REMOVING THE MASK: THE JOURNEY TO SELF-DISCOVERY

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For yet another successful monthly program, The Commerce Club Conglomerate presented Club Members and guests with intriguing speakers geared toward engaging the entrepreneurial and small business communities of Metro Atlanta. John Fenton, Master, BMC, BEL, MBA, and CEO, of the newly founded Roswell Body and Brain Center, spoke, along with friend and moderator Dana Barrett, business commentator, social critic, and host of The Dana Barrett Show (Atlanta’s biz 1190 AM WAFS). Both had great advice for the audience about how to truly harness the passion of the entrepreneur spirit.

Fenton, a retired CPA, recounted a moment, years earlier, when he had been walking through the streets of Atlanta, mulling over his life’s work and the void he felt inside each day. Though a partner with his company and remarkably successful in his career by outside standards, he was slowly coming to the conclusion that a cushy nine to five, a suit and tie, and a nice salary were just not enough to lead to happiness and a sense of fulfillment. He knew innately there had to be something more.

“I had a lot of anxiety, I was always looking ahead,” shared Fenton. “I was also very good at compartmentalizing things [in my life], but not good at integrating.”

There was also the anger.

“We grow up putting masks on our face in order to survive.” Instead, he wondered, “Why can’t we just be ourselves? This made me angry. I used a lot of the anger in my life to achieve what I wanted.”

These feelings – the anxiety, the disbelief, and the disillusion with corporate America – compiled and led to the epiphany that he was indeed missing the mark. It was mankind that was the real business Fenton wanted to be about. Helping people develop their self-confidence, contributing to a greater good, these were things that truly mattered.

Within months, Fenton explained that the idea to give back, to help others, married with his newfound interest in traditional Eastern practices (Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, to name a few) sparked a small vision. Around the same time, a fortuitous meeting with a certified Tai Chi instructor, one who helped Fenton learn to manage his stress levels and frustrations, helped the spark to grow.

Referring to his adoration of Tai Chi, which he himself is now proudly a master of, Fenton explained, “It’s a martial art, but it’s an artful art. Through my own self-discovery, I realized I could do this for other people. Balance means give and take. I could bring to it my business background.”

And that’s precisely what he did. Realizing that he had spent his entire adult life helping companies, Fenton realized that it would not be too far of a stretch to instead begin channeling his energies toward helping people, individuals.

Taking his vision, his love for martial arts, and his business expertise, John (Bijun) Fenton transformed these things into a tangible dream, founding, just north of Atlanta, the Roswell Body and Brain Center.

The Center, which offers classes, private instruction, and/or workshops designed to help with core strengthening, weight management, flexibility, stress relief, and relaxation, among others, has helped Fenton find real purpose.

“I see so many people dealing with stress and the effects of stress,” Fenton continued. “Doctors say 80% of illness is caused by stress. It’s important for our survival, how we react. Stress helps you grow!”

Using the unique story of his life journey, along with his skill set, to assist clients – especially those plagued with work-related stresses similar to those he confronted in his own career – brings Fenton immense joy.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Plan. Do. Check. And correct the action if you need to. Every time I get the opportunity to share with other people who are in the same boat as I am, I will,” he concluded.

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Mission Statement

“The Commerce Club Conglomerate (CCC) was created in 2014 for Club Members and their guests as an assimilation of small businesses, their owners, employees, as well as their patrons and supporters to aid, assist, educate, and engage the small business sector. Understanding that small enterprises account for 52 percent of all U.S. workers, the CCC also recognizes the role that small business plays in our overall economic stability. The CCC serves to celebrate this strength by working to build and grow its businesses and leaders both in the Atlanta and global marketplaces.”

The Commerce Club Conglomerate, one of several “clubs within a club” at The Commerce Club, Atlanta’s premier private business club, meets monthly and always feature a dynamic speaker or speakers who present intriguing and relevant topics.

For reservations or to find out how to become involved with this group, please call 404.222.0191 or email Member Relations Coordinator Anna Chafen (Anna.Chafen@ourclub.com), Chair Kevin McGee Kevin@avidentrepreneurship.com), or Vice-Chair Sheri Riley (Sheri@sheririley.com).

Innovators, Trailblazers, Start-ups, Entrepreneurs, Up-and-Comers, and More…

If This is You, You Won’t Want to Miss!

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THE BUSINESS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

2014's Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope by Julia Immonen

2014’s Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope by Julia Immonen

“I’m ashamed to say that I was more into shoes and handbags, into me, myself and I, than others.” So lamented Julia Immonen to an audience of Commerce Club members and guests at their recent “Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope” event, held to raise awareness about the fastest growing crime in the world, the trafficking of human beings.

