Schooled in business

Clayton director finds ProMBA opens eyes to good business sense

Margie Kidd

Margie Kidd

Don’t bother ordering biscuits and gravy at the Greenway restaurant at the Clayton Corporate office. It’s not going to happen.

That’s a good thing, said Margie Kidd, wellness director at Clayton Homes, Inc., and as of Dec. 11, 2009, a graduate of the University of Tennessee Professional MBA program.

“Four years ago we made a decision to build a brand new eating area, and we decided to go all healthy,” said Kidd. “Our restaurant is health-conscious. We don’t fry. Our menu is all healthy items with correct portion sizes and proper nutrients.

“Team members miss the biscuits and gravy, but they’ve learned to love Omega-three omelets.”

Kidd, 42, has a passion for wellness. It was through the UT ProMBA program that she got the tools to prove wellness could be a good corporate investment.

Born in Carrollton, Ga., the 42-year-old wife and mother of two earned a BS degree in exercise science with a concentration in corporate wellness in 1991 from the University of West Georgia. She was a flight attendant with Delta Airlines for four years. She and husband Robbie moved to Chattanooga in 1993 where she worked with the city as a fitness specialist until 1995. Then moved to Knoxville, where she worked at Fort Sanders Fitness Center from 1996 to 2004.

In December of 2004 she came to Clayton Homes, Inc., to run the fitness center.

“I was here for about two and a half years before I considered the MBA program. I had several conversations with Kevin (Clayton) to take wellness to the next level. I thought the MBA program would allow me to take the wellness concept and put a number to it,” she said. “The MBA program allowed me to show the cost savings related to wellness and prevention.”

Clayton said Kidd has a passion for wellness and has been instrumental in working to facilitate an on-site medical clinic the company is planning to set up on the corporate office campus.

“We probably have eight to 10 graduates of the executive MBA program,” Clayton said. “It really has been helpful because they have been able to expand their knowledge base, and they bring back endless ideas to help the company.”

Kidd is enthusiastic about helping organize the new clinic that could make life easier for Clayton team members. “On-site medical clinics can lower medical cost. It’s great for productivity, lowers claims and is a moral booster. They don’t have to leave the building if they need to have a prescription filled or have a physical,” she said. “Many times, team members will wait before they go see a medical professional, and by then, they are much worst. If they see someone up front there is less off-time and non-productive time.”

Kidd said the on-site clinic is going to take wellness to the next level. “We’ll be able to show how wellness can save a company money through the on-site clinic,” she said.

Kidd said the ProMBA program took 16 months to complete. “It was almost every Saturday and Tuesday nights on line. The challenges were staying organized,” she said.

Kidd said she and her classmates were in school from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. “Lessons ranged from learning about balance sheets to listening to Hallerin Hilton Hill and learning how to speak in public. It was a broad range of everything business. You learned to think differently, and you leave the program much better than when you started. You’re a lot more tired,” she said with a laugh, “but you leave the program much more enriched. You see the world, not only business, but life, in a totally different way. I wouldn’t trade the experience.”

Kidd said that during the time she was in the program she ran the Boston Marathon and helped raise money for her niece in Atlanta who had cancer.

“She was my inspiration,” Kidd said, adding that if her 11-year-old niece could go to school and deal with cancer treatments, Kidd could go through the rigors of the MBA program, continue running and working and be a mom and wife. “At this point I am happy to report she is 9 months cancer-free,” said Kidd.

Kidd used the marathon as a fundraiser for her niece. “That was my way of supporting her and her foundation. Participants in our program donated money for the run to my niece’s cancer foundation,” Kidd said. “In 16 months, you become very, very close to people you are in class with. I consider them great friends.”

Kidd thanked Clayton and her current supervisor John Kalec, chief financial officer, for supporting her as she worked on her ProMBA. She said going through the ProMBA program changed how the she thought about her job. “I used to just be concerned with the health of our employees, but now I’m also looking at the health of our company as well,” she said.

Kidd said wellness is important because Clayton team members are no different than employees at other companies. “They are very busy. They are moms and dads and grandparents and don’t have time to take care of themselves,” she said. “We give them the ability to exercise and be less stressed and be more informed about their health, finances and life, all during their breaks.”

Kidd said her job is to help the team members carry as little stress as possible.

“My teams’ job and my job is to make team members as aware of their health as possible and help team members learn to take care of themselves,” she said. “We do everything we can to enrich their lives in healthy ways. What better way to take a 15-minute break than to take an abs class, play basketball with a co-worker or badminton with the CEO. It adds friendly competition and makes for a friendly place to work.”

In addition to the wellness facility, Kidd is in charge the Greenway, the company restaurant on site. Prior to completing her MBA, she had been given responsibility for the nutritional aspects of The Greenway. After graduating, she also took over the financial side.

Besides breakfast and lunch, the staff also prepares a snack and they prepare take-home meals for employees at night. “Team members can have family eat healthy at a cost savings. We are very price conscious,” she said.

Having the restaurant on campus encourages team members to stay on site and eat healthy. “It is so good. It has been very, very popular. Initially it took team members a little bit to get used to it,” she said. “It is now very, very popular. All catering also is done here as well, for our parties and meetings.”

The Greenway serves 40 percent of the corporate office’s employees for breakfast and 50 percent during lunch. “That’s a very high percentage for a company restaurant,” she said. “We serve breakfast, lunch, a snack and a take-home dinner - 600 for breakfast and 700 for lunch.”

The Greenway also offers team members the convenience of being able to buy staple items such as milk, eggs, bread and coffee. “”You don’t have to stop at the store on the way home. It allows team members to shop here,” she said.

Kidd said anyone interested in bettering themselves and their career should consider the ProMBA program, but it is not easy.

“It’s one of best opportunities. It’s very difficult but in those 16 months you learn more than in four years of college,” she said. “The program brings some of the most incredible professors in to enrich your life with their experience in order to give us tools to use when we get out in to the world of business.”

Kidd said that out of all of the MBA programs she looked at, the UT ProMBA offered the most enriching experience. “I’m drastically a different person after finishing it. I feel more sure of what I do. I always knew wellness had a place in business but now I’m able to prove it,” she said.

The next class of the UT Professional MBA program begins in August, 2010. A free information session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the Haslam Business Center building on UT campus in Knoxville, 1000 Volunteer Blvd. Call 865-974-1660 for more information.

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