John Adams introduced our Speaker, Thomas W. Hughes.
Thomas W. Hughes is a Consultant to and part owner of National Electronic Attachment, Inc. (NEA), and Medical Electronic Attachment, Inc. (MEA). These two companies are the largest in America that process and store electronic attachments for the healthcare industry. Hughes founded NEA in 1998 and founded MEA in 2007.Hughes's partner in these companies is Polaris Venture Partners, a 3 Billion dollar investment company located in Boston, Massachusetts.
Previous to this, Hughes owned Electronic Claims and Funding, Inc., which was the nation's largest dental electronic claims clearinghouse. This company was sold to MedeAmerica and today is known as the Dental Division of EMDEON. From 1988 until 1997, Hughes also owned Premier Dental Practice Management System, which was one of the top practice management systems used by dentists. In 1997, he sold the company to MIA in Great Britain, which is now owned by Carestream Health.
From 1984-1987, Hughes was one of the owners of the Pioneer Business Group located in Atlanta. This group operated business forms printing operations on the west coast with plants in Tacoma and Federal Way, Washington and Denver, Colorado. The company had sales offices in 15 states and did approximately $45 million a year in Revenue. Hughes acted as Chief Financial Officer for this organization. The group was formed after purchasing the entire printing division of American Standard. In 1987, the company was sold to North American Acquisition Corporation.
From 1982-1984, Hughes was Controller and Chief Financial Officer for Woodbury Business Systems in Atlanta. Hughes previously held the positions of Audit Manager at Dan River, Inc., and Daniel International and as Controller at Stone Manufacturing Company in Greenville, South Carolina.
Hughes' career has been one of working with self-made multi-millionaires and learning from them. In working with Eugene Stone, founder of Stone Manufacturing, which employed more than 4,000, Hughes discovered the thought processes that went into decision-making and has adapted those to his life.
Hughes is most proud of serving as the Chairman of the Board of the Alliance for Children Everywhere, Inc. (ACE), which supports crisis nurseries (staff of 83) and schools for orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia, Africa. ACE and their Partner Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia (CACZ) have just built a new upper school that is the absolute state-of-the-art school in Lusaka, Zambia. There are approximately 2400 students enrolled in 11 schools, and a staff of 52 employed currently in Zambia. This total staff 135 makes ACE the largest non-government organization hiring of Zambians in the country.
Mr. Hughes is a 1961 graduate of Florida State University, with dual degrees in Marketing and Finance. Hughes earned an MBA from Kennesaw State University in 2008, where he currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Michael J. Coles College of Business. Hughes in recognition of his professional achievement was selected into the Beta Gamma Sigma international honorary society in 2009, and was selected as the Board Member of the Year at Kennesaw State University in 2010. Hughes currently serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at Coles College. Hughes also serves on the Eagles Entrepreneur Advisory Board at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.
Hughes is also an investor in The Entrepreneur Advisors, a major entrepreneur educational group that is partnered with The Atlanta Business Chronicle. Hughes is also a featured speaker at the meetings of this group, which meets monthly at the Atlanta Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. Hughes is active in working with entrepreneurs and meets monthly with the Gathering of Angels, which is a network of angel investors in Atlanta.
Hughes is on the Board of the Michael O'Neal Singers, serves as Co-General Partner of the Hughes Family Limited Partnership, Trustee of the Hughes Charitable Trust, and General Partner of the T&J Limited Partnership (a real estate limited partnership).
Hughes is married with three grown children and six grandchildren, and resides in the Atlanta area.
Tom Hughes claimed that he worked long ago for a man who said he never, ever tried to make a wave; soon after Tom left that company and went to work for Eugene Stone of Stone Manufacturing in Greenville, SC. There, he had to relieve 100 persons of their jobs within five weeks, creating more than a few waves along the way. Since that time, he moved to Atlanta and became an entrepreneur himself in 1984 and has learned much about entrepreneurship along the way.
Today, entrepreneurs are among the only ones creating jobs. Sometimes, they are creating jobs because they have been laid off from the large corporations and need jobs. The key to being an entrepreneur is to "find a problem that needs to be solved that nobody else is solving." Then, go after setting a new industry standard. If no one has laughed yet how you are trying to do so, then you probably won't take over that industry.
Using the example of a short haul airliner, Hughes said that CEO Keller had to realize who his most important customer was: those riding buses. Keller also had to say "no" to the temptation to move away from his niche of being a low cost, short haul airliner by staying away from longer flights and a more diverse array of airplanes.
One of the keys, or perhaps the key, to entrepreneurship is leadership. In addition to discovering ways to innovate and dictate in a particular industry, one also has to be willing to eat, live, sleep, and dream their business, being the first one in on Monday and the last one to leave on Friday.
Though the housing bubble burst and the dotcom bubble burst, Hughes claims that the entrepreneur bubble will never burst. There are always opportunities for those with good ideas to be successful.