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Capitalist Sage: Life-changing Leadership with Betsy Corley Pickren



In this episode of Capitalist Sage, Karl and Rico sit down with Betsy Corley Pickren, an executive leadership coach. They talk about the importance of investing in leadership, no matter the size or shape of the business, and how to develop structures that promote leadership development in all employees in the business. Betsy shares that developing leadership skills can come in many different forms, whether through one on one coaching, meeting with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs, or finding someone to hold you accountable.

Resources mentioned

Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill

Kennesaw State University, Executive Education

Betsy Corley Pickren
Phone: 770-263-7736
Email: betsy@betsypickren.com.
Website: www.betsypickren.com

Christ Church Players
Phone: 770-447-1166
Website: www.ccnorcross.org

Transcript of the podcast:

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 Corners Magazine. Hey Rico!

Rico [00:17 ]: Hey Karl.

Karl [00:18 ]: How you doing today?

Rico [00:19 ]: Good. It’s been a great day so far.

Karl [00:20 ]: Oh, fabulous. I know we’ve got a lot of exciting stuff to talk about today, but why don’t we start with our sponsors for today’s podcast?

Rico [00:28 ]: Sure. Our biggest sponsor – our new sponsor actually – is GMC primary care Specialty Centers. They just opened a few weeks ago. They’re an offshoot of Guinnett Medical Center, and it’s a great facility. I toured the facility along with a bunch of other people during their grand opening. Let me tell you, they have imaging center right there and can do all sorts of new things that you normally would have to send out to other facilities for. And it’s brand new. And it used to be the – for those of you who know Peachtree Corners – it used to be the old Apolitos restaurant. You would never know. Absolutely gutted out – it’s beautiful.

Karl [01:04 ]: Right at the intersection of 141 and Peachtree Corners Circle.

Rico [01:09 ]: Just at the QT store. Almost next door to let’s say – Planet Smoothie. Where I go get my smoothie.

Karl [01:19 ]: Oh, fabulous. I’m glad to have them here. How about some of our other sponsors?

Rico [01:23 ]: Sure. So Prototype Prime, which is now under Curiosity Lab Peachtree Corners. It’s a sponsor to a lot of podcasts there. And they’re going to be – well, Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners is a big thing right now because of autonomous vehicles, the 1.7 mile track that we have and the local stuff that we do in there. And they’re gonna be an off-site demo. A demo off-site from the Smart City Atlanta Expo that’s happening in the city of Atlanta. And this is an offshoot – the first North American expo of the sort. It’s based out of Barcelona, and it’s gonna be a neat thing. It’s going to be anything you think that with Smart City, and bring it to people.

Karl [02:04 ]: Internet of things, how they use data, help enhance quality of life, how cities are becoming smarter. It’s gonna be a showcase of all those companies and technologies.

Rico [02:17 ]: Absolutely. And that’s happening September 11, 12 and 13th. You can find out more by going to our website at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. You’ll see a place where you can go right to that and get information and buy tickets to it if you want. So they’re one sponsor. Atlanta Tech Park – we’re doing our podcast here. So this is a great facility – they let us do this twice a month, and along with other things. And well those are the three main – we are Peachtree Corners Magazine and media sponsor for the Smart City Expo Atlanta, so.

Karl [02:48 ]: Oh, fabulous, fabulous. Well, lots of things going on, but today I want to talk to our guest – Betsy Corley Pickren, who is the president and leader of Woodfire Leadership. And she specializes in help developing and training leaders. Offering executive coaching services, training, but today, we want to talk a little about how it impacts investing in leadership can impact small business owners in the business community here in Peachtree Corners and beyond. So first, I want to maybe start this – Betsy can you introduce yourself?

Betsy [03:26 ]: Hi! I am Betsy Corley Pickren as you said, and I have had my own business for, hmm, twenty years? A good long time. And I really have a passion about leadership because leadership – leaders have so much impact on people who are around them. And they can make people’s lives hell or heaven. And so, I’d like to have a little more heaven.

Karl [03:57 ]: Oh, that’s fabulous. So I’m curious, what got you interested in focusing on this and building a business around creating and building leaders? 

Betsy [04:06 ]: That’s a really good question. I – I’ll talk more about my dad later, but he – I saw him as a leader. And I kind of always got put into leadership positions, whether I wanted to or not. And then I was lucky enough to begin working with a company that really set the bar on leadership development. And just fell in love. So – 

Karl [04:40 ]: Wow, fabulous. So when you see folks – I know that I talk to a lot of business leaders. And when they’re talking about their business, I’m surprised in all the things they invest in. They’ll spend in marketing, they’ll spend in inventory, they’ll spend in technology. But when I ask them how much they spend in investing in themselves and the leaders in the company, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they don’t spend as much time and money resources in that. Why do you think that is, and what are some of the things that can help be better business leaders if they were to make those investments?

Betsy [05:16 ]: Why, what a great question. Why don’t they? So, Dee Hock, who was the leader of Visa for a number of years, said that leaders need to spend at least 40% of their time on themselves. And I think maybe not enough leaders have read that or heard that. And sometimes, leaders are there to – because of the power. And that’s not what it’s about. I mean I really believe that leaders exist to magnify their own strengths, the strengths of those around them, and the strengths of the enterprise they serve for a common goal. And so, it’s – there’s a why. There’s a why behind why you’re a leader. And we were talking earlier about Simon Sinek. And he wrote the book, “Start with Why”, and I actually want to read a quote from him. He says, “Imagine a world when the vast majority of us wake up inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day, feeling as though we are contributing towards something greater than ourselves.” How does that sound?

Rico [06:37 ]: That sounds great to me.

Betsy [06:39 ]: Me too, me too.

Rico [06:41 ]: You want to feel like you’re contributing to society, to family, to a common good.

Betsy [06:49 ]: Yea. Not just a cog in the wheel that nobody pays attention to.

Karl [06:53 ]: When you think about organization businesses in general, how many times have you gone to a place of service – it could be a restaurant, it could be anything. And the folks there don’t feel like they’re terribly engaged. And they seem like they just got in there, they’re forced there. But then you counter that when you go somewhere with a great experience. They’re excited to see you. They welcome you. They’re asking you. They’re engaged. It makes a huge difference where you choose to spend your money and time and invest in business. But how is that culture created? What role does a leader have in creating that culture?

Betsy [07:26 ]: Well, the leader really – being a leader isn’t about charisma. Being a leader is about having values that you know about yourself, having a vision. Not only what you want to do, but how you want to go about it. What are your values, and what do you want other people to do in terms of those values. I worked for a company, and this was a training and development company that got me super hooked on leadership, and we had some great salespeople, we had some great, you know, production people, and they would get called out as much for their behavior toward other people as anybody else would for, say, not performing up to standard. And so – the leader just needs to have those things. A vision, a personal leadership philosophy that keeps them focused and moving in the right direction. And it’s about – a leader is somebody that somebody chooses to follow. And if people don’t choose to follow you, then you can call yourself a leader all day long – you’re not one.

Karl [08:48 ]: It’s interesting if you think about how you peel that back – I know a lot of big companies spend time investing in leadership for their management. But I think of a small company – and there’s maybe 12 employees. There’s a shift manager and and a couple of other folks in there. They bring in people and they don’t have those kind of resources to maybe invest in like a big company. What are specific things can a local business owner do with his crew of ten people to help them develop leadership there as well?

Betsy [09:25]: What can – well, we’ll just go back for a minute. I said I wanted to talk about my dad a little bit more. And he owned a tractor dealership, and he was great. I mean – that’s where I thought – I learned I thought sales and service was one word. Because it was corely sales and service. And he was great at that. My mother was the bookkeeper or CFO, so to speak. Well, you’ve got to know what people are good at doing. And bring out those strengths. If my father had been the bookkeeper, the business might have lasted for forty days instead of forty years. Because one time, I know he traded some tractor parts for a dog for me. And how you put that on the spreadsheet – I don’t know. So the first thing is to know the talents that you’ve got. And then, also, there are a lot of other small business people out there who can fill in so you’ve got contract CFOs, you’ve got leadership development people like me, coaches like me, you’ve got just a number of other people who can be kind of extended family that you bring in to make sure that everything you do has got a really good person doing it. 

Karl [10:53 ]: So I wanted to pinpoint on – you’ve already said to Rico, like, are leaders born? Or are they made? I’m curious where you stand on that, and for folks – somebody that thinks, you know what I’m not a leader, I can’t be a leader, or I’m not a leader. What would you say to folks who feel they don’t have that talent?

Betsy [11:14 ]: Hmm. Well, I happen to believe that leadership happens at every level. If you’re a dad, if you’re a mom, if you’re a janitor, if you’re anybody can be an example to other people. And that is what one of the aspects of leadership. So, everybody is a leader in some way, shape or form. And some of us are probably born with more of a wish to lead. But just look at all the situations where people who’ve never wanted to have leadership, and a crisis happens, and they are right up there. And everybody’s following them.

Rico [12:00 ]: That’s funny. I’m reading “Leadership in the Time of Turbulence”. Great book, good presidents. Started with Teddy, Lincoln – Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Johnson. All of them, different points of their lives they were not leaders. But there were parts of their lives when they had to become leaders. Obviously, those four presidents had challenges – from the Civil War to World War 2, and the struggles during the 60s, right? But I think you’re right in a way that everyone has a certain amount of leadership. It just depends where they apply it. And what they can apply it to. And I think the biggest thing is also persistence.

