In episode 18 of the Rocket IT Business Podcast we speak with friends and fellow entrepreneurs, Chad and Robin Merrill. With decades of leadership and business experience between them, Chad and Robin are on a mission to inspire, impact, and influence the lives of others.
With their current businesses venture, Impact 2:52, Chad and Robin are equipping entrepreneurs and other leaders with the tools and systems to build healthy, sustainable organizations. But, Impact 2:52 is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot to unpack here, listen close as we dive in.
In This Episode, You’ll Hear More About:
- How Impact 2:52 came to be
- The entrepreneurial drive
- How to establish a business with your significant other
- The benefits of a holding company
- The Fellowship of Companies for Christ International
- How to balance relationships, work, and stewardship
- Steps for managing entrepreneurial risk
- How to invest in resource deserts
- What it takes to make big life changes
Robin Merrill | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad Merrill | email@example.com
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Matt Hyatt (00:00:00):
Hello, and welcome to episode 18 of the rocket it business podcast. I’m your host, Matt Hyatt. And today we’re talking with my friends and fellow entrepreneurs, Chad and Robin Merrill
Intro (00:00:25):[Music Plays]
Matt Hyatt (00:00:28):
With decades of leadership and business experience between them, Chad and Robin are on a mission to inspire, impact, and influence the lives of others. With their current business, Impact 2:52, Chad and Robin are equipping entrepreneurs and other leaders with the tools and systems to build healthy, sustainable organizations. But Impact 2:52 is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s dive in. Robin, Chad, welcome to the show.
Robin Merrill (00:00:54):
Thanks. We’re glad to be on it, Matt.
Chad Merrill (00:00:56):
Matt Hyatt (00:00:57):
Yeah, absolutely. So first things first, I want to learn a little bit about the two of you for the benefit of our listeners. We don’t often have the opportunity to talk with couples that also work together quite a bit. And I know you’ve been married for a long, long, long, long, long time. Have you always worked together?
Robin Merrill (00:01:19):
Yeah. Well, you know, Matt, I’m going to give you a little bit of the backstory first and then we’ll get into that work part of it. But this is my favorite part of our story because we started dating when Chad was 14 and I was 16. We actually got married when he was 19 and I was 21, one year after we were married as when we started our first business. And so we’ve now been married 33 years. That gives you a little nugget of our background.
Matt Hyatt (00:01:59):
That’s amazing. Now did you both come from entrepreneurial families?
Chad Merrill (00:02:04):
Yeah, we did actually, both my grandparents were small business owners and my dad was a lawyer that was involved with several businesses as well. And Robin’s dad was also a small business furniture store owner in the town where we grew up. So a lot of entrepreneurial blood in her background.
Matt Hyatt (00:02:26):
Yeah. Once you, once you once you sort of caught that bug, it’s, it’s hard to get rid of it, isn’t it.
Chad Merrill (00:02:34):
And when you’ve had it for a few years and find out that you’re probably not employable.
Matt Hyatt (00:02:45):
I love it. Yeah. I have joked many times and this is sort of true thing, right. It’s that I consider myself pretty much unemployable at this point. I knew I have a special fondness for other entrepreneurs, as you know, and you know, if something, I don’t know what it is, if it’s something in our blood or something about our backgrounds, but it is sort of an affliction, isn’t it? Once, once you’ve once you’ve sort of tasted the entrepreneurial life, it, it kind of sticks with you, huh?
Robin Merrill (00:03:16):
Well, in all honesty, Matt, I will say there are times though that I was like, what are we doing? And there are times I did want to back off of it. But all in all, yeah. Once you get it in your blood, it’s hard to get out.
Matt Hyatt (00:03:31):
Well, I think we’ve experienced that too. Or, you know, most, most of the time, if you’re watching an interview on TV, or you know, you’re reading about entrepreneurs, often the vision is, hey, I’m going to start here. And then this is going to be this amazing trajectory, you know, high and to the right. Right? But the reality is for most of us that road’s a lot bumpier than that. Huh?
Chad Merrill (00:03:56):
Absolutely. I know who’s lives are like the stock market, you know, way down, when you look at at a decade at a time time it’s kind of up into the right.
