Tuesdays with Corey interview with Sheryl J. Cherico, Becky Snider, and Kristen Hughes
Sheryl J. Cherico is CEO/COO, and Owner of Tier3MD. Sheryl’s career began in 1979 and is considered one of the top healthcare IT consultants in the country. In Western New York, she started out in medical billing, AR collections, and practice workflow for a Thoracic surgery group, and moved into software support for Medical Manager. From there she moved to Georgia in 1998 and was involved in the Y2K upgrades for the network division of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. For those efforts, she was one of the recipients of the President’s Award at BCBS of GA. In 2000 Sheryl travelled the country installing digital cardiac cath lab systems, at places like DePaul in St. Louis, Baylor University in Texas, as well as hospitals in Chicago, Nebraska, New York, Texas, California and Georgia. This groundbreaking technology allowed patients to take their cardiac catheterization diagnostic test on a CD to bring to specialists to help reduce heart attacks, unblock arteries, and perform coronary artery bypass surgery with more knowledge than just the diagnostic reporting.
In 2001 she became the IT Director for the Atlanta Cardiology Group, one of the largest cardiology groups in the Southeast. In 2005, Sheryl and Steve Platnick decided to form their own IT company, and began with Atlanta Cardiology as their cornerstone client. In 2016, Steve retired and Sheryl purchased the company as 100% owner.
Sheryl is on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, and is also a Board member of Lifeline Animal Project. Sheryl is also a 4 time Woman of the Year Nominee for Women in Technology (WIT). Follow Tier3MD on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Becky Snider is a results-driven, high performing leader with extensive management experience in the retail and corporate arena. She is respected for her integrity, collaborative approach and tireless work ethic to “get things done.” In her current role, Becky helped define and ultimately led the construction, opening, and full operations for the new Mizuno Experience Center in The Battery at SunTrust Park. As a Mizuno executive stated, Becky “made the seemingly impossible, possible,” steering the initiative from concept to reality in only four months. Her close partnership with Mizuno leadership, executives from the Atlanta Braves, The Battery, Cobb County and retail design, construction and architect firms led to a highly successful opening as well as thriving continuing operations.
Becky’s business acumen spans her career beginning as founder/owner of her own successful sporting goods’ stores. Her “boots-on-the-ground” experience allows her to lead transformation efforts when a company needs to translate good ideas into successful growth and revenue-producing operations. A proven executive leader, Becky’s expertise extends into operations, merchandising, customer service, hiring, sales, and promotions. Her detailed approach, along with her engaging relationship-building style allows her to make things happen in a way that few leaders can replicate. Follow Mizuno on Twitter and Facebook.
Kristen Hughes joined the Marshall Jones team in 2016. She holds a counseling degree from SUNY Alfred and holds over a decade of experience in client relations. She is currently focused on achieving her Master’s in Business. Kristen is responsible for strategic office management, marketing, and business development programs at Marshall Jones. Kristen’s main focus has always been to empower and motivate teams to improve the overall success of the company she works with and create sustainability within companies. She is also a licensed Life, Health, and Long term care producer.
Kristen enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She enjoys cooking and traveling. She is also a car enthusiast and enjoys rebuilding and racing classics with her father. Follow Marshal Jones on LinkedIn.
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Atlanta Business Radio, spotlighting the city's best businesses and the people who lead them.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here with another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this a very special one because it is Tuesdays with Corey with my co-host, Mr. Corey Rieck, the founder of The Long Term Care Planning Group. Welcome, Corey.
Corey Rieck: Thank you very much, Lee.
Lee Kantor: Now, this is kind of a new series. So, why don't we recap like what was your vision of this? What were you trying to do?
Corey Rieck: What we're doing is we're having successful female executives on the show. We're telling the story and telling of the contributions they're making to their industries and their communities, Lee.
Lee Kantor: And then, last week after our inaugural episode. And it was a great success. It was a lot of interesting stories. Did you get any feedback from that?
Corey Rieck: We did. We had a lot of positive feedback. We have a lot of people that want to do the show. So, everything is extremely positive.
Lee Kantor: And once again, you got a full house here.
Corey Rieck: We do. Yes. We're pleased to have three executives here. Sheryl Cherico, who is one of the foremost top health care IT consultants. She owns and operates a company called Tier3MD. Sheryl, welcome.
Sheryl Cherico: Thanks for having me.
Corey Rieck: And also, we have Becky Snider, who is the General Manager of the Mizuno Experience in The Battery. Becky, welcome.
Becky Snider: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: And we have Kristen Hughes, who is the Office Manager, Business Development Expert and HR person at Marshall Jones, a local CPA firm. Welcome, Kristen.
Kristen Hughes: Thanks, Corey.
Lee Kantor: And who are you going to lead off with?
Corey Rieck: We're going to lead off with Sheryl. And Sheryl, your organization, Tier3MD, tell us a little bit about that and what you do for your clients.
Sheryl Cherico: Well, we started in 2005. I used to be the IT director for the largest cardiology group in the southeast. And you could see the trend going towards the electronic medical records. The problem was people didn't have really stable IT yet. They didn't need it when they had paper charts. But once you went to electronic records, everybody started to be concerned about the IT, and the stability, and the bandwidth. And as it's progressed, the industry, there's always an issue to protect the network. And right now, as you probably know, what's on the forefront is cybersecurity. Just about three years ago, there was some research done that said that the health care industry was 10 years behind the banking industry. Hackers weren't really that interested in the health care field. They didn't even know about it. Well, fast forward to today, and a health care record is worth five times more than any other record on the dark web.
Corey Rieck: Why is that, Sheryl?
