by Frank Murtaugh
The FedEx St. Jude Classic returns to Memphis (June 6-12), again bringing the PGA Tour’s best to the Bluff City. This will be the first tournament under the direction of 33-year-old Darrell Smith, who assumed his new duties when longtime director Phil Cannon moved into an advisory role last fall.
What has been your biggest adjustment since taking over as tournament director?
I’ve been fortunate. Phil Cannon gave me my start here in 2005 [as an intern], and I’ve been able to be involved with a lot in the production of a PGA Tour event. The biggest adjustment has been the reality that, hey, I’m the tournament director now. It’s just assuming that role. I feel like I’m prepared for a lot of what I’m doing, and I’m sure I’ll learn more as we get closer to the tournament. We’re trying to recruit the best players in the world to come play Memphis. I’ve been more involved in player relations than I have in the past.
You left to work for a tournament in Dallas briefly (2010), only to return to Memphis. What brought you back?
Memphis is home for me and my wife. We enjoyed our time in Texas; it was during a time of transition for the [FESJC]. We were going to make ourselves better professionally and personally. There was an opportunity in Texas, so we took it. But when Phil and Jack Sammons called me and said they had good news to share, that FedEx was coming back as a title sponsor, it was a no-brainer for us. I had been on the operations side of things until then. The opportunity in Memphis was more on the sales side, revenue-generating. It was the next step in my professional development.
Memphis has hosted a PGA tournament almost 50 years (since 1958). What must the FESJC do to get even better?
We want to become one of the Mid-South’s biggest events. In the past, it’s been a golf event. But we’ve decided this is more than just golf. It’s the largest outdoor festival in the city of Memphis, and that means music. It means food. There’s fun for everybody. It can be a family, a corporate customer, or a single ticket-holder. We want to provide an environment where there are a lot of things to do besides watching golf.
Do you play golf? What’s your dream foursome?
I am a golfer. My dream foursome would include my father, Tiger Woods, and my uncle, who introduced me to the game of golf.
What’s the best hole for a fan to watch at the FESJC?
I think the 11th hole will be the place to be at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. That’s the island green. It’s the signature hole at TPC Southwind, a par 3, lots of action. We’ve constructed a new venue called the Island Club that should create a lot of excitement. Hopefully we’ll see some holes-in-one. A lot of fans like to see every shot on a hole, and at 11 they can see all three. We’re looking forward to building some momentum there.
Frank Murtaugh is managing editor of inside memphis business and memphis, and a lifelong sports fan.
by Sam Cicci
The president’s office at the Blues Foundation, despite coming under new stewardship only a few months ago, already displays a passion for music and the blues. With big shoes to fill following last year’s departure of Jay Sieleman, Barbara Newman has stepped into her new role with aplomb. The organization, responsible for
crafting an extensive Hall of Fame with some of the most talented blues performers in history, is recognized as the world’s leading international blues organization with over 200 affiliates worldwide. Located on South Main Street, and with a recent renovation under its belt, the Blues Foundation is poised to continue its excellent work.
When she speaks on the organization, Newman is energetic and enthusiastic about her work, recalling recent names and performances that have left an impression. Quite a catalogue of notable artists is listed, and it’s clear she holds a deep appreciation for the blues.
Newman’s career, however, did not start in music. She earned a B.A. in political science from Brown University before adding advanced training in accounting, banking, and corporate finance to her repertoire while working at the New York-based National Westminster Bank. That job ended up creating her first professional music connection. “I had my first music industry client which I brought in, it was the Power Station, a very well-renowned recording studio back in the Eighties,” she says. “That was fun, I got to meet David Bowie and watch some recording sessions.”
As a native Memphian, she returned home and joined the nonprofit sector, serving on the Bornblum Solomon Schechter School board of directors as treasurer, vice president of administration and fundraising, and president. From 2007 onward, she served as executive director of Beth Sholom Synagogue, taking charge of financial administration, communications, human resources, and facility management. More recently, Newman has become engaged with board development, fundraising, and strategic planning for Planned Parenthood, Greater Memphis Region.
Despite a heavy workload, she has been able to keep up with her interest in music. “On the side, we have for about 15 years now produced concerts and fundraising events for nonprofits around the city,” she says. The financial and musical aspects of both sides of work prepared her to step into her role at the Blues Foundation.