“I grew up in an ordinary home. Charitable things, helping others, were not on my radar,” she confessed. Not on her radar, that is, until she saw the 2008 movie Taken. Not realizing the movie was based on a true story, Inman stated she still left the theater feeling stunned. Later, when she found out the horrifying truth, that slavery, with 27 million currently in bondage around the world, is indeed alive and well, she knew she had to do something.

The idea, to do something to tell the whole world about modern-day trafficking, to assist in seeing the end of slavery in her lifetime, was spawned. When a friend joked that that “something” should be to row across the entire Atlantic Ocean, a feat that is considered to be the world’s toughest rowing race, she conceded.

“I signed up to do it as if I were agreeing to go have coffee at Starbucks with some girlfriends,” the curly headed blond, who had no prior rowing experience, joked to her audience.

Not long after assembling a team of young women to accompany her on the seven meter boat for the proposed feat, the sobering reality sank in that their journey would be anything but a joke.

She proudly pointed out, “More people have been to outer space than have rowed the Atlantic!”

Even the trip’s planning process was intense. In preparation, each of the women added about 14-15 pounds of muscle; signed up for rowing classes at their local gyms; took crash courses in astrology (to learn how to navigate the open seas using only the sun, moon and stars as guidance); and made six weeks’ worth of daily food packages, each containing the calories that would be needed to replenish the eight to 10 thousand that would be burned individually each day.

Despite the attention to detail in advance, Immonen stated that nothing on earth could have prepared her for the mental battle that lay ahead.

“I cried for the first ten days. It just took your breath away.”

Another rower was seasick for 30 of the 45 days that the journey lasted. And each felt ill-equipped for the tasks at hand – the never-ending rowing (the women were on a continuous cycle of “row for two hours, sleep for two hours”), hand pumping water to drink, overcoming technical difficulties (“anything that could break, broke”), and, finally, coping with the loss of approximately one-third of their food supply when, early in the journey, the boat tipped on its edge and many of its contents, including the food packages, were lost to the sea.

Each time she felt like giving up to despair, Immonen would pull from strength she did not previously know that she had, strength from deep inside, to keep her hope alive.

“We had to realize the setbacks will come. The challenges. I felt ill-equipped. But sheer grit – attitude mixed with a lot of passion – these things got me through. Sometimes a shooting star at night would just keep you going.”

Other times, focusing on the enormous responsibility she had to the men, women, and children for whom she rowed was drive enough to force her to continue the daunting task.

“At some point I realized I have the freedom to get off of this boat [when we land] in Barbados, if I choose. My pain paled in significance [to those in slavery].”

Get off the boat she did. With legs wobbling, unable to support her own body’s weight after so many weeks aboard the small craft, Immonen, and the other heroic women, landed on the coast of Barbados, 45 days after having set sail from Canaries, crying, sobbing and celebrating, as they embraced their friends and loved ones.

“I was absolutely over the moon,” she remembered. “It took a few days for it to sink in what we’d actually achieved.”

That achievement, not only to set what now stands as a Guinness Book World Record, but, most importantly, to capture the attention of the world’s media (who, in turn, pressure our nations’ policy makers), shot human trafficking to the forefront of many minds and to the top of many headlines.

With all of the news coverage, the conversation, one that is certainly nothing new (remarkably, a book was published in 1910 titled “Stop the Trafficking of Our Girls”), began to change.

What had once been the unsexy, unpopular topic – awkward and avoided, talked about very little, if at all – burst forth onto the public scene after the much publicized row for freedom. From all corners of the globe, facts and statistics began pouring forth:

  • Human trafficking is, first and foremost, a business of supply and demand.
  • One child forced to beg earns a human trafficker an average of $100,000 per year.
  • One underage girl forced into sex trafficking can earn her pimp an average of $33,000 per week.
  • Trafficking has become a 150 billion dollar global industry. That is more than the US banking system, Google, and big oil are worth combined.

Sobering statistics, especially when we realize they affect where each of us lives and works every day.

“I bring the global perspective,” continued Immonen. “It’s on our doorsteps in the UK. October 18 is now anti-slavery day. It’s becoming something more people talk about globally.”

People are talking about it, the trafficking of living human beings for profit, not just internationally, but at home as well.

Did you know that trafficking can look like a lot of different things, for instance? Sex trafficking resonates with a lot of women, reiterated Cheryl DeLuca Johnson, President and CEO of Georgia’s non-profit StreetGrace, which works closely with the State to bring an end to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) and who presented along with Immonen, but it can look very different, too. It can be as simple as our state’s agriculture laborers. Many of the supply chains of our leading supermarkets are littered with slavery.

As with most things which we desire to change, Johnson explained, we must begin with awareness. Until we face the facts, we cannot move forward.

Did you know?

  • In Georgia alone, 290 million dollars will be spent on sex trafficking.
  • 7,200 men per month will knowingly or unknowingly purchase an underage child in Georgia.
  • 42% of these purchases will be made north of the Perimeter.

