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Capitalist Sage: Business Leadership in Your Community [Podcast]

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Summary

On this episode, Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini sit down with Lisa Proctor and Brad Kluesner, leaders within the Peachtree Corners Business Association. We discuss the benefits of joining the PCBA, how it can turn the city into a home and community, and how businesses can get involved and give back to their communities.

Resources:

Peachtree Corners Business Association: https://www.peachtreecornersba.com/

“And all I can say to people is, plug in. There are some things that I would not have known, that there’s business opportunities in the future that maybe didn’t give me that immediate sale. Or that – you know, I always say to people because I work nationally and locally, or internationally, I may not give a direct sale because I went to a meeting. But the relationships that I built were invaluable.”

Lisa Proctor, President, PCBA

ABOUT LISA PROCTOR, President, PCBA

Lisa Proctor is the President and CEO of Sanford Rose Associates – Lake Lanier Islands providing executive search and consulting services in the placement of mid to senior level executives, C-Level Management, and high-level individual contributors across multiple industries including Financial Services, Banking, Insurance, Technology, Business Services and Professional Services on a national level.

Lisa is an Executive  Founding Member of the Peachtree Corners Business Association.  She served two years as the Membership Chairman and now serves as the President of the PCBA.  Her primary focus for the PCBA includes Member Engagement, Business Networking and Growth, and continued support and growth of Community Outreach.

Lisa and her husband Jay have lived in Peachtree Corners for over 25 years.  When they are not volunteering or working on JP’s fishing jigs, they enjoy spending time at Lake Lanier boating, fishing and relaxing. 

ABOUT BRAD KLUESNER, Chair of Community Outreach. PCBA

Brad Kluesner is a Financial Advisor here in Peachtree Corners with an office in the Forum.  He and his wife Amy moved to the area from Indiana when she was recruited to an Atlanta law firm.  Brad’s career focus has been financial services and education in different states around the country.  After running schools for the past seven years, he became excited for the opportunity to return to finance and run his own business.  He attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN  and graduated with bachelor’s degree in philosophy and earned two master degrees from the University of Notre Dame in education. 

Brad has been active this past year in the Peachtree Corners Business Association, the Friends of the Gwinnett County Public Library, Inc. and the Rotary Club of Peachtree Corners.  He also volunteers through the Catholic Charities Leadership Class 2017, St. Pius X Advancement Committee, and different ministries at St. Brigid’s and Mary our Queen Church.

Podcast Transcript:

Karl [00:00 ]: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my cohost is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets digital marketing and the publisher of the Peachtree Corner Magazine. Rico, how are you doing today?

Rico [00:17 ]: I’m doing just great.

Karl [00:19 ]: Why don’t you tell folks about our sponsors?

Rico [00:22 ]: Absolutely. We – they just opened this week. Gwinnett Medical Center’s primary care and specialty center here at Peachtree Corners. So they just opened on the – just Tuesday, I think it was. So they’re joining this community. They’re going to be providing premier services, and they are a sponsor of the pod – of this family of podcasts – Capitalist Sage, Peachtree Corners life. So we want to welcome them as part of the one. Atlanta Tech Park of course. This is the place that we’re doing this podcast out of. This is a great place. I mean – I – it’s just phenomenal. The activity that’s here, the amount of workshops and – there’s something that’s actually going to be staged tonight that’s here also.

Karl [01:05 ]: Yeah. They’ve got events here all the time. I think it’s one of their cyber events. Fintech – and I think they have coming up – Women in AI – is coming up. And in a couple of months we’re gonna have cryptocurrency workshops here. And if you’re really interested there are even a little bit of improv professional free workshops offered every month.

Rico [01:28 ]: Really? There you go. So this is a really hopping place and a great place to do these podcasts, which we do twice a month here. And as well – the third sponsor – well, it’s more of a media sponsorship for us because we are a media sponsor for Smart City Expo Atlanta. That’s coming in September. It’s the first North American expo and offshoot of the Barcelona World Congress Expo that happens. And Curiosity Lab, Prototype Prime, will have for the first time here, an offsite demo of the 1.5 mile stretch that’s going to be the autonomous vehicle lab. So we’re proud to be a sponsor of the Smart City Expo Atlanta, and you can find more information just by googling that or go to SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com and that’ll take you there.

Karl [02:21 ]: For folks who don’t realize what Smart City – if you think about what information and data do cameras and so on is able to do in a city – improve service, helps us direct traffic if there’s an accident and so on. The companies that are leading in developing the technology for the next generation of cities are coming into Atlanta and we’re being featured here at Peachtree Corners for that, which is fun and great to know.

Rico [02:45 ]: Yeah. And that stretch of land, well at least up until City Hall, will be completed to a degree, so there will be a lot of things going on on the day – on the first day of the expo here.

Karl [02:55 ]: Fabulous. And that’s in September, right?

Rico [02:58 ]: September 10th – well actually 11th through the 13th.

Karl [03:02 ]: Okay, that looks good. Well, today’s guest is Lisa Proctor and Brad Kluesner from Peachtree Corners Business Association. They’re here to talk to us a little bit about what these associations due to help local communities – business communities – the community overall. And let’s start off by just having you guys introduce yourselves and maybe some of the roles you play in the organization. Lisa?

Lisa [03:27 ]: Sure. My name is Lisa Proctor, and I’m the president of the PCBA. I started with the organization as a founding member when the organization was created in 2012, and made the – volunteered to be the membership chair and did that for a couple of years and then stepped into the role as president. So I’ve been doing the president role now for a couple of years and always love to continue to build and grow the town and the organization.

Karl [03:56 ]: Fabulous. Brad, how about you?

Brad [03:58 ]: Yes – a couple years ago I joined the Peachtree Corners Business Association and I just said to myself, “I want to meet people who live and work and play here.” And the best way to do that is, I’m just going to go to every meeting every month. And I didn’t know anybody and eventually, I knew one, and another person, and a year later, Lisa asked me to volunteer to be the chair of the community outreach. So this is my first year on the board connecting businesses to the community.

Rico [ 04:24 ]: Wow. You mentioned something about volunteering. The organization – how is that structured around the members?

Lisa [04:30] : The organization is all 100% volunteer. Which creates its own little challenges because trying to coordinate everybody’s schedules and everything, but the great things about Peachtree Corners and the greater metro Atlanta area is – we actually recruit volunteers, and we say to people, “You don’t have to recruit or be part of the organization 100% every day, every month, every – tell us what you can do, but what you commit to, please do what you commit to. And if you can only do it for one month, if you can – if you want to be on a committee – if you want to just help check people into an event. Tell us that’s what you want to do, we’d love to have your help.” But that way, I think it’s a great way for engagement. The reason I volunteered to do the membership is – I have lived in Peachtree Corners for over 25 years, and because I work nationally and internationally with my day job, what happened is, I discovered I didn’t have children in school, I didn’t know people, so it was a great way for me to get to know the community. So just sitting at the membership, checking people, seeing those faces together, getting to know people – kind of like Brad – is saying, I’m going to the meetings, I’m learning who these people are, and I discovered I got to make some great friends and some great business associates just by putting myself out there and doing some simple things. So I think that’s the best way to do it.