Newman’s love for music, indicated by the possessions hanging around her office, stretches back to her childhood. As a 7th grader, she was treated to a performance by Blues Hall of Famer Furry Lewis and knew she’d witnessed something unique. “I was probably 11,” she says. “He came to my school with some other blues musicians and performed and explained to us the structure of blues music. We got to say hello, and you knew he was somebody special. The name meant something, the history was important, and he was pretty amazing, just sitting with his guitar and singing for us.”
The experience seems to have had a profound effect. Complementing her role as the Foundation’s president are memberships in both the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and Folk Alliance International. It’s safe to say the organization is in a good set of musical hands.
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by Dr. Douglas Scarboro
An important part of my role as the regional executive for the Memphis Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is the exchange of economic information. For instance, one of my top priorities is to gather information on the economy in the Memphis region and pass it on to those in our St. Louis office who are involved in monetary policymaking and related research, including St. Louis Fed President James Bullard.
With the Fed, the sharing of economic information isn’t a one-way street. What President Bullard and his staff of economists learn about the economy, we share whenever possible to business and civic leaders, and the general public across the Memphis region. This happens via a variety of channels — through one-on-one meetings and speeches open to all, and through the wide variety of resources we make available for free to the general public. One of our most popular online resources is called FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data,) where you can track widely followed data-based economic indicators that reflect the state of the health of the economy. These include reports like the unemployment rate, inflation, housing starts, and crude oil prices, just to name a few.
While these reports and data contribute a great deal to the picture of the health of the economy, the Fed also gathers and shares valuable anecdotal information on current economic conditions via publications like the Beige Book, and in the St. Louis Fed’s region, the Burgundy Books, also available free online.
While official reports and data, along with the anecdotal information provided by sources like the Beige Book and the Burgundy Books, are extremely valuable, I have found that some of the best insights come from conversations with everyday people, from farmers in rural Arkansas to bankers in downtown Memphis.
One of my favorite things is hearing the unique anecdotal economic indicators used by people to gauge how things are going in their respective industries and regions. Some examples include:
A contact of mine was discussing the rural economy and noted that he can gauge how well things are going by how full the Wal-Mart parking lot is on Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Earlier this year, a popular restaurateur in New Orleans noticed that while people were still coming into his restaurants, they were not ordering higher ticket entrees. However, they still continued to order lower tickets items like dessert. This occurred during the recent downturn in this region’s employment rate due to lower oil prices.
A larger local manufacturer noted how much more cardboard box purchases rise when businesses are increasing their shipments of goods. Since most companies do not over-order supplies, it is easy to tell when orders are down since cardboard box purchases decline. He is in good company on this one: Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was reportedly fond of tracking unconventional indicators like the corrugated box shipments and prices of liner board, the main component of cardboard boxes.
A large logistics company measures the weight of items and uses it as a determinant of shipping demand.
I’m interested in hearing about the types of economic indicators that you use to assess the health of the economy and invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Douglas Scarboro is regional executive/VP of the Memphis branch of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.
by Richard J. Alley
In a 10,000-square-foot warehouse just off of Broad Avenue in the Binghampton neighborhood, there is an assault on the ears. An autoCAD machine grinds its way through wood panelling as a table saw growls nearby; a bundle of lumber falls to the concrete floor. Everywhere there is dust and splinters, a hive of activity.
But escape through a couple of doors and down a hallway, and find bliss. Among bookshelves and in low lighting, I sit on a leather couch surrounded by silence until Jim Thompson, co-owner of EgglestonWorks, touches the face of his smartphone and music floods the room. It’s a drum and bass riff that brings the speakers Thompson and partner John Callery produce to life. And there is so much life in those woofers and tweeters. As I listen, oddly, it’s difficult to know where to look as every snare lick, every hi-hat sizzle, every run up the fretboard appears to come from a different part of the room. Instead, I close my eyes and let the music wash over me.
The speakers — and they look more sculpture than speaker — at the front of the room retail for $155,000 a pair. It’s not your everyday sound system but then, they were never intended for any everyday customer. The speakers were designed for sound engineer Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering who has worked with such notables as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and KISS, among many others. “Bob fidgets,” Thompson explains, “and he likes to stand up and walk around, so anything shorter and he loses the sound.” The Ivy Signature speakers stand six feet tall, putting the backbeat and vocals at the master’s ear level.