Sheryl Cherico: Well, because drug seekers, people that don't have health insurance, let's say you have a knee problem, and someone can buy your health record, and get their knee surgery just posing as you.
Corey Rieck: No kidding?
Sheryl Cherico: No kidding. You'd be shocked what information and what they can do with that, They can get OxyContin, hydrocodone, any of those things with your health care record.
Corey Rieck: And your organization really helps sort of protect your clients from being put in that position, is that right?
Sheryl Cherico: We do as best as we can.
Corey Rieck: Yeah.
Sheryl Cherico: Most of the data breaches are human error. Well, besides a lost or stolen laptop, which that's going to happen. But we provide antivirus, anti-spyware, crypto-prevent web filtering. We do everything we can do on our part. The only thing that we can't stop is from a user clicking on a pop-up window.
Corey Rieck: You'd mentioned that some of the data breaches are related to human error. What sort of errors are you talking about?
Sheryl Cherico: Opening attachments from untrusted source sources, clicking on things you shouldn't be clicking on, web surfing on various websites, but another breaches posting social media. You can't post a picture of your office with a patient in it, can't post what happened today at your office. My ex-boyfriend came in today, can't post things like that. Social media is huge.
Corey Rieck: So, I would imagine that there is a component of your company that involves training for your clients to kind of keep them sort of between the posts, metaphorically speaking, and making sure that they don't make these errors to put them in that position. Is that right?
Sheryl Cherico: Well, we do do training. It's HIPAA training and it is required by the HIPAA laws. You train new employees when they come in, and I train my employees, and then you train once a year. And it's difficult because HIPAA doesn't change. It hasn't changed since 2003. It came out in 1996. So, the training is getting to be somewhat redundant. So, what I try to do is I try to add in some of the breaches that have occurred to make it a little bit more interesting, but the rules have not changed. Sanction policies, workstation policies, termination, all of those things that you need to do for HIPAA have not changed at all.
Corey Rieck: For the listenership out there, Sheryl, that may not be familiar with HIPAA, could you maybe walk us through what that is?
Sheryl Cherico: Well, it's the Health Information Portability Act, and it's really designed to help protect electronic medical records. Like I said, it came out in 1996, but when the Recovery Act came in, it started to be a little bit more at the forefront because when the government started giving incentives to meaningful users for EMRs, they had to define what a meaningful user was. Well, they defined what it was. You had to meet 15 core measures, but nobody was really enforcing it. So, the OCR, and the HHS, and the OIG decided, "Well, we have egg on our face because here, we have all these rules, and we're not enforcing them." And that's when they started with the HIPAA audits. And they started with, of course, all of the anthems and the hospitals and things like that. But now, they're actually auditing small practices. And for Tier3MD, we do the HIPAA security assessments. And it's required that you show that you can protect your patient data. So, I have gotten more calls from people that said, "You know what, we're being audited and we never did a security assessment." I'm sorry, but I can't-
Corey Rieck: Wow!
Sheryl Cherico: I will not backdate. I mean, no one would. So, we encourage. I do them mostly for my clients, but we encourage everyone out there to get a HIPAA security assessment. They're not expensive. People are afraid to get them. They're afraid that they're gonna say, "Oh, my gosh, I'm going to have to go out and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on my network." That is not true. All you need to do is put in a good set of policies and procedures, maybe some locks, maybe document more, and things like that. But HIPAA is nothing to be afraid of. I think HIPAA is best practices, even if you're not medical. You should do a security assessment.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, all things that you can support your clientele with these matters related to security and keeping the records out of the hands of the people that are trying to get them.
Sheryl Cherico: And to have disaster recovery programs.
Corey Rieck: Yeah.
Sheryl Cherico: As a matter of fact, this past week I was on vacation with a friend who works in a dental office.
Corey Rieck: I must have been away from the phone when it rang because I know you called me to invite me on that.
Sheryl Cherico: Yes, right. Yeah, I did. I wanted you on vacation with the girls. She works at a small dental office, and she said, "We have a practice that's doing really bad financially." And I said, "Why?" "Well, about six months ago, we lost all of our data." Well, I'm like, "And you're my friend? What do you mean you lost all your data?" They had a crypto virus, and they didn't have a backup. They did not have a backup. And they didn't know they didn't have a backup. They left it in the hands of the - I'm going to use some air quotes - IT guy.
Lee Kantor: And they thought it was like being backed up-
Sheryl Cherico: Sure.
Lee Kantor: ... to like a hard drive that you would buy at Costco.
Sheryl Cherico: They just assumed that it was being taken care of by the IT guy. But part of your HIPAA policies is that you have to document how you're doing your backups and how often you test your backups, because when do you think you'd find out you don't have a good backup?
Corey Rieck: When you need it.
Sheryl Cherico: Exactly. So-
Lee Kantor: Is that an unusual thing, I mean, or is that more common than you would think?
Sheryl Cherico: To not have a backup?
Lee Kantor: Right.
Sheryl Cherico: It's way more common than you think.
Lee Kantor: Really?
Sheryl Cherico: Way more, way more.
Lee Kantor: That's frightening.
Corey Rieck: Would it be fair to say that having an IT strategy is almost an important part of any business?
Sheryl Cherico: I would take out the word almost. I mean, I think it's imperative. If you don't have an IT strategy, you shouldn't have a computer. I mean, you have important data on your computers, on your servers. And if you have important records and sensitive records, employee information, Social Security numbers, addresses, date of births, you better protect it. You need to protect it.
Corey Rieck: Do you have any advice for folks that maybe aren't in the medical industry about how they might best protect their data, or could you help those folks with your expertise?
Sheryl Cherico: We can. We're opening a second division. It's called Pro Triad, and we'll be doing that probably after the first of the year.