Betsy [12:42 ]: It is. We can all do – certainly have to have certain physical attributes, you have to have certain mental attributes. But if we really want to do something, we can. And yet it’s so much better if we do what we are kind of wired to do. And that’s one of the things that I tell my clients. It’s – I look for leaders who aspire to be good, great leaders as part of their career. That it’s not leadership just to move up, it’s not leadership for power, it can be leadership for influence. But it’s about, “I want to create other leaders. I want to really make a difference.”

Karl [13:33 ]: I always found people have these amazing different talents. It could be a sport, some people are sprinters, some people can run and they can go so fast. Through training, through coaching, through feedback and through practice, they can maximize. You and I will never be Michael Phelps, but imagine someone with his talents and dedication applying that over year over year. Remember they talked about the 10,000 hours of Malcolm Gladwell in practice. Are there things people can do to maximize their leadership? If you were to break it down to a few simple things that they could focus on to practice leadership? Any advice on where they can start?

Betsy [14:18 ]: Well, it all starts with awareness. There’s no way to change anything without awareness. And there are lots of ways to get there. You can ask people for feedback, you can take assessments – I have assessments out the wazoo that I help connect people with. And the – there’s a behavior shift model. And once you have the awareness, then it’s about deciding – okay. I want to do something about that. I want to get better at these things I’m really good at. And I want to get either better at the things I’m not so good at, or find somebody else to do them for me. And so I began to focus myself. And then, it is about repetition and – in coaching we call them structures. And I was coaching somebody yesterday, and he’s going to put something on his calendar every time he has a meeting to remind himself how he wants to be – be seen. How he wants to be in that meeting. And so, it really helps to have a coach, I have to say. Because you’ve got somebody to walk along with you. And I see myself as a coach as, like, a GPS. So Karl – you might say, you know, I want to go to New York. I say, okay, set me to New York, but on the way, you look over at Charleston and say, that’s kind of interesting. So we stop. But my job is to remind you that you want to go to New York. You can change your destination at any time. But that – it’s knowing where you’re going, being aware, making a choice, practicing getting feedback. It’s just like riding a bike, I guess.

Rico [16:19 ]: Yeah, it’s funny. You can have leadership, but if you don’t have goals, then what’s the point? So you’re setting the goals, you’re focused on the goal, and you need to get there. And you’re helping them keep on the track, not hitting the guardrails and not getting off that road.

Betsy [16:37 ]: Yeah, unless we stop and smell the roses along the way.

Rico [16:42 ]: And that’s always good anyway because you want to reenergize, right?

Betsy [16:45 ]: I know. Exactly.

Karl [16:47 ]: I remember years ago, I knew some folks that went to West Point, and West Point – some of the military academies pride themselves on developing leadership. But he described the model of how they develop leaders there. So, I don’t know if you’ve heard it before, but freshmen come in, and they’ve got a name for them, plebs or something. But they’re fully 100% dependent. they don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to put on their clothes, they don’t know how to make their beds, they don’t know what to do. And their job is to learn how to follow and listen to the older students so that, that listening – they have to perfect or master following before they can move up the leadership ladder. The second they become sophomores, they’re now independent. So they’re not – they don’t need to be told what to do for anything, but they need to become self-sufficient and learn how to lead themselves, develop themselves. When they get to their junior year, they emphasize leading. The juniors have to teach the freshmen how to do the structures. So now they’re getting their first taste of leading others and directing others and teach. And guess what happens in their senior year? What do you think happens in their senior year? Now they’re looking broader vision – they’re setting the direction, the strategy, the vision. They’re sort of – I said, they’re doing this in high schools, and then colleges, to help develop in a structured way. So when you said that part about structure somewhat, it’s interesting how folks like military academies – the military – have built this kind of structure. But I see folks can apply that into a small business. Someone starts in that first six months, they’re plebs. You teach them how to do everything, you teach them how to run the register, how to make every dish, how to do every – all the basic tasks. You help them learn how to learn from others. Maybe the next 6 months, the next year, they’re independent. And you’re getting a lot of value. Now they’re trained. That’s that part where you’re – I don’t want to train somebody. Now they’re actually productive. But then, giving them a path where you invest in them, you get them into training, you get them into other things so they can learn how to lead the next new person. And when they get far enough, they might be general manager – and for the business owner, this could be the hardest part. They could be part of that kitchen cabinet and circle that helps you figure out how to beat the competition, how to expand, how to make the business even more valuable if they build that structure in. But you don’t need 100 people to do that. You could do that with 10 people, the same type of structure.

Betsy [19:19 ]: Yeah, and what happens often is that, later, when they get to become a senior – and there’s something called 4 stages of contribution that follows that. But what happens often in the business world is, when a person gets to that third and fourth rung on that ladder, they get uncomfortable because they don’t know how to do that. Like, they know how to set the table and bus the table. They know how to do that and they’re comfortable. So they go back and work in the business, not on the business, and then wonder what happened to their business.

Rico [19:59 ]: And that’s where a coach probably comes in. Be able to analyze what they’re doing and really talk – is a life coach and business coach the same?

Betsy [20:07 ]: Uh, yeah. I’m a – I – when I started out, I called myself a life and leadership coach. And I think that’s probably still what I am, although it sounds better to say I’m an executive leadership coach. You know, it sounds – but – everything somebody does is about their life. You can’t say, okay so now you’re going to be a business person, and now you’re gonna be a regular person. I mean, you’re all the same person.

Rico [20:39 ]: It’s in the same philosophy of how you treat your family – your friends. It’s supposed to be almost the same way you treat your business.

Betsy [20:46 ]: I believe in congruity and authenticity. There are people who say, “Well I’m not like that at home.” And I think, “Well? Hmm. So who are you as a human being?” You know? So I think – certainly, our behaviors are somewhat different. I mean, I get that. But our philosophy of life and leadership and who we are – it’s a lifelong learning thing. But I don’t know how to split.

Rico [21:19 ]: Yeah, I can’t see how you can divorce them from each other. I mean, if you feel someone’s authentic and you trust what they’re doing in the company, you gain their respect. And that owner, that boss needs to discipline for some reason, that’s also a form of respect, right? Yeah. I don’t see how you can divorce the two. I mean, you have to be able to be who you are, and people will follow that. No one wants to follow a leader where they know, “He’s not doing the same thing. Or why is she probably doing – “

Karl [21:50 ]: Yeah. People can detect that immediately. It’s not consistent. And they see it as being fake and then you lose – you lose that. So, you know, when you – when we talk to business leaders and saw them and say, they made the decision they want to become better leaders. What are some of the things they can do to get started on that journey?

Betsy [22:10 ]: Hire a coach. You can always read a book, but knowledge is only awareness. There are some people who can say – okay, now I’m gonna work. They have that much will and, you know, self-control and all that. I’m not one of those people. I mean, I have a coach. And have for many years. And I was part of – you may have heard – Vistage. I was part of that for a while, where I’m with other people who are helping keep me on track. So I’m no different from anybody else. 

Karl [22:47 ]: I – you know, I’ve established relationships that go back 30 plus years. People that will call and check in if I’m making important decisions in my career. So I’ll get feedback and learning and even there’s some that we’ll get together in a group and talk through different leadership. But also I think – just going out there. There are classes you can take and things you can go to that have – tell me a little about Mastermind Groups and what role they can serve business leaders.

Betsy [23:24 ]: Sure. Could I just comment on what you said first? That – yes. Training – I teach at Kennesaw State, I teach coaching skills for leaders, which by the way is a critical – a key piece for leaders now. Now I forgot what I was going to say. Okay. That’s not a good thing. Oh I know why – cause this is how you and I met, really. If you’re going to do some sort of training, make sure that you have some sort of follow-up. You have groups of people who get together after the training and talk about what we’ve done and hold each other accountable, because otherwise, it’s just like reading a book. You’re going to finish it, you’re going to close it, and it’s – so, make sure, if you’re learning, that you build in application for that learning in some sort of way. So I’m sorry – I got you off track. What was your other?

Karl [24:31 ]: No, no no. That’s absolutely key. If folks take classes in leadership and think they can go for two days and they walk out and go, it’s not gonna stick. I think, just like the athletes do, it’s about the practice. It’s about the application. And I always think of the coach for the lead athlete – there’s no way to lead an athlete without a coach. Mike Tyson had a coach, Mohammad Ali had a coach – they were great at what they were doing, but someone had to provide them with feedback. “Hey, you know what, you said you wanted to do this, or your time was six minutes, and so I’m giving you that feedback because you wanted to get the five and a half minutes.” And we drill and we train and we adapt and we learn as part of that collective. But I know people who say, “I don’t have time for that.”

Rico [25:21 ]: Accountability, right? So I know a lot of people who say they want to exercise, they want to do a mile run, they want to do their thing, but some of them, if they can afford to, really it’s not that expensive, you get a personal trainer who will show up three days a week. You know they’re coming at 8 o’clock. You know you have to get up and go do that.

Karl [25:41 ]: I fully endorse. That accountability and what those folks will do for people. But we started talking about – business owners is a lonely world. They’re at the top of their business, and they’re leading their business and often it can be really lonely. How do they get that level of accountability? They’re a leader.

Betsy [26:03 ]: Well, you mentioned earlier Masterminds, before I got you to backtrack. Group coaching, or mastermind groups, are fabulous. I mean, Henry Ford was in one, Think and Grow Rich, the follow that Napoleon Hill wrote about. Those – he interviewed these mega-billionaires, and they just did it on their own. They got to know each other, they would meet on a Saturday, and they would talk about their goals, and they would get advice from each other. And they kind of became their own personal board of directors. And so when you have a mastermind or group, they’re people with similar in some ways, but not competitors, and they are invested in each other’s success as much as they are in their own success. And they learn from each other. And they give to each other. It’s a give and take. Gotta be able to accept from others, positive feedback.