Ludwig and The Ivy are the exception to the rule as Thompson insists the recording studios are not why their company exists. Still, he says, there is not another brand of speaker in as many studios. “Engineers have just adopted us,” he says. “This is not a professional product. We don’t make speakers for mastering studios, we make speakers for people’s homes. However, what a mastering engineer wants out of the speaker is exactly what you do, you just don’t know it. You want to be able to listen to the speaker for a long period of time without getting tired, you want it to sound accurate to what you think that piece of music should sound like, and you don’t want to have to turn your speakers down every couple of hours because it’s bothering you. These goals that we approach towards a mastering engineer are exactly what somebody at home would want.”
There are other catalogue options for those of us with holes in our bookcase and a smaller sum in our checking account. Products start at $3,500 for a pair and go up to, well, you’ve just read where they top out. Still, though, 10 pairs of The Ivy sold last year.
But what makes a great speaker, one that is worthy of listening to the playback of Keith Richards’ guitar or Bruce Springsteen’s vocals? “The cabinet,” Thompson says. “The care and the thickness of that cabinet and all that goes into making that piece is unusual.” With other, lesser-quality speakers, he explains, the cabinet itself is going to participate in the sound, meaning the vibrations will make a noise that can then color what is happening with the speaker component itself, known as a “driver.” You don’t want that. “The cabinet is our highest value piece.”
After the cabinet, the quality of the electronics — the tweeters and woofers — make all the difference. These are sourced from places like Israel and Denmark. While the resistors and capacitors are built in-house, Thompson says,“Building a driver is like a laboratory-condition type of thing, you couldn’t do that in our factory.”
To put it simply, Thompson says, “You get what you pay for.”
The majority of EgglestonWorks’ business is not in the U.S., but with 37 distributors in 42 countries, and over 100 retail stores around the world. While market sizes fluctuate depending on the economy of a country at any given time, Asia remains one of the strongest and earlier this year Thompson and Callery opened a distributorship in Shanghai.
With 10 employees, the Memphis-based company sells about 450 pairs of speakers per year with annual revenue around $1 million, though Thompson is optimistic that they’re on pace to surpass that this year. “We’ve got good momentum,” he says.
The company was founded in 1993 as a furniture maker building speakers that looked like furniture. Thompson began working part-time in 1996 and became general manager in 1998. “I fell in love with the business,” he says, and about that time the original investors fell out of love. Thompson purchased the business shortly after.
He’d grown up in his father’s music instrument store where he became interested in the repair and technical side of the operation. When it came time to buy the speaker business, he called in longtime friend Callery, a true audiophile whose passion for music would be key. In 1998, the company had one product; today they offer 14.
Those products are lovingly made with pieces fitted together by hand. The colors are automobile-quality and applied in much the same way as an auto — sprayed, sanded, polished, and buffed — before the electronic components are put in and the whole thing quality checked, boxed, and packed in a shipping container to be sent overseas. If you were to follow one speaker from raw piece of wood to packaging, the process would take a week and a half, and it would be touched by human hands more than 100 times.
It’s that quality that resonates with customers across the city and halfway around the world. “My favorite emails are when people get their speakers and they send us pictures of them still in the box,” Thompson says, “and they say, ‘I spent six hours going through all of my music.’ That’s the biggest compliment, that you want to listen and to keep listening.”
by Toby Sells
A year ago, right here in these pages, we said that — like it or not — a new day had dawned at Memphis International Airport (MEM) and, so far, that day has proved a bit brighter, quieting the once-loud chorus of critics.
Our story last year painted a drab portrait of an airport in decline, working to re-invent itself in the terrible aftermath of its breakup with Delta Airlines. Heads were low. Hands were wrung. [See Inside Memphis Business, February 2015.]
At the time — even after nearly two years since the de-hub — airport officials continued to deflect criticism that they could have done more to keep Delta’s hub (and its 91 daily flights) here.
Business leaders pointed to the ensuing lack of flights to and from Memphis as a major headwind to profit in quarterly earnings reports. Blistering criticism of all involved issued daily from the “Delta Does Memphis” Facebook page, which boasted some 5,000 members.
An airport official served the truth up cold: “We’re not going to be a hub again,” said John Greaud, the now-retired vice president of operations for the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA).
Instead, airport officials preached that Memphis flight service would be a “mosaic” in the future, many different (and certainly smaller) pieces that made up the overall flight service picture here, not the grand, red-and-blue monolith of Delta Airlines.