Corey Rieck: And what is the direction of that company, Sheryl?
Sheryl Cherico: Non-medical.
Corey Rieck: Okay.
Sheryl Cherico: And I am just a part owner of it. I just needed a sister company to help these other businesses. But our focus is just medical. My focus is just medical. But the best thing that people can do is get an assessment, get an IT consultant to come in. Most of the time, they'll do it for free, and they'll just look at your network, and give you a plan. If you want to go with them, great. If you don't, well, that's the risk we take by going out there and assessing for free. I'll go out there, I have tools that I run, I'll scan everything, I'll make sure every system has antivirus, anti-spyware, I'll do next journal vulnerability scan on your firewall, and we'll talk. We'll see what's going on. And I'll do all of that for free. And then if I find something, which if you don't have IT support right now, I'm going to find something, and you want us to fix it, we will happily do that.
Corey Rieck: What gave you the impetus to start your company? You have all this experience. You were the IT person for the cardiology group here in town. When did you get the urge to say, "Hey, I've got to do this myself"?
Sheryl Cherico: Never had the urge. I was always afraid, like everyone else, of going out on their own and starting their own business. It kind of fell in my lap. Everybody says, "Oh, well, I'm so proud of you. You're so successful." And my answer is, "I got a lot of help and a lot of lucky breaks along the way." The cardiology group kept me on as a consultant.
Corey Rieck: Sure.
Sheryl Cherico: I didn't even risk losing my income when I started my job. And then, it just grew from there. I grew to about 150 clients since 2005, which, really, it's pretty good amount. I'd like to have more, but I think it's pretty good. And when I say clients, I mean active monthly recurring.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, we have an old saying at The Long Term Care Planning Group, we have room for one more client.
Sheryl Cherico: I have room for plenty, but that's pretty good. I mean, they're active clients that we work with each month. And it's a nice business because I scale up and scale down.
Corey Rieck: Yeah. You've certainly done a lot of things very, very well. And looking at your bio, you have a lot of certifications. Why is that important for what you do?
Sheryl Cherico: Well, without dating myself, there really wasn't-
Corey Rieck: You're more than 25?
Sheryl Cherico: You told them.
Corey Rieck: Secret's out.
Sheryl Cherico: Back when I was doing this, there was no ... I mean I went to college for Social Work. There was not a degree in managed service provider. So, the best way ... I did go back to school to get Microsoft certifications, and those were nighttime classes. And then, I've gotten HIPAA certifications and things like that, but there really was no degree for technical support. There's exams that are given by CompTIA and Microsoft. There are security exams. So, when I get a resumé from someone, I look for two things. I look for certifications because that's really a commitment to the industry, and that's really all you can get that shows me that you're IT support, and I look for longevity in your job and hands-on experience. You cannot replace the hands-on experience in this field. You can't. When I came to Georgia in 1998, everyone had an MCSC, which are eight exams from Microsoft. That's the top engineer exam. And they couldn't load a server. They had no idea how to do it.
Lee Kantor: So, they had book knowledge, but they didn't have the-
Sheryl Cherico: Exactly, exactly. I'd rather hire someone who's got ten years of Microsoft experience and no book knowledge. It's hands-on.
Lee Kantor: Now, can you share a little bit? You mentioned that you went from having a job for somebody, and then going out on your own where that person that was your employer became your first client. And you were nervous about it. There was apprehension about that kind of transition. Any advice for people out there that when that occurs, how to create that opportunity for yourself, and then how to take that opportunity, and leverage it, and grow it? I mean, you must be doing great work to get referrals and some inbound, I would assume.
Sheryl Cherico: Well, and they needed me.
Lee Kantor: Right.
Sheryl Cherico: I mean, they couldn't really afford for me to leave. And I didn't want to leave. I loved that job. I mean, I never wanted to leave, but they trusted me. And really, the best way to do that is to convince them that they're gonna get more for their money, which they did. I said, "Right now, you have me. If I get a couple more clients, I'm going to get a staff. Now, you've got two people supporting your practice now." Then, they have four people supporting their practice. So, as I grew, the support for the practice grew. And so, it really was a win/win for everybody.
Lee Kantor: And then, you were able to negotiate that with the people at the practice. And then, from that, how did people know that you existed, that you were available for work?
Sheryl Cherico: Well, I was in a medical building, so word of mouth. And then, we eventually had some brochures made up and business card. And I started doing trade shows because every medical society has a trade show. OB_GYN Show, Georgia Academy of Family Physicians have a trade show.
Lee Kantor: So, you had the boots where you were kind of displaying your wares and letting people know what you did?
Sheryl Cherico: Right. And back when I started, we would close 90% of the deals because I didn't have a lot of competition. Now, whenever I sent a proposal, they have three or four more that they're looking at. So, when I started doing this, I was really the only one that was doing outsourced medical IT. They still had in-house people. But now, most of the practices have an outsourced IT.
Corey Rieck: Sheryl, you have such a great history and clientele, and you've had so much success. How do you continue to differentiate yourself from others that would like to compete against you?
Sheryl Cherico: Two things. One is I stick with my niche. I stick with medical only. And the second thing is I really focus on the pain point of every practice, which is security. I mean, I make my living maintaining computers, but I have a whole part of my company that is security. And I think that's what draws people to us as I know how to protect your medical practice. And that's important to them.
Corey Rieck: If our listenership wanted to get in touch with you, Sheryl, what would they do? How would they call you or email you?
Sheryl Cherico: They would call me at 855-698-4373, which is actually 855-MYTIER3,, And our website is www.tier3md.com.