Karl [05:54 ]: I know for folks that worked in large corporation and corporate environments, you build a social network within your company and you can always tell it by LinkedIn – you’ll see how many people they’re connected within their same company. But if you’re a small business owner, you don’t have that advantage of all these people to be connected to. So I could see how being a part of a business association that gives you connection with other business owners that are like yourself is a good way to build your network around that – around that.

Lisa [06:24 ]: It is. Not only is it – what you find is, you don’t have to have the answers to everything, you don’t have to have all the solutions. You will meet people or you will get to know people that say – “You know what, I have somebody you should meet.” So it’s not necessarily who you meet at the event, it’s taking the time to get to know people who feel comfortable enough referring you to people that you need to know. And I think those are the best relationships.

Brad [06:50 ]: Yeah, I would say, you know for me, good business starts with relationships where you trust somebody and you know them. And then they can help you or you can help them, and it just becomes a community of givers, really. And that’s what I’ve seen.

Karl [07:05 ]: So your great example of when you started this, of started joining and being a member of the organization. Were there specific things that you saw helped you personally as you started venturing into your own businesses?

Brad [07:21 ]: Well for me, I was a little bit of the opposite of Lisa. I just moved here just a couple of years ago. A lot of people are moving to this Peachtree Corners area. And you get here, and you didn’t grow up here, and you don’t know anybody. And so, you want to know leaders in the community. You come to these events, and you just start with a conversation. And for me, it became a home. You know, I lived here first, I had a house. But then the Peachtree Corners Business Association made it a home and a community for me. And for a guy from a small town, that’s important.

Rico [07:52 ]: Where’d you come from?

Brad [07:54 ]: I came from – I grew up in a little town called Jasper, Indiana, but I moved here from Indianapolis.

Rico [08:00 ]: Small town, right? Not too big. You know what I like about Peachtree Corners Business Associations and some of the other, you know, associations and chambers around the city is that, if you really want to, like you did, be involved – it’s one thing being a member of an organization, so you feel like you’re there and you show up at some events and stuff, you’re fine sort of doing your thing. But it’s always better to be part of – part of the group and it does consume some time, but it becomes fun I think, and it also provides better connection to the group – to the leadership.

Lisa [08:39 ]: Absolutely. Well in fact, one of the biggest things is, when people are saying “what organization should I join, and how do I decide?” My first question to them always is, “What do you want to get out of it? Why do you want to join it? Because if you just want to take in – pay a check, we’ll take your money. Happy to do it. But you’re not gonna – next year, when it’s renewal time, you might not renew because you didn’t get anything.” So come to things, get engaged in things. We try to do events different times of days, different kinds of things, just to say, we’re not going to solve everybody’s schedule – we’re not gonna do that. But we want you to feel comfortable engaging on that works for you.

Rico [09:18 ]: You know what I find that – since we started the magazine, and this used to happen before, too. But now with the magazine, we’re pro-businesses – new businesses – and some of the same questions – “What do you think we should do to get more involved in the community?” You would think they would know. But, you know, so you encourage them. So the first thing is the PCBA, you have the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber – those are certain places you should join, and then they will help you get out into the community because giving into the community is always the best way to reach the community.

Lisa [09:53 ]: Well, and I think you hit it also when you said, with small businesses, one of the things that was really important to me when I started my business was – part of our mission statement is to be very philanthropic in the communities. And we make donations in our clients’ communities, but what we found was that the outreach committee and having that part of the organization – that’s why we built it – was a way for all the businesses to have a meaningful impact in the community. Because as a small business, I can’t write a check to sponsor every single thing – the parade, the festival, the run for the corners or light up the corners – all these things and here comes the high school and here – but the great thing is, with the business association, we’ve donated over $75,000 back into the community since we created the committee in 2013, is when we created it. So, you know, and you’ve seen it. With being able to do scholarships and things like that, as you look at that, what have you seen?

Brad [10:53 ]: Well, every recipient has been so moved because the need is so great and nonprofits are such tight budgets that they just say, “Anything you can do to help us, we’ll appreciate it.” And so we give them a voice in the community, we give them recognition by coming to the events and sharing their stories, sharing some of the causes that we’re working with to the whole business community. And if you don’t know what’s going on, nobody’s gonna be able to help you. And so that has been very impactful for them.

Karl [11:27 ]: I talk to business owners – they’re always asking about ways to improve their business. And one of the top things is always the top line and revenue and how can I get more revenue. And I always explain to them – what are they doing to get more known, build awareness? And a lot of businesses have figured out how to use community involvement, charity – whether or you’re sponsoring a high school team – to help generate awareness for the product and services that they provide. What I like about these business groups and organizations – it gives you multiple ways to get in front of different – but they’re also helping you vet the organizations that actually make more impact with each dollar that you donate or each service that you do, so you don’t have to go and be a researcher and figure out, “should I provide money to this cause or that cause?” These groups have been there for years, they know the organizations and the types, and you can talk to them and consult and say, “this is the type of impact – it’s education. Here are four ways you can give back to education.”

Lisa [12:29 ]: Right, well, it’s so funny that you say that because one of the things I continue to find is I find that there are so many great charities in Peachtree Corners or the greater Peachtree Corner area that support our community. And I didn’t even know about them. I don’t know if you did, but we started looking at the list, and I said – “We’re gonna have to categorize them because they’re getting so long on our website that all of a sudden you’re like, I’m getting lost in the weeds.” There are so many – by the time you look at the schools and you look at the assistance league – most people didn’t know when they opened and we did the ribbon cutting for the Assistance League. They’ve been in existence in the greater metro Atlanta area for years – I didn’t even know what they were. And so it allowed me to say, “oh my gosh, they do so many things.” And really help them and they’re all volunteers as well. But it’s just something to learn.

Brad [13:21 ]: And what I love about the Peachtree Corners Business Associations is you get to meet the leaders of these local charities and nonprofits – they’re a lot of causes nationally, and you always send in money, and you know you’re helping a great cause. But at this, here in our community, the leaders come to their events and you know them and you know their character and you know their story and they’re helping your neighbors, and that’s very powerful. That’s what I like.

Karl [13:45 ]: I always like introducing the concept of, every small business owner should have a board of directors. But the trick is – people that could advise them on business – I have one area of expertise and Rico has another – and if you want to talk about marketing strategy, you want to talk about financial strategy or legal tactics, you want someone that you could have a conversation with, and most often you have to pick up a phone or google or pay a fee. But part of these organizations will allow you to build your own personal board of directors. There are people that have done what you’re doing – they’re five years, ten years ahead of you – there’s people with different subject matter expertise. And you can start forming those relationships where you and pick up the phone and say, “Hey Brad, I’ve got a question about X.” Or “I’ve got a question about Y.” And you can have a conversation and see if you need further help and they can help guide you with that. Is there any other advice that each of you can give to a person of something that they can benefit when they join organizations like this?

Lisa [14:44 ]: Go ahead.

Brad [14:45 ]: I was gonna say – you have to have that relationship so you can pick up that phone. You know, I met Karl at one of these events when I was on a tour, and now I’m on the podcast, and that starts with that relationship. And now, you feel comfortable calling me, I feel comfortable calling you. But if you call me and I don’t know, I might know someone in the Peachtree Corners Business Association that I’ve met and had lunch with them too, and I think that is the real value of the association.