Many weren’t sure what that would really look like. Others wondered if it would work. Still others wondered if they could keep their businesses in Memphis even if it did work. Uncertainty, the great bogeyman of business, lurked in every Memphis marketplace when it came to the airport.
But in the last 12 months, the airport has put some points on the board. Those points are real, not intangible or ethereal, but solid facts. And those facts are slowly removing uncertainty’s grip from the airport and Memphis business.
“There’s a recognition that it’s getting better,” says Phil Trenary, a one-time airline executive and now president of the Greater Memphis Chamber. “When we talk about the overall environment in business, and I’m talking primarily about businesses looking to come to Memphis, the No. 1 concern remains workforce, and we’re aggressively addressing that. No. 2 is high taxes, and No. 3 is the airport.”
That’s movement, Trenary says, because back after the Delta de-hub in 2013, the airport was undoubtedly at the top of that list. Those two spots down Trenary’s list are an example of some of the numbers that have shaped the airport in the last year.
Here’s a look at some of the others:
16: That’s the number of new flights that have been added at MEM in the last year.
Jacksonville, Destin, Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, Austin, Orlando, Denver, Tampa Bay: these are just some of the destinations for some of those new flights offered.
But flights to one city raised more eyebrows in the past year, not because it is a new destination, but that the flights are on carriers that aren’t Delta. In January, Frontier Airlines announced it would begin non-stop service between Memphis and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, running three times per week.
Atlanta is considered the top destination for Memphis flyers and Delta still runs 11 flights there every day. But that also means that Delta can set the price on those flights, which start at about $300.
But with the new competition, it’s hoped that those ticket prices overall will drop. Frontier’s Atlanta flights recently listed for $45. Though not a discount airline, Memphis-based Southern Airways Express runs a flight to the smaller DeKalb-Peachtree Airport for about $200. Trenary calls it all a “very big deal.”
“One of our highest-priced flights is one of the 11 flights per day on Delta to Atlanta,” says MEM president and CEO Scott Brockman. “If you’re only flying to Atlanta, it’s pricey. If you’re flying through Atlanta [fares aren’t so pricey], because that’s what Delta wants you to do. It’s their bread and butter, like cargo in Memphis.”
37: That’s where MEM ranked (as of fourth-quarter 2015) among the top 100 airports in the country when it comes to average ticket prices.
It’s a major move considering the airport was 7th on that list in 2012. Average ticket prices back then were $540. That fact earned the airport a mention in a New York Times story headlined “Which Airports Have the Most Unfair Fares?”.
Since then, average ticket prices at MEM have slid $150, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Airport officials say the decrease is due, in part, to simply having more passengers. Nine percent more people flew from MEM in fourth-quarter 2015 than in the same period from the previous year.
Brockman says to consider that the new ranking was given even before the Frontier flight to Atlanta was on the books. So, keep an eye on this metric as prices are likely to fall further and so, too, will the airport’s ticket-price ranking.
If there is a mantra that guided the airport to both numbers above, it’s this: “The relentless pursuit of frequent and affordable air service.” It’s a mantra Brockman knows by heart and repeats often.
“We want to garner the schedule and we want to garner the price,” he says. “We want to be more affordable for this community.”
The airport isn’t building its new air service lineup in the dark. Will Livsey was hired in March 2015 as the airport’s first senior manager of air service research and development. Once an analyst with American Airlines, he now works with the local business community (including the Chamber) to see what fights are actually needed at MEM.
2,600 percent: that’s the increase in the number of visitors to the airport website from April 2015 to April 2016.
The site had an average of 55 users per day back in 2015. Today it attracts about 1,500, according to numbers from Glen Thomas, the airport’s manager of strategic communications. Now, the actual numbers might not sound huge, but they show a promise that could be a driving force for the airport.
The airport’s new website gives consumers access to every flight leaving from the Memphis airfield every single day. That’s a major change from its former site and from the sites of many major-city airports.
While many use travel sites like Expedia or Kayak to book flights, discount airlines like Southwest, Allegiant, and Frontier don’t list flights there.
On the phone, it sounds like David Williams almost can’t believe it himself.
“I don’t have a lot of negative things to say,” Williams says with a chuckle.
Williams was once one of the loudest voices on the “Delta Does Memphis” Facebook group, a group that excoriated the airline, Memphis airport officials for losing the Delta hub and, really, almost anything else happening at MEM.
