The Knoxville Business Journal honored the 2009 recipients of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award at a gala reception at the Knoxville Convention Center on Thursday, Jan. 14.
Selected from more than 230 nominations, four young professionals who work and/or live in Blount County made the prestigious list and were honored at the reception.
The Business Journal, a Scripps publication, took nominations in December and published the Top 40 Under 40 in the January edition.
Those honored who live and/or work in Blount County were Kevin Painter with LeConte Wealth Management, Carrie McConkey with Maryville College, Jason Langston with Clayton Homes and Andy Scoggins with Ruby Tuesday.
Here are their bios, written by Laura Ayo. For a complete list and bios, go to www.knoxnews.com/40-under-40/2009/.
Jason Langston, 38
Director of corporate services, facilities and telecommunications, Clayton Homes
Before Clayton Homes can offer world-class customer service, Jason Langston believes the company has to provide world-class service to those who work there.
He’s spent the latter part of his 16-year career making sure the home office, other facilities and grounds are an aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly and healthy place for team members to work.
“They need to focus on what it is they do,” Langston says. “We provide the tools the team members need to be successful.”
Langston stepped into his current role in 2003 after advancing within the company from part-time working in the microfilming department as a college student.
“It’s amazing to me that time has passed as fast as it has,” he says. “Before you’re a leader, it’s all about growing yourself and then when you become a leader, it’s all about growing others.”
In 2006, Chief Financial Officer John Kalec asked Langston to present a green strategy to the company’s controllers.
“I knew I needed to educate myself about what this green wave was that was coming and where did I fit in all of it and where did Clayton Homes fit in,” Langston says. “We took an introspective look at all of our processes.”
Then the company began implementing his “wish list” one step at a time, addressing lighting, the heat and air conditioning system, water control and partnerships with a dozen other support companies to make sure Green Seal certified products were used in the facilities.
Langston says Clayton Homes has since saved 2 million gallons of water and 2.4 million kilowatt hours, recycled close to 600,000 pounds of paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass and plastic - more than what’s thrown away.
In late November, Clayton Homes’ corporate center was certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for existing buildings. Langston facilitated the effort, a process that took more than two years to complete.
Now Langston shares Clayton Homes’ “Green Journey” with other businesses interested in learning how they can be more sustainable.
“When we can share what we’ve already done, that helps others and the overall community,” Langston says. “If somebody wants me to come, I’m there.”
Carrie McConkey, 39
Regional advancement officer, Maryville College
Carrie McConkey struggled through career changes before realizing her experiences had prepared her for what she was supposed to do professionally.
“You can’t attach your identify to what you do,” she says.
She began learning that lesson when she agreed to design a friend’s bridal grown while working for an interior design firm. McConkey’s co-workers noted her enthusiasm and convinced her to go into business for herself. She opened Carrie Flynn Bridal Couture in 1993.
The business received local accolades and international recognition, but McConkey struggled to keep up.
“I didn’t see a future in Knoxville and then the final blow was just the economic outcome of September 11,” she says. “Couture bridal gowns were a luxury item, no doubt, and people just could not afford them.”
She closed up shop in 2003.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” she says. “It just tore at my soul because people knew me for what I did. It was part of my whole identity and I had to deal with, ‘Who the heck am I?’”
For the next year, she searched for a job. That process so intrigued her that it lead to her next career - working in career services at the University of Tennessee and as director of placement for Maryville College’s Center for Calling and Career.
“This is a field where people … help people determine what makes them happy and how to get there,” she says. “I could help people see the possibility of who they could be professionally.”
Learning her customer service, relationship building, event planning and creative thinking skills were transferable was eye-opening.
She shares that knowledge with others through her involvement in professional organizations.
On Nov. 24, she became a regional advancement officer at Maryville College, this time transferring her “matching” skills to alumni fundraising.
