In the five years since the company’s inception, so much has changed for us and our tech startup clients.
Where were you 5 years ago? The Powered Health companies and what would become Growthwright were just getting started back then, and what a fast, exciting ride it’s been! Our physical address remains the same, but everything else has changed.
For those who were there from the beginning – and the many, many more who have joined us since then – we offer this reflection on way back then. Our very own Amy Wilson and Cindy Manning are two of those early birds and have lived to tell the tale. What’s life like in a tech startup incubator? What was the best place to get lunch? They have the answers, so listen to the podcast (or read the transcript) below. And, if they left out your favorite memory, be sure to let us know.
Listen to the Interview
Read the Transcript
Amanda: I am Amanda Bair, Director of Marketing with Growthwright. I’m sitting here with Amy Wilson, the Compliance Officer for Growthwright …
Amanda: And Cindy Manning, a Senior Accountant with Growthwright.
Amanda: Let’s go back five years ago. How did each of you start working for Powered Health?
Amy: Well, I was at a job where things weren’t going very well. And I was sitting in the conference room and I was the last one left in the conference room. And my cell phone rang and it was Jim Sohr, who I hadn’t talked to in about a year. And we had been – he was the CEO of AIM Healthcare Services where I worked for 14 years, a few years prior to that day I was sitting in the conference room. And I answered the phone and he said, “Amy, what are you doing?” And I said, “Do you mean right this minute?”
Amy: He said, “No, what are you doing like for work?” And I said, “Well, funny you should ask but pretty soon I’m going to be looking for a new job.” And he said, “Well, I have some new things going and I’d like you to come help me.” Pretty remarkable.
Amanda: And the rest, as they say, is history, right?
Amy: Yes. So yeah, it was – yeah, I didn’t even have to think twice about it. I was thrilled.
Amanda: That’s awesome.
Cindy: Well, I had worked with Amy for six years at AIM and had left there, I guess, a little after you did. And was at another job in the Cool Springs area and she called, and knew I wasn’t really happy there and said, “Hey, we’re thinking about bringing all the accounting in-house, you know, with Jim’s new companies.” I was like, “Oh really? Great!” And then she said, “It’s probably going to be the first of the year.” and I was like, “Oh, okay. Well, just call me later.” And she’s like, “No, no, no. We need you to come now and start setting things up.” So I came over and talked to Jim and talked to Mark and talked to Joan and started shortly thereafter.
Amanda: That’s amazing. So you’re sort of mentioning some of the Powered Health companies. Which companies were on board back then when you all first got started?
Amy: Advent, XSOLIS and Santé. Santé was just getting started, and really, XSOLIS was as well. Advent had a history prior to that but it was – it had another owner prior and Jim had purchased it and taken over control and really it was more about saving it and turning it into something new, whereas XSOLIS and Santé were brand new ideas, brand new concepts, just getting started. It was just a dream.
Amy: So we actually started as XSOLIS employees. So there was not even an idea of us being in a separate company. We were XSOLIS employees and then allocated out to all three. And we helped with anything and everything.
Amanda: With all where you all doing back then, I know officially accounting but what all were you two doing?
Amy: Yeah, accounting, any, you know, type of HR need which, you know, is not huge at that point because everyone was so small. I helped do business requirements for the early reporting for the XSOLIS platform. That was kind of cool. So I got to, you know, dig into that a little bit. Just, I would say mostly for, you know, the people that were helping Jim start these companies just really keeping them on track and, you know, just taking away all of their distractions. And so I think that’s how I ended up in compliance, was just, you know, and just sort of naturally all of those things kept falling my way.
Amanda: Fell into compliance, as one does.
Amy: Yeah, really, yeah. Incidentally.
Cindy: Registering with all the states.
Amy: Yeah, just figuring that out.
Cindy: We just did all, you know, once we brought it in-house from W Squared, which I spent a few months, you know, working with them and learning all of their processes, we just did everything from A to Z in accounting, you know. We did all the cash, incoming and outgoing, any invoicing that was done. Financial statements, bank accounting, and Amy did that.