Lisa [15:09 ]: And what I find is, if all you’re gonna do is go to the event and do what I call the drive by – the business cards and you’re handing them all out and you never follow up or you never do those things, and it’s getting to have those conversations that are the casual things – understanding what people do. It’s amazing to me how many things that I don’t even realize the number and depth of the connections I have, and somebody will say, “I’m about to start this” and I – there’s a staffing firm, and I won’t tell you who, but she was saying to me, “Lisa, I’m about to go after this in the market.” And I said, “well let me just share my experience. I did the same thing, and if you do this better than me, let me know how that works for you, but I wasted a lot of time and got a masters degree on the street doing the wrong things.” And I was happy to share that because I could tell she was excited about what she was doing and she was just ready to do it. And I – she was going after the financial surface industry and I was like, “that’s very regulated, and if you’re not that familiar with it, you need to know.” So I think you’re spot on with – you know, people who are willing to give back to others – um, my natural tendency is, I’m happy to give back because, you know what? Somebody did that for me. I didn’t learn all these things because I’m brilliant. I learned the hard way. But I had some great mentors and great leaders that helped me along the way.

Rico [16:34 ]: That’s great. I feel like – I mean, I love talking shop. I love talking about business, about start ups, it’s just – I feel – when I see other people – especially younger people – getting into business and launching something, I feel like I wanna help them. It’s just like – it’s cool, it’s exciting. I’ve been there before, I’ve done different things, so that’s what I find also – that network of business people – to be able to just talk shop sometimes and share what you know.

Lisa [17:02 ]: Well, what I’ve also found is how much I can learn from them. Because when they tell me what they’re going to do, what I’ve learned is, I’ll say, “Tell me why you’re gonna do that.” And it’s interesting to find out that I’m not always the expert, I don’t always know anything. And sometimes when they tell me, I say, “Hmm, that’s an interesting way.” And so, it’s caused me to be more open thinking the other way, and not just assuming that I am that person who knows and can do that. And it’s been pretty humbling, especially when it comes to technologies and all the things. Cause I’ll say, you know, let me run this by you. I’m about to put this piece together for marketing, and they’ll look at it and go, “Hmm.” And I’m like, “You don’t think so?” And they’re like, “Well, it’s probably wonderful, but I wouldn’t use it or I wouldn’t read it or I wouldn’t do – ” And so I think that’s the part that I love is – having more of that ability to collaborate in a safe environment. And you don’t always have to feel like you’re the know it all of everything. You can actually ask other people very safely, even in your role as you’re listening to them – I’ve probably learned as much from listening and hearing what they’re talking about, saying, “What makes you think about that?” Or just asking those questions and going, “You know, I was so busy doing all this, I didn’t think about that.” And that’s a good wake up call.

Karl [18:20 ]: You’re tapping into something when you think about just personal development. Most owners of business or anybody in small business – the thirst for development can make their – they don’t have peers that they can have conversations with. Most people report to them, no one’s gonna be frank with feedback on ideas. They’re gonna tend to want to agree. You’re both in leadership roles within the organization. How is that helping you develop personally, getting involved in leadership?

Brad [18:50 ]: Well, for me, I like learning from the mission driven leaders of organizations. And so, you know, we’ll give a $500 check to a nonprofit, and then I’ll kind of follow up and go on a tour and see what the operations are like and see how the executive director is managing the people, sharing the story and the vision in the community, and I think to myself, “What am I doing to make the community a better place? What is my personal mission? How can I help more people and how can I collaborate with more people around me like that person’s been doing?” So I’m always trying to learn from others who are successful. And that’s been one thing that I’ve gotten out of it.

Lisa [19:36 ]: And what I find is, it’s helped me broaden and learn more from people where – what happens when you’re in your little focus and your head’s down and you’re running business, you surround yourself with people that think like you do. Cause it makes it fast, and what I’m finding is, it challenges me to think more out of the box and step back from things before I just go ahead and do the ready, fire, aim. It makes me say, “Wait a minute, let me – it’s okay to take a step back. It’s okay to do.” And just as you were saying is, so many times, you forget to invest in yourself. And realize the cobbler’s kid has no shoes. And the thing I’ve learned is it gives me that of – “You know what, I need to step back. I need to learn that technology. I need to listen. I need to – it’s okay to take time to do this class, or, you know, go to this launch or go to this thing.” And for me, I have a bad habit of not giving myself permission to make the time.

Rico [20:33 ]: Do you find that because, I mean you’re a small business. How many people?

Lisa [20:39 ]: I have basically a staff of three. And then I have some contractors who work with me for about another four. And what helps me a little bit is, I also happen to be part of the Sanford-Rose franchise. So we have a hundred offices and I have two hundred people that are there to back me up, but at the end of the day, it’s still my P and L, what I’ve gotta do – I’ve gotta deliver. And so, at the end of the day, yes you’re big over here, but yeah you’re pretty small over here.

Rico [21:11 ]: And that’s why I think – you know, if you have your head down when you’re working, and because you’re a small business, you have to really work at taking that step back for a minute and say, “you know what, you’re right. Let’s go to that dinner or let’s do this thing” and not just working all the time.

Lisa [21:28 ]: Exactly. Well, and I think that that’s what we find when we tell people you need that engagement, you need to give that time. I think with entrepreneurs, you end up wearing so many hats that sometimes, you forget, “Wait a minute, I am supposed to be the leader. I am supposed to basically replenish my mindset and what I’m learning, and I can’t do that if I can’t get my head out of my computer, off my phone or, you know, getting out and talking to people.” And so it really, for me, that’s when people say, “It’s so much work.” And I go, “Well it is.” But I’ve rarely had anybody get me to do something that I didn’t choose to do. So for me, it’s a choice. It’s not a duty, or I don’t feel like it’s something I have to do. I choose to do it because I see the value, and I do think it’s helped me learn so much more. Look at how the city has grown in the last seven years and all that’s going on. And I don’t know if I would have been as aware of this stuff if I hadn’t been really in touch with it. And all I can say to people is, plug in. There are some things that I would not have known, that there’s business opportunities in the future that maybe didn’t give me that immediate sale. Or that – you know, I always say to people because I work nationally and locally, or internationally, I may not give a direct sale because I went to a meeting. But the relationships that I built were invaluable.

Karl [22:55 ]: It’s interesting, and if you think kind of individually about it, I’ve noticed we’re – at the state of the city – the mayor – a lot of people there are learning, listening about the city. How does these business organizations like Peachtree Corner Business Association help influence policy, help give input from a collective voice to the leaders in the political sphere but within the city? Because Peachtree Corners is going through a transformation, and it’s growing and there’s a lot of interesting things. What role can PCBA have in that?

Lisa [23:33 ]: I think that’s an awesome question. That’s actually one of our founding principles of why we created the PCBA. Is because it was unbelievable to me- 80% of the people who work in Peachtree Corners do not live in Peachtree Corners. So they can’t vote in Peachtree Corners. So if they don’t take advantage of the business association – we as an association don’t always agree on every policy, but what we can provide you is you have those opportunities – those city council – those mayors – we bring in speakers – we bring in in a very casual, business after-hour speaker type thing where you get to know those people. And you can actually talk to them and tell them what’s important to you, and if you didn’t have that forum, I don’t know if you would ever really do it. It’s amazing, like, when you mentioned the city – state of the city – I’m not sure how many people in that room were business people versus community people. I was there, and I went, but that’s been always one of our challenges is saying to the business people, “Plug in and know what’s going on. They do listen and there’s some real things” –  in fact at the Lazy Dog ribbon cutting yesterday, one of the challenges that Lazy Dog had is that they cannot serve food to the dogs, which is part of their business plan, because of a Guinnett County health code issue.