Dwelling on these numbers can seem overwhelming and discouraging. However, Johnson urged the audience to take them all in. If we could change just our one city, she pointed out, we would affect the global demand.

“If you don’t know what’s happening, you can’t do anything to change it. And,” she continued, quoting the Dalai Lama, “if you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!”

“We are trying to change the thinking of an entire society. These numbers will not change until the demand is gone. We need to get the men involved if we are to end this,” reminded Johnson frankly. “We must build a culture that respects women and children.”

Each of us can begin doing this right where we are. Like Immonen, whose boldness and braveness ultimately landed her a place as a World Record holder, a torch bearer in the 2012 Olympic Games, and a published author, we must simply be willing to take a stand.

“Do whatever you’re good at, for freedom,” she urged her audience in closing. “A group of stay-at-home moms baked cupcakes and raised 16,000 European pounds! I’m willing to do whatever it takes, literally even give my life to stop human trafficking. I’m so glad my life is on a different path. It has purpose and meaning now.”

What will you do for freedom?

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IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW

The Commerce Club Conglomerate meets the first Wednesday of every month to help small business grow!

The Commerce Club Conglomerate meets the first Wednesday of every month!

No, really. We’ve each heard it a thousand times before, but what we are learning about the tried-and-true cliché is that it works. To get ahead, to advance one’s self, to succeed, is to know the right person.

Whether they gave you early motivation, presented you with your first opportunity, steered you in the right direction when things got tough, or helped develop you as you grew into something more, no man is an island unto himself, and we cannot get along, much less get along well, without our fellow man.

Representatives from Atlanta, Georgia’s Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (or simply MAC) were quick to point out that a huge component of what they do – their focus on the retention and expansion of companies throughout the metro area – is to form and cultivate those relationships.

“Every day I get to work, I spend almost all of my time helping others to get connected. I literally spend all day long connecting people who I feel need to be connected. It’s all about the connections,” enthused Nancy Wright-Whatley, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development at MAC since 2010 and a huge generator of new business development opportunities in the state as she works to connect small and large businesses together.

Whatley, along with Katie Kirkpatrick, Senior Vice President of Policy, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, continued, touching on many of the various ways that the two work tirelessly at MAC to:

  • Generate new business development opportunities for small business members;
  • Facilitate connections between businesses and universities to ignite job creation and innovation;
  • Cultivate startups;
  • Accelerate job growth through strengethening partnerships between higher education and area businesses;
  • Promote metro Atlanta as a center for innovation, entrepreneurship, and higher education; and
  • Improve the business climate and quality of life by focusing on core infrastructure and human capital needs such as education, workforce, transportation and environment.

How, exactly, do they accomplish all of this?

“We do a lot of programming around how to be better business owners. We work on an education side – presentation skills, etc.,” explained Kirkpatrick. “We also work with a lot of big companies,” she continued. “We ask them, ‘What do you need and how do you need it?’ Know your value proposition – know who buys what you sell and then let’s get you connected. MAC helps you be prepared for that big customer.”

Presenting to a Commerce Club Conglomerate audience made up almost entirely of small business owners and entrepreneurs, both women were eager to share their passion for their work, work that is essential to the nearly 150,000 businesses that currently call Atlanta home.

Explaining that a five-year strategy update at MAC initially meant admitting that there was a void, a neglect of the entrepreneurial community, Whatley and Kirkpatrick shared that the Chamber is now deeply invested in engaging that ecosystem, in doing whatever it takes to make small businesses happy and to help members get a return on their investment.

Like fiery stars shooting across an inky sky, Whatley continued pelting the rest of MAC’s informative presentation with nuggets of sound business advice.

Along with encouraging those in business for themselves to always tell a story (“It helps people remember; it knits the fabric together. And please, don’t try to sell me anything!”), the energetic blond also praised the classic elevator pitch.

“There are a lot of people today who can’t even tell you what they do; when people can do that, they can go far.”

The meeting concluded with advice that came full circle.

“It’s important to understand the importance of connectiong people. People want to know you. You have to develop those relationships. Come. Be seen. Be known. Tell people what organization you are with. Network. You have to give [of yourself]. It’s like putting money in a bank. Those connections are so important.”

At the end of the day, confessed Whatley, without them it’s nearly impossible to make it.

“People want to do business with people they know and like. You’ll fall into a big blackhole otherwise.”

Blackholes aside, it’s really not rocket science, she concluded.

“Get involved. Meet people. Help people. One connection at a time – it works.”

Ever made a connection that made a huge difference in your career? Had someone come along who gave you the leg up that you needed? We want to hear about it! Comment below.

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To learn more about MAC and what they are busy doing for our city, please visit www.metroatlantachamber.com

The Commerce Club Conglomerate, a vibrant group of up-and-comers, startups, entrepreneurs and more, meets monthly to discuss growth strategies and small business throughout the city. Come be a part of the lively discussion. New speakers every month. Dialogue and questions welcome!

