Watching the Market

Strategy & Leadership

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
– Helen Keller


Professionals Discuss Staying on Top of Trends

When it comes to maintaining a company’s competitive edge, it is critical for leaders to keep a finger on the pulse of their industry. From consumer trends to economic fluctuations, a well-informed leadership team is equipped to navigate challenges and seize opportunities. Here, several of the top leaders in our area share valuable insights about gathering information and keeping tabs on their specific industries.

ann trammell bakhaus

Ann Trammell Bakhaus

Owner, Embellish Collection

“In the fashion industry, the journey starts well before the product hits the shelves. I make frequent trips to New York for market research, visiting four times a year to align with each season. Six months in advance, I meticulously scout for products, immersing myself in showrooms that house numerous international designers. This strategy enables me to stay ahead of emerging trends and source exclusive pieces that set my store apart. This aspect of fashion is what truly excites me as a fashion enthusiast.

To ensure I make the most informed decisions at market, I invest considerable time in preparation. I collaborate with a specialized retail financial planner who provides comprehensive insights into the industry’s current landscape. Additionally, I stay constantly informed by devouring industry-specific literature, including a subscription to The Business of Fashion. Their weekly articles keep me up to date with the latest happenings and invaluable market intelligence. Moreover, I make it a point to explore publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue Business, Harper’s Bazaar, Fashionista, and The Fashion Law. These resources provide a wealth of information on industry news, trend analysis, interviews, and legal aspects, equipping me with a well-rounded understanding of the industry.”

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jim vaughn

Jim Vaughn

Market President, Truist

“Truist Commercial Community Banking’s unique community banking model combines a decentralized, regional structure with industry and banking expertise to support the full life cycle of a business. It’s a differentiator and enables us to get to know our clients’ businesses and industries, including their strengths and opportunities, so that our local leadership can provide solutions that make sense.

To put this into action, I collaborate with and draw upon a dedicated industry and advisory team who are experts in industry verticals and provide strategic advice and solutions to help our clients’ businesses succeed. We then combine this industry expertise with our local market knowledge and local decision making so we can customize solutions based on our clients’ individual needs.”

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granger hughes

Granger Hughes

Vice President, Hughes Retirement Group

“Hughes Retirement Group is a family-owned retirement and investment planning firm with our founding office in Cleveland, and our newest location in Chattanooga. Part of the responsibility of acting as a fiduciary is making sure to stay on top of market and industry changes and trends so that we are always acting in the best interest of our clients. We do this through various industry reports and information supplied by companies such as Bloomberg, Morningstar, and Barron’s. We also spend time talking with industry experts and other advisors at various conferences and financial meetings throughout the year. A big topic we keep a keen eye on is income tax changes and how these can affect retirement. Our goal is to maximize our clients’ income in retirement while minimizing, if not eliminating, any income taxes due.”

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jason allen

Jason Allen

Chattanooga Market Executive, Regions Bank

“I love reading. In fact, we have a room in our house that is dedicated to it. My go-to sources are the Chattanooga Times Free Press for local market news, The Wall Street Journal for broader market news, and American Banker for banking industry news. I have recently given in and adopted digital versions of some newspapers, but refuse to move away from reading physical books. I also really enjoy business news podcasts – if you see me running downtown, I’m probably listening to one. I love the efficiency of learning while exercising.

I am fortunate to work for a company that produces a constant supply of content via newsletters, podcasts, and webinars on topics including government affairs, interest rates, specialized industries, equity markets, and other helpful information. I believe it’s important to be intentional about scheduling time for productive reading or listening. To me, being well informed is a prerequisite to being a good banker, advisor, and leader.”

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jeff myers

Jeff Myers

President and CEO, Hamilton Health Care System

“Healthcare trends are affected by a wide variety of influences, ranging from local and national economic indicators such as national debt, individual debt, housing starts, and even gas and food prices. The well-being of the whole person includes not just healthcare at the doctor’s office or hospital, but also other factors like the availability of healthy food and whether or not transportation costs allow the family to afford driving to the doctor. As a not-for-profit hospital and an integrated system, we care for patients and families throughout all stages and phases of life and their complete well-being. From local and national news publications to industry publications from American Hospital Association, Becker’s, Modern Healthcare, and Georgia Hospital Association, we seek important information so that we can best respond to the needs of our patients and families to support them wherever they are in their wellness journey.”