Cindy: She did help out in accounting because we needed a separation of duties on that.
Amanda: Yes, of course.
Cindy: On that aspect.
Amy: It’s a hodgepodge, and everything. That was, you know, it’s still like that today but even more so than you just, any given day, you really did not know what might come at you and what would be asked to help with. It was just always really fun.
Cindy: Yeah, because previously, I had been in jobs at larger companies where you had your niche, you know, your piece of the whole process, and then coming here was actually the first time I had ever taken it from the very beginning to the very end and touching everything along the way.
Amanda: Well, you both came from very large companies and you come here, like a tech startup incubator because all the companies were in the same room and so young …
Amy: But for me though, it was just a flashback to early Aim days. I was the first accountant that Burt Nowers, our CFO hired. I was employee number 20. So to me, you know, and I always knew how lucky I was to have that opportunity. It’s really, I basically grew up with that company. And I just knew how lucky I was. I thought I’ll never, this will never happen to me again and I thought I get to do this again. I really do. So it was a flashback to the early AIM days, really was for me.
Cindy: Yeah, I had worked at Ford. So that was huge. Yeah, I mean, in AIM we had, I don’t know, we have a probably 2000 rounds when I started there. I don’t know total number of employees we had but it was, you know, fairly big. So …
Amy: Yeah. I think, I don’t know if we ever made it to 3000. I can’t remember, maybe.
Cindy: Two buildings worth of people. Yeah, so, but it was just exciting to think about starting, you know, something from the beginning and watching it grow and expanding horizons.
Amanda: Tell us a little bit like what was it like to work with, we’re saying so, three, four companies and in our one suite, what was that environment like?
Amy: To me I really kind of felt like one company with departments. I guess it’s the best way to describe it because, and also there were so many of those resources that were crossing over and, you know, you might have one person who is really working for both Advent and Santé. And so to me it kind of felt like we were just one company with departments, if that makes sense.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely.
Amy: Yeah. So …
Cindy: Yeah, I mean, I can remember when we did everything together, like our Thanksgiving dinners or Christmas dinners, we had them in the space across the hall where Santé / Claris is now.
Amy: That was empty for two years.
Cindy: Yeah, there were no cubicles or anything over there. It’s just a big open room and we set up tables and chairs and …
Amy: Yeah, had great parties.
Amanda: Your potluck and party room?
Cindy: And then our dirty Santa was all the companies together and so …
Amy: Just so fun.
Cindy: Yeah, it really was.
Amanda: It’s exciting.
Amy: Yeah, I think that was hard for Cindy and I as the companies grew larger, it would kind of hurt our feelings when they would get big enough and then they would have their own Christmas party and we were, you know, it was like, well, we don’t have in our own too, it was okay but it’s still was, it was sad for us because we missed it when we were all together. You know.
Amanda: Your babies were growing up.
Amy: Our babies were growing up.
Cindy: Yes, exactly.
Amanda: And hosting their own parties.
Amy: And they, yeah, exactly.
Amanda: Staying out to all hours, who knows what they were up to?!
Amy: Are they having more fun than we are? That’s unfair.
Amanda: Well, tell me about some of these cherished memories of through the years. There must be so many.
Cindy: Sure. I had already mentioned the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Those were a lot of fun. We went as a group a few times to work at Second Harvest and, you know, have had several off-site functions like that that we really enjoyed. Amy and I both had the pleasure one summer of our children working here in the summer for Advent, and that was when I still sat down here in the suite with us.
Amy: And they were both in high school.
Cindy: Yes, they were both in high school and so that was kind of nice to be working and have your son or daughter walk by and go, “Oh, my kid is here!”
Amy: There they were.
Amanda: Like, “Mom and dad don’t disappear during the day and like shut down when I’m not around.”
Cindy: In the very early days, we were small enough, you know, that Jim could go out and buy lunch for all of us and bring it back with, I think, as you said earlier, not having to have a truck but could just pick up a few meals and bring them in and feed everyone. You know, so it was very close-knit and we just, you know, spent a lot of time together.