“In my (prior) job, I made matches between students and jobs, between employing companies and job candidates and I really loved that,” she says. “What led me to first consider this job was the fact that it’s the same thing. It’s matching - matching alumni with the type of gift they’d like to make. … I bring a strong, fresh perspective of what the college is here for, what we’re doing on a daily basis, and that’s helpful when I go out to talk about how lives are being affected.”
Kevin Painter, 34
Co-founder and managing partner, LeConte Wealth Management
Kevin Painter has one regret about starting his own financial and investment planning firm - that he didn’t do it sooner.
Painter and Hoy Grimm founded LeConte Wealth Management in 2007 to offer investment and financial planning advice.
“We wanted to have a broader variety of investment options for our clients and we had the flexibility and final say so in using those in our clients’ portfolios,” he says.
Painter started in the financial industry as a portfolio manager in the trust investments department for AmSouth Bank in Birmingham, Ala., after earning his master’s in business administration from the University of Tennessee.
“The responsibility they gave me to … research equities, mutual funds and other financial products and instruments gave me a foundation of knowledge that led me to further my interest in asset allocation and risk management that we utilize in our practice today,” he says.
In 2001, Painter moved back to Blount County to work with his father, George “Gig” Painter Jr., as a private financial adviser in SunTrust’s Investment Services.
“I learned some more about how he interacted with folks - how to be honest with people when discussing their financial goals and what you recommend about how they can achieve those goals,” he says.
He’s also followed the lead of his father, who died in 2002, when it comes to volunteering.
A singer and musician, Painter is active with United Way of Blount County, the Blount Chamber Partnership and is an avid supporter of the Clayton Center for the Arts.
“The Clayton Center is a truly unique gathering place not only for Blount County, but the East Tennessee region,” he says. “It’s a very transformational project that touches people on so many different levels.”
He also shares his interest in cooking with the community, hauling a barbecue smoker to charitable events like the Relay for Life and participating in cook-offs.
Painter says the economic turbulence of the past year confirmed his decision to go into business for himself.
“We had the freedom and resources to devote all of our efforts on communicating with our clients and helping them navigate through the financial downturn,” he says.
Andy Scoggins, 39
Vice president of culinary and beverage, Ruby Tuesday
By being willing to take risks, Andy Scoggins has helped Ruby Tuesday evolve into a company that’s remained relevant with its customers.
While studying political science at the University of Tennessee, Scoggins began tending bar in 1991 at Ruby Tuesday and became an assistant manager in Nashville after he graduated in 1995.
“What’s been most surprising to me is that I would fall in love with such a fast-paced, ever-changing industry,” he says. “I had good mentors in Nashville who knew how to run restaurants, take care of people, attract guests and keep them happy. I learned a lot while getting my feet wet from a management standpoint.”
Scoggins spent about eight years in Nashville, working his way up to general manager, managing partner and then director of operations. In the latter role, he traveled to train new directors coming up in the company.
“I would help them transition from being general manager and managing partner to director,” he says. “That was my first exposure to training.”
In 2003, the company asked him to head up the training and development program and Scoggins relocated to Knoxville.
“Several of our leaders today spent time with me,” he says.
Within a few months, Scoggins moved into the role of director of operations support and then became director of marketing.
“For years, we had been a word-of-mouth company,” he says. “(Then company leaders) made a strategic decision to dramatically expand our marketing. They asked me to come and build a team and the infrastructure to support that. A big part of that was the rebranding.”
Ruby Tuesday had set out to transform itself from a bar-and-grill restaurant into a higher-end casual dining restaurant.
“It was unheard of at the time to transition a brand of our size into a new brand,” he says. “We changed every touch point, everything you can think of. We raised the quality of everything that was done.”
In 2007, when the company tapped Scoggins to be vice president of culinary and beverage, he drew on his newfound knowledge of that part of the business.
“We’re really building a world-class culinary and beverage support team,” says Scoggins, who also sits on the board for the Ruby Tuesday Relief Fund and is active in the company’s food donation programs. “It’s a great environment to learn and grow in and they’ve trusted me enough to be part of it so I could grow as an individual and in my career.”