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chaitanya gogula

Chaitanya Gogula

Co-Founder, Dynamic Labels USA

“We believe in building relationships that are beyond just transactional relationships with customers, suppliers, OEM engineers, and technicians so we can learn and understand more about technological advancements and stay abreast of the latest trends and offerings in our industry. Our team is always very flexible to meet individuals to build those relationships whether it is a prospective customer, competitor, or new OEM vendor, with an open mind to learn about any challenges, requirements, or new features.

Our entire team strongly believes in our core values of I.D.E.A.S which stands for Integrity, Drive, Ethics, Adventure and Simplicity. The core value of Drive (adventure, teamwork, excellence, and speed) plays a significant role to help us keep up with the top trends and deliver excellence. We believe in keeping our hearts happy by maintaining a culture and environment for our team to ideate, express, and persevere for excellence and speed.

Tradeshows, webinars, new launch events, customer interactions, staying agile and observant during visits to retail storefronts, reviewing marketing collateral or industry-specific magazines, newspaper articles, and advertisements all help us analyze the various developments and generational needs or preferences to tailor our offerings accordingly.”

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becky farmer

Becky Farmer

CEO, Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics (CSMO)

“One of the primary ways CSMO stays ahead of industry standards is through membership in the Orthopedic Forum, a national physician sub-specialty organization. I’m sure many industries have similar organizations to bring businesses of similar size and those who are recognized as deploying best practices together. 

We know our providers come from the best training programs, but that doesn’t mean the business side of our practice automatically stays at the forefront of orthopedic care unless we objectively measure ourselves against our peers. Rarely does a day pass that I am not communicating with an Orthopedic Forum CEO from around the country to either share our experiences or learn from others’ experiences. Such relationships are vital to stay current in the healthcare industry.

Shared information, benchmarking, and transparency help us perform at the highest levels and recognize where we can improve. Continuously evaluating our progress is ultimately best for our physicians, employees, and, most importantly, our patients.”

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mitch sanford

Mitch Sanford

President, Builtwell Bank

“As a banker, there are multiple sources that I follow to stay abreast of current issues and trends. I have to keep up with the banking industry trends and issues, and I do this primarily with articles and statements issued from the various regulatory agencies (FDIC, Federal Reserve, Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions) and banking associations (Tennessee Bankers Association, Georgia Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers Association). Because our customers cover a broad array of industries, I am constantly reading publications that are global, national, and local to stay current on a wide variety of business and economic topics and trends. Lastly, I review local economic data that provides residential and commercial real estate transactions and other local business information to keep up with local activity and trends.  Looking at where we have been economically, and perhaps more importantly, where we are going, is critical to being able to make the best decisions and deliver sound advice to our customers.”

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hovig yacobian

Hovig Yacoubian

Manager, Yocoubian Tailors

“Trends in the retail world are often baked into the items at market months before they hit the shelves. Brands and manufacturers are acutely aware of trends so that they are able to get them to retail markets as quickly as possible. Also, specific to our business, we look to see innovation and ideas that are happening in Europe. Trends generally start there and move to the States, so it can be like looking into the future. Digital platforms and social media are also a good guide for what is being embraced by the community. In addition, there are industry-only publications which track what is going on at all levels, both trends and economics. Finally, we’ll visit stores regionally to see what is going on in the Southeast.”

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jay hildebrand

Jay Hildebrand

Managing Director, Decosimo Corporate Finance

“At Decosimo, we help business owners sell their companies and secure their financial futures. As such, trends in our industry are both client and macroeconomic focused. Typically, our clients operate in niche markets, meaning the most vital trends are those related to a client’s specific business and industry. Staying on top of these trends requires leveraging an owner’s expertise, understanding the specifics of their business, including their pipeline of sales and historical performance, and analyzing reports from industry associations in which they’re members. On the macroeconomic side, trade publications and market research platforms help us stay informed on banking and private capital markets.

Additionally, we often tap into our extensive network of business leaders and former clients for updates across industries. The benefit of combining this information and our relationships is that we are able to maximize the value our clients receive for their businesses.”

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jim coleman jr.

Jim Coleman, Jr.

President and CEO, Erlanger Health System

“I have an early morning pre-work routine that, I believe, helps me to stay on top of news, trends, and market information both locally and nationally. First, I scan the Chattanooga Times Free Press for topical content and local happenings. Then I move to the Tennessean and the Wall Street Journal. I review Becker’s Hospital Review and their daily emails as well. I’ve also learned to rely on colleagues who are also CEOs of other hospitals and CEO round tables where we can all share information, obstacles, and opportunities we all face. I am a board member of the Tennessee Hospital Association, which provides valuable market information routinely, but the key is relationships. I focus on these through local stakeholders, speaking with Erlanger associates, my leadership team, physicians, and patients to guide me daily in strategy and decision making.”

