think through decisions from all angles to ensure that I am acting with a higher level of awareness and compassion.

Vistage helped me make my estate plan a priority

By far, the most valuable thing that has come out of my Vistage membership has been the creation of an estate plan. While it was an emotional and daunting topic to conquer, Kirk was determined to make me understand that, while it may be uncomfortable, I must make it a priority.

This sense of urgency led my father and I to take the time to develop a plan in case of a crisis. It proved that Vistage isn’t just there to guide me through my current business challenges — it’s there to help set me up for success in the future as well.

Better leaders. Better decisions. Better results.

For me, Vistage doesn’t just make us better leaders. It helps make us better people who, in turn, make better decisions. There is no doubt that Kirk and my Vistage group have been instrumental in guiding me to make better business decisions and has been a key factor to my professional success.

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Kirk McMillan


©2019 Kirk McMillan