Rico [27:23 ]: Opportunities for improvement.

Betsy [27:28 ]: Opportunities for development feedback. And ideas. You don’t need to do the ideas, you do need to listen to them. And I just think that, the other thing that that does for a small business owner is, it makes them take the time. I don’t think small business owners have the time not to do something like that. I mean, I look at myself – I can get very distracted by this, that and the other. And if I didn’t have somebody to say, “Well I thought you wanted to focus on this.” Then, I – you know, there’s so much in life to be excited about and interested in. But if w’ere gonna go someplace, we have to kind of, go there. And so, I love that kind of idea. 

Karl [28:21 ]: That’s fabulous. To create that environment here where folks can come together and do that. I know next week, I’m heading out to Charlotte for a day to meet with the mastermind group for us. There are other people who do the same thing that I do from the Southeast, and we all meet together and talk about things that are common and we’ll learn from each other. And we do that about once a quarter to get together and figure out ways to serve our clients better, how to become better, challenge ourselves. But we have people that are walking the walk that we’re walking in different ways. The best people to keep you accountable are folks that really know what you’re doing every day and can relate that. 

Betsy [29:03 ]: That’s like the coaching circle that I’m a part of. We coach each other so that we always have a coach. And we rotate. And then we bring in other coaches. I’ve been a coach for almost 20 years. So I can say, you know, I’m really good. Well – yes and it’s easy to slip. And it’s easy to get stale. So we get feedback from other coaches on our coaching. And I think that really helps keep me at the top of our game.

Karl [29:40 ]: That’s fabulous. Well, I’ll tell you – when it comes to leadership, it’s always something we can talk to – talk about forever because it’s an important topic, and we definitely want to continue this dialogue. But, I wanted to at least ask, what do you have going on? What do you have going on in the next weeks and months that might be of interest to folks?

Betsy [30:03 ]: Okay. Well in addition to managing my one on one executive coaching business with larger companies, I’m also teaching a course in applied managerial coaching at – through Kennesaw State University Executive Education. And you can go online there and find out about it. And I believe this one’s going to be held in Sandy Springs. You don’t have to go all the way to Kennesaw for that. So that’s one thing. I’m really – we were talking about Masterminds, and I’m really excited about two that I’m starting this fall. One is for brand new, baby business owners. And to start out right. And to really be able to get the excitement about the business but also the direction with another group of people. And then also one for people who’ve been in business a little bit longer and maybe have more employees. And so that will start in this fall. It’s six months, at the end of that we’ll decide if we want to keep going or what we want to do with it. And in addition to that, they all get this wonderful back room kind of information about marketing and all the stuff that you have to do to keep your business moving and growing. And it’s fabulous. So that’s just and added attraction.

Karl [31:43 ]: So that’s starting out this fall?

Betsy [31:45 ]: It is.

Rico [31:47 ]: Did you want to give a link to a website? We’ll put this in the notes – in the podcast show notes. But if you want to – I think if you go on LinkedIn and search for Betsy Corvey, we’ll find you. Is there another website – somewhere else, or a phone number we can reach you at?

Betsy [32:05 ]: My office number is 770-263-7736. And my email is betsy@betsypickren.com. Keep it as simple as possible.

Karl [32:20 ]: Excellent. And is there another – you’ve got one of those for baby entrepreneurs. Do you have another group that’s forming as well?

Betsy [32:29 ]: Yeah. One is for new business owners and one is for people who’ve been in business for longer.

Karl [32:34 ]: Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Betsy [32:36 ]: I do have one other thing. Do we have time? This is just personal. So I dabble in acting a little bit, and I’ll be playing Ms. Murble on the radio show called “On the Air” by Christ Church Players. This Saturday at 7 pm – that’s August 24th. And it’s a hoot. 

Karl [32:59 ]: Oh, fabulous. Where is the church located?

Betsy [33:01 ]: It’s on 400 Holcomb Bridge Rd. in Norcross. And you may still be able to buy tickets for $10 a piece by calling the office, Beth Holland, at 770-447-1166.

Karl [33:20 ]: Fabulous.

Betsy [33:21 ]: Or ordering from the website, which is www.CCNorcross.org. And we have such a good time putting this on, and you’ll see the Andrew sisters, and you’ll see – you’ll see the ladies from the Beauty Barn. 

Karl [33:39 ]: Fabulous. Well it’s something to do for this weekend for folks that want to check out a cool play and community theatre and small theater here locally. I want to thank you very much for being a guest today and sharing some of your insights about leadership. I know it’s something that I emphasize to business owners to – not to focus on the marketing and so on. But when I go in there and I get a sense of the culture, when they talk about the value of a business, for instance – that matters. We want to buy well trained leaders, they retain people, they help with retention and so on. And that’s really important for folks to focus on. I want to thank Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage podcast. It’s a great place to check out here in Peachtree Corners. Atlanta Tech Park – if you’re starting a business, this environment allows you to access other people. So if you want to get feedback, it brings together a lot of different business leaders, so just in the hallways you’ll bump into other people. And that’s fabulous. So, Rico, what about you? Any other events coming up?

Rico [34:50 ]: Well, we’re going to a fundraiser tonight for the Peachtree Business Corners Association. They’re doing the Castaway, raising money for three different –

Karl [34:58 ]: At Prototype Prime, which is just down the road here. That’s tonight. 5:30 tonight.

Rico [35:04 ]: I’ve been doing silent auction. People keep trying to beat me out there on top of these five projects. But I’ve been doing a bit of that right now, just trying to help out a good cause I think. Because they’re raising money for Duke and for Norcross Proper ministries, and – 

Karl [35:27 ]: That’s right, those three.

Rico [35:30 ]: You know, if you want to reach out to me for what I do sometimes, we have creative services for a group of newspapers and publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine. I do social media marketing content, videography – just finished some product videos recently, working on website graphics now for a management firm. So you can visit MightyRockets.com or find Rico Figliolini, if you can spell that out, on LinkedIn and just let me know that you’ve heard this and I’ll accept a connection. Because otherwise – 

Karl [36:05 ]: Fabulous. And I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors. We help consult with business owners, and we’re just trying to help maximize the value of their business, become better business leaders out there, and when they’re ready to do something else, we can help them with that too. So, I can be reached at KBarham@tworld.com. Or you can go to www.tworld.com/atlantapeachtree. If you want to become a business owner or business leader, lots of opportunities available to you there. Give us a call, and we’d be glad to help you out with that. But thank you very much, Betsy, for joining us today.

Betsy [36:40 ]: And thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it. It was a very stimulating conversation.

Karl [36:44 ]: Fabulous. We’ve got more coming up in the weeks to come, so stay tuned to the Capitalist Sage.

Rico [36:50 ]: And find more stuff on LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com

Karl [36:54 ]: And we’d like to thank our director, Kinsey.

Rico [36:59 ]: Kinsey Figliolini.

Karl [37:02 ]: For doing a fabulous job in helping us with podcast every week. Thank you. Alright, thank you everyone, and have a great day.

Continue Reading


Capitalist Sage: Bill Frey’s Architect of Illuminations [Podcast]



Have you ever wondered who’s in charge of designing and setting up those amazing holiday light displays? Well, this week, Karl and Rico sit down with Bill Frey – entrepreneur and owner of Illuminating Design, a local business event, holiday and specialty lighting company. Bill talks about his path into creating a business and how he found a niche in the holiday lighting market during the 2008 economic recession. Additionally, he shares about his struggles and solutions to working in a seasonal industry, as well as the joys of using his lighting designs to create and evoke holiday memories.

“I like to think about it in a theoretical way, where we really just provide the backdrops of people’s memories. You have your holidays, you have your holiday pictures and all the memories that you have. We’re the lighting behind that. We’re what brings about the emotion, we’re the ones that bring about the feelings of the season. By seeing our lights in different areas, it really brings about that Christmas spirit and gets people in the mood – whether they need to shop or come in and spend more time with their family – again, to create those memories. And that’s – that’s really the main point of where – what we do and what we like to do.”

Bill frey


Illuminating Designs
Website: https://www.illuminating-design.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IlluminatingDesign/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/illuminating_design/
Phone: 404-454-8944

Podcast Transcript:

Karl [01:33 ]: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasons pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Trans World Business Advisors. My cohost is Rico Figliolini, with Mighty Rockets Digital Marketing and publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Hey Rico, how are you doing today?

Rico [01:50 ]: Good, Karl. Lots of things going on.

Karl [01:52 ]: Absolutely. Why don’t we start off by introducing some of our fabulous sponsors?

Rico [01:56 ]: Sure. So the first thing I should say is Atlanta Tech Park, which is where we are in this podcast studio. We’re doing the recording here in the city of Peachtree Corners. Atlanta Tech Park is an accelerator, right? Go to from a startup place – that’s the incubator – to an accelerator. That’s the next step for a growing company. And they have, I don’t know, how many thousands of square feet here. But they have enough event facilities, they run workshops, they run things with funding and venture capitalists.

Karl [02:28 ]: Absolutely. There’s a cyber – cyber event coming up I think later on. Thin-tech. It’s coming up later this week. Fabulous stuff to get connected in technology and business community here.

Rico [02:38 ]: That’s Peachtree Corners. So anything you need to fund your business, you can – I mean they do some of that pitch stuff.

