Tackling Today’s Top Challenges

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” 

– John F. Kennedy

As the global economy emerges from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and ventures into the second decade of the 21st century, businesses and organizations continue to be confronted with new and often unexpected challenges. While there will always be new challenges, resourceful, successful leaders continue to lead new strategies and solutions. Read on to hear what local leaders say are the top challenges in their field and how they are tackling them.

Jim Haley

Chairman, Miller & Martin PLLC

It is challenging to lead a company in today’s environment with rapidly changing technologies, wide generational divides within workforces, and now political changes, which serve up shifting regulatory and legal positions daily. While most business leaders would agree that it can be difficult to keep up, we also are receiving news, notifications, and updates more frequently than ever via more mediums than ever. It’s difficult to eliminate the noise and decipher what matters and how the changes specifically impact our business. Having the right team of advisors – from legal and financial, to information technology and management consultants – who thoroughly understand your industry, your business, and your people is often the differentiator in keeping business leaders up to speed and moving in the right direction for sustained success.


TopChallenges.MonroeCharles F. Monroe

CEO, Card-Monroe Corp.

With customers in over thirty countries, a globally competitive market, and the rapidly changing technology of our products and systems, we deal with many of the same issues faced by Fortune 500 companies. CMC is known in the carpet, rug, and artificial turf industries as the provider of advanced manufacturing technology and the creator of new styling possibilities. Delivering on these expectations involves large investments in R&D and marketing that we prudently protect through US and foreign patents. Achieving success requires that we avoid becoming fixated on a single challenge or two. Our leadership team continually plans and prepares our company for the future by recognizing and strategizing how to deal with all of the challenges in today’s business world.

TopChallenges.GravesDr. Autumn Graves

Head of School, Girls Preparatory School

A challenge that applies not just to independent schools but to all service industries is the increased expectation for immediacy. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the varied ways in which people now get information, there is a no-end cycle of communication in which messages are shared instantaneously and responses are expected quickly. This presents an advantage in sharing news, but it’s also a challenge that will require us to be more flexible. GPS considers itself a partner with parents in regard to their daughters’ well-being, and as such, we must take care to think, process, and consult before connecting. Ultimately, we have to engage in a way that stays true to our school’s values. Our challenge is to stay on top of social media messaging but remember that Twitter can never replace one-on-one, voice-to-voice, face-to-face communication. 

TopChallenges.NelsonKathleen Nelson

Board of Directors, CBL Properties

Staying on top of rapidly changing consumer trends is both a challenge and opportunity that many businesses face in our industry today. Real estate has traditionally been a longer-term, slow moving business, but we find ourselves now quickly evolving our strategies and our properties to adapt to changing consumer preference and the new competitive landscape. As part of this evolution, CBL is taking advantage of well-tested technologies to remove friction for customers and retailers, and also provide more timely information to help guide executives in future decision making. We also recognize that what traditionally defined a mall or a shopping center in the past is not what our centers will be in the future. This open-minded thinking allows us to convert today’s “challenge” into a significant opportunity to better position our properties for future growth through new leasing and operating strategies and a focus on redevelopment. While we are in early innings of these transformations, it is exciting to participate in the process as a board member and help define the mall of the future.

Mike St. Charles

 Managing Shareholder, Chambliss Law

 Undoubtedly, the new norm of rapidly advancing technology is a challenge for us and our clients. These advances present numerous opportunities for improving the quality and efficiency of our client services. We continue to invest in current technology. Recently, we completed  improvements to our network infrastructure and client services applications, including document management, project management, and client interface. Data privacy and cybersecurity pose significant threats to all organizations. We have established a cybersecurity practice group dedicated to assisting our clients with solutions to a variety of cyber issues, from creating proactive incident response plans to responding to potential data breach events. Within the firm, we upgraded our network, including enhancing our backup and disaster recovery systems. The constantly changing opportunities and threats from technology require diligence, and we work hard to stay abreast of current developments.

WinningTeam.DoakBob Doak

President and CEO, Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau

Keeping Chattanooga as a top-of-mind place for vacation, sporting events, and meetings continues to be our top focus at the Chattanooga CVB. We take this responsibility very seriously as there are 7,500 jobs directly related to tourism in Hamilton County. Increased competition from surrounding markets with new convention centers and sporting fields keeps us constantly looking for new opportunities to bring business to town. Increased marketing funding for surrounding cities also creates a challenge for our marketing team to make the “Best Town Ever” stand out above the rest. Our success comes from the people of Chattanooga innovating, building, and continuing to invest in our great city. With so much going on in Chattanooga, we have something new to talk about every week!

