Featured Speaker Gary Patterson, The Fiscal Doctor

Featured Speaker Gary Patterson, The Fiscal Doctor

Have you had your financial checkup lately?

Gary Patterson, the Fiscal Doctor, an Atlanta based advisor with over 30 years of senior management experience, presented to Commerce Club Members and their guests, on the importance of regularly monitoring and diagnosing one’s fiscal health to “help you reach your vision and achieve a true path to greater profitability”.

Patterson gave attendees to the Commerce Club Conglomerate (an assimilation of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups in the metro Atlanta area who meet monthly to discuss relevant topics) tips to help these business leaders make better business decisions. Using high energy, interactive assignments, and Q&A with the audience, the Fiscal Doctor was able to engage attendees as he encouraged them to dig deep, take a hard look at their businesses, and figure out what they really have and what they lack.

“You need to figure out what you’ve got. You also have to figure out what your problems are. Everyone has at least one problem!”

Patterson humorously suggested that if you are not sure where your problems lie, survival mode brought on by faltering profits will quickly help you find these. Times of scarcity force business owners, no matter the size of the company, to look at what they truly have in terms of profitability and what they can live without. Adding to this mentality of fiscal responsibility, he advised that during times of growth, during seasons of plenty, one still has to remain cautious of what the future may hold.

“Don’t go  buy the lakehouse,” Patterson wisely advised. “Fix the issues you have.”

Years in the industry, helping business leaders to find what he deems their “blind spots”, has given Patterson a unique perspective with which to guide and advise.

For example, the Fiscal Doctor probed the audience, peppering them with inquiries about their company’s finances and urging them to be honest with themselves about the answers. Interactive activities framed by questions like “Do you know your most ten profitable customers?” and “If Aunt Matilda leaves you $250k, do you know where you’d invest it?” forced attendees to get involved and to get enthusiastic about what might otherwise be an uncomfortable topic of discussion.

At the end of the day, Gary Patterson reasoned, there is a “crying need to forecast cash flow” throughout our city. Our local small businesses, our economy, can’t thrive without good planning. And good planning, of course, often can’t be established without first a proper diagnosis.

Stick Out Your Balance Sheet and Cough, one of several publications by author Patterson

Stick Out Your Balance Sheet and Cough, one of several publications by author Patterson

To learn more about Gary Patterson and the innovative work he is doing to help business owners become fiscally responsible, visit fiscaldoctor.com.

To learn more about the Commerce Club Conglomerate (CCC) and its initiative to help small business flourish throughout the Metro Atlanta area, visit commerceclubatlanta.com.


A meeting at Starbucks was all it took. Mona Harty, President and Chief Executive Officer for PSR Associates, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, was to meet with a gentleman for coffee. What she imagined would be a brief, 30-minute beverage break instead turned into a three and a half hour meeting that would forever change her life.

The gentleman, whom she now affectionately calls her mentor, began speaking about worlds that Harty confesses she did not know existed.

“It elevated where I was,” she shared with the group of Members who joined her for breakfast recently, as part of the Breakfast with… series presented by the Commerce Club’s own Commerce Society for Young Executives (CSYE). “And if you plant a seed in me, I’m going to meditate on that. That’s just who I am.”

Who she is, of course, is more than just a young woman who was mentored at an informal meeting in a random Starbucks. A graduate of both Pepperdine University (Bachelor of Arts in Communications) and Georgia Tech (Master of Science in Information, Design & Technology), Harty came to both that meeting and to PSR after having left her role as Vice President of Professional Services for North America with Siemens Business Services Inc.’s Media & Entertainment Group. Prior to that, she ran BBC Technology North America’s East Coast Operations and was the Head of Delivery/Vice President of Professional Services role for BBC Technology’s Digital Media Solutions (DMS) group. Additional prior experience came from serving as the South East Director of Strategy for iXL’s Digital Media & Broadband Solutions Practice Group (DMS) and the five years she spent as the founder, General Manager and Director for the Cable Television and Multimedia facility at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Still, she is quick to credit that informal meeting with being the impetus which set the trajectory for the rest of her professional life.

“I don’t see myself as an opportunistic person, but I am open. I had a formal program with a coach at Siemens, but my informal mentors, they’re the ones I go to all the time now,” confided Harty.

Being open, taking full advantage of opportunities as they cross one’s path, were themes that surfaced again and again throughout Harty’s presentation. Along with sharing sound life and business advice (“Don’t undervalue your value” and “Go for a run every once in a while. Please!” were some of the standouts), Harty spent extensive time discussing this idea of mentorship, whether formal or informal, with the morning’s eager group of young executives.

“I think I was born and raised with confidence,” she continued, “[but] I was not part of a formal mentorship program until Siemens. I was flying by the seat of my pants! I could have used some guidance.”