404.222.0191 or Anna.Chafen@ourclub.com for inquiries or reservations.

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WEDDING BELLS ARE RINGING!

The embodiment of elegance at The Commerce Club, Atlanta

The embodiment of elegance at The Commerce Club, Atlanta

Bouquets are being tossed, wedding bells are ringing, and brooms are being jumped quite frequently at The Commerce Club these days. Known for their outstanding, luxe amenities, the Club, located in the heart of Downtown Atlanta, is a vibrant hub for business activity throughout the year.

Increasingly, however, one also finds a buzz of less corporate-related activity. Wedding ceremonies, just one component of the ever-growing wedding industry empire that generates $40 billion dollars annually, are being conducted on a very regular basis high atop the city – on the 49th floor overlooking beautiful Peachtree Street, to be precise.

With on-site catering services, unique LED lighting capabilities, and views to die for, it’s no surprise that so many are opting to exchange their vows in the exquisite, expansive ballroom of the Club. Being able to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for their friends and families gives these brides and grooms something memorable to take with them into their bright and promising futures together.

Along with its dazzling facilities, the Club boasts of an impeccable Private Events team that can assist clients with planning the details of their forthcoming nuptials from A to Z. From vendor referrals to linen requests, the exemplary staff is sure to satisfy any and all questions that inquiring minds want to know.

Time and again, testimony shows that working with any of these three, Rafael Mendoza, Mesita Partridge, or Shawna Torkington, proves to be a piece of (wedding) cake.

“I have thanked you all a million times and you know how incredibly happy we are! You not only came through as promised but you have exceeded all expectations that we had!” expressed one pleased guest after a wedding held recently at the Club.

For additional pictures and more information about how The Commerce Club can help take your wedding, one of approximately 2.5 million that will be held throughout the United States this year, to new heights, visit:

www.commerceclubatlanta.com

www.weddingwire.com

and

www.occasions.com

For additional details or appointments call:

404.222.0191

References: Wikipedia.org

THE COMMERCE CLUB CONGLOMERATE PRESENTS INSPERITY, A PLATFORM FOR PROFITABILITY

At their most recent meeting to discuss small business growth, The Commerce Club Conglomerate welcomed special guest speakers from Insperity: Inspiring Business Performance

At their most recent meeting to discuss small business growth, The Commerce Club Conglomerate welcomed special guest speakers from Insperity: Inspiring Business Performance

Consultive, advising, engaging – just a few adjectives which accurately describe Insperity, an organization that “provides human resource services to small and medium-sized businesses.” With over 100,000 employees across the country, this industry-leading HR service provider is more than equipped to assist companies such as Netflix and JibJab in their passionate pursuit of success.

What makes them unique, though, is not merely their streamlined approach to tackling business management tasks but their willingness to see the potential held by every company, large or small. Boasting the ability to service companies with as few as five employees or as many as 5,000 makes Insperity different from the majority of its competitors who typically work strictly with larger, more established start-ups.

Attendees at the Commerce Club Conglomerate’s (CCC) recent luncheon with special guest speakers Chris Sloan and Cindy Wood, both with Insperity, readily agreed, claiming that it is often challenging to find a company able to meet so many of the early needs of entrepreneurs.

Sitting in front of approximately 200-300 of these small to medium-sized businesses per year, Insperity is perfectly positioned to learn how to tweak their distinctive model for approaching business successfully.

“You got into small business for a reason – no red tape, no bureaucracy,” applauded Sloan. But, he gently reminded, if you can’t take care of your employees, who, he insisted, are your “brand,” you will undoubtedly fail.

“Let’s face it. Employees can quickly sink your ship. Slow to hire, quick to fire. It’s a good approach as a business owner. You have to let people know where they sit, where they stand.”

It may sound harsh, but, Sloan argued, is actually healthy for any company who truly desires to grow.

Healthy for employees too.

“Human beings want accountability. They want a track to run on. No turnover is a big problem. There’s nothing wrong with turnover, as long as it’s good turnover.”

Those employees, your staff, your “team” as Commerce Club Member and attendee Ruby Brown affectionately called them, are an important piece of the economic puzzle, too.

According to Insperity, our country is currently undergoing a major transformation. Sloan explained that, though market conditions were employer driven in the early 2000s, a dramatic shift is taking place today. The pendulum, much like it did during the late 1990s, is no longer in favor of the employer but, rather, has swung the other direction, ultimately producing a market that is, again, employee driven. Much of this climate change is a result of recent technological advances.

Sloan elaborated, “The internet has changed so many things. We are now in the Age of the Consumer. The Age of the Seller is gone. Even the cultural workplace has completely changed. You have a different type of person coming into the workforce with different expectations.”