Greg A. Vital

Founder and CEO, Morning Pointe Senior Living and Independent Healthcare Properties

The over-65 population is the fastest growing demographic in America. Our challenge is to continue to differentiate our assisted living and Alzheimer’s memory care services by providing more choices. Building on care and compassion, Morning Pointe strives to introduce innovative programming as seniors and their families continue to look for more options from the dining experience to life enrichment. This is achieved through purposeful programming in our communities—including memory care programs, intergenerational activities, on-site therapies, and the new farm-to-table culinary experience. We remain focused on engaging and enriching the lives of our residents, families, associates, and the communities in every market we serve.

TopChallenges.WoodTracy Wood

CEO, Hospice of Chattanooga

The health care industry is undergoing a variety of changes caused not only by increased demands but also an overall change in the United States health care system. As a health care leader, I am charged with facing new and unprecedented challenges.  I am very fortunate because Hospice of Chattanooga’s great team is open to transformation and keeping up with the rapidly changing environment, while remaining person-centered! Our goal is to remain patient centered and family focused and continue to provide five-star hospice care!

TopChallenges.SpiegelKevin M. Spiegel, FACHE

President & CEO, Erlanger Health System

Erlanger has grown exponentially in recent years. One of our challenges is managing that growth. This growth is occurring while uncompensated care is projected to exceed $100 million this year. The uncertainties of the health care market, the complex regulatory environment, the fast-paced change in technology coupled with the pressures on cost management, all require revenue growth to sustain a strong health care system. We must reinvent ourselves, be creative and strategic to meet the growing health care demands in our community. It is also essential for us to keep associates informed about the changes and the team focused on Erlanger’s strategy, mission, vision and innovation. One of the ways we are meeting these challenges is our implementation of a new electronic medical records system, Epic, for all five hospitals and 60 clinics.


Mike Costa

General Manager, Sinclair Broadcast Group

Rapid technological disruption has affected the media landscape unlike anything else. The instant availability of information on our devices has changed not only how a television station delivers its content, but it has also changed how audiences are monetized. There must continue to be sufficient revenue to keep providing news, information, and entertainment for free. It doesn’t matter if it is a TV screen, a computer screen, a phone or iPad screen, the consumer wants content on demand. The challenge for a legacy television station like NewsChannel 9 is how we leverage our strong brand to capture those viewers on all devices. At Sinclair Broadcast Group, we have a strategy to be screen agnostic, to offer our advertisers a unified impression. Our goal is to give the viewer the news, information and entertainment that they want, how they want it and when they want it.

Todd Fortner

President, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

The traditional role of financial institutions is being challenged by a burgeoning world of financial technology companies (known as FinTech). These companies are using new technology and innovation to compete in the marketplace of traditional institutions by offering consumers an array of financial services. FinTech players thrive when they can provide consumers a streamlined user experience which accomplishes the consumer’s goals in a convenient manner, often with minimal regard to cost. To confront these challenges, TVFCU’s board and staff continuously monitor member behavior, solicit member feedback, and make investments in emerging technologies that deliver on the goal of giving members the services they desire through efficient delivery channels. We choose technology partners who are nimble and dedicated to investing in innovation. Organizations that thrive in the future will be responsive to changing consumer behaviors and move quickly to embrace emerging technologies that consumers adopt.

TopChallenges.ShumakerNita Shumaker, MD

Tennessee Medical Association President

The top challenge for physicians today is to protect the physician-patient relationship. Due to higher insurance costs, increased government regulations, and imposing administrative burdens, doctors have less and less time with their patients. Primary care physicians, who are already increasingly short in supply, feel this burden most acutely, as they have fewer resources than their higher earning colleagues to employ people needed to meet these challenges. Every doctor I know went into medicine to help people, and despite the many regulations and frustrations, the relationship we have with our patients is sacred and must be protected. I will continue, on any level I may serve, to be a voice for physicians and for the time with our patients, to teach, to listen, to guide, to comfort, to encourage, and to love our patients.  Each time my voice can protect that unique and vital relationship, I have served fellow physicians and patients well.