Surprising words to hear from someone who was described by attendees as both courageous and an innovative trail-blazer. Throughout the city, too, she’s been recognized for her outstanding achievements and success. Most recently, Harty was named Women in Technology’s “Woman of the Year” for Small and Emerging Businesses in 2013. She also serves on the Board for Junior Achievement of Georgia, is the Vice Chair for Chris Kids, is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Technology Committee for Woodruff Arts Center.

Noteworthy accomplishments aside, when asked about finding an outstanding mentor, the ever jovial Harty joked with her audience.

“There are formal ones,” she advised, “but don’t pay! And you don’t have to say, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ Just ask for coffee. I do [mentorship] through Leadership Atlanta, [but] formal may just mean you agree to meet a certain number of times. I think there are informal mentors everywhere. Don’t force it. Sometimes it won’t be the right fit. But don’t be afraid to ask either. They’ll tell you yes or no!”

She went on to explain that these special relationships, these mentorship or sponsorship opportunities, are a win-win for both parties. Individuals and companies who extend these move up the value chain by providing added services to the customer. When speaking about herself, Harty suggested that for her clients today, this is a part of her unique value proposition.

“I like to solve problems. I am a business person. People ask me questions. I answer. I’m telling people to get out of their own box. Let’s look at new opportunities.”

These possibilities for success are everywhere and this particular CEO thinks you shouldn’t have to extend something in return in order to take full advantage of them. She reminded the group of under-40s that what she learns from their demographic, her mentees, is payment enough.

The presentation, which attendee Derin Dickerson, Partner, Alston & Bird, described as “tremendously helpful,” closed with Harty giving a forceful reminder to pay it forward.

“You ALL can be mentors,” she closed. “And you should. You have something to give. Look for those opportunities. You have to. People plant really great seeds in my head all the time. It elevates your game.”

Tower of Power: The Commerce Club is located on the 49th floor of the staggering 191 Peachtree building

Tower of Power: The Commerce Club is located on the 49th floor of the staggering 191 Peachtree building

PSR is an IT Consulting firm providing business and technology consulting, enterprise web, mobile and tablet development, as well as IT Staffing and Recruiting services.


The Commerce Club, Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the Southeast’s oldest and largest business and civic clubs. For additional information about how the Club works to “develop the leaders of today and tomorrow for the city of Atlanta,” please call 404.222.0191.



Women in Sports' Panelists and representatives from the Commerce Club's Women in Leadership Committee

Women in Sports’ panelists, moderator, and representatives from The Commerce Club’s Women in Leadership Committee

In almost any town today, it’s not uncommon to find children playing baseball in fields, dribbling a basketball down the sidewalk, or kicking a soccer ball around their yards. Children – all children – are encouraged to play sports from a very early age – some leagues accepting participants as early as three years old. For a small fee, and sometimes none at all, you too can experience the quintessential American dream – cheering your child on as he/she prepares, competes, and finally, wins.

Dreams of victory aside, what may come as a surprise, then, is the number of these tiny athletes who stop following the dream to achieve. Compared with their male counterparts, female athletes who decide to turn their passion for sport into a profession for life are paid far less. (For instance, the WNBA pays its top women players a jaw-dropping 60 times less than the NBA’s top men!) Most professional women athletes around the world also receive very little notoriety compared to men.

Daunting facts such as these, coupled with the realization that, though women have been pro athletes since the early 1900s, paid teams and leagues are still quite uncommon, may deter young girls from making the decision to stick with something they once loved. A shame, considering that thousands of young girls excel at these activities and site them as self-esteem builders and life skill instillers.

“It’s not always about the sport,” remarked Angela Taylor, President and General Manager of the city’s WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream. “It’s about the life skills, the work ethic, the relationships.”

Taylor, part of a panel recently presented at The Commerce Club, Atlanta, by the Club’s Women in Leadership (WIL) Committee, joined fellow panelists in presenting to members and guests about The Role of Sports in Women’s Professional and Social Lives.

The sold-out event, moderated by Charlie Cobb, Athletic Director, Georgia State University, and sponsored by Georgia Tech along with the Galloway School, encouraged attendees to take a deep dive into  how sports shapes young women, how it affects their careers, and how it impacts their adult lives.

Continuing, Taylor commented, “Sports was that thing that really affected my life in a myriad of ways. I learned to become a businesswoman in and through sports. They taught me what it was to be a professional.”

Echoing the sentiment, Jennifer Bush, a representative from the WIL Committee, expressed that it wasn’t until adulthood, not until she watched her own daughter’s sports practices, that the realization that sports could become more than just a hobby was had.

“I watched the coach bring the players together as a team and a lightbulb went off – this is where we learn what it is we do in business!”

The rest of the panelists, Kiesha Brown (Assistant Athletic Director, The Galloway School), Anna Fuhr (All American member, Varsity Women’s Tennis Team, Emory University), Dr. Jennifer Gerz-Escandon, (Director, National Scholarships and Fellowships, Georgia State University Honors College), and Alina Lee (8th highest ranked female junior golfer in the U.S. at age 14, now an attorney with Morris Manning), couldn’t agree more.