The “Delta Does Memphis” group went offline late last year, though. In its place, Williams and Deacon Bob Skinner built a new group called “Memphis Airport Watchdog.” The tone of that page is much lighter with stories of flights, experiences, airports across the country and the world, and 1,200 members.
Pace Cooper replaced Jack Sammons as MSCAA board chairman when Sammons went to work for then-Memphis Mayor A C Wharton last year. Cooper says he’s not hearing as much grumbling about the Delta de-hub or the direction of the airport.
“I think some of our turn-around victories are starting to ring true,” Cooper says. “We’re at that stage where the good news is replacing some of that grumbling and we have to continue … it’s our mission and challenge to keep that good news coming and to make that grumbling a distant memory.”
Williams says toning down the rhetoric was a goal for the new Memphis Airport Watchdog group, though he won’t censor members and won’t be a “cheerleader for the airport.” But he can’t help being impressed with progress there and with the responsiveness he’s seen to his “consumer movement.”
“We got the attention of the airport and one of the best things that happened was the airport started listening to the citizens of Memphis,” Williams says. “They came out with an openness that said, ‘Maybe the people that use our airport are important people and maybe we should listen to what they have to say.’”
In December, the group made a Christmas list for the airport. They wished for new flights to Atlanta, better signage in the baggage claim area, an improved website, new (non-Delta) flight monitors in the terminal and concourses, and new monitors and free wi-fi in the cell phone lot.
They got all of it.
“Was that us?” Williams asks. “I don’t know. But you get a sense that they’re listening.”
Brockman says transparency was one of his key goals when he took the reins at the airport and Thomas, the communications director, was hired. Williams says that was a big move in the right direction, noting that Thomas is a frequent presence on the Watchdog group, listening to concerns and answering questions.
Brockman wants to start hearing two words around the airport: “my pleasure.” It’s a small intangible in the customer service culture that Brockman says will change the airport and make it “an airport of choice” for consumers.
“I want it to be a ‘Chik-fil-A moment,’” Brockman says. “If every person in this place answers someone that says ‘thank you’ with those two, simple words — ‘my pleasure’ — we’re going to change the dial. We’re going to change the perception of the culture of this airport.”
Not much has changed with the massive, $114 million concourse modernization since we reported on it last year. Final plans for its design are scheduled to get an up or down vote from the MSCAA later this year.
Those plans would consolidate all airline gates, food, retail, and more into the B concourse. The plan would also demolish the ends of the A and C concourses to give airplanes more room to maneuver in and out of B, therefore allowing more airplanes (and more flights and more people) through the airport.
Large windows will flood the B concourse with natural light. High ceilings and moving walks will give the space a more airy feel present at nearly every modern airport in the country. The plan also includes less-flashy elements like bringing the terminal and the concourses up to modern seismic standards — a $60 million project.
When talking about the changes, and even the past, Brockman’s voice carries a bit of bright, eternal optimism that has to be present in a leader weathering a storm. Cooper, of course, shares that optimism. So does Trenary when he talks about the real issues facing the Memphis business community. But so does Williams of the Watchdog group who has a journalist’s skepticism and an unapologetically un-cheerleader-like approach to the airport.
Brockman can lay out all of the successes over the last year and all of the changes that helped them along — moving to transparency, researching the needs of the Memphis market, focusing on discount carriers, adding competition at the gates, raising the customer experience, and more. But he admits it hasn’t all been flashy.
“We’re a Clydesdale,” Brockman says. “It may not be pretty, but it’s effective.”
by Andrea Wiley
I hope you are lying beachside as you read this, but something tells me you are wishing the same thing as you sit at your desk scarfing down a so-so sandwich between meetings.
We are busier than ever, taking less and less time for ourselves, let alone our brand. Distractions pop up everywhere and divert our attention from where it really needs to be focused.
Remember that young Millennial, fresh out of college, you interviewed 18 months ago that you didn’t hire, but who recommended you could use an updated logo and website, and by the way, she had a hard time Googling you? You were annoyed, maybe even slightly offended, but ultimately you knew she was right. Then you did nothing about it. Your problem grew, but you continue to ignore it because there are so many other things that seem more pressing.
Is it still a problem if it is out-of-sight, out-of-mind? Yes. It is. And it is getting bigger every day. Your brand is more than just a logo. Your brand is made up of many things: the interior design aesthetic of your office, your fashion sense, the kinds of cars in your parking lot or bikes in your hallway, the holiday gift you gave (or didn’t give) your clients last year, even how the receptionist greets visitors when they walk in the front door. Some of this probably sounds pretty superficial, but let’s face it, first impressions are everything.
