VOL. 127 | NO. 157 | Monday, August 13, 2012
SPECIAL EMPHASIS: Small Business
Still a ‘Tireless Advocate’ for Local Small Businesses
By MICHAEL WADDELL
Lee Still is passionate about the health and success of small business in Memphis.
Still has been involved with the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Small Business Council since its inception in 2007, and his two-year term as its chairman runs through the end of this year.
“Lee Still, in his role as chairman of the chamber’s Small Business Council, is a tireless advocate for the small-business community,” said John Duncan, vice president of development and investor relations for the Greater Memphis Chamber. “The chamber is proud to have leaders like Lee helping to lead the priorities of our councils.”
As much as 80 percent of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s membership is made up of small businesses, or companies having fewer than 100 employees. Overall, there are about 25,000 small businesses in Memphis, and roughly 2,400 of that number are chamber members.
“With new big businesses like Electrolux and Mitsubishi coming to town, there are tons of opportunities right now for local small businesses,” said Still, senor vice president and commercial relationship manager at Trust One Bank for the past three years. “And I believe there are going to be many more projects in the future because we have such a friendly business environment, considering the current city and county administrations as the well as the private business community. I’m really excited about the future.”
Entrepreneur Magazine ranks Memphis as a top-10 city to start and grow a company, and Memphis ranks 11th on Forbes 2011 “Best Cities for Minority Entrepreneurs” list. Tennessee ranked eighth on Site Selection Magazine’s 2011 list of Top U.S. business climates, and Chief Executive Group named Tennessee the fourth-best state for business in 2012.
He explains that one of the council’s ongoing missions is to provide education, mentoring and availability as an everyday resource for its members regarding a wide range of issues, from understanding governmental ordinances and permit processes to interpreting database information. The results, in some cases, have been substantial.
“One small business got a $40,000 to $50,000 tax break after one of our Q&A sessions when they realized they were paying out more than they needed to,” Still said. “To me, that’s a real accomplishment.”
Still hints about a new program in the works for 2013 that should help the chamber’s small-business members obtain contracts from the large businesses in town.
“It’s easy for small businesses to sometimes get lost in the shadow of the large businesses that really help our community,” Still said. “Our meetings are designed to engage small businesses and meet them where they are. We provide education and networking opportunities to fill a void for small businesses that do not have a human resource department, an IT department or formal sales programs.”
“With new big businesses like Electrolux and Mitsubishi coming to town, there are tons of opportunities right now for local small businesses.”
For example, an event is being planned for November that will focus on health care issues and what the Affordable Care Act means for local small businesses. It’s important to note, however, that the council does not endorse one viewpoint or another on any particular issue.
“We are simply providing education and information that will help small businesses recognize potential opportunities and/or threats,” Still said.
A steady flow of events is organized throughout the year. Next up, the council will partner with the Sales & Marketing Society of the Mid-South on Aug. 30 to present a sales and marketing summit at The Racquet Club of Memphis.
SBC events scheduled for the fall include the “Small Business Makes It Big” breakfast on Sept. 27 at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis and the “In the Mix with Small Business” mixer at the newly renovated Malco Ridgeway Four Theater on Oct. 17.
“We try to showcase a variety of venues across the city for our members to see and possibly use for their own future events,” Still said.
Also in the works is a new mentoring program.
“In addition to our small-business events that educate and inspire, we are currently working on a mentoring program for small businesses, a program that Lee has played a vital role in planning with our Small Business Council,” Duncan said.
Still emphasizes that working with the SBC has helped him tremendously at his full-time job with Trust One Bank, where he communicates primarily with small- and medium-sized business owners.
“By staying informed about the important issues facing small business by attending our council events, it really impacts my customers at the bank. I become much more of a resource for them,” said Still, who has more than 18 years of experience in the banking industry.
Away from work, Still lives with his wife of 18 years, Carey, and their two children, age 11 and 14. He stays busy with various sporting activities of their two children, and he is currently chairman of the board for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.