Karl [02:44 ]: Yup – Friday morning. Pitch Fridays.

Rico 02:46 []: So then our other sponsor is GMC, or Gwinnett Medical. Just got bought out by Northside Hospitals, by the way. So – but it’s the place that just opened. It’s the GMC Primary Care and Specialty Center on Peachtree Parkway, next to Planet Smoothie and QT. And it’s a great place. We just interviewed Dr. Barbara Joy Jones just last week. Find our podcast, by the way, online. But they’re a sponsor as well.

Karl [03:11 ]: Oh, fabulous, fabulous. And I think in the next week we have –

Rico [03:15 ]: Smart City Expo.

Karl [03:17 ]: Smart City Expo coming up. I’m excited about that.

Rico [03:19 ]: It’s going to be great. You, me, Patricia Wenzburg, who’s a writer for Peachtree Corners Magazine. We’re all going to be attending that expo.

Karl [03:27 ]: Absolutely. And it’s kind of going to be looking at smart technologies and cities. And I think Peachtree Corners is going to be featured there.

Rico [03:35 ]: That’s right. So the first day, which is the 11th. It’s the 11th, 12th, and 13th. So the first day is gonna be – we’re gonna have – and it’s probably, I think it’s the only off-demo site for that expo. And there are gonna be people from all over the world and the country visiting, and we’re gonna be showing off our 1.5 mile autonomous vehicle track. Along with a couple of special surprises and stuff like that going on. But there’s quite a few things. I mean, we – to be having that in this city when they do a world conference of this in Barcelona. First time in the United States, so…

Karl [04:12 ]: So much fun stuff happening here. Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners highlighting technology, showing how a city can continue to grow and innovate on itself. And one other thing that’s great about this business community here – we’ve got lots of entrepreneurs in the business community, and today we’re just – it’s an absolute pleasure to have Bill Frey from Illuminating Design – a local entrepreneur, business owner here – that combines technology and art to create amazing lighting displays for holiday seasons, for a variety of cities, commercial customers. Just help them really celebrate the holiday season or whatever festivity they may be having through innovative lighting displays and design and display. So really glad to have you, Bill. Tell us a little bit about how you do that and how you’re able to make clients super happy with their displays and help attract people to come see them. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little bit about yourself?

Bill [05:18 ]: Alright. Well first of all, thank you for having me. I appreciate the time and being out here. This is a great thing that you guys do, and I’m very happy to be a part of it. Well – I graduated from Clemson University and went back to Georgia State to get a Masters degree in marketing, and found that the corporate world wasn’t really for me. I had the advantage of being in a management position at a very young age, however, when you’re dealing with people that are older and have been in the work environment a lot longer than you have, they tend not to take your ideas so seriously. So at that point, I’d always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and that kind of pushed me to do it. I was young, didn’t have any kids, didn’t have a family, didn’t have any responsibilities, so I was able to easily take the jump. I worked for a gentlemen that had a holiday lighting company and saw an opportunity where the market really wasn’t being taken care of. So opportunities for better customer service, better pricing, and really just a better know how on doing the holiday and event lighting. There were a lot of missed opportunities before, and this is back in 2004, so back then, there were maybe a handful of companies out there. Now, recently, there’s been more people jumping into the industry because they see what a good industry can be and the opportunities that are there.

Karl [06:38 ]: Fabulous. Well, for those that do not know, describe what holiday lighting is and how businesses like yours help clients.

Bill [06:45 ]: Well, in – I like to think about it in a theoretical way, where we really just provide the backdrops of people’s memories. You have your holidays, you have your holiday pictures and all the memories that you have. We’re the lighting behind that. We’re what brings about the emotion, we’re the ones that bring about the feelings of the season. By seeing our lights in different areas, it really brings about that Christmas spirit and gets people in the mood – whether they need to shop or come in and spend more time with their family – again, to create those memories. And that’s – that’s really the main point of where – what we do and what we like to do.

Karl [07:25 ]: So what made you choose to go into this industry? You saw – you worked for a company that did that before, but how did you feel that you could make it different or make a difference in this industry?

Bill [07:36 ]: Umm, for a long time, it was kind of like, Henry Ford’s saying – “You can have any color, as long as you want it black.” And that’s not really the way the design and the lighting goes. We saw – if you drive up and down, and you look at different Christmas displays and holiday displays, a lot of them are very similar. They use the same products, same techniques, and we found ways to be a little more creative. To use an artistic side to it. To add pops of color here and there. To add different elements that people wouldn’t necessarily think of. By being Christmas – 365 days a year, versus the other companies that are really doing it as seasonal job, we have the ability to research and work with worldwide vendors, find the best products, and really find what suits you. As a client. We don’t – we use multiple vendors, and we find the best fit for the client. We don’t lock you into proprietary software. We use all open-sourced software. And it’s really giving the client the options again. Giving them their voice in what they want. And a lot of people might not know what their voice should be saying, but we help bring it out what they want. So we have about 20 questions or so that we start our conversations with our clients to get them to kind of relax a little bit and to get into their own design mind and what they like. Are they symmetric people? Do they like the right and left to balance? Do they want – do they want heavily daytime decor? Do they want nighttime decor? Are they a less is more person? A more is more person?

Rico [09:07 ]: Do you have the things, like – also, like – you know how the fireworks, you can do that electronically now? Is it all app-based? How do you set up on something like that?

Bill [09:17 ]: There are some app based programs. What we find is a lot of those are limited. We actually use a program for our programming side – an open source software called x-lights. It’s based loosely on, my opinion, it’s based loosely on madrix, which is used for stage lighting. And that’s what I originally started with. So our philosophy is – we take the stage lighting and event lighting and everything and bring that into holiday shows. We go to concerts and say, “You know what, that’s cool. We like that. How can we bring that out? How can we make that relate to the holidays?”

Rico [09:52 ]: So you’re creating as you’re going, almost in a way – because every year it’s a little different?

Bill [09:58 ]: Right. And that’s the one thing that we want. Our philosophy is that, if you dream it, we can make it happen. And that’s what we try to do. We’ve had some wild concepts come to us that we’re working through – a fun project we’re working on now is, we’re working with a couple of people to create art pieces with LED background lighting for it. So they actually, as you’re – it’s not a stagnant picture any longer. So you’ll have color flashes that’ll change. Say, it’s a series of umbrellas, and the umbrella will change colors. 

Rico [10:25 ]: So you find the technology useful? I mean, you’ve been in the business for a while and stuff. Has technology helped you do your work better, do you think?

Bill [10:33 ]: I think so. I think it’s really cool, some of the stuff that we’re putting out. We work with – on one of our big displays, we made – gosh there were 15 by 25 foot light panels that we broadcast massive displays across. So imagery, and it’s the motion and imagery. So it’s not as stagnant. It used to be the only movement you had was twinkle lights. Every now and then, one would twinkle in. If you had your strand of incandescents, put the wrong bulb in, they all start twinkling on you. They didn’t like that.

Rico [11:04 ]: Do you do other things besides the lighting as well? Like mechanical stuff or other inflatables?

Bill [11:10 ]: Yeah. Some of the pieces we have, we can add motion to it if need be. Haven’t had the opportunity to – in our warehouse, yes we have plenty of that. Haven’t found the client yet that wants something with that much movement. With more movement comes sometimes more issues, and they’re afraid of that for a short term installation.

Karl [11:29 ]: I remember growing up in New York – we – the Rockefeller Center display was always a centerpiece, and people would, for years, you’d go and visit, and it would attract people to that display. You fast forward 20, 30 years later, you see more places using lighting and holiday kind of spirit to attract people to there. Do you find that clients get a lot of success by investing in these kind of displays to help attract folks?

Bill [11:59 ]: Definitely. It’s funny that you bring up Rockefeller Center, because that is one of the reasons I’m in the business. My grandparents lived in New York, and I would go see it as a child, and it’s one of my fondest memories as a child. And I’ve always said if I get the Rockefeller Center tree, I’d be done.

Rico [12:15 ]: You’ve reached the pinnacle.

Bill [12:17 ]: Yup – I’ve reached the pinnacle. What more can I do at that point? But yeah. We see – you know, it’s interesting because the first exposure I had to that, where it was really helping to increase revenues and things like that was during the recession – 2008. And when I – I noticed a lot of people were cutting back on what they were doing. Obviously, they were concerned about what was going on in the world, and with the market and everything like that. But what it did was allow me to kind of recenter our company and to see what’s going on out in the world. And neighborhood fronts – you had homes that were diminishing massively in value, and people were fighting against each other to sell their houses. So the first exposure was – we started decorating neighborhoods – neighborhood fronts. And by giving the exposure to those neighborhoods, it gave them more name recognition, allowed the home values to – I’m not gonna say they stayed where they were in 2006, but they did not decrease as much because you had the talk about – the word of mouth going around about what they were doing, and that the community looked nicer. People were doing a lot of cutting back, so we worked for our clients at those points to allow them to have that exposure. And also – you see a definitive difference in shopping centers. You know when you go out during the holidays, a shopping center that is not decorated, it’s like any other time of the year. You go in there, you spend what you would. Holidays are all about excess, you know? And that’s for – a lot of people it’s about, they eat too much, they shop too much, they drink too much. They do everything too much. And that’s what – having the lighting really evokes that feeling of peace and euphoria and good times and cheers.