Matt Hyatt (00:04:05):
Right. Well, you know what, it’s funny you say that I read something the other day and it was in the context of real estate investing, but the the message was to think in terms of decades, rather than thinking in terms of, of years. And I think that’s really smart, whether it’s real estate or entrepreneurship and probably other things in life too; relationships and things like that is, what’s the game plan for the decade ahead, as opposed to, you know, what’s happening right now or next week, or year even.
Chad Merrill (00:04:36):
Well, I think years, like we’ve had in 2020 remind you of that. Also take nothing for granted, but certainly have to look a little bit longer.
Matt Hyatt (00:04:46):
It has been a wild ride, for sure. So I do want to start a little bit with Impact 2:52, which I have the impression that’s sort of the, the newest most centric part of your focus right now. Would that be accurate? Yeah,
Chad Merrill (00:05:03):
It’s you know, it does take a little bit of explaining because it like 2:52 became kind of a catchall. Holding company is a little bit too lofty of a word, but it became kind of the conduit where we decided a few years ago that we would kind of do our business and professional lives through. So it is our latest pursuit, but it kind of encompasses a lot of different things, depending on the year, the season, the project.
Matt Hyatt (00:05:30):
Right. Well, I’d love to hear how you got started with that, because as you alluded to that, probably wasn’t the idea going in with D-Bat and, and your other organizations. So can you tell us a little bit about the background and how it got started and how you ended up with Impact 2:52 being this sort of like you said, kind of a holding company,
Chad Merrill (00:05:54):
It goes back a little bit, or just, let’s just step back. I was involved in the company, OnePath Systems where partners started it, grew it and ultimately sold it to a private equity firm. And through that transition, they were, they were good guys. They did what they said. They were honest guys, but we had a, a value disconnect. You know, we had been started on a certain set of values and as the influence of the equity and when they ultimately brought in the president and things like that, it became stark that, you know, the values that we had formed the company on were just different and it, it just wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t fine. Like any kind of relationship when your values don’t align, you see that there can be conflict coming. So when I ultimately left, OnePath and started Impact 2:52 and the real, the real goal and the Genesis behind it was less try to stay value aligned and all that.
Chad Merrill (00:06:49):
We do projects, we work with partners, we take on companies we may get involved with or start or buy. And so that was the beginning and it came about real quick. We had a deal on the table, we were working with a lawyer and he said, you know, I need to know the name by the end of the day, we’ve got to, we’ve got to incorporate, we got to get this paper going and, and things like that. And we started writing words on the board and they were influencing the next generation and inspiration and things like that. And as you said, the company we were buying had to do with baseball, youth baseball. And so we thought impact, that’s a great word. So he said to inspire, influence and impact. And then 2:52 actually comes from Luke 2:52. It’s where Jesus grew in wisdom stature and favor of God.
Chad Merrill (00:07:37):
And so he thought, Oh, that really encompasses a lot of things with youth. So we thought if you grow in wisdom and stature and favor of God, and man, we thought that kind of really encompasses a lot of the things that we wanted to do. So Impact 2:52 was born.
Matt Hyatt (00:07:54):
I love it. So tell us about, D-Bat.
Chad Merrill (00:07:57):
So D-Bat. When we formed the company we bought, I was looking for a company trying to find what to do was transitioning out of one path and, called a friend that was a business broker and said, looking for something to do with leadership or next generation or things that we can impact people and had no idea what that would look like. And two months later, he called back and said, I found a baseball training facility in Buckhead. And so scratched my head, and thought, hey, that could work.
Chad Merrill (00:08:27):
You know, I’ve been going to work sometimes wearing a coat and a tie and things like that. And I said, we’re in a t-shirt and you know, going to a gym probably sounds like a good idea. So that’s where it started. We bought this a little baseball facility in Buckhead, and then it became off to the races and the little bit, the type-A and the entrepreneurism kicked in and over the last four or five years, we built seven in the Atlanta area. And started going beyond that and added soccer and a few other things. And so that was the that was the beginning of impact.
Matt Hyatt (00:09:04):
I love it. And how long ago was that?
Chad Merrill (00:09:07):
That was I believe in 2015. At the end of 2015. And, and it took off and it, you know, what I found being an entrepreneur and like, you know, a lot of folks that are entrepreneurial and once we got into baseball and soccer found out, lots of folks are looking to do things like that. So very fortunate to have some great guys that came alongside, that were in that industry and a couple of professional ballplayers. And everybody loved the idea of having a positive influence on sports and kids and the Atlanta market. And so we’ve been really fortunate to grow it at a pretty good rate over the last few years.