Rico [24:59 ]: It might be a Georgia state – 

Lisa [25:00 ]: It maybe also Georgia. I don’t know how much. But as they were talking, the city council were there, they were actually talking to them, saying, “Help us. We understand that it’s not just the city, but who do you know?” And something that basic and that easy – when people are in the community getting to know each other, that’s where they can have it. Now, whether that will change or not, you don’t know. But those things don’t happen if people don’t start those relationships.

Karl [25:28 ]: It’s funny, I think maybe all of us were at the State of the City. And you learn a lto of stuff that’s going in, but I think you had a good point – the mix of business folks to folks that might just be more living in Peachtree Corners was nice to see the mix there. And some of the vision of the city really impacts and is centered around business. Is there an area that you’re seeing in Peachtree Corners – we got local – where we could do better when it comes to supporting the business community?

Lisa [25:58 ]: I was gonna say – that’s a great question. I think it continues to be the way that we try and communicate to the business community. The thing that I’ve run into and maybe you’ve seen it as well – there’s so many ways that people can communicate. But it doesn’t mean they’re actually engaged. So what I have found has been a big help to us has been the Peachtree Corners Magazine, or doing podcasts, or doing different ways, cause people learn differently, people communicate differently. And I think being open to whatever those ways are provide the platform. So I think trying to figure out how we provide that – I think the town center – some of that central communication has helped. But we’ve got a long way to go. 

Brad [26:48 ]: And I would say that, as a leader in the business community, take initiative. You know these causes are here, and take initiative and make a donation or volunteer. Don’t just wait for someone to ask you and then the event goes by and you say, “Well nobody asked me.” You’re leaders, you’re entrepreneurs. Take initiative and jump in.

Karl [27:08 ]: Well, I wonder what you got going on. I know there’s lots of events that are happening there, and maybe just tease up a few events that people should be aware, how they could find out more about the events with the Peachtree Corner Business Association.

Lisa [27:23 ]: Absolutely. Our website is PeachtreeCornersBA.com and all our events are listed out there. Probably a couple of the events that are nearest and dearest to our hearts is August 22nd, we have our annual charity event, and we are going to be doing Island Castaway beach party, Gilligan’s island style. And so their registration event is there. You can register for the event, find out the details. On September 26th, we’re gonna do business after hours at Anderby Brewing, which is our new brewpub in Peachtree Corners. And we’re super excited. And on October 24th, for those business people who need to build their personal brand, they get to come here, who is the LinkedIn guy – if you don’t know who he is, don’t miss out because he can help you build your personal brand as well as your business brand. And we also have our coffees – the second Tuesday of every month. Don’t – just very casual, very easy conversations like this, and you don’t have to be a member to come. And then stay tuned for some more of our upcoming business lunches. So we’ve got a lot of ways to do.

Karl [28:37 ]: Fabulous – so if you’re a business owner in Peachtree Corners, there’s so many ways to get plugged in. And starting out with a small business step – go to one of these events. Meet Brad, meet Lisa, talk to them about it, meet some of your neighbors, and you know, step up and be a leader in the community and get out there and get involved. So really appreciate – I want to thank both of you – Lisa and Brad – for your time today and just helping, kind of exploring, the different options around joining groups, being involved in the community and how collective action in the business group can really impact the community. We’d also like to think Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We enjoy our time here – beautiful facility to visit and take around. I thank Brad for introducing me to Atlanta Tech Park a while ago, one on the many ways that connection to these groups have helped me personally and to develop the business. Rico, anything we got coming up?

Rico [29:41 ]: Um, I mean, should – the last issue that just came out. Let me just put that up here. Peachtree Corners Magazine just covered this city’s big video and film industry in the surrounding areas, which is, you know, a three-part article, so it was kind of neat to cover that. Plus we covered a few other things like Anderby Brewery that just opened, which they have a dozen square-foot event space also.

Lisa [30:11 ]: It does – that’s where we’re gonna do it.

Rico [30:13 ]: There you go. So there’s that, and then the Peachtree Corners swim team – first time champions from Peachtree Corners for Guinnett Swim that happened just recently. So there’s a bunch of things in here – Fipe high school, high school kids that are doing it big out there in the world. One of them works for Space X right now. So I kind of made a lot of articles in here especially about Smart City Expo that’s happening in Atlanta. So there’s that. 

Karl [30:39] : And if you wanted to check out some of these things digitally, where would I find that?

Rico [30:44 ]: Sure. You would go to LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. And if you go there, you’ll find the digital edition of the magazine, you’ll find – we post there every week, sometimes every other day, different articles on there. And you’ll find all the podcasts there. So back history of these podcasts with Capitalist Sage, Peachtree Corners Live and the stuff I do with Brian Johnson, City Manager, which is that once a month Prime Lunchtime with the city manager.

Karl [31:10 ]: So you can listen, you can read, you can go online, you can find out what’s going on here. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisor with Atlanta Peachtree. We help people, advise people on the best way to understand the value of their business. And when they’re looking to make a transition with their business, we help them with that, finding both buyers and helping sellers with that. And Rico – Mighty Rockets –

Rico [31:34 ]: MightyRockets.com. I do a lot of creative services, so anything that deals with social media marketing, online content, videography – I’ve been doing a lot of product videos lately for our companies in Charleston and Kentucky, so that’s been fun. And, so, a bit of that, we do a lot of creative services, of course the magazine also takes up a lot of time now, too. But it’s been fun, and these podcasts are – you’re the heavy lifter on the Capitalist Sage, so it’s been cool doing these podcasts.

Karl [32:05 ]: Oh, absolutely. It’s great to have great guests come in, local. You could find folks in the community – say hi to them in Sprouts or Engels when they’re out and about, set up a coffee and find ways to grow and improve your business. It’s the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We look forward to chatting with you some more on some future episodes. Have a nice day everyone.

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Business

How did Brightree Successfully Work with Clients and Manage Employees During COVID-19

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Brightree's Liz Brown

How did Brightree respond successfully to the pandemic, how did they meet urgent customer needs and what initiatives did they put in place to support employees during this time? Brightree’s Liz Brown joins hosts Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini to discuss this and more. Recorded socially safe in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia

Resources:
Website: https://www.brightree.com

Timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:27] – About Liz and Brightree
[00:03:38] – Initial Response to COVID
[00:05:54] – Employees Working from Home
[00:08:22] – Productivity of Employees
[00:10:24] – Adjustments on the Customer Side
[00:14:49] – Working Through the Summer
[00:18:02] – A New Hiring Process
[00:20:35] – Helping Customers
[00:23:15] – Leaders in Brightree
[00:25:27] – Going Back to the Building
[00:28:02] – Long Term Changes
[00:30:11] – Closing

Prodcast Transcript

Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets Digital Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corner Magazine. Hey Rico, how are you doing today?

Rico: [00:00:50] Good Karl, how are you?

Karl: [00:00:51] Doing well, doing well. Why don’t you introduce our sponsor for today?