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jim mckenzie

Jim McKenzie

Tennessee Market President, FirstBank

“Staying informed about market trends is crucial. I rely on several resources from programs like Squawk Box for national industry insights to regional updates from the Tennessee Bankers Association and FirstBank’s own Capital Markets Group for economic indicators. I regularly engage with local professionals to determine the impact of rising interest rates and borrowing costs. Staying at the forefront of trends helps ensure that we are making good decisions for Chattanooga’s market.

The industry has experienced significant changes in recent years such as PPP loans and the rapid rise in interest rates. Alarming headlines of unstable banks, like Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse, have made the public more attentive to what’s happening in the banking sector. Our team is committed to helping customers navigate the current financial landscape, and we’re fortunate that FirstBank enjoys a strong liquidity position, diverse deposit mix, and history of being financially sound.”

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chris angel

Chris Angel

President and Head of School, Baylor School

“Given Baylor’s richly diverse student body, where students come from 24 different states and 18 different countries, we use a variety of regional, national, and international resources to help us monitor markets and make informed decisions. From more traditional independent association data analysis to various demographic resources outside of our field, our team at Baylor is consistently trying to challenge assumptions and operate from an informed position. It’s important to us that our teachers, coaches, and other support staff stay at the top of their respective fields, particularly in the collegiate arena as a college preparatory school. Equally important, our admissions, development, and communications teams continue to find opportunities to share the Baylor message and the value of the Baylor experience. This holistic approach allows us to focus on developing both student leadership and continuing to grow as leaders ourselves.”

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becky hansard

Becky Hansard

Head of School, Silverdale Baptist Academy

“As a best practice, public and private school enrollment trends on the national, state, and local levels are closely monitored throughout the year. However, no one could have predicted the post-pandemic changes that United States educational institutions faced the last three years. Without a doubt, relationships with our stakeholders and other local school heads are crucial in predicting and acting upon industry changes.

Our accrediting agency, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), is another valuable resource. For the past 10 years, I have served as a commissioner for ACSI which affords me the opportunity to cultivate invaluable relationships with other educators worldwide. We often collaborate on enrollment forecasting, retention strategies, and academic advancement.

Lastly, the feedback of our stakeholders is priceless. Proverbs 15 teaches us that constructive criticism leads to wisdom and understanding. One-on-one conversations with our parents and students prove to be worth their weight in gold.”

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jay dale

Jay Dale

SouthEast Tennessee Market President, First Horizon Bank

“As a bank so many Chattanoogans trust with their financial relationships, we track trends that impact businesses both on a macro-economic basis and on a local level. With the large geographic footprint of First Horizon, we can leverage expertise and insights across several markets, industries, specialty lines of business, treasury management, Chief Economist, and many others in the markets we serve. In addition, we utilize industry and trade data published by groups like the Tennessee Bankers Association.

In short, we have a whole team that can service any market imaginable, and that’s exactly what we’ve done throughout our 159-year history. We also have a strong group of business owners who serve on our local advisory board. They provide anecdotal information regarding the trends they are experiencing in their particular industries. It’s very interesting to see the comparison between the local and national economy. Our market remains strong, and we have a great team in place to guide our customers through any type of economy.”

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todd fortner

Todd Fortner

President & CEO, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

“Key publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, and Forbes provide overarching coverage, analyses, and expert insights into the financial sector and other industries. Industry-specific publications like Credit Union Times, American Banker, and FinTech Magazine offer targeted information on emerging trends and technologies. For macro-economic insight, I review The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and Federal Reserve reports detailing GDP, employment, inflation, and other crucial economic conditions.

I also leverage news aggregators such as Google News and Apple News to customize my feeds and gain diverse perspectives. I follow industry associations like the Credit Union National Association, the American Bankers Association, and the Financial Technology Association for continuous updates and thought leadership. Additionally, the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Edge Magazine do an excellent job of covering the local business community. By utilizing these sources, our team stays informed to skillfully navigate the ever-changing financial services landscape.”

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caroline shibata

Caroline Shibata

Owner, Jeffan International

“There are three critical industry trends that we follow closely: product trends, international logistics, and consumer buying behavior. To stay on top of trends, we attend several international furniture trade shows. We look for inspirations for unique products or materials that will become a part of our new collections in the upcoming seasons. In addition, Jeffan participates in key furniture tradeshows in High Point and Atlanta where we have permanent showrooms to launch new product introductions. Our customers are able to see these new products in person and provide immediate feedback. In these interactions, we also learn about areas where we need to improve to grow our partnership. 