Karl [13:58 ]: Especially, during the holiday season, if you think about, if you live up north where it’s snow, you feel Christmas coming around, you feel the holiday. If you live in warmer climate, you don’t have the snow, so the lights is something that could still connect people, that you could tell it’s a different time of year. If you have little kids, I know during the winter, people don’t go out as much. But if they’ll drive around the neighborhoods and see the houses that are doing better displays – 

Rico [14:27 ]: So do you find then that – because I totally agree with you. Living in New York or Brooklyn, everyone hung their lights and stuff, but it didn’t matter. If it snowed, it was Christmas – you knew it was coming. Down here, it’s so different. The hurricane’s coming, God forbid. So, but, you know, your lighting during – are you lighting throughout the year as well?

Bill [14:46 ]: We do most of our work during the holiday season. We do still work with events and facilities and things. If they have larger events going on, we’ll go out and help them. What we can do is year round. We’ve really created a niche in the Christmas market, though. We’ve worked on some of the largest areas around the Southeast. And we have really made our names for ourselves in the Christmas area. There are a lot of companies out there that do events. They have a lot of big products, and it’s kind of a different product base that we have, but it is still possible. We have a lot – maybe 50% of it transfers over, which allows us the opportunity to go and decorate for some weddings, or big corporate parties or Fourth of July. We got to go up to – one of the really neat things we got to do is, we went up to Knoxville and lit up the Sun Sphere for the World’s Fair. It was, I want to say, their 250th anniversary. And we had the lights rotate around, red white and blue, and they rotate around the Sun Sphere. It just happened to be the year that Pat Summit passed away, and we were able to dial in the Tennessee orange and light up the Sun Sphere in honor of her, which is a really, really neat and impactful moment for us.

Karl [15:56 ]: How did you get command over the technology? Cause it sounds like you gotta know a little bit about design – artistic design – but also to program, to figure out what pieces to go together, to integrate and all that.

Bill [16:11 ]: You hire the right people. To be honest with you. I dabble in the programming. I like to say I’m good at it, but I brought somebody into the company that has extensive background in it, and he – Tim Griffith – and he is phenomenal at what he does. And he – we work together, and it’s very – it’s kind of we’re yin and yang. I’m the artistic side, he’s the detailed process side. So we balance off each other in very, very great ways.

Rico [16:40 ]: So you can envision what you want, and he sort of implements it.

Bill [16:44 ]: Yeah. I come to him all the time and say, “I wanna see this!” And he kinda looks at me and goes, “Alright, give me an hour.” And it’s great, because you know, it takes him out of his comfort zone and I’m asking for elaborate things, and we kind of bounce ideas off, and I know enough to give suggestions about different ways to look at it rather than the engineering side. Look at it from this direction, see if it changes some things.

Rico [17:07 ]: Are you seeing the technology and lighting itself? Like, LED’s been around for a while, right? Are you seeing that changing? Are you seeing anything new coming out?

Bill [17:16 ]: Actually, yeah. And that’s one of the things that’s – and we’ve had to kind of adapt our company because of it. It’s, you know, LED’s – incandescents and LEDs are the first change in lighting in how many years? Forever. So then, so what do you think? Okay, well LEDs are gonna be here for a while, and this is how it’s gonna be. Well now they’re moving onto low voltage. So low voltage gives you – obviously, you’re running less amps, thus you’re having less – when you have a power spike because of rain or something like that, there’s less fluctuation. So it doesn’t trip your GFI. So low voltage lighting is exactly which landscape lighting runs on. So you don’t have problems with that normally when it rains, but your holiday lights, occasionally you do. And that’s honestly a problem. If you have a GFI, and it’s put in there, and it’s working right, and your lights go out because of rain, it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to. But nobody wants their lights out. And you can’t tell somebody – “Well, you know what? Sorry your lights are out, but that’s doing exactly what you want.” So we figure out ways to work around that. And we at – when we were working at Atlanta Botanical Gardens for four years, we had – I’ll never say 100%. So, 99.999% on rate. I don’t – I cannot remember or do not recall or was not told of any situation when the lights went out with low voltage.

Karl [18:31 ]: So you can use technology to help make them more robust and bring all that. When you think about the business side of this, when you started this out, anything that you learned along the way that you think would help someone else that was thinking of starting a business?

Bill [18:46 ]: Yes. A 22 year old does not know everything. I learned that one very quickly. And, you know, you learn to trust your support system. And that’s the foundation of how you’re gonna be successful in business. If you don’t have a strong support system with you, with family, friends, people that believe in you and are going to pick you up when you get knocked down and say, “You know what? Let’s get up tomorrow and try again.” That’s crucial. If you don’t have that, you’re off on an island. And it becomes extremely difficult.

Karl [19:17 ]: What is it like doing business here in Georgia or at least in this part of Georgia area? Have you found there being any advantages of being in a community like Peachtree Corners?

Bill [19:28 ]: Yeah. Well, one, it’s a newer city. So there’s a lot that the city’s doing that we can help out with. We’re actually working in the new City Center this year, which will be great. We’re very happy about that. I was actually – as soon as I heard it was starting to be built, I started calling. Because it’s a project I wanted to be part of. To me, the community is important. The community’s giving me, myself, my family so many opportunities. My children go to school here. Their friends go to school. I coach soccer here. So being part of this community is a great, great thing. I even moved my office here from Norcross so we’d be a little more local and tied more into the business community in Peachtree Corners.

Rico [20:08 ]: Are you part of any of the business associations here locally? 

Bill [20:11 ]: Yes.

Rico [20:12 ]: What are some of the things you’ve been able to gain through a relationship you’ve built through those?

Bill [20:16 ]: Some contacts. That’s really important. You find out – moreso business contacts, it’s personal contacts. People who have gone through what you do. As an entrepreneur, it’s very difficult for people to understand your day to day. What you wake up dealing with, what you go to bed dealing with. What problems you have. And you know what? None of us here are recreating the wheel. Whatever business process we’re working on – whatever situation we’re dealing with – somebody else has dealt with. We’re not the first ones to go through it, so why not ask for feedback? Why not say, “Hey, let’s go get coffee. Let’s talk about a couple things. What’s troubling you? What’s troubling me? What can we help each other work through?” And you never know who’s gonna have that opinion or that little nugget of advice that really helps you out.

Rico [21:03 ]: Let me ask you something, if you don’t mind. It’s a seasonal business. So the one thing that struck me – like urban growers, you know? They have the cycle – the season. Although they, if I remember, they said there’s really no season because they can keep growing throughout the year. How does that work in a business where it’s more seasonal? How does that impact revenue, income – how do you budget the company out? How do you keep staff where they need to be, I guess?

Bill [21:30 ]: That’s one of the harder pieces. That’s – if I knew all the answers to that, it would uber successful. You know, we’re not doing bad. But, it is difficult. The seasonality of the business makes it difficult for staffing. You have – so what we do is, we have a core group of people. That those are our people that we bring in. Then, we wind up bringing in revenue producers that – the guys are doing the actual install. But we bring the team of leaders in before that. We spend about a month with them and training them on what we are, who we are, going around and seeing the jobs. So we catch them up to speed on what’s being produced. Then we bring the next team in and do our OSHA training and those things. So, a lot of times, it’s recreating the wheel each time. It’s restarting the process each year. But we’re fortunate enough that each year, we have some residual people that come back. We try to find business owners that may have another business. That their seasonality goes a little bit lower in time, so we kind of work together in that aspect. And you find – you do have a lot of guys that are out of work over the holidays. So generally, finding labor in the actually installers is not that difficult. Because you have all the other season out – like, the non-winter jobs – pool companies, painters, landscapers, that aren’t doing as much. They all lay off, we hire them in.

Karl [22:51 ]: I’m curious, you know, if you were to advise – whether it’s neighborhood that’s deciding holiday lighting or retail areas and so on. What are top things they should consider if they’re thinking on doing this? Where do people get it wrong? When you go out there and you look at people trying to do it, what do they get wrong about it?

Bill [23:11 ]: A lot of the time, it – you wind up with inconsistencies. Where it doesn’t – it doesn’t flow. There’s – it kind of, it’s sporadic, where they’re not actually – they’re saying, “Okay, let’s light every tree.” Well, lighting every tree, while nice, doesn’t always give you the best visual impact. I like to work in negative space. So it’s not where the light is, it’s where the light is not. Because if you constantly have a wall of light, it’s a blur. It doesn’t give a good visual image. If you’re selective in what you liked – so really, I guess the answer’s editing – I guess, what exactly to do. Anybody can throw stuff up anywhere, but it’s systematic in that type of editing in the overall design that makes everything better. And the consistency in the products. You can’t have one color bow in one area, another color in another area. Or have weird colors. If – I’ve noticed a lot, they try to go with festive colors and things like that now. But it starts looking a little like Mardi Gras. Which is awesome for the Mardi Gras time, but it doesn’t really flow with what most people think of Christmas.

Karl [24:17 ]: And things that will create those memories that you were describing. If you do a blur of lights, it just remembers it’s a blur. But if you can create art with that and create it, that’s what create memories.

Bill [24:29 ]: Our lighting philosophy is, we believe every light is important. You can make a very impactful statement with a single light. So it’s all in the editing of how you edit those lights down.

Karl [24:38 ]: Fabulous, fabulous. Well, I’m curious, you know – as this time of year, we’re getting into the fall season. What’s it like for you this time of year? What do you have coming up? What do you do over the next few months as you gear up for the holiday season?