Matt Hyatt (00:09:50):
And so is, is do you have a sports background?
Chad Merrill (00:09:55):
I’ll watch it on the weekends. We did in high school, we played a lot of sports in high school and actually Robin and I both had pretty good high school careers. I actually did coach a lot of baseball. I tell folks that’s one of my proudest moments is our 11 year old baseball team winning the Georgia state championship, some relevant experience there, for sure. A lot of fun.
Matt Hyatt (00:10:26):
So that kind of reminds me that I think there is a common theme that will probably unfold here in this conversation is a lot of what you and Robin have been involved in really does relate to kids and teens and young adults. And so what was out of the design goal for, for your search of this new business venture also? Or did that, was that a lucky coincidence?
Chad Merrill (00:10:55):
A little of both. I mean, it was, it was a design goal when we were looking, but we didn’t really know what we were looking for. I think we probably both thought that it would be extracurricular and maybe it would be related. And as you start getting into a little bit of Robin’s professional story, those themes will collide as well. So I would say it was certainly not accidental, but but it was, you know, a bit of a, a kind of a great scenario when it was able to come out the way it did in so many different parts of life.
Matt Hyatt (00:11:29):
Well, you know, one thing I really like about the business model also from the, from the very little bit that I know about it is you’re, you’re obviously having influence and impact in the lives of young children who are there to improve their sport, whether it’s soccer or baseball, but I’m going to guess that your team is comprised of probably teenagers, college students and other young adults. And so you have a real opportunity to impact them and their lives also, is that, is that right?
Chad Merrill (00:12:04):
It is. And when we really started focusing on that was a couple of years ago, I think we looked around and had about a hundred employees at the time. And I think we determined that all, but three or four were under the age of 30. So we’ve got a few more gray hairs. Now that’s 150, 275. We realized we were a full on kind of millennial company. Average age was about 25, 24. So it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great environment that creates a whole different set of challenges and, and, you know, business opportunities to work.
Matt Hyatt (00:12:42):
I didn’t plan to ask about the pandemic and how that’s affected that business, but I got to think that has affected that business. How, how have you navigated through the pandemic with w really as a group sports type of environment?
Chad Merrill (00:13:00):
We were real fortunate. I mean, it did hit hard. So we had to hard set down in March or April, whenever, particularly in Georgia and places like California and Seattle, we had to set down. And also a lot of time with our team, we’ve got a great president and he they really responded and started doing things video and, you know, created, you know, dozens over a hundred new drills and said, hey, let’s communicate. And we sent soccer balls and baseballs to customers saying, we’re thinking about you and come back. And so Georgia is, you know, nationally has been on the more aggressive side of opening back up. And so when we did open, we had a tremendous spike, you know, kids will understand that parents are like, we got to do something, you know, leagues were canceled, can’t go to the movies, not going to school.
Chad Merrill (00:13:54):
And, and we became a big outlet. And so we’ve come back very, very strong. We’ve had to work real hard at safety protocols. And I like to say, particularly in that business, we really have the parent trust business, their kids, or lots of different activities. And, and so we, we’re trying to go above and beyond to have safety protocols and things like that. So it was a dip very hard to go to zero for a month, but we are pretty close to 2020 plan. And some, some locations actually surpassed it. So we’ve been fortunate.
Matt Hyatt (00:14:30):
I love it. Well, I appreciate you sharing that story. That is a huge accomplishment to be able to navigate such a, just a giant unknown for 2020. Sounds like it’s worked really well. And in some cases it sounds like it’s been an outlet for those parents and kids that really need something to occupy their, not just to occupy their time, but to have their attention and focus. Right. That’s important. Right. So Robin, I’d love to spend a little bit of time with you as well. And one of the things that I love about really both your stories is that while you’ve had a number of different ventures that, that I know about over the years, a lot of them are sort of intertwined and connect together and work together really well. And so I know that you started a business not too long ago with some friends Connextion Worldwide. Right. Can you tell us about that effort and how it relates to Impact 2:52?
Robin Merrill (00:15:36):
Sure. I’d be glad to thanks. So I have to kind of give you a little bit of backstory of how Connextion came about and our good friend, Jeremie Kubicek, who we both love.