Rico: [00:00:57] Sure. Our lead sponsor is Hargray Fiber. They are a company in the Southeast that provides fiber optic technology and solutions that legacy companies and small businesses can use to be able to do the work that they do out there. They’re involved in the community and they are definitely out there. And they’re not the cable guy. So if you’re looking for fast internet connection, look for a company that can support you, not only in your office and your business, but also your employers that are working off site. Hargray Fiber is the company to go to. So visit HargrayFiber.com/Business, and there’ll be able to work with you. Thanks to them for being our lead sponsor. And I’m going to be playing engineer today. We’re going to let Karl and our special guest today work the half hour of Capitalist Sage.

Karl: [00:01:49] Sounds good. Thank you, Rico. Thank you to Hargray Fiber for continuing supporting both the Capitalist Sage and the community throughout Peachtree Corners. Today it is my honor to have a guest on that can help talk a little bit about her experience and her company’s experience over the past few months as we’ve dealt with this pandemic. Liz Brown is the vice president of customer satisfaction at Brightree, a local software company located right here in Peachtree Corners in Atlanta Tech Park. Liz, how are you doing today?

Liz: [00:02:25] I’m doing great Karl. How are you? Thanks.

Karl: [00:02:27] I’m doing fabulous, thank you so much. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about what Brightree does?

Liz: [00:02:35] Sure. At Brightree we’re focused on technology innovation, and we ensure that we provide a stimulating, supportive place for our team members to work while helping our customers run better businesses as they deliver high quality patient care. So we’re actually an industry leading cloud-based healthcare IT company. We provide solutions and services for thousands of out of hospital care providers. And we just recently located our headquarters to Technology Park in Peachtree Corners, December of last year. And with that move, we reinforced our commitment to innovation and collaboration amongst our team. In light of this year’s events, we’re proud of how we’ve executed on that commitment and ways that we’ve helped us keep Brightree a fulfilling, supportive, and stimulating place to work while providing opportunities for local collaborations. So at Brightree, my title is vice president of customer satisfaction. I manage our implementation and customer support teams. But I also lead our facilities teams and we developed a pandemic response plan for Brightree earlier this year.

Karl: [00:03:38] So I’m curious to ask, when the pandemic started, what was your response and your feelings about it and how did you approach it? You and Brightree approach responding to some of the challenges the pandemic brought?

Liz: [00:03:53] So first and foremost, our priority was, and has always been the health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees. We needed to figure out how we could ensure their safety while continuing to keep our customers operational during the time when care and services for our customers was arguably the most important thing ever. So to address it, we really quickly transitioned to work from home, in almost four days actually, and implemented new work streams and strategies that would help our employees excel in the working from home, but also keep the continue of customer support up and running. So some of the things we did, so for example, our executive team started daily huddles on the very first day. And we added in the site leaders from our remote offices to ensure there was an open line of communication as we rolled out our pandemic response plan across Brightree. We use these meetings to raise barriers or concerns that came from the employees. We had employees, for example, who didn’t have internet at home, and we needed to address that. But we also used it to address any concerns that might’ve come from our customers so that we could tackle them swiftly and promptly. And it was from these daily huddles that we have the executive team. We also established an employee engagement team. So we pulled together a group of 20 employees across the company, one representing each department. And they worked with me and our people team leader really closely to provide sort of real-time insight and the pulse what was going on in the day to day amongst the team. And we met with these folks twice monthly and made sure that our pandemic plan that we had in place was working for them, but also that they were engaging with the rest of the organization. So we could get that real-time feedback and direct path right back to the executive team, where there might be areas that we had to address for health, safety, and wellbeing. And we encourage those employee engagement team members to collaborate and create collaboration events with their team. As we all transitioned to working from home.

Karl: [00:05:54] Can I ask a question about, as employees transition to working from home, the informal interactions that people had in the office, what were ways that you were able to help at least close the gap from that, just, you know, working together, the huddles around the coffee. Are there things that you’re able to do to help with that?

Liz: [00:06:17] Yeah, so we did, we established sort of some fun events. So first off we established office hours. So utilizing zoom, which we all had to adapt to, we opened up office hours on Friday afternoon from one to five, and it was an open zoom where people could really just drop in. Like you would’ve dropped in before you might’ve walked by somebody at the coffee machine. You might’ve walked by somebody in the hub getting, you know, a glass of water. Now you just dropped in and everybody knew it was open. So that they could just engage with each other. Over time those became more, a little bit more formal and more fun. So there were happy hours. There were wine tastings and people came up with ways to engage with

each other from home over zoom, of course. But it did sort of try to mimic that whole drop by, how are you kind of thing.

Karl: [00:07:05] Another follow up question on the employee side is, as people had to deal with childcare at home and different work environment, the remote schooling and all of that, were there things that you found people innovated and came up with to navigate the new norms that was happening throughout, you know, March, April, May when this first started?

Liz: [00:07:28] Yeah. And, I’ll tell you, so you know, the wellbeing of the employees was one of the most, was forefront in all our decisions in how we operated and, you know, being that we’re a customer facing organization, what we did is gave the employees the opportunity to manage their workday. So to your point, people with middle-school children had to figure out how to help them get on Zoom to make sure they could get their homework done. But then there were people who were having to adapt to childcare and eldercare and how could they get that done and also get their work done during the day. So we gave them the opportunity to set their work hours so they could adapt both managing their wellbeing from a work perspective, but then also keep those commitments they had to their family. And I think that worked well because when they had those, you know, flexible work hours and were able to adjust their schedule, they could feel like they could balance and get everything done during the day.

Karl: [00:08:22] One of the great things I thought that I saw happening and your, Brightree is a great example of this, companies, corporations had dabbled in this for years. Employee suggestion boxes, they’ve done an install. What the COVID pandemic did, it kind of forced us to make a decisive action, to help people be more able to work and operate from home environments, flexible work schedule. There was always the critique of it in the past that you couldn’t get the same productivity out of your employees, if you let them have more freedom and flexibility, but we were forced into it unfortunately this year. How have you seen the productivity impact on employees during this pandemic? Especially after that first initial wave where we were all in shock of course, but how did it normalize?

Liz: [00:09:14] So I will tell you this, it’s one of the things we’re most proud of the entire Brightree team is our productivity has really been consistent from the day we moved home until today. So yes, we do manage our organization by KPIs and metrics, and we haven’t seen those falter and I think it was providing the employees the flexibility in their schedule. And being able to give them that opportunity to have that wellbeing and being able to take care of themselves and their family, that they were able to maintain the productivity. And we also haven’t seen any dips from a customer satisfaction perspective. You know, we’ve been very consistent. We do use the net promoter score, NPS scoring with our customers, and it’s been extremely consistent since March. So I think by putting the employee safety, health, and wellbeing, first and foremost, you know, I run a customer support organization and I always say, happy employees makes happy customers. And we tried to follow that mantra as we moved to working from home so that everyone felt, you know, not only safe, but they could work and do what they needed to do in the time that they could do it and be productive for the company.

Karl: [00:10:24] So you’re in an interesting industry in space where, a lot of your clients and customers are in the healthcare and healthcare based businesses. And this pandemic, we all know absolutely hit right smack dab into that part of our economy. What were some of the things you have to do to adjust on your customer side, your customer facing interfaces, to adapt to this pandemic year?