Bill [24:52 ]: First thing is not sleep. It’s – this is really the busy time. But we’ve set ourselves up over the past few months, and basically, since we’ve finished last year to be ready. So we’ve dotted all the i’s, crossed all the t’s. We’re just ready to go now. We have – we’ve tested all the products. We’re gonna be out. Within the next month or so, we’re gonna be working on some of the bigger installations. We’re gonna be at the battery for the Atlanta Braves, decorating out there. We’ll be building a 35-foot walkthrough ornament at World of Coca Cola. And working on some of the really large displays downtown Atlanta. We put all the garland on Peachtree street. So really finalizing what we’ve worked on for so long. It’s – you’ve had your spring training, and now it’s time to get to action. 

Karl [25:41 ]: You remember when Christmas season used to start the week after Thanksgiving? And now, I remember – I think in August, I saw Halloween stuff start to show up, and I’m pretty sure it’s happening with the season. When is Christmas really starting now? Is it October? Early November?

Bill [26:02 ]: November 1st is when a lot of the turn on dates. And you know – it’s understandable. If they’re spending good money on the displays, it makes sense. Go ahead and get them up. Yes, it mixes Thanksgiving and Christmas. But the idea is to spread the joy. To get people out there.

Karl [26:19 ]: So if they’re starting November 1st, that means if you want to have a spectacular display, you probably should be starting now having conversations with folks like you.

Bill [26:28 ]: Very much so. If not a few weeks ago. We’re – it’s time now. We’re locking in most of our bigger installations. And there are still some slots open that we’ll take as we go through. But yeah, there’s plenty of opportunity to still get decorated and for us to work with you.

Karl [26:45 ]: Fabulous. So how do people reach you? If they want to know more about what you do and how you do it, what’s the best way to reach you?

Bill [26:50 ]: First thing I suggest is to go onto our website and take a look at some of the projects we’ve done. See if it’s something you’d like to do and see if there – we can work together. We like to create a union with our clients. It’s – we’re not a one and done type company. We like to create relationships. So go onto the webpage. It’s www.illuminating-design.com. Or you can give us a call at 404-454-8944.

Rico [27:25 ]: We can also find you on instagram on @illumin. I’m assuming there’s lots of pictures there too.

Bill [27:32 ]: Yes there are.

Karl [27:33 ]: Fabulous. Well it’s great to see a local company here in Peachtree Corners. Entrepreneurs that are doing really fun business. I gotta imagine, when you complete a project, you get a big smile on your face, on your client. Who doesn’t like a business that helps create smiles?

Bill [27:48 ]: Oh, it’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing.

Karl [27:50 ]: It’s fabulous for that. We want to thank you for being our guest today. Bill Frey, from Illuminating Design for being our guest. Taking time out and sharing your experience and journey on this, and giving some advice to folks that are looking to start in their own businesses that may not be as traditional as others. Maybe taking a different look in providing a different service for clients. And we also want to thank Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage podcast. If you’re starting a business and looking to network with other people, like minded folks in there, there’s no better place to start in a community designed around supporting entrepreneurs and business owners. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. We help people – help business owners understand their business. When they’re ready to sell their business, when they’re ready to buy a business, when they’re ready to grow their business. We offer services to help them all throughout their business life cycle. And Rico – why don’t you tell them a little bit about what you’ve got going on?

Rico [28:49 ]: Sure. I publish Peachtree Corners Magazine. Just launched that this year. Cities – hopefully of what’s going on in the city on a bi-monthly business. We’ve got a lot of traction on it. We’re planning the three major stories that are coming in this forthcoming issues. One is – the cover story is a Pat and the People story. So submit your – this can be a contest giveaway starting Friday. You’ll find that on Facebook. So we’re gonna be giving away some prizes. But that’s one of the main features. The other one is Great Spaces for your Corporate and Holiday Events. We have a writer out there, and she’s already on the 8th or 9th or maybe 10th place. So she’s putting out there – she’s putting together the article as well. But that’s Patricia Windspur. And we have a third piece on technology in the school system, which is cool. So the magazine, of course, you can find my work also at MightyRockets.com. I handle social media, social media content, videography, product videos, a whole bunch of things that different types of companies may need. And that’s where you can find me.

Karl [29:54 ]: And follow us on Facebook. Peachtree Corners Life on Facebook if you want to get an update.

Rico [30:00 ]: That’s right. So, like us there because once you like us there, then you get notification of these live Facebook feeds. You can find the podcast, Capitalist Sage, on iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher – almost anywhere that – FM, that’s another one – almost anywhere you can find podcasts. Find this, listen to the drive, 25 minutes, and you’re good. And LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com is the website for the magazine, the podcasts, and all that.

Karl [30:28 ]: If you want to keep up with what’s going on, a fabulous job of keeping up, you go in there, you’ll see articles in there, it’ll give you highlights on what’s going on around Peachtree Corners and greater Gwinnett in general. But just lots of ways to get connected back to the community. And please do tune into the Capitalist Sage podcast, and all of the other podcasts that highlight local people in your community. About business owners, political leaders, community leaders, schools.

Rico [30:58 ]: We have two other podcasts – Prime Lunchtime with City Manager which is once a month. And we have Peachtree Corners Life which is a whole host of things, and we do interviews.

Karl [31:08 ]: So thank you very much for tuning in, and looking forward to bringing you more great guests on the Capitalist Sage Podcast. Thank you everyone, have a great day.

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Boutique Staffing Firm Opens in Peachtree Corners



Councilmember Lorri Christopher (center in blue dress), welcomed Austin Ashworth (man in dark suit to the right of Ms. Christopher) and his staffing company to Peachtree Corners. Members of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber were on hand to help celebrate the occasion.

Staff Builders HR, which specializes in identifying quality talent for businesses, celebrated the opening of its Peachtree Corners location recently.

Operated by management and staffing expert Austin Ashworth, the office will serve the north Metro Atlanta area and offer staffing solutions to businesses in administrative, professional and industrial trades.

“We like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop,” said Ashworth, who is the territory manager for Staff Builders HR. “We specialize in staffing light industrial and clerical positions and strive to provide companies with top-notch personnel. We handle payroll processing service, too.”

Ashworth said Staff Builders HR recognizes that each business and its needs are unique and offers a personalized recruiting strategy for each client.

The Peachtree Corners location is the first permanent site in the state for the Florida-based business which founded in 2008. The new staffing office is located at 5260 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Suite 600. Ashworth said the company plans on opening an additional four to five locations in the next three to four years.

“We are delighted to welcome Staff Builders HR to our community,” said Councilmember Lorri Christopher during the company’s ribbon-cutting event held on Aug. 27. “Peachtree Corners is well known as a business-friendly city, and we are confident that you will be very successful operating your new business here.”

Staff Builders HR offers temporary, temporary to permanent and contract staffing services for the fields of warehouse, professional and skilled trade. For more information visit the website or call the Peachtree Corners office at 404-858-2228.

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Around Atlanta

A conversation with Aarti Tandon about the Smart City Expo Atlanta



With the first Smart City Expo Atlanta coming up in less than two weeks, Rico sits down with Aarti Tandon, the CEO, and co-founder of the expo. Aarti talks about how they’re striving to redefine “smart” by bringing in the human aspect of innovation into their event. By bringing in younger generations, people from the public and private sector, CEOs of corporations to mayors to non-profits, Aarti shares how the United States’ first Smart City Expo will instigate essential conversations and dialogue about what the future of technology is, how its applications can impact cities, and how we all can reframe our mindset towards “smart” technology.


Email: info@smartcityexpoatlanta.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SmartCityATL/photos/?tab=album&album_id=310784826476114
Instagram: @smartcityatl
Twitter: #SCATL19

“The conversation is so comprehensive. It’s micromobility, but it’s also building a workforce that’s not just the future of work, but how do you build dignity into the future of work. We talk about economic mobility. I think for us, in reframing the narrative, we want to talk about not just autonomous, electric and micromobility. We want to talk about social mobility, economic mobility. We want to talk about human capital alongside venture capital. And we want to make sure the infrastructure is equitable while it’s intelligent.”

Aarti Tandon, the CEO, and co-founder of smart city expo atlanta

Transcript of the podcast:

Rico [01:26 ]: Hi, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, a podcast that’s centered here in the city of Peachtree Corners, just north of Atlanta. The city of Atlanta that’s gonna be hosting, for the first time, the Smart City Expo Atlanta, which is an offshoot – it’s the US edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress that’s hosted every year since 2011 in Barcelona. And over the years, they’ve expanded to other cities like Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Mexico, Argentina – other countries – and this is the first time in the United States. So, what I want to do is bring on Aarti Tandon, who’s the cofounder of the Smart City Expo. So let’s bring her on. Hey Aarti, how are you?

Aarti [02:13 ]: Hi Rico, thanks for having me!

Rico [02:15 ]: No, this is great. I appreciate you bearing with me for the technical difficulties we were having before. But thank you for coming on.

Aarti [02:25 ]: My pleasure.

Rico [02:27 ]: So tell us a little bit about Aarti. Tell us who you are and how you got to Smart City Expo and stuff. Give us a brief.

Aarti [02:35 ]: Thank you for asking. So, I’m actually lawyer by trade, and many years ago, I was working in entertainment and after that, working at a project for a client of mine who was serving 14 years in federal prison. And I really understood what, at that time – how do we actually, really build an inclusive economy. I spent five years working pro bono for this case, and President Bush had granted a commutation to my client in 2008, and since then, I’ve been really trying to understand, you know, how do we use sports, entertainment and marry it with justice. I went on to produce a bunch of films, and then, in 2000, or actually probably three years ago, I was asked to be the executive director of Smart City New York. And in that process, I really wanted to talk about what makes a city smart. And sort of redefine the term. And we ended up having 2000 people from over 80 countries – over 30 countries. But we had the CEOs of UNICEF and Robin Hood and Boys and Girls Club in conversation with the Mastercards and the Microsofts. And we really felt that everyone had to have a seat at the table if we were going to make sure we had an inclusive, 21st century economy. And so last year, Mayor Bottoms was at our conference and I established a relationship with Vera, and we had decided, you know, she had a focus on developing strong Smart City strategy, and Atlanta would be an ideal place to host the first Smart City Expo World event in the US.