But before you can even make a good impression, you must identify whom you are trying to impress. Understand where they are — physically, emotionally, socially, financially — what their daily online activity looks like, what their story is, and how your brand can fit in organically (or seemingly so).
Should you snap it, tweet it, post it, gram it, pin it, video it, email it, text it, print it? Just as easy as it is to fall into the trap of doing something “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” it can be equally misguided to do something because it is the new cool thing to do. But whether it is the hottest trend or the old standby, it doesn’t mean that’s the best way to engage your target audience.
Today, all the lines are blurred: the separation of church and state, the difference between politics and pop culture — what the heck is a Labradoodle anyway? Marketing, advertising, and public relations are no different thanks to the daily evolution of technology. When I was in journalism school, there were rules. Not so much anymore, and no one seems to mind. The delivery mechanisms appear to be endless; you don’t know where to start, so you are paralyzed into doing nothing. Bad idea. Because your competitor isn’t doing nothing, and they are about to knock you out.
I’m a believer in keeping it simple. And at this complicated time that is the hardest thing to do. Which is why you need to rely on expert marketers to guide you in the right direction. You already have all the answers; you just need a third party to eliminate the daily distractions to reveal what matters most.
Be confident in your area of expertise and recognize that if it isn’t in a creative field, you need to find some super smart folks to get in your corner so you can start throwing some punches at your competition.
Memphis has over 40 firms and countless freelancers that specialize in marketing, branding, advertising, public relations, web development, creative consulting, and so on. It just depends on your needs, your budget, and frankly, who fits you best.
Don’t default to getting your nephew on the case even though he’s a Millennial who has taken a few design classes. You wouldn’t hire him to take out your appendix if he had taken a few courses in medical school. Your brand is delicate and deserves the best care that only experts can provide.
Be bold. Do something great. Partner with a talented and experienced marketing team that not only understands where your brand is today, but also can help you visualize where it needs to go.
Andrea Wiley is an adjunct professor of advertising in the University of Memphis Journalism Department and the 2015-2016 president of the American Advertising Federation (Memphis Chapter).
by Frank Murtaugh
There aren’t many guarantees in life, but you can take this to the betting window: Jen Andrews knows more about the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC) than you or anyone else. The 32-year-old Andrews is the newly named executive director for the nonprofit that manages — and is currently transforming — the 4,500-acre park. She was also, you see, the SFPC’s first employee.
Upon graduating from Rhodes College with a degree in English literature in 2006, Andrews set her sights on a graduate program at the University of Arkansas. But she needed a year to raise money, so she applied for a new position with what was then called the Shelby Farms Park Alliance. “When I took the job, we didn’t have office space or computers,” says Andrews. “No phones. It was just the two of us. [Laura Morris was the founding director.] Some of my first duties were calling FedEx and First Tennessee to see if I could go into their warehouses and take some of their old furniture.”
Andrews grew up in the tiny (pop. 4,000) town of Marianna, Arkansas. (“You grow up and either become a Little Rock person or a Memphis person,” she explains. “We were always Memphis people.”) She developed a love for lakes and green space by visiting her grandparents, whose property sat on a former junkyard on the edge of town. “I grew up scraping my knee,” explains Andrews, “getting dirty, climbing trees, making mud pies. I spent a lot of time alone out there. I’m very comfortable being alone. I’m independent, introverted. I feel like I developed my imagination out there, learned how to dream. It was really a magical place.”
Andrews took to sports, first as a gymnast, then as a basketball player who led Lee Academy to a runner-up finish in the 2002 state tournament. “Basketball is my true love, but unfortunately I’m 5’2”,” she says with a smile. As a sprinter (100 meters and 200 meters) for Lee’s track team, she caught the eyes of Rhodes recruiters and became the first member of her family to attend college.
In addition to taking on the pole vault at Rhodes, Andrews discovered a passion for post-colonial literature. “I was studying literature from places that had been colonized and then decolonized,” she says. “African, Pacific rim, Caribbean, some Irish. Growing up in a small town, there are things you don’t get access to. I was really interested in broadening my horizons. I hadn’t really considered literature from places other than England and America. I knew it existed, but I hadn’t given it credibility. I was moved, and got excited; there was so much I could still learn.”