Being able to adapt, to meet those expectations, is vital to any company’s ability to thrive and survive.

“We’re really excited about the entrepreneurs’ world right now,” noted Mona Harty, President & CEO of PSR Associates, Inc., a hugely successful IT consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. “But, as entrepreneurs, we have to be flexible.”

Other participants, financial consultants, rental property owners, producers for television, and many more, all nodding their heads, concurred.

“I’m working for myself now. I make my dreams come true, and, now, I’m happy, really happy,” smiled Eagle’s Landing country club member and Commerce Club guest Mae Meyer.

Alan Rolnick, another attendee from the luncheon, shared similar testimony of his decision to open his company, Decision Makers Software.

“I stopped practicing law to follow what I was really passionate about.”

Hearing all of the stories in the Club’s Ivan-Allen Boardroom, it became quickly apparent that the challenge faced by most start-ups was not the entrepreneur him/herself, nor was it their lack of willingness to try new things, but rather, a simple lack of information.

“How do you create a culture of engagement?” prompted Sloan as he encouraged owners to dig a little deeper, to look past the passion they, perhaps alone, feel. “How do you get your employees to see your vision? By getting them to want to be successful with you.”

Tricky? Yes. Impossible? Certainly not.

“How do you get more out of the people you have?” he posed. “Companies have figured out how to squeeze every widget they have except for their most valuable asset – their employees.”

Leveraging this asset is not nearly as difficult as some may have suggested, offered Sloan.

“I always get the most out of people because I genuinely care. I roll up my sleeves. I get dirty. I care about people. I want them to be productive.”

Caring.

Kindness.

Empathy.

Encouragement.

Affirming the age-old adage that it really is the little things that matter most, Insperity helped demonstrate that the ability to achieve profitability is not beyond the reach of any business, whether new or old, large or small.

To learn more about small business growth in today’s market, join us every FIRST WEDNESDAY of the month at noon for a special guest speaker and lively discussion. Questions and dialogue welcome. 404.222.0191 for reservations.

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The Commerce Club

191 Peachtree Street

49th Floor

Atlanta, GA 30303

CAN I GET A WITNESS?

Pictured: The Commerce Club Atlanta's proud Employee Partners, Octavio Meza, Maitre d' Rasool Hassan, and Gabriella Green

Pictured: The Commerce Club Atlanta’s Employee Partners, Octavio Meza, Maitre d’ Rasool Hassan, and Gabriella Green, in the Club’s Maynard-Jackson Room

Autobiographies. First-hand accounts. Testimonies. Whatever one is pursuing, there is nothing more satisfying than getting the facts straight from the source, the honey from the hive. Business, in Atlanta or elsewhere, is no exception.

Sites like Yelp!, Trip Advisor, and Angie’s List, not to mention the roughly 400 or so social media platforms that are in use today, provide reviews that can quickly make or break a company’s reputation. We are living in the day of the consumer (the skeptical consumer, if we are to be entirely honest). Big business knows it no longer runs the show, and good, authentic feedback, unforced, can often do as much for a company – maybe more so – than can a flashy, big-budget ad campaign.

There’s something about the customer review. Genuine. Raw. Untouched by photoshop and marketing teams, it speaks volumes. People prefer to look at a friend’s twelve-point font, two-sentence review than a blaring billboard that clutters the pristine skyline of one’s morning commute. A comment about a great, local restaurant, dropped casually into conversation like spare change, is much more convincing to a potential consumer than a throwaway, here-today-gone-tomorrow newspaper insert, than our culture’s fast-paced, slick TV commercials, a cacophony that bombards the overwhelmed, though underimpressed, senses.

Armed with the magnitude of this information, it is no wonder companies in this day and age’s competitive markets covet buyers’ feedback so much. Where there is expected to be any amount of success to come, comment boxes, survey links, and customer review cards must abound.

For The Commerce Club, unarguably a leader in the hospitality industry, this is the rule rather than the exception, and has been for some time now. Club Members, each valued enough to be known by name, are quite regularly encouraged by staff to share their experiences with the entire team.

General Manager Everrett Butler shared this recently with a group of new Members at their Orientation luncheon, “Let us know when we don’t meet your expectations. We don’t ask for these comments so that we can chastise our employee partners. We use each incident, any missteps, as training opportunities to continue to perform better.”

Listening 101. The simplest of methodologies, tried and true, works.

But, of course, it would be hypocritical if I said you had to take my word for it. See for yourself.

“Mr. Rasool [Hassan] was excellent as always. His kind words, memory and social grace impress each guest I have brought to the club. Octavio [Meza] was attentive but not overwhelming, and Gabriella [Green] provided a wonderful description of the dessert menu. I’m a very happy member.”