Amy: Oh, speaking of Jim and food, one of my favorite memories is, he is a very adventurous eater and just an adventurous traveler, too. And so he had, he said to me one morning, he said, “Amy, I was driving home a different way last night and I saw this place, it was really crowded and there was a sign up front that said, Cuban Sandwiches.” So it was somewhere on the street and he told me where to find, he said, “Go get us some Cuban sandwiches.” And so I find the place and I’ve parked in the parking lot and I’m looking around and thinking, I don’t need to go into this place. It is very sketchy. And I actually called him from the parking lot. I said, “I don’t know about this.” And he’s like, “It will be fine. Go get us some Cuban sandwiches. You can do this.”
And so I’m, “Okay, I can do this.” And I walked in and it was a really bad mistake. It was a very sketchy bar with very sketchy people. And it took them more than half an hour to cook these two Cuban sandwiches because I don’t think that was really what they were in the business of doing. And so I get the Cuban sandwiches, bring them back and they were so horrible, we had to throw them in the trash.
Amanda: Oh my gosh.
Amy: It was crazy. Yes, so those food adventures are really are …
Cindy: I didn’t remember that part, that you had to throw them away.
Amy: Yeah, they were rock hard. I think they had to take bread out of the freezer and microwave it so they could spread some things on it and then that was our sandwich. It was horrible.
Cindy: And one of my first adventures out for lunch with Amy was going to the hookah bar for lunch.
Amanda: Ooh …
Cindy: And I think Jim had taken you there or recommended …
Amy: That was, he actually took me there in my first day of work.
Cindy: So we debated on the way, were we going to stay there and eat or were we just going to pick up some food and bring it back and we were like, okay, well, we’ll decide when we get there. And it looked okay …
Amy: Yeah, absolutely.
Cindy: So we were like, well, we’ll just stay here. But I think the two blonde-headed ladies made the people in there, very nervous. As we were sitting there eating, they kept their eyes on us and so, yeah, I don’t know what all those …
Amy: We never did that again.
Cindy: No, we didn’t ever go back. The food was really good but, yeah, I think we made them very nervous about being in there.
Amanda: Were the worried that you’re going to order a hookah?
Cindy: Join their club.
Amy: They would have been taking pictures of us had we done that. We would have been on their social media accounts, I’m quite sure.
Another of my favorite memories, we have one of our employees who’s been battling breast cancer. And we had special T-shirts designed for all of us to support her. And we did that without her knowing. We arranged for every single one of us to wear that on a specific day and just, you know, her surprise and, you know, joy that seeing that we had done that, that was special.
Another one of my favorite memories is one of our, there are employees and I get to travel to Chicago for a conference for the HRIS system that we use. We got to spend three days together and that was really special with them.
Amy: Yeah, so …
Amanda: Any special things that you all did together on that trip that you remember particularly?
Amy: Yes, we went to the art museum in Chicago, which she had never been to an art museum. So that goes, like, eye opening for her. And we went to the Bean. Mostly, we were busy with the conference but, you know, we ate the deep-dish pizza. Just got to know each other better, it was nice.
Amanda: And some of the best opportunities in a small company is you get to know everybody like really well, you’re working so many hours and maybe their family members, come on board and …
Amy: Exactly. Yeah. The family feel here.
Amanda: Yeah. So these many years everybody changing so quickly. What are some of the biggest surprises that have happened over the years?
Amy: For me, I think one of the things I thought of related to that question is, I love what I do here so much. So for me it surprises me when people come in and they don’t love it. And it isn’t a good fit and it doesn’t work out. I’m always surprised like, “How could you not love this?” So I think that’s my answer to that one.
Cindy: My biggest surprise after five years, is that we are still in this building.
Amy: Yes, good point.
Cindy: Yes, we had discussions about that from the beginning. You know, Amy is like, “oh, I don’t think we’ll be here that long.”
Amy: Oh, I would still, “We’re moving out.”
Cindy: Yeah, “We’re going to move to Franklin,” and I’m like, okay, you know, but we’re still here.
Amanda: We are still here.
Amy: And the carrot still dangles in front of us.