That yearning to grow — in mind and spirit — fueled Andrews’ early days in support of Shelby Farms, her initial mission simply to secure the land from the threat of development. “What we were trying to do in those early days,” she reflects, “was get a conservation easement [a legal designation that protects the land as a park], so we could stop fighting. Once we protected the park, which meant the county couldn’t sell it to developers, we transitioned from a defensive posture to an optimistic, future-focused organization. What could the park be?”
Fast-forward to 2016 and the SFPC is nearing completion on its $52 million “Heart of the Park” project, its largest component being an expansion of Patriot Lake from 52 to 80 acres. There will also be a new visitors center, an events center (with a restaurant), lakeside pavilions, and a pedestrian promenade adjacent to the lake. Taken together, the massive transformation has further reinforced the art of the possible.
“I think I was the first true believer,” says Andrews, “other than the people who had been involved [before SFPC]. When I was at Rhodes, I didn’t even know the park existed. I was part of a first wave of people who were willing to dig in, see the potential, and do something about it. It was hard in the early days because there was no job security. There was no guarantee we could raise enough money to pay salaries. The county budget for the park at the time was $575,000. We were creating an organization that didn’t exist.”
Now overseeing a staff of 30, Andrews hasn’t had to look far for leadership standards. “Linda Brashear, our director of park operations, has been a great mentor and a great example,” says Andrews. “We have very different personalities. I’m an introvert, logical. She’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet; extroverted, loves people. She shows me a different path. I’m interested in things that are different from my experience. Tina Sullivan at the Overton Park Conservancy is another great leader, the ultimate diplomat and highly principled.”
Andrews’ parents were teenagers when Jen was born, so there’s a form of leadership in their simply keeping a family together, and growing. “My dad [Mark Andrews] may be the only person even more introverted than I am,” she says. “He’s brilliant and totally independent, completely nonjudgmental. He taught me from a really young age to think for myself and question assumptions, my own and others.”
A military contractor in Afghanistan for 10 years, Mark now teaches work-skills to inmates as part of a rehabilitation program while Andrews’ mom, Lori, is a preschool teacher. Andrews’ only sibling — a younger sister — is a middle-school teacher. “I’m the only non-teacher in the family,” notes Andrews. “Leadership and service are big deals in my family. My parents really focused on integrity because it’s something that can’t be taken away. You can always tell the truth. You can always be generous, even when you’re poor.”
Now in a position where her hiring skills are important, Andrews has paid special attention to a few qualities she considers seeds of leadership. “I enjoy building a team and fostering talent,” she says. “I’ve hired a lot of young and hungry people. I always look for critical thinking; they’re likely to have good judgment and be resourceful. At a small nonprofit, resourceful people tend to do very well. And accountability, someone who can demonstrate they’re willing to take ownership of something. I can’t think of any leaders who aren’t highly accountable.”
Andrews is convinced opportunities for talented young people will bring new leaders, and help Memphis grow as a city. “When I graduated from Rhodes, there were two people in my class who planned to stay in Memphis,” she says. “It was unusual. At last year’s graduation, they polled the students and something like 60 percent said they would be staying in Memphis. I didn’t plan on staying until I got involved with building something that would make Memphis a better place, and that was addictive.”
Andrews’ appreciation for good leaders extends into the realm of science fiction. An avowed Trekkie, she lights up at the chance to distinguish her preferred Starfleet captain. “Jean-Luc Picard is a great model of leadership,” she says. “James Kirk was impulsive, where Picard is logical and rational. He’s highly intelligent. He was an amateur archaeologist, very interested in people and cultures.” A life-sized Spock stand-up poster greets visitors to her office. The universe’s most famous Vulcan is wearing a Memphis Grizzlies headband. Stoicism with a little grit-and-grind. Let’s call it a Jen Andrews recipe for progress.
by Meg Crosby
Millennials are a hot commodity as cities across the country, including Memphis, compete to attract lifeblood in the form of bright young talent. Local business leaders frequently ask me what they can do to entice young employees. My response: Loosen up on your paid time off policy.