These gracious words, shared with The Commerce Club by Member John Montgomery, an Atlanta-based financial consultant, are quite indicative of the precise type of familial atmosphere that the Club strives to create daily. In short, it’s nothing less than what we expect.

ClubCorp, the world leader in private clubs and the network to which The Commerce Club belongs, entrusts each of its Employee Partners with the priviliged responsibility to ignite Warm Welcomes, Magic Moments, and Fond Farewells for all of the hundreds of thousands of guests that enjoy their 200+ clubs worldwide each year.

When these guests take the time to share with us, even briefly, that we are doing just that, and doing that well, there is no prouder feeling to be had.

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER!

Dikembe Mutombo, featured second from right, with Commerce Club Employee Partners Rasool Hassan (left), Victor Scholes (right), and Member Charmaine Ward (second from left)

Dikembe Mutombo, featured second from right, with Commerce Club Employee Partners Rasool Hassan (left), Victor Scholes (right), and Member Charmaine Ward (second from left)

At 7 feet 2 inches tall, it was hard to miss this towering, smiling gentleman as he strolled through the Commerce Club’s lobby a few days ago. Members and staff alike were thrilled to see Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, or simply Mutombo, the celebrated basketball star, who made a visit to the renowned Peachtree Street business Club while in Atlanta.

Like many of the Club’s invaluable Members, Mutombo has made a name for himself for both his successes in his career as well as for his philanthropic work. This humanitarian work, done predominantly in Africa, was recognized when Mutombo was awarded honorary doctorates by the State University of New York College, Georgetown University, and, most recently, Haverford College.

The Commerce Club, part of the ClubCorp network, was greatly pleased to host Mutombo, as he truly exemplifies so much of what the Club has come to stand for – hard work, success, and, always, paying it forward.

“Developing Leaders of Today and Tomorrow for the City of Atlanta”

Sources: Wikipedia

MOREHOUSE COLLEGE CLUB WITHIN A CLUB

Morehouse College Alumni Association

Morehouse College Alumni Association

Morehouse College (MC), one of several of Atlanta’s unique Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is a signature of the city. The alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Director Spike Lee, Republican Herman Cain, and Actor Samuel L. Jackson, among many others, and one of two historically black colleges to produce Rhodes Scholars, the school has much to be proud of. Founded in 1867, just a couple of years after the Civil War, the school has survived when many others like it have not. Part of the reason it has held on – and held on strong – is because of the type of leaders that the school produces.

The private, all-male, liberal arts college purposes itself to create not just intellectual graduates but graduates of character as well. With an emphasis on developing the entire man, and ranked in 2010 as one of America’s Most Grueling Colleges by the Huffington Post, the college delivers graduates who go on to impact not just the surrounding city and state but who make lasting marks on our nation as a whole.

The Commerce Club, Atlanta, is pleased to partner with such a great institution, proudly hosting those affiliated with MC for a networking breakfast every final Friday of each month. The most recent of these, held August 29, and just in time for football season, was especially appealing to alumni, faculty, and guests. Andre Patillo, the current Morehouse College Athletic Director (though he began at the school as a Director of Admissions), stopped by to give an update on the school’s athletic program and was well received by all.

“Athletics, right now, is a significant thread of the overall Morehouse experience,” explained Patillo, who sees the two as inseparable. “You can’t have Morehouse without athletics.”

A graduate of the school himself (class of 1979), Patillo should know. After more than 34 years of being affiliated with MC, he has defined his life’s work as developing these young men, these athletes.

“My main goal,” he continued, “is to provide a positive environment for student athletes at Morehouse. Every decision I make is for the benefit of the student athlete first.”

With passion like this, it is easy to see why these young males, Morehouse’s students, become so attached to their school and its leaders. Certainly, for many, the experiences they are given, by these same role models, they might not receive elsewhere.

“It gives me great joy to expose my athletes to travel. For instance, to the NFL stadiums – for a smaller, liberal arts school to be able to get into these venues, is amazing.”

Patillo’s enthusiasm is palpable in its sincerity. Earnest. It’s how one would describe not just the Athletic Director, but all of the alums in attendance for the program. Their genuineness, kindness, draws one in, makes one want to be a part, to engage, even if one has no ties to the school directly.

The group’s Chair, Jonathan Dudley, elaborated on this feeling of camaraderie.

“It’s about engagement, learning to engage in a different space, to have more informal conversation. That’s our goal for these opportunities [at the Commerce Club].”

He was quick to clarify that the engaging was meant for both alumni (“…to continue to serve as a connecting point between the school and the city…”) as well as those not formally affiliated with the institution (“It’s not just an observatory breakfast. We hope people will want to collaborate.”)

This desire for collaboration is another reason why the school has been – and will continue to be – a success. Questions like Why are we needed? How are we helpful? keep the college relevant to the conversation at hand.