Liz: [00:10:50] So, the same way we sort of went right at it from an employee perspective, we out of the gate do the same thing with our product management team on the customer side. So we very quickly engaged with our customers. One-on-one conversations with the salespeople had. We also held, peer to peer community groups. We also engage with our customers through coffee talks and we very quickly, you know, we established by a mantra that we use, which was ask, listen, act. And we used it both for our customers and employees. So in the very beginning, from a customer perspective, we were asking a lot of questions. You know, examples might include how are they getting PPE? Because our customers needed to have PPE, you know, and were they able to get PPE? And we actually had forums in which customers in certain cities were sharing with each other, you know, best practices around how they were actually acquiring PPE, which we all know was in a shortage in the beginning and giving each other resources.

But what we did from a Brightree perspective, sort of after asking is then we sort of hit it from a product perspective. We are a product technology company and we very quickly rolled out product updates so that we could support them as customers. That was everything from COVID 19 diagnosis codes, giving them the ability to confirm a delivery with a photo instead of a signature to enable social distancing. We developed a COVID 19 impact analytics dashboard, which we made available to our customers at no charge. So they could get a better understanding of their operational and financial standing amid the pandemic. And we also created, as I said, forums. So they could engage with each other. Sometimes, you know, our customers learn a lot from each other, especially ones that were regionally situated. And from that, we were able to support them both through our community, but also through other customers.

Karl: [00:12:46] I think you highlighted a couple of things there that was really insightful for first small business owners or large business owners in when dealing with an emergency or a shock to the system in the way that we had to this year, but that interactions and leveraging your touch points with your customers. Can you tell me a little bit more about those forums? When you couldn’t get people together physically, how did you use technology and the tools that we have today to create a safe and friendly environment for customers to communicate with you?

Liz: [00:13:21] So within the Brightree product itself, we have an online community. A community forum on which customers can engage with each other. And we had a lot of information that we could share with the customers. And then the customers were able to share with each other. So first and foremost, we very quickly got out in the community forum the necessary information they needed to be able to respond to the pandemic and continue patient care. But then we also added some engagement activities. So we had coffee talk webinars where customers came together themselves, a customer would come and they would talk about a key issue or strategy that they were working on. We also have an executive advisory board,

which is made up of 15 to 20 key customers that we engage with usually twice a year. And we started engaging with them once a month, you know, Zoom being our platform. But we brought them together to understand, you know, what their evolving needs were so then we could feed the rest of the customer base. And we found that through engaging either through the coffee talks, through the EAB, or sales going back on one-on-one conversations, we’re able to engage with the customers, understand their evolving needs, and then very quickly be able to act against those and meet them, whether it’s through a product or a service or just some level of support. Sometimes we had to find resources for them that they needed to be able to service their patients. And we were able to make that happen for them through the community.

Karl: [00:14:49] I love the blended methods and I think one of the key takeaways from that is, no matter the size of your business, varying the ways that you facilitate two way communication, not just one way, but through the advisory board, you’re getting feedback on tough topics.

You’re doing it in informal settings, and then you’re leveraging your sales team and your account management teams. They have one-on-one conversation in multiple ways. I think very often small business owners, they’ve fallen in love with social media in a way of blasting out one directional information. But this year showed where creating a community forum where people can facilitate two-way communication can happen in the digital way, as well as the old fashioned pick up a phone or today a Zoom and get online and have face to face or real conversations with people. That’s very, very wise approach to do that. And you can probably see some success with that. I’m curious, I wonder, from a business standpoint as you started going through the summer, a lot of businesses were stuck in neutral if you’d call it during the pandemic. How was it for you in continuing to execute the plan you walked into the year with?

Whether it’s on hiring, whether it’s on market share. Were you able to continue to grow and

execute throughout the pandemic?

Liz: [00:16:23] So on both fronts, we were extremely fortunate. So from a hiring perspective, we actually were able to hire throughout the pandemic. Absolutely. And we even had our intern program this summer, which I know is quite unique. So we were able to bring in remote interns. So they got the opportunity to do work in a remote environment. We brought those in, in our marketing and sales team. And, you know, we all had to figure out how to be agile and find new ways to support the new hires in our environment, in this in-home dynamic. And we did that. As part of our onboarding process, we put in place a mentor program. So when you think of a mentor, sometimes people think of it as your boss. And we actually took a different approach.

We asked the hiring manager to pick someone who would be that person they could go to, to ask questions that you don’t normally want your boss to know you don’t know the answer to. But somebody in this remote time that can sort of steer them through the halls. Even though they were virtual halls, right. That they could, you know, very quickly reach out to on teams because they’re in a meeting and they don’t know who this person is that they’re, you know, somebody who’s asking questions, so they don’t know what is. But somebody who’s just there for them all the time as if they were there in the office. So we had to try to figure out how to simulate that environment from an onboarding perspective. So yes, we were very grateful and very thankful that we continued to hire. And actually from a business perspective, we were extremely busy.

Our customers were very busy and we were very busy along with them and from a business and

financial perspective, we’ve done quite well. Yes, we were able to grow through the pandemic and very appreciative of that.

Karl: [00:18:02] That’s fabulous. To hear what, to hear another company that’s, you know, faced with a crisis, still figured out how to pivot on, how do adapt quickly and that’s one of the things that great companies often are able to do. I am curious about, as you were talking about hiring through that, I remember a time when the hiring process involved, someone coming in having an interview with 12 people on a team for a full day and then they go home. And so there was an element and a premium put on for hiring managers and teams to see the person, they were looking for certain things. How has 2020 change people’s thinking on what’s important in the hiring process, interviewing. And were you able to do anything to change that process that you think you might want to keep even beyond this season of the pandemic?

Liz: [00:19:05] To be honest, we actually have, we initiated a process with our parent company Resmed, gosh, probably six months ago. We actually utilize a product called Hire View. So as part of the original, as part of the first level of hiring, the hiring manager provides questions to the recruiter. And the actual applicant has to, through Hire View, which is a zoom like product, present the answers to those questions, right? So you sort of get that in-person feel, the hiring manager gets before the interview process even started. And once they pass through the hire review, Then we’ve been using a team interview process in person for all of our interviews. So we’ve started to use that as a best practice across the company. Where we bring in, let’s say for example, in my area professional services, we’re hiring a new manager and that new manager, once they’re on board is going to work with a lot of different departments in the company. So I select a person from each one of those departments and they work on a team interview and each person has a role and responsibility on that interview and they participate as a team. So we learned, and we figured out when we moved to working from home, we could do the same exact process with Zoom. And it worked just as well. So the interview candidate was still engaging with all the same people that they would have if it was in person. And we found actually it worked quite well. So it was, that was a good, best practice. And we’ll continue to use it if, you know, at some point in time, hopefully here very soon we’ll use it in person. And if not, we’ll continue to use it virtually.

Karl: [00:20:35] I’m curious if you follow that same thinking with your customers. I’m sure when you’ve, find acquiring customer there’s some process of onboarding them, especially if you’re implementing technology. How have you adapted, based on the social distancing constraints where you might’ve walked in and jumped on someone’s computer, are there things that you were able to figure out to help with that part?