Rico [04:15 ]: So you were in – you helped run the Barcelona event, then?

Aarti [04:19 ]: No, I ran a separate New York event. It was just a Smart City conference.

Rico [04:24 ]: Oh, okay. So this is the big expo then.

Aarti [04:26 ]: This is the big one. Yeah. This is really exciting. So Smart City Expo World Congress, which is the original temple event that’s happened since 2011 in Barcelona, 20,000 people attend. It’s basically the CES for cities. And what’s interesting about it is that, the rest of the world has really been focused on smart city strategy. So when you think about actually countries that have had conflict, they’ve leapfrogged into the future because they didn’t have legacy issues to deal with that we have in the United States. And so they’re deploying all sorts of incredible work in Estonia and Kosovo and Rwanda. And so Smart City Expo World Congress has been convening these thought leaders since 2011.

Rico [05:12 ]: So, with the mayor of Atlanta talking – sort of getting it set up here in Atlanta. Now – you’re gonna – eventually it’s gonna be a three-year deal on this one.

Aarti [05:25 ]: Yeah. We – our goal is to really plant ourselves in Atlanta, right? That’s the temple event for the United States. And it’s hosted in Atlanta, but it’s actually a national event. And part of the reason for that is because a lot of the people from the public sector in the US can’t justify, or really afford, sending their CIOs to Barcelona. And so they’re missing out on a lot of the sharing of best practices that are happening, especially, you know, the Nordic countries are so ahead of us on circular economy and sustainability. People are working on cyber around the world. And so we really, genuinely felt that this conference is a national conference. And if you’re a CIO from South Dakota or Minnesota, you have the same challenges that most cities do, and we’d love to have them come and learn.

Rico [06:16 ]: So, and if I understand correctly too, there is – smart city is not just about corporations or upper or middle class people that can afford an iPhone ring or something like that. It’s really bringing it to an equitable position, right? All the people on the street, if you will, can feel the effects of a smart city. That’s what this theme is, I guess, for Atlanta?

Aarti [06:42 ]: Yeah. So our theme is – let’s redefine the term ‘smart’. People ask me all the time – the most inevitable question is, “What is a smart city?” And I did a presentation for the state department a few weeks ago, and my response was, increasing quality of life. And so, what does that mean? How do you use the data to increase quality of life? So my dear friend, the mayor of Helsinki – he says his goal is to give every citizen one hour back in their day. And if you come from that premise, right – you think about – so if you knew your train was gonna be 20 minutes late, you may take a bus, you may take a bike, you may do something else, right? So how you make those choices so you can go home and spend more time with your family? And that’s how we look at what makes a city smart is how we’re deploying the technology. I’d love to just give you a few examples. I know you’ve got a bunch of questions. So, NYU Langone, and he’s gonna be one of our speakers, Dr. Gorovich, did a study on population health, and the health of cities. So it’s affordable housing, transportation, the actual health. In a few cities, and one of the cities was Providence, Rhode Island, I believe. Again, we have 250 speakers, so if I’m missing something let me know. But one of the things he realized was absenteeism was a really big issue in Providence. So what do you do with that data? Well, the mayor ended up putting washing machines in the public schools, right? That is how you create equity. That is where you say, we’re gonna give every child the opportunity to learn, and we don’t want them to be ashamed that they can’t come to school, and we’re gonna make sure that they have a safe environment from which they can prosper. That to us is equity. Other examples of that are – you know, there are all these amazing energy-generating pavements that are being used in stadiums and universities. So you generate energy off of the foot traffic. Well, why don’t we put that on a basketball court in the Bronx? You want people to understand what the 21st century is gonna look like, and they think it’s robots and they think it’s automation. It’s also – let’s meet people where they are, and that’s how this conference is designed. And that’s why we’re redefining the term smart.

Rico [09:02 ]: That’s cool. Because lots of people think it’s Amazon delivering their stuff by drone. They can’t wait for that because it would be easy, I guess. delivery within an hour or two, right? Or an AI machine that would be able to almost predict what you may want in the next two hours. But I like that idea. And it’s not too far flung out to say that it could happen within years as opposed to within a decade or two.

Aarti [09:29 ]: It’s about a year. And I think what we’re doing is helping mayors in cities understand that it’s literally right here, but your constituents have to understand it. We have to meet people where they are. So, like, you mentioned drones. Drones can be scary to some people, and it also can be helpful in the sense where you reduce congestion on the streets. Right? So there has to be a balance, and that’s the key. That’s why the integrated approach to cities is so important. I think what happened in the past – it was like the smart water meter, the smart parking meter. And those are really important, but if they’re not interoperable, a city ends up not knowing what the right hand’s doing with its left hand.

Rico [10:10 ]: Does that almost mean that you want, sort of a, you know, this – the UI, right? Universal integration, right? That’s the problem with a lot of these smart devices. You have the apple iHome, or you have the iHome, the Apple Home, you have all these devices – Alexa and stuff. Can they integrate together? Can we – is there a highway that we can all go on, if you will?

Aarti [10:36 ]: And so one great way to look at that, Rico, is – so a few years ago, the city of Columbus won the big smart city transportation – the smart city challenge that was issued by the DOT. And I think 83 cities applied, and the reason Columbus won is because women couldn’t get to the hospital on time to deliver their babies. And they came from a very human issue and decided that if they won the grant, they would then adjust how their roads and their emergency response and how their police operated. So when you think about integration the way you just said it, how do we take a human problem and then get everybody to participate on that highway so that we can clear it? And so what happened was they ended up changing their bike lanes and their emergency response. And they ended up addressing climate issues, right? Because now they put in electric buses, and they created bus lanes. So the city started to move better, the environment was better, but it required everyone to come together and do that. So the interoperability doesn’t actually have to be between the technology. It actually has to be between the groups that are workin to solve the problem.

Rico [11:47 ]: And would you say that, I think some people think you have to invest a lot. Some cities would have to invest a lot to get there. But maybe that’s not the case, right? You have infrastructure money anyway. To spend it wisely makes more sense, no?

Aarti [12:03 ]: Yeah, so I think financing is a major issue in the US because we don’t have public partnership models as robust as the rest of the world. Like, Canada and Australia are leading the way in those places. I think the US also has a lot of procurement issues and, like, how do you get from pilot to deployment. Those are all issues we’re covering at the conference. And so, you know, financing mechanisms are key, and I think a lot of the private sectors looking to help figure out new models.

Rico [12:38 ]: So who would you say are the – some of the key players that will be speaking at the expo?

Aarti [12:45 ]: That’s my favorite question – I have literally 250 speakers, and so many of them are people – you know, of course, we’re so honored to have the CEOs of Cox, the CEO of Suntrust, the CEO of the Atlanta Braves, and all for different reasons. The CEO of Cox is working on his commitment to sustainability and innovation. HE’s funded tech stars, he’s funded carbon lighthouse – or invested in carbon light house. The CEO of Suntrust is so focused on financial inclusion, public private partnerships. The CEO of Atlanta Braves is obviously also focused on public private partnerships – think about all of the technology that’s advancing consumer experience inside a stadium, right? So we have all of them – we’re thrilled. We’ve got TI coming in to talk about the importance of – you know, how do you drive economic development within our communities, and he’s doing an incredible job that way. We have John Hope Bryant who will be in conversation with TI. But then we also have a woman named Veronica Scott who runs the empowerment plan. Who created a jacket for people who are homeless that turns into a sleeping bag.

Rico [13:54 ]: Oh, wow.

Aarti [13:55 ]: We’ve got such extraordinary entrepreneurs and innovators. We have a guy who basically has created a coral that regenerates or is helping to regenerate coral reefs. We’ve got, you know, obviously the best of the best soft bank robotics. We’ve got Block Rock coming to talk about social impact. We’ve got Cisco and we’ve got Southern Company – our founding partner. And they are doing extraordinary work to enable the infrastructure for a city to be smart.

Rico [14:25 ]: Yeah, will some of these companies be part of the exhibitors also?

Aarti [14:29 ]: Yes. We have 50 plus exhibitors. My colleague Adam Lennon has done an extraordinary job. We’ve got two tiny houses. We’ve got eight different EV/AV vehicles. We actually have the first autonomous, electric truck in the world by Einride. Know that we’ve got drones, and I know that we’ve got Bird doing an activation. So when you think about – you asked earlier in the podcast about, you know, what to expect. I mean, the conversation is so comprehensive. It’s micromobility, but it’s also building a workforce that’s not just the future of work, but how do you build dignity into the future of work. We talk about economic mobility. I think for us, in reframing the narrative, we wanna talk about not just autonomous, electric and micromobility. We want to talk about social mobility, economic mobility. We want to talk about human capital alongside venture capital. And we want to make sure the infrastructure is equitable while it’s intelligent.

Rico [15:39 ]: That’s exciting. I think that, you know – I have a kid that goes to some high school who just started last year, right? And I own a magazine called Peachtree Corners Magazine, and our next story in the next issue is about technology in the school and how that works. That’s the high school that has four days of school and one digital day. And doing online work.You know, it’s interesting to see how young people use technology. And in the easiest way. Because they’re growing up in that environment and don’t know different. So how – are there any exhibits or anything along the way that you can talk about that?