Lee Kantor: And you mentioned that you have a free consult or you do an assessment?
Sheryl Cherico: Yeah, we'll come out, we run some scan tools, and tell you what you have, tell you what you need to get where you need to be.
Lee Kantor: Now, is most your clients, that first conversation happen after a crisis, or something, or some of it preventative?
Sheryl Cherico: Whenever I sit with a practice manager, they can tell me that they love their IT, which they've told me. There's a pain point. Something hurts. There's some reason why they've allowed me to sit there with them. So, usually, they call when they're in some kind of pain.
Lee Kantor: Something happened.
Corey Rieck: Well, Sheryl, thank you for being on the show. Continued success. We appreciate your contributions to the IT industry and for being on the show.
Sheryl Cherico: Well, thank you for having me. Thanks, Lee. Thanks, Corey. Appreciate it.
Corey Rieck: All right. Our next guest is Becky Snider. And Becky is the general manager of the Mizuno Experience Center in The Battery. Becky, tell us about that.
Becky Snider: Yes. Well, thank you for having me. The Mizuno Experience Center is the first ever experience center for Mizuno USA. And we built this and opened it April 14th in conjunction with the grand opening of SunTrust Stadium in the Atlanta Braves. But the whole point of what Mizuno wanted to accomplish with this experience center was brand awareness and a way that our customers could come and get to know our brand because we have such a rich history of innovation and craftsmanship, and this is just a premium way to present the brand to the community and for people to purchase our product as well.
Corey Rieck: I've actually visited the experience center. And to me, it's always interesting because you can get a lot of things custom fitted for you, like golf clubs, baseball bats, and so on. Why is that important to the brand?
Becky Snider: Well, as you and I were talking a little bit about the Mizuno brand, and I kind of expressed that we are a sleeper brand. That means it's not on the first and foremost tip of everybody's tongue when you think about sporting goods, unless you've played and used our product. Mizuno is over 110 years old. It's been in the United States for about 35 years. We originated in Japan. So, when you think about playing your sport, the most important thing is to be put into the right gear, so that it enhances your natural ability. So, at the experience center, we have created these simulation areas within our store. When you first walk in, we are hoping that you see and feel a very premium brand, which we are. You'll see our golf simulator. Our golf simulator is built with the aboutGOLF simulations. We have 60 golf courses that you can enjoy across the country. But in that area, we also have our patented technology that we present, which is called the PFS system, performance fitting system, where in three swings, we collect enough data to put you in the right shaft. So, we cannot guarantee that we're gonna make you shoot that golf ball straight and down on the course.
Corey Rieck: You'd be very popular if you were able to do that.
Becky Snider: Yeah.
Corey Rieck: As an aside.
Becky Snider: Exactly.
Lee Kantor: That's a good trick. You can work on that.
Becky Snider: But we can enhance your swing, which enhances your natural ability to play better. So, that's why our golf clubs are so well known. And it's an extremely well engineered product. So, we can take that data. And then, we actually email it over to our Brazelton warehouse where we custom make your golf clubs in 24 to 48 hours, and ship them out to you.
Corey Rieck: No kidding, 24 to 48 hours. I remember one of your spokespeople for golf is Nick Faldo.
Becky Snider: Yes.
Corey Rieck: And when he won the Masters in 1996, I want to say that that was the year that Mizuno came out with the T Zoid driver.
Becky Snider: I think you're right.
Corey Rieck: And I'd be willing to bet that the drivers flew off the shelves for the T Zoid after he won the Masters in '96 when he beat Norman.
Becky Snider: Well, absolutely. Nick Faldo has been such a great ambassador of our brand. But anytime someone like a Nick Faldo wins the Masters, and they're swinging our clubs, it's a wonderful advertisment for Mizuno.
Corey Rieck: ] As an aside, do you have any interaction with any of the athletes that are helping brand Mizuno like Nick Faldo?
Becky Snider: Well, Nick Faldo was here at the grand opening on April 15th. We opened on April 14th, but he was here for about three hours in the store. And he is an absolute delight.
Corey Rieck: You know my office is right across the street there, right?
Becky Snider: Well, I will make sure.
Corey Rieck: I just want to make sure you remember that.
Becky Snider: Next time, Corey, a personal invitation. But we're blessed with a lot of athletes that come to SunTrust and The Battery. And it's just been so much fun meeting Chipper Jones. He's a great ambassador of the Mizuno brand. And he's such a well-known person in our industry, as well as in the community. So, when he was here signing autographs, we actually got him in our batting simulator. So, we are the first in the-
Corey Rieck: Was he able to hit any balls?
Lee Kantor: Yeah, how did he do?
Becky Snider: Actually, his wife was really the one that teased him into it. She came for the autograph as well while he was there signing autographs, and she said, "Chipper, aren't you gonna get into the batting cage there?" And he goes, "I wasn't thinking I was." And she goes, "Well, I am. And if I am, you will." And it was really interesting to see that. And of course, everybody loves seeing Chip hit the ball. But we have an offer there as well. The Mizuno brand has a patent 2 technology, which is called BIOS, which is the bat interaction interactive optimization system. Long mouthful there. So, we call it BIOS. And here, we can actually, in ten swings, collect the data to teach that young person or high school player what is the right length and weight that's going to optimize their swing speed. So, we offer that at no charge at our Mizuno experience center.
Corey Rieck: had no idea baseball got that technical.
Becky Snider: Oh, absolutely. You mean you look at the price of a bat now, the technology that goes into the bat and the competition. When I first opened my sporting goods store back in 2001, there were three bat manufacturers. There must must be seven or eight bat manufacturers right now in the aluminum bat arena. Technology is huge in an athlete's performance.