To be a part of the conversation, or to find out more about The Commerce Club’s work with Morehouse College and others (i.e., Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Emory University, etc.) throughout the city, check out our webpage www.commerceclubatlanta.com, or give us a call at 404.222.0191.

Developing Leaders of Today and Tomorrow for the City of Atlanta

August 29, 2014 - Andre Patillo, Morehouse College Athletic Director, fourth from right, and other graduates from the Atlanta school

August 29, 2014 – Andre Patillo, Morehouse College Athletic Director, fourth from right, and other graduates from the Atlanta school

THE COMMERCE CLUB CONGLOMERATE: Where Small Business Comes to Grow

 THE COMMERCE CLUB CONGLOMERATE

Featuring Dave Moody, CEO,
C.D. Moody Construction

A recognized leader in the construction industry, C.D. Moody Construction has been delivering quality projects since 1988.

A recognized leader in the construction industry, C.D. Moody Construction has been delivering quality projects since 1988.

If you visit C.D. Moody Construction’s website, you would notice that their “History” section reads more like a page from a motivational, self-help manual than the chronological timeline one would expect. Much like the way its CEO speaks when presenting to an audience, the site is peppered with words and phrases like “people business,” “community involvement,” “relationships,” and “vision,” to name a few. The company boasts the tagline, “We are leaders building quality…” This is not just a clever advertising ploy, however, but tried and true testimony; for after you have met the company’s founder, who recently paid a visit to The Commerce Club, Atlanta’s premier business and civic club, you can’t help but to identify the man and his company as one and the same.

C.D. Moody – or Dave, as his friends prefer to call him – comes from a long line of ambitious dreamers. His grandfather, whom he sites as his first and most influential role model, arrived in Louisiana, in 1901, from British Honduras, with nothing, he says, but a dream and a passion.

Moody gazed off, remembering something in the far-off distance, as he fondly recalled this grandfather’s beloved words of encouragement, “Go for it! The hand is what it is.”

And so he did.

Beginning his company, now regarded as one of Atlanta’s Top 25 Commercial Contractors and Top 100 Private Companies by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, in 1988, with a team of just three employees, Moody, a graduate of Morehouse College, joked that his initial plan was fail-proof. “Be broke – then you can’t help but go up!” Having already tried his hand at a number of other enterprises, bounty hunting being one, he figured he may as well chase his real dream. Too, going into business with nothing, he laughed affectionately, meant that there was no chance of not being successful.

Successful is quite the understatement! 26 years later, the company has delivered more than 150 commercial projects valued at over two billion dollars. Some of his more high-profile work includes the Olympic Stadium, Turner Baseball Field, Philips Arena, Coca-Cola, Disney World, Mercedes Benz, Home Depot, and the new Maynard H. Jackson International Concourse at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Moody Construction’s professional reputation throughout the Atlanta community is as sound as its financial one.

Still, success and acclaim, and with these, the accompanying power and prestige which they bring, haven’t seemed to change the man much.  

“I went into business for myself because I had nothing to lose,” elaborated Moody. “I loved the dirt, the moving. I took the field assignments. I was the guy wearing the jeans.”

For a trained architect, this humble strategy, to take the important-but-still-somehow-lesser jobs paid off. Moody has built an Atlanta-based empire in that same dirt, wearing those same jeans.

“If you can’t do the work yourself in the beginning, you don’t need need to do it. You’ve got to know your product. You can’t successfully own a business if you don’t know the product, if you’ve never worked in the field. And in construction, or any business, you have to know the business. I still don’t wear anything that I can’t get cement or dirt on,” he affirmed.

He went on to credit more than just modest beginnings for the winning streak he’s on. He sited a vigorous work ethic, instilled in him by grandparents and others at a very young age (“You have to be willing to work hard” and “Be the best at what you do”); ambition (“Life is what we make it, regardless of how we start it” and “I didn’t have big dreams, so I’ve exceeded those. I’m trying to recreate those for the second half of my life. Make some big dreams – you’ll hit them”); and our progressive city (“Atlanta people got it really early about inclusion. Atlanta got it right. I never got a hand out, but I did get a fair chance. If you don’t make it, it’s on you!”), all as part of the equation that helped him attain his goals.

Not to sugar-coat things, Moody is quick to point out that a fair chance does not necessarily mean a free ride, and life was certainly not without its bumps in the road.

“Now I ask people, ‘How have you been a good mentor?’ Be honest. I try and tell people to tell others when you have failed and had to get up. People look at us and think we’ve had no hiccups along the way. So the greatest thing we can do is be honest.”

Honesty. Moody embodies this mantra daily, mentoring, speaking, and encouraging those he encounters to listen to his story and, in turn, to tell their own. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, he has grown a grassroots fan-following – which, ironically, has unarguably given him more influence than what he has managed to achieve even with his business  – for the blog he began in 2012 in order to chronicle what he calls his “journey of life and healing.”