Aarti [16:20 ]: Well, you talked about young people and I’m so glad that you brought them up. For us, smart city is defined by every generation. So we actually have a Harvard debate, diversity council scholars, four high school seniors coming in to talk about how they envision the future of cities. We have people with disabilities being represented. We have the top – we have top disability commissioners in the country from Chicago, New York and LA coming to talk about – what does it mean to build an inclusive city? And the reason I bring it up is because, in New York City, the – to cross the street, it’s about 22 seconds, which is based on a 22 year old, white male. Now, think about the fact that, if you have a disability, or you’re a parent with a stroller, right? The city wasn’t designed for it to be accessible. And so, we have the youth, we have a lot of – we’re really focused on gender issues. Women leading smart cities. And we’re also making sure that minority communities are represented. And, just to go back to your STEM question again, I think the key for us is, you know, kids especially have new ways of learning and acting. And they’re almost like, they get to leap frog into the future, right? They don’t have the legacy issues that we do when working with technology. But when they find a real, life way of experiencing it, they’re inspired. So, like, a lot of kids in hip hop, for example, they learned about Nipsey Hussle Smart store out in LA. What happened to Nipsey was tragic and all of those things, but he – a lot of innovation is coming from these young people in the streets, and if we can harness them in a way that’s safe and exciting so it’s like, when they’re learning STEM, they can see the real life application for it, that’s a lot more exciting.

Rico [18:21 ]: I would think. And you’re right, I mean, they’re using technology at this point, so they’re not afraid of it. You have older people, and I’m sure in the cities across this country, there are a lot of older people, if you will, that are in positions of power. And I saw this when Congress originally – I think it was about a year ago – one of the communities talked about security online with Google and Facebook and stuff, and the questions they were asking were so out of pace with the real world. It was scary that these people actually – you would think that if given the right questions to ask. It just didn’t sound right. And so those are the people that have to be convinced that smart technology can be a great investment over a period of time. And they shouldn’t be looking short term, and the United States is very local oriented, as far as cars, right? We built our highways after World War II, I mean. If you look at Europe and other countries – Kyoto and other cities around the world – they don’t have a lot of cars, but they also have a lot of bikes. There’s a human traffic a lot different from – very different from here. Manhattan – I used to live in Brooklyn – in Manhattan, you wouldn’t want to cross the street because that bike is riding fast by, or that yellow cab was gonna, you know, cut the traffic or something. So, technology is a big thing. As far as the cities go, as far as the young people go in this building, are there other things we should be looking forward to at this expo?

Aarti [19:58 ]: Yeah. Well first of all, the opening at Peachtree Corners is very exciting, right? That speaks to everything that we’re doing because – to have the, I believe, it’s the second 1.5 mile autonomous test track in the country in Georgia. And basically, they’re saying, for free, we invite all these innovators to come and test their pilots and their innovations. I mean, that’s what people are looking for. And to have it powered – the 5G powered by Sprint. I mean, if we’re gonna get these kids inspired and take them out of the classroom and be able to have them demo their work, then that’s really important for us. And I think that’s what’s happening in the rest of the world is – you know, you talked about urban planning and cities and, you know, we just have to have a design of what we want our cities to look like. And have people move in that direction.

Rico [20:53 ]: I think so, too. It does take foresight. I know that when the city first started, that they had in mind that doing this – developing a smart city. So, they really put into their budget. They had forethought about doing that. And they had also an understanding, Brian Johnson city manager, the mayor and the council – an understanding that you want to be able to provide this environment – Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners – in a free way. Because it does provide economic impact on the city as well. So, you know, there is that. But I think being able to get ahead of this, because a lot of other cities will be looking at doing the same thing now, in the next decade or so. I mean we have Michigan that’s planning now. And so it’s exciting to see all of that, you know? You have Tesla moving forward with all the stuff they’re doing.

Aarti [21:47 ]: And the rest – I mean, you asked about some of the other people. I mean, one we’re really honored by is, first of all, the support from the private sector and the public sector. But we have almost ten mayors coming from across the country, and I – mayor of Honolulu to the mayor of Denver to the mayor of Montgomery, the mayor of Newark. And they’re all so different, and yet they have the same challenges. And to see how they’re addressing them, to see how they’re – I mean, we have the President of the US Conference of mayors – Mayor Barnett of Rochester Hills. And he, like so many other mayors, are excited about autonomous mobility because of the fact that – you know, most people don’t frame it this way. Autonomous mobility is going to help move people with disabilities and the elderly. And think about the impact that that will have in those communities, right? So they’re already embracing the innovation. The US Conference of Mayors – their platform is infrastructure, innovation and inclusion. And those are their three pillars. And the mayors are really rallying around it.

Rico [22:53 ]: You know what I like about this, Aarti? Is that you’re providing – the expo is not just, alright you have a lot of speakers, you have a lot of exhibitors. But it’s also providing a place for people to meet, to brainstorm, really. Because they’re gonna be talking about all sorts of things, and I know from experience and from listening to others that you start one way, and you wind up somewhere else, right? So mobile, mobility, having an autonomous vehicle – can that happen in five years or ten years? Maybe the delivery aspect of autonomous vehicles. Maybe the non person in the car, if you will. The pizza delivery for lack of a better way of looking at it, may happen sooner than, let’s say, a passenger riding for, you know, without having a steering wheel, practically. Like in, was it Blade Runner was the movie? So, I mean, that – that part might be a little further out, cause you have to build 5G – 

Aarti [23:48 ]: Not as far out as you think, which is really the fascinating part of it. We’re not Dubai, where we have drone taxis, you know? Because they can sort of put up whatever they want in the air. But I will tell you that in conversation with former FAA advisors, they will tell you it’s right around the corner, and I’m sure, you know, Elaine Chao – Secretary Chao – she likes to use the word “self-driving”, not driverless. And they are, you know, putting in policies for that. Because you think about the stretch of roads across America, right? Just the trucking, like – you can – that’s why we have the first autonomous, electric truck to join us. I mean, they’re – it’s not that far. They’re changing FAA regulations for drones. Is it a little awkward? Yeah. Like, I was sitting outside of a friend’s place. There was a drone overhead, and I felt quite upset. Like, I felt so violated. But at the same time, if there is a way to start maximizing the air and, you know, creating more public space on the ground, that’s interesting. So, I don’t know the ramification.

Rico [24:54 ]: No no no. I agree with you. There are so many aspects to it. You have counties, you have cities, you have states, federal government – federal highway, state highway, state streets. I mean, there’s so many regulations that have to come into bear on this. And then the technology, like Sprint, I mean. There’s only certain amount of places that 5G enabled Sprint, right? Enabled areas and Sprint is one of the companies doing it. But one of the companies doing it with us in Technology Park, where our track is at. And so, because you really can’t have autonomous vehicles without that 5G – 

Aarti [25:29 ]: Right, with the infrastructure.

Rico [25:30] : So, just a lot of stuff. A lot of interesting – it’s almost like sci-fi in a way, but it’s really not because it’s almost like near future, what’s gonna happen.

Aarti [25:39 ]: Right, right. And I think it’s so important communicating that to the public. They should feel part of it. That’s why I used the basketball example, like, if they understood the technology could benefit them – yes, there’s a lot of issues around it. I’ll be the first to say, predictive analytics, the criminal justice space – things like that are major issues. But, you know, the one thing Europe has is GDPR, which we don’t have in terms of privacy, which, you know, scares people. And rightfully so. So I think that there are issues around that. But, you know, part of this is what you said. It’s to have a dialogue, for people to understand and to reframe their thinking. And to help people understand that they, too, have a role in the 21st century.

Rico [26:22 ]: Yeah, I think as much as Americans believe that we’re exceptional to a degree, and that we sort of drive technology or the future in some way, there’s a lot of different thinking outside the US. Right? Europeans, with their privacy – and some of the American companies are adopting anyway, because they know it’s gonna come this way. And then you have a place like Japan with robotics because of their aging population. Now, how do you handle that, you know? People think robots like arms and legs, but it doesn’t have to be. Could be a box, I mean, it’s whatever it needs to be. So great stuff. If someone wants to be able to attend, this is over the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th?

Aarti [27:05 ]: No, it’s the 11th, 12th and 13th and the Georgia World Congress Center. Tickets can be purchased at www.SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com. I literally just dated myself because your child would just say SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com, and I put the “www” in front of it. And, but you know, they can reach out to us at info@SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com. We’re happy to answer any questions. If people would like to attend the exhibit or are just curious, we love to engage and have them be part of this community. 

Rico [27:41 ]: What about – can they follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook?

Aarti [27:49 ]: Yes, at @SCAtl and #SCAtl, I believe, are the handles. My team might kill me that I don’t know that off the bat, but I do believe that those are it. And maybe you could post it when you post this.

Rico [28:06 ]: I think you are right. I think that is correct. And in fact, in the show notes, when people are listening to the podcast on this and on YouTube, I’ll have it in the links below, so feel free to look through that. And I’ll tag the Facebook page when this is up and going.

Aarti [28:22 ]: Perfect. And can I just – yes. And I’ll send you a link. Perfect, great.

Rico [28:29 ]: So I’m gonna sign off, but you hang in there with me, Aarti. Thank you everyone for being with us. This is an interview with Aarti Tandon, CEO and co-founder of Smart City Expo Atlanta. My name is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine. Find us at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

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