Cindy: Yes, occasionally.
Amanda: Well, that’s a good point. So five years, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem like a long time. But our companies are growing so quickly, Nashville as a city is growing and changing so much. And here we are in an up-and-coming area, they tell us. I love it over here. You know, it’s one of the reasons that we get to be food adventurous in a close way. What have been the biggest changes what you’ve seen in the area where we live?
Amy: Definitely increased traffic.
Amy: Yeah. I would say maybe it’s, you know, we can see little strip malls going up on Murfreesboro Road and, you know, we can tell things are starting to change. Some of the old buildings are coming down.
Amanda: They are.
Amy: You know, maybe, you know, fewer people walking down the street, you know.
Amy: Yeah, I mean, even on Murfreesboro Road, it kind of feels like it’s becoming more urban, if that makes sense.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely.
Amy: And so, yeah.
Cindy: Well, definitely the traffic, but I think that’s just Nashville in general because in the early days, we could get to East Nashville or downtown for lunch.
Cindy: Yeah, I had forgotten about Germantown – without any problem of going and eating and getting back in an hour.
Amy: Yeah, and you think about getting around with the freeway at lunch time now.
Amanda: Oh no, absolutely not.
Cindy: We can’t – I can’t tell you when it’s been a couple of years at least since we’ve been to East Nashville. We used to go quite often.
Amy: Yeah, that would be a big deal at all.
Amy: We’d take us less than ten minutes.
Cindy: They are resurfacing a lot of the roads around here. That’s been pretty recent.
Amy: It’s very recent.
Cindy: You know, with the bike lanes and all that.
Cindy: Even on Plus Park, several of these buildings have gotten facelifts.
Amanda: That’s true.
Cindy: The school.
Cindy: It used to be just a big empty building and there’s another office.
Amy: Yeah, there’s another …
Amanda: When did the school open?
Amy: When the school opened, we actually brought them lunch one day. Yeah, we got to interact with all of the teachers. It was in the days leading up to the school opening. So the students hadn’t started yet but the teachers were all there preparing. And they gave us a tour and we fed them, it was really nice. So I’ve enjoyed being on the street with the school. Kind of a happy thing.
Amanda: Oh yeah. I love this neighborhood. You’re right; our neighbors are changing just like they are, all over Nashville.
Amy: And we have Gibson Guitar next door.
Amanda: That’s right.
Amy: We forget about.
Amy: So that’s kind of cool too.
Amanda: Hilltop neighbors. Yeah.
Cindy: And in the beginning, we really were the only ones other than Mr. Sohr’s company, maybe, that were in this building. I mean, we could all park on the front row out here. You know, so then we had, I guess TriWest took it the most space when they came in. Yeah, it used to just be us in this building.
Amy: Yes, just the Sohrs’ people.
Amanda: Really? Oh my – so this suite?
Amy: Well, the government agency that would do the truck licenses were downstairs.
Cindy: Were they here when we …? I know that people used to come in here looking for them all the time, but I don’t remember them as being here.
Amy: Yes, so for years later, truckers would come in trying to get their tags renewed. And not being able to …
Amanda: To the Powered Health offices?
Amanda: That’s wonderful.
Cindy: And they would tell you how far they had driven and now that you were sending them somewhere else, because I think they moved to Metro Center. So they had to go pretty far away but they would tell you their whole, “Well, I just drove six hours from so-and-so and they’re not here?”
Amanda: Like, “You’re right. They’re not here.”
Amy: “Sorry, we can’t help you.”
Amanda: Oh my goodness.
Cindy: I had forgotten about that.
Amanda: Oh my gosh. Well, this building is undergoing a lot of changes right now.
Amy: Yes. It’s kind of a frustratingly slow way but we’re trying to be patient. Yeah, it’s kind of nice to see. Just try and you know, change is hard but you can’t get too attached to the way things used to be. And we got to be willing to accept, you know, new things. So it kind of symbolic, I think, for us changing too, in a way.
Amanda: Yeah. Right?
Amy: You know.
Amanda: Yeah, we change so quickly and our city changes with us and our neighborhood.