All referenced the two main components of athletics, camaraderie and competition, as defining forces that helped shape the type of women they became and are still becoming. Confidence, teamwork (“a sisterhood that I wasn’t getting from my biological family”), and an outstanding work ethic were all instilled at a very young age and greatly affected the women as they entered the work force.

Certainly, at any point in life, whether later in adulthood or childhood, there is no right or wrong time to take up a sport; what is important is that it enhances that life, not diminishes.

Fuhr, still a student at Emory University, explained it thus. “Being able to compete, to work for something, and then to see that work come to life and to interact with friends – that’s what makes playing a sport fun.”


A word not readily associated with winning is precisely – and somewhat surprisingly – the one thing the panel emphasized to parents as being of greatest importance.

“Encourage kids to explore! Whether it’s dance, music, or sports. Don’t force them to specialize. It’s important that parents expose them to different things so that they can see what they like,” shared Taylor. “It’s easy to tell [the child] what they did wrong. Tell them what they did right! Be their parent. They already have a coach. And, unfortunately, I have seen a lot of parents force their kids to play sports.”

Concurred Fuhr, “You have to let the child be a kid. Whatever that is. Tell them to find an outlet – whatever is fun to [them]. Go to the movies. Have a boyfriend. It’s hard. But then it makes [the child] better when they come back to the sport.”

Should they come back, should they choose to pursue the sport set before them, parental tips and guidelines were then shared with event attendees which would allow them to help their child/children maximize their success.

“Kids should be able to explore. It’s important to let kids develop. Encourage kids to finish what they start. There is something to taking that lesson into life,” shared Gerz.

Life lessons. Being part of something bigger than oneself. Setting – and then achieveing – goals. All of these things were discussed as being huge influencers on how these phenomenal women navigate the waters of their day-to-day routines.

Once the exception but increasingly the rule, these athletes and others like them (i.e., Billie Jean King whose “Battle of the Sexes” win landed her a spot on LIFE’s 1990 “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” list) are working to continue to close the gap between men and women.

Certainly something to celebrate, in 2013 the only sports that “men but not women play professionally in the United States were football, baseball, and ice hockey” (Wikipedia.com). Still, the fact that there are these frontiers that haven’t been crossed, glass ceilings that haven’t been broken, show there is still much work to be done.

In acknowledging this, in confiding about her go-get-em attitude toward competing with “the boys,” Taylor shared that, once again, it was because of early life influences, her interaction with sports, which most greatly affected her.

“If there is an opportunity for a young boy, there has to be an opportunity for a young girl. I was not treated as less than because I was a girl.”


For more information about how to become involved with this initiative or how to become a Member, please contact the Club at 404.222.0191.

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


Commerce Club Banana Pudding - a Member favorite for many years

Commerce Club Banana Pudding – a Member favorite for many years

Banana pudding is as American as apple pie. Early recipes for the tasty dessert date back as far as 1903’s “The Kentucky Receipt Book”. And, depending on how your mother, grandmother, or even great-grandmother might have crafted the recipe, you may prefer the dish served warm or cool, as it can be prepared by being either baked or refrigerated.

Regardless of how you care to partake of this delectable – typically Southern – cuisine, consisting of “repeated layers of … vanilla flavored custard, cookies (usually Vanilla Wafers or ladyfingers) and sliced fresh bananas placed in a dish and served, topped with whipped cream or meringue,”[1] it is truly a treat worth celebrating.

Warm Commerce Club banana puddings, just pulled from the oven. Bon appetit!

Warm Commerce Club banana puddings, just pulled from the oven. Bon appetit!

In Atlanta at least, there’s no better place to do so than in the diverse city’s premier business club, the historic Commerce Club. Located on the 49th floor of the stunning 191 Building, the immaculate Club’s over-the-top views are matched by the breathtaking beauty and flavors of its most iconic dish. Rivaled only by the Club’s signature crawfish corn chowder, the banana pudding is fresh – expertly hand-made each and every day by an adept team of culinary craftsmen.

Whether it’s your first time partaking of the treat or hundredth, you will get a thrill as you break through the perfectly pin-wheeled, lightly browned, baked meringue crust to discover the sweet, fruit and pastry cream filling inside.

Bringing with it so much culture, heritage, and, for many adults, memories as well, this particular menu staple is sure to keep “wowing” guests for many more years to come.

1. http://www.wikipeida.org



Commerce Club Banana Pudding Menu Price – $7

Dinner is offered Wednesday-Friday, 6pm-9pm.

For additional information about this unique business club, part of the impressive ClubCorp network,

or to make your dining reservations, please contact 404.222.0191.




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.


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!



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?

traffick2 trafficking


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.


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.



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:





For additional details or appointments call:


References: Wikipedia.org


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.”





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.


The Commerce Club

191 Peachtree Street

49th Floor

Atlanta, GA 30303


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.