Matt Hyatt (00:15:50):
And he’s been on the show before. We did a podcast with him not too long ago.
Robin Merrill (00:15:54):
Very good. I haven’t seen it. I’ll go back and watch. But anyway, Jeremie has been just a huge influence on our lives in the leadership language and tools that he offered us as a couple and we kind of went and ran with that, joined the GiANT team and GiANT has now become an online platform. And so the senior consultant that I was at GiANT, that kind of that model has gone away. And so some of the other ladies that were trained in the GiANT, you know, language and tools, all said, we came together and said, well, why don’t we build our own company and our own platforms? So we are powered by the GiANT tools, but we really came together and formed Connextion Worldwide to connect. It really has started really started to connect women in leadership from all over. And we really wanted to do that with a boutique retreat type of platform.
Robin Merrill (00:17:01):
And that has morphed into year long programs. So we’re finishing up our first year long pro program with women. And we were at our first retreat together. And the pandemic was really amazing that we had ladies from five different States joining us. And so getting off of a a few days with them and just on a high and just seeing the liberation and the transformation that these ladies have been through this year has been significant. You know, we all talk about people being in leadership and how lonely that can be. And it’s in particularly lonely for women sometimes to feel like they have to be something maybe that they’re not. And so helping them to understand who they are and really lean into that. And that really comes out of the other, my other partners and my own transformation and in the leadership realm. So we are on par for next year, and that’s going to look a little bit different as we started off the, just women for Connextion. We were also working with corporate clients or working with young leaders speaking. And so now our platform is going to encompass all of that as we move into 2021.
Matt Hyatt (00:18:23):
Well, we all know 20, 21 is different in a lot of ways, right?
Robin Merrill (00:18:29):
Chad is like the genuine entrepreneur. He is that visionary. I am more of that more present minded person, and I need a lot more details and he does. So that’s really been a balance for us in, in our marriage and also working together, and so for me to actually start this company, I think this is the first time I’ve done that without Chad being a part of it. And I actually had to pull him in quite a bit, but, you know, it was very interesting for me to move into that role as a, as a true entrepreneur in this situation with Connextion Worldwide. So it’s been fun, but it’s been a growth opportunity for me in lots of ways. I’ve had to really stretch muscles I’ve never had to stretch before. So, but I wanted to go back because I wanted to share with you a little bit, just about how GiANT going back to the Impact 2:52 in all the people that we work with, you know, we chatted and just have a heart for the young professionals for young entrepreneurs, for young people coming out of college into the workplace.
Robin Merrill (00:19:43):
And so at Impact, what we did at D-Bat and for the TOCA leaders, we started what was about three and a half years ago, Chad? I think that we started a leadership program every Wednesday, our top tier one leaders would go through all day training, whether that was on a book or conversations that we’re having people come in. And so I would take one of those Wednesdays and I worked with tier one leaders and tier two leaders in what we would do is go through a year long program so that we’re infusing the GiANT tools, the GiANT language, the common language that, that produces say that we were building this healthy culture, right? Because the four we had started these leadership days, we had a pretty high turnover rate in the company and that morphed into what about a year, year and a half after we started these leadership days that, you know, we had so many people coming test is top quality, top notch, people wanting to work at our company.
Matt Hyatt (00:20:51):
That’s fantastic. So word got out about the program and they were coming for that.
Robin Merrill (00:20:55):
Yeah. One of the things Chad and our president did, is I just asked what, what is it that you want so that you would stay with us for three years? Like what, what would you want us to offer you so that we can help grow you and keep you for at least three years? Because you get this age group, there’s a lot of turnover, you know, of jobs in the age group. And they really said, we just want you to pour into us. We want to learn. We want to grow as a leader. We want to learn how to manage our money. You know, there’s just so many things I just wanted to know about them personally. So people have asked us, well, orange, she’s scared to just gonna leave and go somewhere else. Well, yeah, that’s kind of the goal, you know, is to help them. I mean, yes, of course we want to keep them, but we also want to build bleeders that wherever they get next are going to be absolutely the most amazing either entrepreneur or either person to work with at that next place that they land.
Matt Hyatt (00:21:54):
Yeah. I love that. Well, it certainly is a balance, right? You want to, you want to keep folks, but you also want to genuinely help folks so that whatever happens next is a good experience for everyone involved. Right? But it sounds like just pouring into folks and, and really making that a significant part of the culture has worked to help retain folks and also to recruit new people.