Amy: Our building is changing.
Amanda: Our building.
Amy: Right, it’s just, that you have to just hold on and enjoy the ride.
Amanda: That’s wonderful. What is the most rewarding thing about working for Growthwright, Powered Health, and the tech startups that we serve?
Amy: I would say knowing that we are serving these companies in a meaningful way and that we are playing a part of their success story. That’s it for me.
Amanda: Yeah, very literally so at the beginning, right, because you were like in every piece of their business?
Amy: Yeah, definitely.
Cindy: Like watching a child, you know, from infancy to toddler to childhood and seeing them grow and spread their wings.
Amanda: Yeah, they’re all “real companies.” I mean they were then but more so now.
Amy: Right, like I mean, it is, we get so busy, but it’s good to just slow down once in a while and remember where we came from and really fully appreciate. I mean, it’s really astounding – because I will do this once in a while and just think – what we have accomplished is unbelievable. The amount of work, the success we’ve had, everything that we have been able to achieve and get done, it’s really astounding. It really is.
Amy: Yeah, in all areas, in all areas of this business and so, yeah.
Amanda: Well, I know we have like new people at Growthwright, Powered Health, and there is a ton of new people at the companies that we serve.
Amanda: Is there anything that you wish that they knew or could see or could like get a window to from those early days?
Amy: Yeah, it’s like lately, Santé has exploded.
Amy: And you walk into their office and there will be five new faces.
Amanda: Absolutely, every single time.
Amy: And, “You weren’t here yesterday,” it feels like.
Amy: And to me, what I’ve seen in those faces that are there is just this, you know, enthusiasm, there’s a brightness, the cheeriness and you can just tell they’re excited to be here. And I just, you know, I’ve tried to meet all of them over there, I mean, I’m not been very successful in this another place but because I’m there more often, I’m able – I try to get through and meet everybody and just, you know, I’ve tried to tell them, you know, “You’re in a wonderful place and you’re working with really wonderful people.”
But yeah, it’s really strange because somehow you wish you could just impart the history and the knowledge and the wisdom and the good, all of that good stuff, you wish you could just package it up somehow and give it to them so they could feel that too. But, you know, everyone is going to experience that, their own road, so.
Cindy: Yup, I don’t know of anything …
Cindy: I don’t have any great words of wisdom.
Amanda: No “great words of wisdom”! How about the best …
Amy: Let’s say, “Just buckle up for the ride!”
Amanda: How about the best place to eat on Murfreesboro Road then, Cindy?
Cindy: On Murfreesboro Road?
Amanda: Yeah, like in our area, you know.
Amy: I would say Dozen Bakery which is a little bit off Murfreesboro Road.
Cindy: There used to be Smokey’s but they’re gone now.
Amy: Yes, we need to talk about Smokey’s. So they, that was a barbecue and burger place that opened on Thompson Lane so we could get there pretty easily. And that was our hangout. And they made this hamburger, it was the best I’ve ever had in my life, called the Munchie burger.
Amanda: Ooh …
Amy: And it was a burger with homemade mac and cheese on top of it, like in the burger. It was a mac and cheese hamburger.
Cindy: And Alabama white sauce …
Amy: And Alabama white sauce on top of the mac and cheese.
Amy: It was to die for.
Amanda: Yes, yes …
Amy: And so everybody, you know, everybody loved it. We would all just all go and we like stand in line at Smokey’s at the cash register, “Munchie burger!” “Munchie burger!” “Munchie burger!” Everyone ordering Munchie burgers. “Yeah, eight Munchie burgers!”
Cindy: And they knew most of us by name, you know, because we …
Amy: It was our Cheers, they all know …
Amy: Yeah, they closed when …
Cindy: We were very sad about that.
Amy: We were very sad to lose our Munchie burgers.
Amanda: Oh, that is sad.
Amanda: That is sad.
Amanda: Well, how about now, Cindy, because folks are coming to or to our fair hamlet up here on the hill?
Cindy: Well, for close by, I usually go to the Dairy King, which doesn’t look like much, but they have really good food. It’s basically a meat-and-three but as, you know, Amanda, you can also order off the grill there. I have not done that personally.