To stay up to date with what is happening around international logistics, we attend webinars from industry experts in this area. We also schedule routine meetings to touch base with key vendors and get updates on current situations. During the pandemic’s disruptions, we worked closely with them to find creative ways to minimize the impact to our business and were able to pivot quickly as a result.

Jeffan also has a direct-to-consumer brand called East at Main. We gain invaluable consumer insights through these direct interactions such as product categories that they are looking for as well as price point and color trends. We are also able to get immediate feedback on new products.”

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jason skinner

Jason Skinner

Director of Marketing & Business Development, University Surgical Associates

“The healthcare market has become a moving target, especially for organizations like University Surgical Associates which are built on delivering exceptional patient outcomes and experiences. This makes staying on top of industry trends – more importantly, synthesizing them and applying where appropriate – mission critical to compete and thrive. While there are dozens of industry-specific channels vying for a leader’s attention, my go-to resources fall in two camps: trade organizations and curated news from healthcare thought leaders. In the first category, there’s ACHE, MGMA and AMGA and their associated member events and publications. My top three sources in the second category include Becker’s Healthcare, The Keckley Report, and AHealthcareZ. All provide digestible insights that inform strategy, operations, HR, marketing, and other disciplines throughout the practice.”

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yolanda hayslett

Yolanda M. Hayslett, MBA, SHRM-CP

Vice President of Finance & Operations, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

“As a financial professional in the nonprofit industry, it is imperative that I stay abreast of current trends and emerging ideas within our local, regional, and national business communities. While our Chattanooga Chamber is not directly involved in a specific industry, we provide a support system that enhances our business landscape for our wide array of member businesses, including those in manufacturing, healthcare, finance, accounting, retail, hospitality, real estate, and a host of others.

A few ways that I stay sharp include reading industry-specific publications such as the Chamber Executive magazine and The Nonprofit Times, attending industry events and webinars, joining professional associations, interacting with Chamber colleagues and peers on social media, and by simply engaging with our members and stakeholders. These resources have proved invaluable in helping to stay on top of pressing issues that will impact our Chattanooga Chamber and the local business community.”

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ron jones

Ron Jones

City President, SouthEast Bank

“My perspective on the market and industry is formed from a variety of sources, including banking colleagues, industry-specific news outlets, and various conversations with business owners about the general business climate. Additionally, SouthEast Bank’s emphasis on speed and certainty in making decisions requires a well-developed, industry-centric group of contacts that help keep me versed on specific industry trends. The data points I collect are just that, data points. Others in the market can take those SAME data points and perhaps see different trends. I always want to reconcile data point answers with my personal experience and that of associates.”

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george yu

George Yu

Founder & CEO, Variable, Inc.

“We are in the technology industry that uses cutting-edge hardware components and new algorithms as part of our product offerings. We stay ahead of the curve by constantly talking to our suppliers about new technologies they are working on that could enable us to serve our customers better. We also talk to our customers about industry trends that they are seeing and new products they want to see from us. Knowing both sets of information allows us to have the innovative spark moments that are often the beginning of new products. As a leader, educating myself on new supplier technologies and customer insights allows me to see further growth opportunities and set the correct strategic direction.”

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stacy beaty

Stacy Beaty

Owner, Beaty Fabricating, Inc.

“Beaty Fabricating Inc. started in 1979, so I have been in this business over 30 years. I remember when I was in my early 20s and I was installing handrails, people would say, ‘This ornamental iron is coming back, isn’t it?’ The fact of the matter is, it never went out. Custom iron work is not trendy, the market has always demanded it.

I have always studied iron work and been to many places throughout the world to look at different designs and manufacturing processes. We do most of our own designing with inspiration from iron work that I have seen throughout various parts of the world, especially in Europe. I feel like this has benefited our company the most and is what has led us to become a leader of our industry.”

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jackie howard

Jackie Howard

Owner, Scarlett’s Cabinetry, Inc.

“At Scarlett’s Cabinetry, we keep up with trends in the kitchen and bath business through social media, meeting with our manufacturing representatives, and our clients providing a lot of inspirational photos from influencers or apps such as Pinterest or Houzz. Reading features in high-end design magazines as well as buying books with published interior designs is a great way to just keep up! We are fortunate to share a showroom with The Tile Store, so gathering all the latest tile samples and countertop options for our meetings is very productive and helps us provide an extensive design service. A lot of our projects involve working with very talented interior designers, so it’s fun for them to bring their fresh ideas into our meetings to share. We pride ourselves on providing classic, timeless kitchens and baths – our 30 years of experience sure is helpful, too!”

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