Robin Merrill (00:22:28):
It’s been, it’s been significant. And what I love about what we’re doing is it’s a multiplication effect. So these young people that we’re pouring into and developing liberating leaders is what we call them. People that support and challenge. And they know how to bring that in a way that other people can hear and grow. They now are our top leaders, take that to all of their locations and they’re working with every single person in their group. So it’s been really, really, truly amazing the stories we hear of significant impact it’s had on their lives personally, but also on their lives as they’re growing in now and their new business world as leaders.
Matt Hyatt (00:23:10):
I love it. So I would like to get into the mechanics just a little bit, because I do think well I know that many of our listeners are entrepreneurs and other leaders that would like to learn from people like you tell us a little bit more about the cadence of meetings. Did I hear correctly that for your new leaders, that they’re going through a one-year program, which is comprised of a weekly meeting, is that right?
Robin Merrill (00:23:38):
If they’re in our, in our top tier, if they’re managing or directing, that’s the level that they come in at, and then that, because those remember they’re multiplying. So they now go back to their locations. So everyone from top level managers down to the person that is training someone, you know, with TOCA soccer or baseball, everyone is getting this common language. They’re all understanding how to speak to each other objectively, so that we avoid a lot of the tension and frustrations that you’re going to have some, but this helps communication at a higher level.
Matt Hyatt (00:24:17):
That’s great. So tell me, you, you mentioned, and we’ve talked about a little bit that you and Chad both have a passion for young people and, and young adults, rising leaders work. Where does that come from? Is that something you’ve always had, or I know, I know you’ve got, so you’ve got two grown sons, right? Was that Your introduction to the kid thing?
Robin Merrill (00:24:42):
Was, was, ah, Barrett’s 27 and Christina will be 23 next week.
Matt Hyatt (00:24:51):
Okay, excellent. So but truly, I would like to kind of unpack that, have you always worked with young adults or is that a passion that’s just sort of discovered later?
Robin Merrill (00:25:00):
Well, I’ll go ahead and start. Chad, you jump in anytime. I would love to share this little story with you because I think it’s just significant part of, of who we are now. But back in the twenties, I guess we’re about 27, 28, Chad and I went on a little retreat. And we just ask ourselves this question, you know, what is it that we want to do before we die?
Robin Merrill (00:25:32):
People now probably call it a bucket list, but that’s not what we called it back then. So anyway, so what was significant about that came out of that weekend were two things. We would go away, we would dream on our own. Then we would come back at lunch and dinner and talk, but we had a lot of time that we just spent in our own thoughts and minds and prayer and all of that. And we would come back into the two things that came out is that Chad says, you really want to have a foreign exchange student come live with us. And the second thing that came out of that was we created, you know, it was so fun, just dreaming up. What would it look like if we created a place for kids to come and they would be safe and they could, you know, watch great movies , you know, have a place to learn about leadership, you know, have a place that they could play baseball, whatever that looked like.
Robin Merrill (00:26:27):
We were just kind of dreaming. And it’s kind of fun to see that those dreams have kind of happened over the years. So after we came off of that weekend, I guess we’re home about six weeks and we had an email come through and it said a lady in the neighborhood and said, I’ve got an exchange student that needs a place for six months. So we looked at each other and like, okay, let’s do it. That, that was the first time that we had an exchange student live with us. As teenager, we had had friends in different units. Chad’s brother lived with us, but we all of a sudden realized we really enjoyed it. So I guess now we’ve had over 20 something, young people that have lived with us through the years and anywhere from six weeks to three and a half years. So, and so that’s an addition to our two kids, but it’s been amazing. We’ve learned so much from them, you know, and we just felt like, they’ve taught us a lot that we have that, you know, we’ve instilled something in them as well, and that’s a part of their journey. So because of that, we have just really enjoyed the, the young people and being a part of their lives and pouring into them. So, yeah, I guess we’ve always had this infinity towards, working with, with young, with young people.
Matt Hyatt (00:27:54):
Oh, that’s awesome. I love hearing that. I had, I had no idea 20, 20 something people probably at different times, not all at the same time
Chad Merrill (00:28:05):
We recently moved so they wouldn’t know where we were. But then people were still there under shadow of night, so we moved across town.