Liz: [00:20:59] Yes. And that was one of the first things that actually my department in professional services had to adapt to very quickly. So one of the first things we do when we onboard a new customer is we go onsite and we do an operational workflow analysis and design. So we had to really quickly pivot and determine, you know, figure out how are we going to now do that remotely. Because what we’re doing is we’re going in and talking with all the key business leaders about how they, in a future state, want to utilize our technology. And it’s very

much a sort of in-person engagement. And in the March, April, May timeframe, you know, really through the summer, that was not something that we were equipped to do, nor was our customer. So we needed to create a virtual environment in which to do that. And those went very well. But I will tell you, as we went through the rest of the implementation, there was a point in time where the customer said, this has all been great, but now we all need to get together. So we had to figure out how to do that. And I will tell you, starting about a month, month and a half ago, we started to do it. We have a very specific protocol and policy and we need to work very closely with the customer. So that, for example, you know, from a social distancing perspective, when our consultant goes in that they’re able to meet the requirements that we put in place, because again, the health, safety, and wellbeing of our employee was most important. First and foremost, the employee had to volunteer. There was no asking anyone to go. They had to totally volunteer. And because, you know, our consultants are road warriors. They’ve been home for quite a while. So we had a few volunteers very quickly, but they were very appreciative of, we put in place our own pandemic guidelines for in-person meetings. And we had to ask the customer to abide by that same protocol. Now, being that a lot of our, you know, our customers do patient care, so they’re also in healthcare. They very much appreciated it. So I would tell you, in the last two months, we’ve probably done six of those. And they were very important because they were that end of the process for the customer coming up on our technology and they needed that in-person contact. But it’s, you know, ensuring the health, the wellbeing and the safety of the employee was as important as for the customer.

Karl: [00:23:15] I think one of the things that’s becoming really apparent in my conversation with you today is to implement all these things. When I know sitting in January of 2020, most of the world would not have realized what had happened. It takes really strong leadership to do that. What’s some things about Brightree that makes its leaders able to respond the way that it did this year?

Liz: [00:23:44] You know what I would say, we’re extremely agile and we’re extremely adaptive. We’ve got an excellent executive team. We all work very well together. We’re all very strong leaders in our own domain. And you know, we care about our employees and we care about our customers, right. So we came to it, you know, I know I keep saying it, health, wellbeing, and safety. But it wasn’t only for us, but it was also to ensure our customers can continue doing what they needed to do, which was provide patient care. So, you know, the Brightree executive team, we handle a challenge very well. We’re extremely adaptive and we did turn on a dime. We literally turned on days. And we sent everybody home and we had our policies and procedures in place. Because you’re right. In January, imagine we had just been our office for 30 days. We were all so excited. We’re in Peachtree Corners, we’re in a brand new building. We have this extremely beautiful building, great collaboration area. We’re all so excited. I mean, everybody was really pumped. It brought new energy to the company. And then with, you know, unbeknownst to us in three months, the whole world’s going to change. But I will say we brought that energy home, not to say there wasn’t in the month of March, you know, a total assimilation. You know, everybody at home now, like, you know, your routines totally changed. Your workdays totally changed. But we put forth the effort because we knew our customers were doing direct patient care. And everybody was looking at the news and everybody didn’t know

exactly what was going on. So we needed to continue to do what we needed to do and be strong, you know, stay strong as one of our mantras. And we did that for not only our employees, but also, you know, for our parent company Resmed and our customers.

Karl: [00:25:27] So with the beautiful building that’s been right here in Atlanta Tech Park, have you begun to think through the strategy with the vaccine, multiple vaccines on its way? How you start thinking about bringing people back into the building? And what are some of the things you might keep from this year going forward? And what are some of the things that you definitely want to get the team back together in the building?

Liz: [00:25:50] We actually already started coming back. So, I guess it was about a month ago we, you know, there’s a portion of our employee base that really would prefer to work in the office. So we have a very, you know, we have a very large office, but we set, we did a very soft open and set the opening at 25 people at a time. And one of the first things that we needed to do was figure out, you know, again, how can we do this safely? And we know that there was some mainstays that had to be there, social distancing, you know, health checks, you know, how are we going to make sure that somebody who’s coming into the office should be in the office? How are we gonna know who’s in the office and when they’re in the office? And if in fact we ever had an issue from a COVID perspective, how could we do contact tracing? So we partnered and actually bought a new technology from a company based in Alpharetta. I love that it was local called Mathtitian and they gave us the ability to implement the solution that gave really all the facets that we needed. So for example, today, if an employee needs to go in, they schedule themselves and they schedule when they’re in the office, they’re sent through the technology, either SMS or an email, a prescreen health at a station that they need to do before they can come in. And once they’re approved, then we know where they are. So we can schedule them, they can do their pre-screen. But then we also that enabled contact tracing for us. And then by working with Mathtitian, we could develop our floor plans so we knew we had physical distancing. Whether it’s, you know, these two people sit in and the workstation is at least six feet apart. Or if there’s a group that wants to go in a conference room in which seats would they sit, so we make sure there’s physical distancing there also. So we’ve started that process. Like I said, it started a month ago and it’s been going well. You know, we’ll see as time goes on and as the months go on, one of the important factors, you know, we look at is health and safety. So we’re checking the metrics and we know what the metrics are for the Atlanta area, for the Gwinnett County and Peachtree Corners area. But we, you know, keeping that employee safety is the primary goal. We’ll continue to evolve the plan as time goes on.

Karl: [00:28:02] Well, I tell you, all the things that Brightree’s done now going to help their employees adapt of customers, figure out how to be more successful through this year. I’m glad to say that, you know, we’ve got a company locally that’s leading the way in helping figure this out. It’s such a tough year. I’ve got a last question if I could ask, you know, when everything that went through this year, both professionally and personally, that most people have gone through, is there something that you implemented or did this year that might’ve been caused by the pandemic that you think can live beyond this? When this is all said and done, and the pandemic

has gone away and we’re all vaccinated. Are there things in the business that you’ve changed that you think have a long term future within your organization?

Liz: [00:28:51] I think we’re going to look at the opportunity that we gave the employees to work from home and have that flexible work schedule and have that, you know, focus on wellbeing and balance. That will absolutely continue. I mean we’ve heard it loud and clear from a, well, we do pulse surveys with our employees every six months. And that came through loud and clear. We’ve done two already, cause we did one right after the pandemic. But, you know, reinforcing wellbeing and balance. Not that it wasn’t in the forefront of our culture before, but I believe that that will continue to be on the forefront. And then the level of communication. So I talked about in the beginning, you know, the daily huddles. We also had town halls and we had those every week for quite a few weeks. And we’ve moved now to, you know, once a month, every other week or once a month, depending on the time period. And that level of communication, maintaining that. Because that gives the, you know, the engagement level with the employees without a doubt. But I think some of the, you know, the other aspects of our culture, you know, agility and change and you know, the care that we give for both our customers and the service excellence, those will all continue. But I think we’ll look at that flexibility for the employees so that they can, you know, live their best life. And also, be the best they can be for Brightree.