Here’s the deal. According to Maude Standish of Tarot, a Millennial trend insight company, the ultimate luxury for this generation is having a unique experience. Travel, technology, and the sharing economy have removed barriers to access the farthest reaches of the globe. If they can dream it, they can do it. No longer will piling in the station wagon and driving to the nearest Gulf Coast beach suffice for these intellectually curious, connected, and socially conscious young adults. They are much more interested in hiking Machu Picchu, taking an eco-tour of the Amazon rain forest via zip line, or building water wells in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is very difficult for some of us GenXers and Boomers to see beyond the traditional two-week vacation policy that has existed since the beginning of time. But see beyond it, we must. For companies who are squarely in the knowledge economy — meaning that their employees’ brains are their greatest assets — winning the war on talent is a huge competitive advantage. It might sound strange, but re-thinking your PTO policy might lead to dramatic improvements in employee productivity, innovation, and retention.
First, our brains are overloaded and need a break. Never before in history have humans processed so much information on a daily basis. According to Tom Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, “People are working so many hours that not only in most cases do they not have more hours they could work, but there’s also strong evidence to suggest that when they work for too long they get diminishing returns.”
Scientific American reports, “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to achieve our highest levels of performance.”
And I don’t know about you, but I see a spike in my productivity in preparation for leaving for vacation — finishing projects, clearing off my desk, tying up loose ends, and completing tasks before I leave.
Time out from the daily grind is also important for reflection and insight. It is no coincidence that January and August are the months our company sees the highest number of inbound calls for consulting services. Our clients that take vacation over the summer or over the holidays have the time away from the day-to-day issues in the business to step back and reflect on the business as a whole and come back refreshed and ready to engage on meaty strategic issues. Tim Krieder writes in The New York Times, “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections.” These unexpected connections lead to learning and innovation.
And finally, and perhaps most compelling, employees know it when they have a good thing. The Times reported on a study by Ernst & Young of its employees. They found that employees who took more vacation had higher performance rankings and were more likely to stay with the firm longer.
If you are still not convinced, consider this: Millennials lead what researchers call a “blended life.” Or, stated another way, these digital natives sleep with their phones. Where the GenXers once pleaded for work/life balance, the Millennials are content to blur the lines between work and life 24/7. This means that even while hiking Machu Picchu, your Millennial employee will take time out to answer your important work question and post a selfie. Everybody wins!
Meg Crosby is a principal with PeopleCap Advisors.
by Richard J. Alley
I stand in the goal and sweat bullets as a dozen people run towards me. The sound of feet and guttural shouts is deafening, and my heart pounds in my ears as I ready myself knowing that one of these amateur athletes will take the shot. As keeper, it’s my job to stop that speeding soccer ball from getting past. Or, at least to keep from getting injured.
This is relaxation for me, this is how I decompress from work and responsibility. And granted, this is an over-35, coed league, so perhaps they’re not running as fast as they seem, but I’m also 10 years past that cut-off age, so my chances of stopping the ball are greatly diminished.
Some of those angling to score on me include doctors, business owners, salespeople, logistics managers, nurses, and hospitality executives. It is a cross-section of Memphis industry that shows up at Greenfield Arena — the indoor soccer facility in Midtown — every Tuesday night for exercise, camaraderie, and fun.
In this summer issue of Inside Memphis Business, we look at what happens once the workforce clocks out, how it spends its downtime. There are CEOs who eat their way through New Orleans, fish for trout, ski in Montana, take a day trip to Hot Springs, or simply drive down to the white-sand beaches of Destin.
Despite the travel anecdotes, Americans typically leave four days of vacation on the books, so we also look at what it might take to get us to take all of our paid time off (spoiler: you first, CEO).
If you do take that time, and plan to travel, odds are you’ll be doing so from Memphis International Airport. A year ago we looked into the changes happening after the de-hub by Delta Airlines. There was hope in the air then, and we find that the hope has come in for a landing as reporter Toby Sells revisits the airport.
Some might prefer to stay closer to home for what is known as a “staycation.” And for more than four decades those homebodies have shopped for fun at Outdoors Inc. (it truly is Memphis’ toy box). I recommend taking that new bike or hiking equipment out to the 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park whose conservancy is now under the direction of Jen Andrews, profiled in our pages.
But maybe you’re the indoorsy type. If you prefer sitting in your living room to the poison ivy and insects found without, I suggest listening to your favorite tunes through a new set of EgglestonWorks speakers; we’ll show you how they’re made and what goes into them.
Near or far, we all need to clock out from time to time. I wish you all a safe and happy vacation this summer. And if you’re in the neighborhood and looking for some excitement, stop in at Greenfield and take your best shot.
The latest articles from the print version of Inside Memphis Business.
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