Amanda: It’s so very good.
Cindy: It’s very reasonably priced and it’s good food and it’s close. I mean, it’s really the closest thing you …
Amy: With our traffic issue, which is …
Cindy: Yes, and probably the other, the next other closest is Joey’s Pizza.
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Cindy: Which is really good. But you can go there and the line sometimes will be out the door. It’s like the Soup Nazi place.
Amy: Yeah, it’s like a Seinfeld.
Cindy: Yeah, Seinfeld, that’s right, because they boss you around as soon as you come in the door.
Cindy: But they do that very good pizza.
Amanda: Both of those are Nashville institutions, right?
Amy: I think so.
Cindy: Well, Joey’s originally from New York but …
Amanda: They’ve been here for …
Cindy: A long time.
Amanda: Decades at this point, right?
Amy: Yeah. I think so.
Amanda: I wouldn’t dare count.
Amy: I think so.
Amanda: What is that you’re most looking forward to over the next five years?
Amy: You want to be first?
Cindy: Am I allowed to say retirement?
Amanda: Sure, of course you are.
Cindy: It’s not quite five years but it’s close. I think just seeing the companies, you know, that we have to continue to reach maturity and take flight. I mean, I know that was Jim’s intent all along, is to start these companies, turn them into something great and, you know, turn them loose. So that’s pretty exciting to watch.
Amanda: It’s happening right before our eyes.
Amanda: Even faster than …
Cindy: He probably anticipated.
Amanda: Absolutely, absolutely. I would say, in that amount of time … I’ve worked for startups before, and these are very fast-growth companies.
Cindy: And we – it’s not just to all Powered Health companies. We do have outside companies too. So we’re up to maybe 14 companies right now. So, in just the accounting area, in five years, we’ve grown from two people to 10 people. So that kind of shows you. Yeah, I can remember doing as many as four companies by myself.
Amanda: Oh, wow.
Cindy: Yeah. And then I guess Cole had three or four that same time. That’s when we finally brought in another accounting manager and started divvying up a little bit but it’s okay. I mean, I think I do work better under pressure. You know, you finally do get to a point where it’s like, “Okay, I can’t. Help! I can’t do this anymore.” But yes, so that, it’s exciting to watch them grow.
Amy: Yeah, it’s like birds in the nest. I would say the same, I’m just excited to see, you know, what the future holds for all of the companies, you know, so happy for their success and it will just be fun to watch.
I’m also excited to work with Burt Nowers again. I worked with him at AIM, I think for 14 years. So he’s on board now on our team, so, excited to be with Burt again.
Amanda: Any favorite memories of Burt from back in the day?
Amy: Oh my goodness, I have so – I would have to think about that, just obviously 14 years.
Amanda: That’s a long time.
Amy: It’s a long time, right.
Cindy: I have known Burt since high school.
Amanda: Ooh …
Amy: Right. You beat me on that one.
Cindy: Yeah, from his Mr. GCHS days …
Amanda: Oh, is that what he was?
Cindy: He was. Bachelor of Ugliness.
Amy: He’s so embarrassed that you’re telling this.
Cindy: Okay, you can cut that out.
Cindy: I can bring you pictures.
Amy: Oh, yes, and Ryan Nowers …
Amy: His grown son who works for Santé. Ryan would hang out with me in my office when he was four years old. How’s that for, you know, making you feel old.
Amy: Now, I get to work with him.
Cindy: And he lives in London, yeah.
Amy: It’s crazy.
Amanda: So much has changed.
Amy: Time is going by.
Amanda: Well, ladies, I really appreciate this trip down memory lane that we’ve taken.
Amy: That was fun. Thanks, Amanda.
Cindy: Yes, thank you, Amanda.
Amanda: Thank you.
Looking Back: 5 Years at Growthwright
The Munchie Burger
One thing many of us have in common is a love of delicious food. Sadly, the Munchie Burger is only a memory now, but we’re told that it was ordered by the half-dozen by our staff back in the day.