Corey Rieck: It is. Now, you mentioned that you had your own sporting goods store. Walk us through that, and tell us about that, if you would.
Becky Snider: I'm just an old fashioned entrepreneur. In 1999, when my youngest son started middle school, I decided that I wanted to investigate at starting my own business. My husband was traveling a lot, and I didn't really want to have a place I had to go to every single day. So, I thought, "Well, start my own business." And I read Entrepreneur magazine and said, "You need to look in the community and find out what is missing." I've always been athletically-oriented myself. My kids were blessed with some athleticism.
Corey Rieck: And so are you, right? You played sports growing up.
Becky Snider: I did. I did. I was a bit of a tomboy myself, and swam, and played tennis in high school. So, I endeavored this thought of my passion of getting kids into athletics, and we didn't have anything on the east side of 400. I lived in Alpharetta at the time. So, I partnered up with a friend of mine who owned a business at North Point Mall called Fanfare back in 1999, and he was open with majestic athletics. And that's what I wanted to first get open for the two button major league replicas. I had just rotated off the board with OC Park, and I won that bid for OC Park that next year And I had the advantage of after volunteering all my time as a mom and a team mom to kind of know what I thought should be done better. So, I took what I thought was right and made it better. And I had just delivered all the uniforms early, pre-bagged, by team, and made it very easy on the coach and the team mom. And I'm walking back to the car. And of course, typical entrepreneur, we're up all night finishing everything. And my husband, being so helpful as he, was sitting in the car, and I met a coach on the way back to the car. And he says, "Hey, Becky, you did a great job." And I said, "Well, thank you. Thank you very much." And he said, "Do you do custom softball uniforms?" Well, I read in my magazine, never say no, but that is my tendency as well. And I said, "Of course, we do. Happy to help you." So, I get in the car, my husband says, "And when did you start doing that?" I said, "As of right now."
Corey Rieck: Right now.
Becky Snider: Yes. So, that's how it all got started. And I opened my first store in 2001 of August at, really, the prompting of my oldest son because people were shopping at our home. They were knocking on the door. And I [indiscernible] and helmets, and I did. But I knew what they needed. I was a mom. I knew what I bought for my sons.
Lee Kantor: Right, exactly.
Becky Snider: ] I wanted to do better, and it became a hit. And what was so neat, as I grew my business, I was able to hire the local high school athletes. And they are such great assets to our communities. And it was so much fun teaching them how to work, and how to apply their knowledge of the sports. So, that's how I got all started. And Mizuno was one of the brands that opened me up.
Lee Kantor: And so, then, they recruited you to work for them?
Becky Snider: Yeah, exactly. I had been a great brand ambassador for Mizuno for almost 16 years. And then, at the time, when the retail landscape was changing, we chose to close the stores, and Mizuno was building their relationship with the Atlanta Braves, and they had just signed their partnership on September 21st of 2016 to be the official gear partner of the Atlanta Braves. And they also decided to open up their first ever Mizuno Experience Center. And I had known the president and other people within the Mizuno here in Norcross. And I contacted them, and they contacted me, and I interviewed, and I got the job. And it was just such a perfect fit for me because I love the brand. I know sports.
Corey Rieck: We wouldn't have picked up on that.
Becky Snider: And I love building businesses. I love executing that vision. So, it was a perfect fit.
Lee Kantor: How did the experience center vision come about? Was that a collaboration between both of you?
Becky Snider: No. Actually, I was the executor of it. Mark O'Brien and Bob Puccinio and their team-
Lee Kantor: Because that's very innovative in the retail space to have that kind of a hands-on experience.
Becky Snider: Really, it's where the industry is going. And of course, retail discussion has been in the news quite a bit.
Lee Kantor: And there has to be a compelling reason to go to the store.
Becky Snider: Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: And what better compelling reason then to go and play with the toys, and get to, like you said, beyond, what, 50, 60 golf courses with the actual gear?
Becky Snider: Right. And it's so smart, because when you think about it, this is where retail's going. You're going to narrow down your space, but you've got to be more creative, and collaborative, and engaging. And I invite everybody to come see and and let me know, did we accomplish that? And I personally feel like we did. We want to engage you to know our product, then to learn to love our product, so that, hopefully, you buy it that day. But if you don't, I just want you thinking first and foremost Mizuno whenever you need that type of gear.
Lee Kantor: And if you can get the young person experiencing it, getting the perfect fit, then they fall in love with the brand, and then they become customers for life.
Becky Snider: Bingo. Bingo because we have fathers that come in that they play baseball, and they had their first glove, and they remember they had a Mizuno glove. We've been around that long. Well, they want their son or daughter to have that same type of glove. And we can fit you in that glove, and then we break it in. And we have a steamer, and we can break it in. So there's so many neat things that we can do for you.
Corey Rieck: Well, I think about Wayne Gretzky is is widely acknowledged as the greatest hockey player ever. And when I ask people, "Why is that?" a lot of them will say, "Well, he never got hurt. He had other good players around him. He's in good shape." And when you ask the players, what they'll say is, "Well, Wayne Gretzky always went where the puck was going. The rest of us went where it was." And I think about that's a good analogy for Mizuno. You think about how granular athletics has become, the equipment, the shirts, steaming a baseball glove, getting your golf clubs customed. You think about locating where they did next to SunTrust Park. That's genius on their part.
Becky Snider: Well, I agree. Mark O'Brien, and Bob Puccini, and Mike Puccini, these are people that had the vision of where their brand needed to go. And what a great opportunity because the Braves have done a fantastic job. They picked an incredible location. And now, they have built a beautiful park. It's first class. It's clean. It's safe. It's really fun. I tell my husband, I park every day in the red deck, and I walk out, and I look at what I have to be around. And it is pretty inspiring and exciting.