Matt Hyatt (00:28:22):
Well, let’s talk about that for just a second because you know, Maureen and I, we, we live out in the suburbs of Atlanta and we’re also a relatively new empty-nesters. We haven’t been at it quite, quite as long as you have, but certainly we’ve gotten to a point where it’s like, wow, you know, we could move in town near all the restaurants and art galleries. We like to known how’s that going? You, you moved across town, you were already sort of near Atlanta. I would say, if not directly in the city limits, but right now you’re in the thick of it. Aren’t you?
Chad Merrill (00:28:56):
We are, it may only be eight or 10 miles by a distance, but it’s it’s a radical difference from where we were. So we had the house in the, in the suburbs. So lots of folks live there and we had cookouts in the backyard and all the types of things you do in the suburbs. And so we are now down in town at the Belt Line,
Matt Hyatt (00:29:20):
Nice the Belt Line is a multipurpose outdoor trail going through Atlanta for those of us that are not in Atlanta.
Chad Merrill (00:29:30):
Yes. Yes. And it’s both incredibly diverse in every kind of way. I think it’s the most diverse part of Atlanta, age, backgrounds, races, and things like that. And it’s completely different. It’s probably as close to living in, you know, a major city in New York or something is Atlanta has to offer everywhere. We’re contemplating letting the car go and being a family and things like that. So it was, but it was fine. It’s been great. It’s been great so far. I’m one of the, one of the reasons behind, it was a bit of a mindset and saying, Hey, if we change something significantly about, you know, place purpose, we were both kind of transitioning between careers and companies and things of that nature. And so we thought, boy, this will be a real different mindset and something, something new.
Matt Hyatt (00:30:28):
Well, I do want to touch on that and this and selfishly, this is all about Maureen and I are making this decision. Our listeners may not care at all, but I want to know. We, we have looked in town you know, fairly seriously. We’ve looked at a number of different areas and, and you know, mostly condos and townhouses and kind of thinking about if we’re going to be traveling for long periods of time is something that we like to do. Be nice if you didn’t have a yard to worry about, and you’ve got close neighbors and keep an eye on things. But I have to confess it’s a little bit scary for a guy that grew up really in the suburbs or even beyond it’s a big change, have any surprises that we should know about anything we should consider as we think through that, that idea.
Chad Merrill (00:31:28):
That’s great. So far, we’ve actually, I don’t know, maybe six weeks been been down here. It’s not been, Oh, not that long. And we were out of town, so it’s still new and shiny. We’ve only got 50% furniture in the house, so we’re still a little bit new, but we have done a lot of walking and found new restaurants and meeting different people down here.
Matt Hyatt (00:31:53):
Like, you know, I haven’t been to your place yet, but I know about where you are. And for, for our listeners, it is a very active, vibrant part of our city. And there’s always people outside, running up and down the Belt Line and tons of restaurants and galleries and bars and all kinds of fun stuff. So we’ll, I’ll check back in with you in a year or so, and see how that’s going before we make any big decisions. But I applaud you for making such a big change in your life. That’s, that’s pretty cool. Chad, one thing that strikes me as I’ve gotten to know you over the last several years is it seems like you’re, you’re doing a lot of things. It seems like, it seems like there’s not just one thing, there’s nine things. And one of the things that I have admired about you is somehow you still seem like a happy, easy going guy with all that. So you’ve got Impact 2:52, D-Bat, TOCA, which is a soccer organization. Uh, but you’ve also been involved in FCCI, which for, for our listeners, that’s fellowship of companies for Christ international. Can, can you tell us a little bit about that organization and what you’re doing there, and then I’d love to hear how you manage so much. I mean, that’s, that’s a lot to manage for one person.
Chad Merrill (00:33:19):
Yeah. So sometimes not so well the best, one of the downsides of being a connector and involved with a lot of different things is drawn focus. And so that’s kind of a big theme of 2021. Let’s reduce the number of things we’re involved with getting more actively engaged, but FCCI came about, Robin and I’d been going, we have a couple of significant mentors in both business and faith. And FCCI was really formed by groups about Atlanta businessman that are in the business, in the faith world, in Atlanta. Truett Cathy was part, Bobby Mitchell and Jim Moya quite a bit came together and they were struggling with, you know, can you express your faith and be an excellent business and integrate the two together? So it’s an organization that just seeks to encouraging site-based, you know, Christian business owners to, me able to integrate their site and have some, you know, in a secular term, they call it life balance or other types of things, but it’s essentially know how do you integrate sites and work together.