“This blog was started to celebrate 25 years in business. I quickly realized, as I opened up and dug deep inside, I couldn’t tell an accurate story [of] my journey in business without telling the accurate story of my life.”

Read in more than 80 countries, Moody is continually transparent throughout the blog’s posts, as he bravely tackles not just the sexual abuse he endured as a child, but subjects such as PTSD and panic attacks, trauma, his faith in God, and healing.

Speaking to his audience, a room full of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and up-and-comers, about the impact that all of these combined experiences have had on his company and the precautions one should take when in the business, Moody advised that one should embrace personal awareness.

“Everybody has a story. Know your story. It impacts your career. Know your triggers. Being an entrepreneur, a professional, you have to know what makes you tick.”

Upbeat and optimistic, C.D. Moody closed by reminding everyone not to make room for negativity in their lives. Regardless of what anyone has been through, happiness is most certainly obtainable.

“At the end of the day, life’s about what you make it,” he stated frankly. “I use my grandfather as an example because he thought he had a choice. He had a dream and a vision. The greatest thing that stops us is fear – real and imagined – and most of it is imaginary. You have to push through fear. There’s beauty on the other side.”

The Commerce Club Atlanta proudly presents programming geared toward small business each and every first Wednesday of the month: “Innovators, Trailblazers, Start-Ups, Entrepreneurs, Up-and-Comers and More … If This is You, You Won’t Want to Miss!”

 The Commerce Club Conglomerate: Mission Statement

The Commerce Club Conglomerate (CCC) was created in 2014 for Club Members and their guests as an assimilation of small businesses, their owners, employees, as well as their patrons and supporters to aid, assist, educate, and engage the small business sector. Understanding that small enterprises account for 52 percent of all U.S. workers, the CCC also recognizes the role that small business plays in our overall economic stability. The CCC serves to celebrate this strength by working to build and grow its businesses and leaders both in the Atlanta and global marketplaces.

The Commerce Club Conglomerate: Where Small Business Comes to Grow

To join this group or for reservations or additional information about these one-hour speaker luncheon events, please e-mail Anna.Chafen@ourclub.com or call 404.222.0191.

JEANS, JACK AND BABY BACK!

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The South is known for quite a few nice things – manners, charming drawls, and Southern belles, in no particular order and to name just a few – but the nicest of them all is probably our home cookin’. Whether that conjures up fond memories of Grandma’s secret recipes, big Sunday dinners, or vacation rest-stops at one-of-a-kind Mom-and-Pop spots that dish up some of the region’s finest fare, most of us consider ourselves experts at appreciating good, local, Southern-style cuisine.

It was a treat for all, then, when The Commerce Club hosted its Jeans, Jack & Baby Back event, held annually and regarded as a Member favorite during the summer.

As expected, the reservations poured in this year, as they do every year, and particularly when the menu was released in advance. (I am happy to share this with you below. Warning: May Cause Mouths to Water.)

Jeans, Jack & Baby Back

2014

Baby Back Pork Ribs with Sweet Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Carolina Style Pulled Pork with Honey Jack

Teriyaki Bourbon Grilled Chicken Wings

Smoked Beef Brisket with Jalapeno BBQ Sauce

Bacon Wrapped Tomatoes

Compressed Watermelon and Feta Salad

Cauliflower Potato Salad

Grilled Sweet Corn and Parmesan

Warm Chocolate Pecan Bread Pudding with Jack Daniels Anglaise

and

Bourbon Glazed Pound Cake with Sautéed Summer Berries

This event, which sells out each time it’s hosted by the Club, proved to be just as enticing as these selections! Food stations set up around the room, unique Jack Daniels’ cocktails (which were created, by the on-site Jack Daniels’ representatives, to marry with each), and live Blues music all added to the hospitable and warm ambience of the night.

Whether it was their first time attending the social event or fifth, Members, outfitted in their favorite blue jeans, were thrilled to “mosey” on up to the 49th floor of 191 Peachtree Tower to enjoy the fine Friday night.

Accompanied by amusing lyrics (“I need a big-legged woman – but she gots to have good credit!”) the on-site Larry Griffith’s Blues band, led by Larry himself, a Ray Charles look-alike – yes, he even wore black shades, had their toes tapping and fingers snapping until some couldn’t resist the urge to give up their seats for the dance floor. Smiles and drinks were passed around as these delightful improv dancing sessions broke out and then lasted, along with the entertainment and finger-lickin’-good food, through the night.

Feel free to contact us in order to learn more about this event, one of just many social experiences that The Commerce Club provides for its Members each month.

We’re only a phone call away, y’all!

404.222.0191

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To hear some of the entertaining tunes from the night, visit:

Larry Griffith’s Blues Band
larrygriffithmusic.com

To explore specialty Jack Daniels cocktail features, visit:
jackdaniels.com