Corey Rieck: They have done a tremendous job. The Braves had and everybody else around there. Certainly, Mizuno has the right person running the experience center. If somebody wanted to get a hold of you, Becky, how would they go about doing that? And if they wanted to visit the center, walk us through what we would need to know to do that.
Becky Snider: Well, depending on where you live, it's right at 285 and 75 Intersection New Cobb Parkway, Circle 75. But to reach myself, I'm pretty much there Monday through Friday. The store number is 770-675-6590. And my email is email@example.com. We would love for you to come in. We're open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., pretty much 7 days a week. So, can't miss us.
Corey Rieck:] Well, Becky, thank you for being on the show. Again, Mizuno has the right person running the experience center. We appreciate the opportunity to have you on the show today.
Becky Snider: Thank you, Corey.
Corey Rieck: All right. Next-
Becky Snider: I appreciate it very much.
Corey Rieck: Thank you very much. Next, we have Kristen Hughes. Kristen is the office manager, the HR person, and the business development machine of Marshall Jones. Kristen, welcome.
Kristen Hughes: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: You have had a very, very strong impact on Marshall Jones since you were hired in August of 2016. Walk us through what has happened in the timeline, and what you were hired for, and what you're actually doing now.
Kristen Hughes: Well, surprisingly, I was actually hired to be their receptionist. And after getting in there and having lunch with our owner, Charlie, just a few times, I kept asking him, "What are you doing for marketing? What are you doing out there? What's up with the website? I'm not sure if I agree with all this stuff." He said, "Well, what would you do?" And I said, "Well, let me think about it." And I went home and wrote up probably 10 pages worth of things that I think we need to do. And he read them over and he said, "Go do it." So, I did.
Corey Rieck: You've had a significant impact on the marketing. Also, you've done some things with making sure you're being paid in a timely fashion. What can you tell us about what you did there?
Kristen Hughes: Well, in regards to payments, I would definitely say that Marshall Jones is a CPA firm that has been around for 33 years with the same owners. And unfortunately, one of the owners died about seven or eight years ago. But Charlie has been there Monday through Saturday since the start of the business. And unfortunately, a lot of the processes had also been there with the start of the business. So, one of the big things that I did was changed everything, made it more accessible, so that people had the opportunity to pay when they receive their services. So, that also gets away from a lot of people don't write checks anymore. So, we have to make sure that we have everything available that you want to pay right now, it's available to right now. So, that was a big part of that.
Corey Rieck: Well, you were able to help them move at the speed of business. Excellent, excellent firm. They've been around for a long time. Charlie's been very, very successful. You have a Counseling degree.
Kristen Hughes: I do.
Corey Rieck: How does that play into what you're doing now and the roles you're playing for the firm?
Kristen Hughes: ] So, a big part of working for a CPA firm and not being a CPA is to ... especially at a business development standpoint, my biggest thing has been to create everybody to be business developers. And a lot of times, they don't see assets that they have. So, I have to coach it out of them, help them realize what they're good at, empower them, and then reward them. But counseling, talking, being someone that people can come talk to in the office has been pretty tremendous.
Corey Rieck: ]Has that been rewarding for you to see of someone that isn't necessarily inclined to do business development, and then you're there, and you're helping them, and you see the light come on? I mean, walk us through that.
Kristen Hughes: I would probably say a couple of weeks ago, we also have remote employees. So, we have one of our employees out in Maryland. And business development has been a tough area for her. And she called me about two weeks ago and she said, "Hey, I'm not going to be in the office Monday morning. I have a meeting." And I said, "Oh, who's their meeting with?" And she said, she's going to meet this lady, and she just saw the opportunity online and started talking with her. Now, she has a meeting to talk about how we can help her with services. And for me, that was like finding out that your kid just got accepted to Harvard. It was the best feeling ever. I felt like I had succeeded. So, that's been really, really awesome. And we've also seen the growth of our business by not having one person do business development. We have everyone doing business development and making an emphasis on it. So, that's been really good for the business.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, many hands make the work light.
Kristen Hughes:That's right.
Corey Rieck: Because you're charged with so many roles, do you find it difficult to allocate the proper amount of time to each role that you have with the firm?
Kristen Hughes: Yes.
Corey Rieck: How do you do it?
Kristen Hughes: I just do it. I just have to. That was a big part of when people are relying on you to get everything done, you have to find a way to get everything done, whether that's asking others for help and having people, especially in a small business, we're all not just doing one thing. But asking for help, talking to people, and making sure it gets done. I've also been extremely fortunate after not being in Atlanta for very long to have met a lot of powerful people. So, I'm not afraid to ask other people for help or advice, even just get some thoughts on how we could improve.
Corey Rieck: But Marshall Jones has some very specific areas of expertise. They have specific clients that they have developed a lot of relationships with. Walk us through that.
Kristen Hughes: So, again, it's also being a great resource to our clients. Our phones are always ringing, and we are always making sure to take those calls. It's really important that people are able to actually talk to their CPA. We're also fortunate that out of the 15 employees that we have, I want to say we have eight CPAs in our firm. So, when you think about the statistics of that, that's a lot of CPAs for the amount of people that we have in our firm. So, we just want to always be sure that we're accessible. We do mostly work with nonprofits and construction and smaller professional service firms.
Corey Rieck: Is there a reason why you have so many clients that are construction and non-profit? Is that just an area that Charlie gravitated toward or why those two?