TopChallenges.SchumacherLarry Schumacher

CEO, CHI Memorial and SVP, Operations, Southeast Division, Catholic Health Initiatives

As consumers are increasingly responsible for the cost of care, they are expecting hospitals and physicians to create new access points that are convenient for their lifestyle and cost effective. Our challenge is to use innovative approaches to reduce our expenses while maintaining quality care. Since health care reform was initiated in 2009, we have been on a continuous improvement journey, making sure care is delivered in the right way at the right time, and adopting a ‘just in time’ mindset for our supply chain. This has helped us to reduce clinical variation and drive expense out of the system, but we must continue to improve. Our challenge will be to continue to set the bar higher each year, to innovate new ways to ensure our patients experience the difference in care at a four-star hospital.

Steven R. Angle, Ph.D. 

Chancellor, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Our top challenge is standing out in increasingly crowded markets. We stand out by integrating learning experiences outside of the classroom. The UTC campus has a unique sense of community that provides multiple opportunities for students to apply classroom knowledge in real-life settings. They engage in campus activities such as musical performances, theatrical plays, research, scholarship, athletic events, academic competitions, internships, clubs, and student organizations. Students broaden their horizons by interacting with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries. Our campus also is in the heart of an exciting city and through UTC’s community outreach programs, students become a part the city and the larger, regional community as well. College is certainly about getting an education, but a residential four-year university offers an education that extends far beyond the classroom.

TopChallenges.SorrowJohn Sorrow

Chief Agency Executive, BB&T Huffaker Insurance

Our biggest challenge is finding emerging leaders that want to build their own business with the backing of a Fortune 250 company and have it be their next and last career move. Much of today’s leadership talent is job hopping, mostly out of necessity. BB&T Insurance Services clients are different in that they expect and deserve stability and consistency in relationships while providing cutting-edge expertise in comprehensive risk management. To begin to solve this challenge,  we’ve recently added two Chattanooga leaders in BJ Coleman and MaryStewart Lewis who fit the mold of what our clients need in leadership from us. We must continue to search for other “rock stars” that will deliver what our clients need as we continue our growth strategy.

TopChallenges.MendenhallMark E. Mendenhall, PhD

 J. Burton Frierson Chair of Excellence in Business Leadership, College of Business, UTC

 The major challenge facing CEOs is complexity. Complexity flows from technology, globalization, interdependence, stakeholders, competitors, and ambiguity – all of which are interrelated and all of which are in a constant state of change. There is no ideal strategy for tackling complexity, but there does seem to be one overarching principle that increases success: focusing on utilizing the wisdom, experience, creativity, and insight from all employees across all levels of the organization. No CEO is smart enough on their own– it requires the brain trust of the entire company. A good starting point  for thinking about how to tackle complexity is to read, ponder, and apply the leadership parable, “The Wisdom of the Mountain” from the July-August 1992 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Bill Kilbride

President & CEO, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Most will acknowledge that we live in uncertain times on many fronts. I maintain that the greatest asset an organization has is its people. Getting the “people strategy” right is the surest way to prepare for and address changing issues and an organization’s priorities. More organizations are realizing this than ever before, but most still struggle with how to develop and maintain an organization of capable and high performing people. Today’s job candidates have more varied and diverse backgrounds, career goals, family interests, and financial requirements. The time and resources invested in hiring decisions must take place at higher levels than before. Analytical tools add critical input, and including more key associates in the selection process, while carefully checking backgrounds and references are more important than ever before. The better quality of hiring decision, the better equipped an organization will be to function successfully in rapidly changing and uncertain times.

TopChallenges.OzburnThomas Ozburn MHA, MBA, FACHE

President and CEO, Parkridge Health System

The top challenges to any health care organization include the continued difficulties for community-based hospitals to remain viable, increased pressure on insurance premium costs to both employers and employees, and assessing the changing ways patients access health care to meet their needs. Parkridge Health System is proud to be a member of HCA, one of the largest and most proven operators of health care services in the world and a company nationally recognized as one of the most ethical. This allows us access to far greater resources that leverage new technology to improve patient safety as well as satisfaction. As we grow, we are creating new access points that make care available closer to where people live and work. In addition, we are focused on developing relationships with physicians that are collaborative, creating partnerships that are stronger and more sustainable now and in the future.

Mike Kramer

President and COO, Atlantic Capital Bank

We’ve all heard the old adage that “the only constant in business is change.” Alvin Toffler, an author who has written extensively about change, wrote, “Future Shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much stress in too short a time.”  J. Paul Getty said, “In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy.” Effectively managing the pace of change driven by technology, niche market players, an ever-changing regulatory landscape, and rapidly changing consumer preferences – is one of the greatest challenges we are facing. The reality of traditional and non-traditional competition, our client’s expectations, and the culture of “I want it right now” requires far more creativity and adaptability than our industry has confronted in the past.