Karl: [00:30:11] There was one thing that became apparent. Although this year we had to physically distance for safety, I think Brightree and your team and the rest of the organization did a great job of actually keeping people together. So I don’t know if this term social distance really meant the same. I think communicating people keep people connected. We’ve done a better job probably as a society. You definitely would put it in your business, even though people may be physically distanced you were able to shrink it a little bit and keep people at least socially connected throughout this. Which is fabulous. Well, I’d love to thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to chat with us on the Capitalist Sage. I’d like to thank Liz Brown, the vice president of customer satisfaction at Brightree right here in Peachtree Corners  for your insights and sharing your experience. There’s a lot of companies that struggled through this, they implemented some of the things you’ve had. Some didn’t. But what you’ve highlighted and shared with folks that there’s a different way to think about adapting. And I know a lot of people took a turtle mentality and just kind of, you know, hunkered down. But there’s ways to find innovative ways to continue to live your mission in your organization. And thanks for sharing that with us today. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Rico and I have the pleasure to talk to local business leaders and owners, here in Peachtree Corners and surrounding areas, to talk about things that can help any business owner, whether it’s a small business, a large corporation or anywhere in between. It’s really been a pleasure to share insight from folks that are having success in doing that.

Transworld is our business and we help consult. I work with small business owners when it comes time to make those important decisions in life, around exiting their business, whether it’s selling or growing through acquisition. So we are an M and A firm and business sales firm that helps people with doing that. And so you can always reach out to myself or anyone on my team to schedule a consultation. You can always find us at www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. Rico, why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you’ve got going on over the next couple of weeks?

Rico: [00:32:31] Sure. I’ll keep it short here, but we’re working on Peachtree Corners Magazine. The next issue, Faces of Peachtree Corners is the feature story. Along with some of the things that we have in there. We just finished the photo shoot here at Atlanta Tech Park last night for that feature. So we’re doing, yeah, magazine’s coming along. We’re on deadline. We’ll be done in about two weeks and that’ll be out the first week in December to everyone. In the meantime, you can go online at LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com to find out more information. In fact, one of the stories we have on there was the internship program at Brightree and how that worked. And that was a phenomenal story I thought. It did really well. Good to see companies out there like Brightree doing that type of work too. A lot of these kids didn’t have internship opportunities after COVID started. So, not very good for some of them because they looked forward to doing it and that becomes sometimes a job entry point for these students. So good thing they were able to do that. As far as what I do, social media marketing content work, curation, video production, photography, you can find my work at MightyRockets.com or look me up on LinkedIn, Rico Figliolini or Mighty Rockets. Either way you can find me. So, and let’s not just forget our lead sponsor Hargray Fiber again, who is a major lead sponsor for not only Capitalist Sage, but the other programs that we run, the other podcasts that we do in the city. So all good. And I appreciate Liz for being with us also, for being part of the show this episode, it was really good. I learned a lot as well, so. And I apologize. Most people didn’t know when we started this, there were technical difficulties getting this off the ground, but we finally got it through and I appreciate Liz’s patience with that. Thank you Liz.

Karl: [00:34:20] Thank you Liz and everyone at the Brightree team. Have a great day.

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Business

Peachtree Corners Deploys Cawamo’s Industry-First AI Camera Tech For COVID-19 Safety and Security

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cawamo sample
Camawo sample of camera function capabilities from press release.

Peachtree Corners – the nation’s first smart city environment powered by real-world infrastructure and next-generation connectivity – announced the addition of revolutionary artificial intelligence-powered camera technology from Cawamo at City Hall – aimed at increasing public safety and preventing the spread of COVID-19. The international firm’s proprietary technology enables existing cameras to determine if someone is not wearing a mask or a group of people are not observing social
distancing guidelines, immediately alerting city personnel.

“As further reflection of our smart city leadership, our work with Cawamo to customize a COVID-19 monitoring system for City Hall shows how technology is helping to solve modern problems, while also prioritizing privacy,” said Brandon Branham, chief technology officer and assistant city manager of Peachtree Corners. “Our highest priority, and the aim of a smart city concept overall, is the safety and security of our residents and we firmly believe this technology will help us maintain important public safety protocols as we work to slow the spread of the virus. Allowing us to instantly convert existing cameras into smart cameras also shows promise for wider deployment across the city, in addition to within workplaces in the near future.”

Feature rich platform – combining artificial intelligence, cloud and edge computing

  • Accuracy: Combined onsite edge and cloud AI technologies work together to generate high-quality,accurate alerts with virtually zero false alerts
  • Universal: System can be installed on any existing camera or DVR/NVR
  • Privacy: Object detection done without facial recognition – no personal identifiable information used in COVID-19 monitoring
  • Cost-Savings for City Government: Cawamo offering municipalities free COVID-19 monitoring service with purchase of onsite equipment

“As the first cloud-edge video analytics company to develop mask and social distancing detection technology that connects with any existing security camera, we are thrilled to be helping the City of Peachtree Corners keep its citizens safe using the already-installed security cameras around the city,” said David Yakov, CEO of Cawamo. “Peachtree Corners is a premier smart city known around the globe for its dedication to the development of emerging smart city technologies, so it was a no-brainer for it to be the first city in the United States to deploy the technology. We are honored to be providing mask and social distancing monitoring for the city and hope we can expand our footprint and help other municipalities, businesses and organizations with the same level of protection.”

For more information or to schedule a briefing with city leadership, contact Judy Putnam, Communications Director at jputnam@peachtreecornersga.gov or 770-609-8821.

Source: City of Peachtree Corners and Curiosity Lab of Peachtree Corners Press Release

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Business

Recognition for Advancement in Homeland Security Technologies, for Peachtree Corners company and others

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liberty defense logo
Liberty Defense Logo from their site.

The Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation is announcing awards for two collaborative projects totaling $1.5 million to develop advanced homeland security technologies in the areas of threat detection and 3D mapping. The BIRD Homeland Security (HLS) program is a joint initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the Israel Ministry of Public Security (MOPS).

“The BIRD HLS program gives us the opportunity to bring some of the best U.S. and Israeli technology companies together to address our broad homeland security needs,” said DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “These strategic partnerships will develop innovative solutions that will enhance safety and security around the globe.”

The 2020 HLS awardees include:

  • Liberty Defense Technologies (Peachtree Corners, Georgia) and Levitection (Haifa, Israel) will develop a detection solution based on electromagnetic imaging and artificial intelligence to detect threats and concealed items in wide-open areas.
  • Hivemapper (Burlingame, California) and Ception Technologies (Jerusalem, Israel) will develop a fused air and ground 3D mapping system.

Dr. Eitan Yudilevich, Executive Director of the BIRD Foundation, said, “BIRD HLS attracts innovative American and Israeli companies and encourages synergistic partnerships to develop solutions that will fulfill critical homeland security needs in both countries. We look forward to continuing our work with DHS and the Israel Ministry of Public Security and to the next cycle in 2021.”

Since 2016, DHS S&T has partnered with the MOPS on the BIRD HLS program to seek solutions to advancing first responder technologies. This year’s call for proposals included six additional areas for U.S. and Israeli collaboration:

  • Cyber crime
  • Critical infrastructure and public facilities
  • Safe and secure cities
  • Border protection
  • Unmanned aerial systems
  • Advanced technologies for first responders

The BIRD Foundation is a unique U.S.-Israeli partnership that accelerates cooperation between U.S. and Israeli companies, academia and other research institutions in a wide range of technology sectors to foster strategic partnerships between companies in both countries for the purpose of joint product development.

DHS S&T focuses on providing the tools, technologies, and knowledge products the nation’s Homeland Security Enterprise needs today and tomorrow. 

Source: News Wise

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