Kristen Hughes: So, a lot of the issues that we see with nonprofits and with construction is accounting. Accounting can make or break their businesses. So, if we have the skills and the tools, and we know when they're gonna hit these bumps in the road, we can warn them, talk to them. And if they listen, they will do really well.
Corey Rieck: You mean, you have clients that don't listen to you?
Kristen Hughes: Not very often.
Corey Rieck: That doesn't surprise me. So, over the course of the last year, you've seen some pretty significant growth in your organization.
Kristen Hughes: We have. We have. Right now, this year, we have seen around close to 20% in growth.
Corey Rieck: What do you attribute that to?
Kristen Hughes: So, the biggest thing that we have done is, again, making sure everyone is a part of the business, but also, we have just really improved our benefits, focusing on retaining employees, empowering employees. I always say we build them up, we don't break them down. So, we want to give them all the tools to be good at their job.
Corey Rieck: It really seems like the firm and knowing Charlie all these years that you have developed a family, which I think is unique in this day and time, would you agree?
Kristen Hughes: I agree.
Corey Rieck: And I think the fact that you, as a firm, spend so much time with each other, maybe there is that camaraderie, that brotherhood, if you will. Walk us through what you're doing with the benefits. You had mentioned a while back that you want to do some things to retain people, to keep people interested. Tell us what you've done and why you're doing it. How did you arrive at that enhancing the benefit offering for your firm?
Kristen Hughes: Well, a big thing when you're pushing for the growth that we wanted to have is we can't do it by ourselves. We all have to do it together, and we're only as good as our weakest link. So, that was a big thing. But we're also a smaller firm. So, we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity that they would have at bigger firms. Why that you don't want to go to a bigger firm that you want to stay and work with us? So, the biggest thing that we started was flex schedules that we always say home is number one. So, making it work, whether you have kids or daycare, whatever, you have the flexibility to either be at work or be at home. So, that was a big part. But then, also, we do have a lot of younger people. So, we want to make sure everyone has the benefits that if you need help, if you need to get anything done, you have the availability to do that. So, that was also just beefing up our insurance, making sure that we have as much paid time off as they need, things like that. But what I have seen, you do have a few people that abuse things like that. But for the people that deserve it, it's been monumental.
Corey Rieck: How did you figure out? You mentioned flex schedules. How did you figure that out? Is that an individual thing? Did you and Charlie set parameters. or is it just kind of everybody kind of makes their own schedule, and as long as your tasks get completed, everybody's good? How does that work?
Kristen Hughes: Well, (A), we have the outsource accounting firm. That's a big part of Marshall Jones. And with that, we are talking about outsource accounting. So, I'm sure Sheryl can understand how that comes in, But we basically do all of your accounting, and we're not in your office. But why should our employees have to be in our office if we're promoting the same thing? So, we do have two employees that do work in completely different states - Maryland and Pennsylvania. We also have a couple of employees that are just outside the perimeter, and with three kids can be tough to make it to work, and all of that. So, we want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to get their jobs done in a time that works for them. So, the flex schedules came from that, but it also it can't be just people come in and leave whenever they want. It has to work for your team. So, typically, it's an agreed-upon thing between your teams. And then, you just have to make sure that me and Charlie are aware as well.
Corey Rieck: What kind of clients is Marshall Jones looking for? They're looking for more nonprofit clients, looking for more construction clients? Are there any other markets you're considering breaking into? I mean, there's a lot of mental horsepower and a lot of talent in that organization. Just wondering if you're looking on any other additional markets.
Kristen Hughes: So, the biggest thing, it was funny because I was talking to Charlie about this, and I said, "It's really hard to narrow down our type of clients." And he said, "Well, we have good nonprofits. And then, we have construction clients. That's what we like. And we would do work with wealthy, highly compensated individuals as well." And I was like, "But that's not all we do. We have all these other people too." So, a big thing that started when I started working for Marshall Jones is I realized that a lot of our clients are aging as everyone does, but-
Corey Rieck: It does beat the alternative.
Kristen Hughes: It does. I mean, it happens. So, my biggest focus has been how do we sustain Marshall Jones? We've been in business for 33 years, but what does the next 30 years look like? We cannot have all of our clients that are getting ready to retire. We need to also start focusing on younger people. So, the back office accounting has been a great help with that meeting younger people that are starting businesses and being able to just give them accounting advice and helping them learn that TurboTax is probably not the best way to go about doing your taxes. But it does seem really easy, and it's right there. So, just educating, but yes. So, we are trying to focus on younger clients, younger people, younger businesses, as well as also still supporting the rest of our clients as well.
Corey Rieck: It seems to me, one of the most crucial relationships that anybody has is with their CPA. Would you disagree with that?
Kristen Hughes: I would not disagree with that. I am not a CPA, and I have learned so many things I have been doing wrong.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, you didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. You never played one on TV?
Kristen Hughes: No.
Corey Rieck: Okay.
Kristen Hughes: Never going to have that.
Corey Rieck: Very, very, very crucial relationships. Tell us what you guys are doing in terms of business development and marketing, and how you're getting new ... tell us what you can tell us about how you're getting your new clients, because you've had a lot of growth in the last several years.
Kristen Hughes: We have. So, one of our biggest growth factors is word of mouth and the outsource accounting. So, one of the biggest things that happened when I started in the company was the outsource accounting was a separate arena, and they were branding that with a different name. So, I wanted to make sure that Marshall Jones is what people know. So, we want to make sure that we brand everything as one in-house deal. So, that was the first start. But also, again, just empowering our team. So, word of mouth, being available, making sure that you are available for your clients when they need it, how they need it. And then, also, the planning and the forecasting is huge for our clients. We want to make sure that we are doing that before they ever ask for it.