TopChallenges.FossColeman Foss

CEO, Tennova Healthcare-Cleveland

Maybe the biggest challenge facing leaders today is creating a culture where people can strive to excel and provide high levels of service to the marketplace. In health care, our goal is to be patient focused not only clinically but also in service orientation as well. This can be daunting with so many changes in the workplace environment. Constant technology changes, political landscape impacts, and limited medical professionals entering the field to replace an aging workforce can make the stress of caring for individuals even more difficult. As leaders, we are challenged to keep the mission of caring for others in the forefront and support a group of health care workers committed to being there for their patients and insuring their needs are met. 

TopChallenges.PateLisa Pate

President & CaO, U.S. Xpress

In two words, I’d say our biggest challenges are talent development/retention and safety. Professional drivers are critical to U.S. Xpress being able to deliver the products Americans have come to expect to find on shelves or in mailboxes on demand. Hiring and retaining qualified professional drivers is a challenge our entire industry is facing, particularly as the economy improves and the driver workforce has more vocational options to choose from. And as a truckload carrier, safety for our drivers and for the public sharing the roads with us is always a big concern and a place where we put a lot of emphasis. U.S. Xpress has historically been an early adopter of technology and that remains true today. Putting in place technology like collision mitigation systems and automated driver assist tools help us both keep our drivers safe and make life a little easier for these drivers who are so important to our business and the economy as a whole.

Jim Vaughn

Eastern Tennessee Region President, SunTrust Banks, Inc.

Rising cyber security threats is a major challenge for leaders. More than 90% of businesses say a cyber event would impact their bottom lines and two-thirds say it would be significant, according to a recent SunTrust Bank survey. Yet, the majority of U.S. middle market companies do not even have an up-to-date cybersecurity plan and 30% have no plan at all, according to the National Center for the Middle Market. Business leaders are concerned about the bottom-line impact but aren’t implementing plans to ensure it doesn’t happen. This is because many companies aren’t sure where to start when it comes to developing a cyber-defense strategy. To get started, companies should manage their working capital to free up monetary resources and plan for a bucket for cybersecurity expenses. With the threat of cyber events growing exponentially, it’s critical that businesses of all sizes take the necessary steps to protect assets so they aren’t caught flat-footed.

TopChallenges.WadeDavid Wade


Talent management is a top challenge facing leaders. From my perspective, the most important things we must do as leaders are
1) cultivate talent—both among current employees and in the longer-term among rising students;
2) provide leadership and a company culture that helps our team members do their best work;
3) find new opportunities by embracing change.

R. Steve Hunt

Managing Partner, Berry & Hunt

One of our top challenges is fast changing technology for ourselves and for our clients. We recently implemented a cloud-based computer solution platform and VOIP phone system. Working in concert with each other, these systems enable our management team to receive prioritized texts, emails, and voice mail messages at any time of the day and night. Adapting our technology is one way that we are addressing our tenants’ and prospective tenants’ increased expectation for immediacy. Probably our biggest nemesis today is the fast-rising construction costs – hard costs and soft costs – and the delays that ensue. Architects, engineers and designers are incredibly busy right now which translates into a longer lead time for plans and specifications. General contractors and subcontractors are equally busy, so keeping them abreast of our pipeline is more critical today. Fortunately, our long-term relationships with these important business partners enable us to continue delivering the proper solution for our tenants’ needs.

TopChallenges.ChapinBill Chapin

Chairman & CEO, See Rock City

People make the difference! The experiences at See Rock City, Inc. businesses are about rocks, plants, food, merchandise, ice cream, and people! Talent management is the competitive differentiator, and our top priority. Employees are a business expense, but developing talent is an investment. Organizations which sustain success invest in their people. People, especially in an experiential economy, are the primary contributors to organizational growth and prosperity. Our strategic planning focuses on talent management and leadership development. By beginning with the board, continuing with senior management, and investing in people all the way to the frontline staff, we can fulfill our mission. 

Hiren Desai

CEO, 3H Group Hotels

One of the biggest challenges our industry faces today is how to continue meeting the needs of the baby boomer while also appealing to the millennial or generation Z individual. Each generation has a different set of criteria that they value. Our product must be adaptable to appeal to our consumers, and our workplace must continually transform to appeal to our associates.


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