Corey Rieck: Getting out ahead of it. So, you've recently moved to Atlanta. You have a hobby that I found interesting. Building race cars and so on. Walk us through that.
Kristen Hughes: So, I was really fortunate I did not choose that hobby. That was chosen for me. I was born into that. My first track experience was when I was 2 weeks old, and took one to the track, and got to see my parents race. So, that was something that my parents both enjoyed together. And my dad always pushed us to know your cars, to do your cars, to understand your cars. And it has made me very confident because I know what's going to happen. I can see what's going out, but yeah. So, I started racing and I was six, racing go karts at that point. Shifter karts when I was twelve. And then, we started with Dotsons when I was 16. A lot of people don't even know what a Dotson is. But-
Corey Rieck: I think Lee and I probably do.
Lee Kantor: I had a Dotson.
Kristen Hughes: Yes. And then, I'm also super fortunate that my entire family is a car family. And so, my uncle, cousin worked for Ford and Roush. And so, when those Roush Mustangs came out, we were first in line to get a couple of those. And that has just kept us going. And now, my dad lives in Charlotte, so I try to make the trek up to do whatever is the latest track that he has discovered.
Lee Kantor: So, I had a chance to do the Atlanta Motor Speedway when you ride along in a race car. Have you ever done that, Corey?
Corey Rieck: No. That's-
Becky Snider: It's a lot of fun. You go three laps around the-
Corey Rieck: I'm probably too old for that.
Kristen Hughes: You're not too old for that.
Lee Kantor: No, you're not too old. It was a lot of fun. You should check them out. And just so you know, Katy, the producer here, she just interviewed Mario Andretti.
Kristen Hughes: That's awesome. I have also met him before when I was young.
Lee Kantor: So, that's a legend in the racing world, right?
Kristen Hughes: He is a legend. Yes, absolutely.
Lee Kantor: So, do you get to incorporate that in your business? Has that open up opportunities or any of that, kind of the learnings of the track that translate into business any way for you?
Kristen Hughes: It has. I think a lot of my business knowledge has probably come from my dad and the businesses that he always had. And we're always geared around racing or car building and things like that. And it's also that mentality of you just have to do it.
Lee Kantor: Just make it happen, right?
Kristen Hughes: You got to go. You got to show up every day. And if you give everything a hundred percent, it'll yield itself. But also, the biggest thing is a clean car is a happy car. I have shined enough tires in my day to know that one.
Lee Kantor: So, now, any advice for a young person at an organization? You came into the role, but it evolved, and it was because of your attitude, and make it happen, and do the job that's needed. Any advice for that young person that's working somewhere where they think like, "Oh, I'm a receptionist," but you didn't see yourself as a receptionist, you saw someone who could really help the growth of this company really impact the culture and the business, and you thought your role was much bigger, your ahead, and you were able to find an opportunity. So, what would you tell a young person out there?
Kristen Hughes: The first thing is no idea is a bad idea. So, you have to tell people when you have ideas. And it doesn't always mean that they're going to say, "Oh, that's a great idea. Let's go ahead and do that now." You have to keep trying, keep coming up with ideas. There's so much for younger people nowadays that you can listen to podcasts, and you can be online, and you can be ... now, there's entrepreneurship programs at colleges. So, there's so much available to you. The sky is the limit. Just keep going.
Lee Kantor: But don't be afraid.
Kristen Hughes: Don't be afraid.
Lee Kantor: A lot of times, people hold themselves back, right, because they put limitations on themselves.
Kristen Hughes: Yeah. I have always been very fortunate to have trusted relationships with the people above me. And a lot of that is if you're really good at what you do, they trust you. They'll just say, "Go, go for it." So, you just want to make sure that before you start another task, be good at what you're doing at that point as well.
Lee Kantor: And if somebody want to learn more, what's the best way to get a hold of you if they're in ... like you said, you're a specialist in construction, nonprofits. You mentioned you want some startups and some newer businesses as well, professional services. If you're in that world, what's a good way to contact you?
Kristen Hughes: So, the easiest way is, obviously, they go look at our website and see if our services would work for you. And that would be www.marshalljones.com. And you can also email me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. All of our emails are listed on our website, and you can also just call us at 404-231-2001.
Lee Kantor:And you're based in Atlanta, but you do work in other cities?
Kristen Hughes: We are all over the place, thankfully, because of our outsourced accounting firm. And because of technology, we can be anywhere. So-
Lee Kantor: So, they don't have to be Atlanta-based. Companies from all over can contact you.
Kristen Hughes: Yes, we have a clients right now all the way from not Canada, but New York all the way to Florida. So, we can be anywhere and everywhere.
Lee Kantor: Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for being part of the show.
Kristen Hughes: Thank you so much for having me.
Lee Kantor: All right, Corey, exciting time for you. You had a great show. Learned a lot.
Corey Rieck: Yeah. I thought we had some outstanding guests. And really want to thank Sheryl Cherico of Tier3MD, Becky Snider of the Mizuno Experience Center, and Kristen Hughes of Marshall Jones. Just another great show, ladies. We really appreciate it this morning.
Lee Kantor: And we couldn't do this show without the sponsorship from Corey Rieck and The Long Term Care Planning Group. What's the best way to get a hold of you?
Corey Rieck: You could call me at 678-814-5088. The website is www.thelongtermcareplanninggroup.com or you can email me at email@example.com. Thanks so much, Lee.
Lee Kantor: And we are looking for women doing big things in the city. So, if you know any women that are doing good things in the City of Atlanta, please send them our way. We're looking for guests, right?
Corey Rieck: We certainly are, Lee. We appreciate that too.
Lee Kantor: All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you next time on Atlanta Business Radio.