Chad Merrill (00:34:35):
And and so we started going to conferences and various settings that they had probably 12 or 14 years ago. I was asked to go on the board about five years ago. And then a few years ago there was a transition and it kind of corresponded with me leaving OnePath and, and there was a time they needed a president. And so I got, drafted in to lead the organization for a couple of years back, not only to be able to try to give back and, and help bridge to the next generation, that organization, which is 40 years old around the world, around the country. There’s been different times, but there’s, there’s folks in 30 States, probably in 25 or 30 countries around the world. Broad-based over the last 40 years. And it really introduced to a whole new set of people that is where we’re spending a lot of time now. And it’s really shaped what we think the next decade is going to look like in that state sort of investing fates are of an entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of, lot of, organizations like that, that wind I for business, but also our love for family and next generation and say that we try to integrate into our life and our businesses as well.
Matt Hyatt (00:35:55):
So tell us about some of the complications of trying to juggle leading FCCI that, I mean, I, I confess, I don’t know a lot about FCCI, but what I think, I know, like you said, global organization spread across multiple States. I actually didn’t know it was founded in Atlanta. I thought it was headquartered in California. Is that right
Chad Merrill (00:36:21):
In Atlanta? I
Matt Hyatt (00:36:23):
Don’t know why I thought that. But
Chad Merrill (00:36:25):
We’re looking at opportunity in California in and partners out there. We’re up there a lot.
Matt Hyatt (00:36:31):
Okay. Maybe that’s, maybe that’s why I thought. But between that and Impact 2:52, how, how do you manage your time so that you’re not just swallowed up by all of it?
Chad Merrill (00:36:43):
So it’s a challenge. It’s a constant challenge for me. There’s a lot of emails at midnight and weekend and things like that of you know, strong organizations, not my greatest skillset. There is a balance with Robin and, you know, you have to get this done by today and things of that nature. So there’s pros and cons. I mean, I think I do have a, a high capacity for a number of relationships and the multitask, all the I’ve been reading a little bit about that. And you say, multitasking is a myth you can only one thing, right?
Chad Merrill (00:37:20):
Multitasking can take five tasks twice as long as if you just have focused a little bit down, but there’s there’s a lot of them, the challenge is, is getting excited about something and wanting to spend more time, but then getting drawn to something else. You know, so, you know, FCCI had set things that I had to be at and, you know, business is fluid and opportunities happen at different times. I was incredibly fortunate to be involved with three things that were happening. And there were many times like California, our TOCA D-Bat is now headquartered in California. So I’d be incredibly fortunate to be able to go to California and fully work on, you know, two or three different things are in Dallas, Texas. We’ve got a big presence and work on two or three things and here in Atlanta, but it’s, it’s a constant challenge. And I feel like, you know, an example always use is when you see a juggler juggling, a lot of balls, usually you drops all of them. You know, it’s is not one ball that falls out or something. That’s how I feel sometimes, you know, am I doing anything really well or
Matt Hyatt (00:38:38):
Right. Well, that, that is a challenge for folks that are wired that way. And I, and, and, you know, certainly I fall in that category also of, it’s easy to over-commit because you get interested in a bunch of different things. And then what happens with me, and it sounds like may happen with you also is often a lot of those things require some sort of routine, which maybe doesn’t feel as comfortable to us. And then I love that you pointed out the the deadline part of it and kind of getting things done. I believe you and I are both very motivated by, by deadlines. And, you know, just this morning, you know, we’re minutes before the show, and I’m sending you over the notes of stuff that I worked on this morning, because that’s, that is a deadline. And that was very motivating to me to get up this morning and I’m excited about it and, and sit down and kind of put together what I thought would be a good program. Robin may have liked to have had that done two weeks ago.
Robin Merrill (00:39:48):
What did I say this morning, Chad?
Matt Hyatt (00:39:59):
I, I can totally relate though, that Maureen is a very much wired similarly, I think to you Robin, and probably more methodical about getting things done, going to start well in advance a little at a time. And the deadline is usually something that happens well after the task has been completed.
Robin Merrill (00:40:21):
Matt Hyatt (00:40:26):
A good balance when you put those two together in the same couple, I think that, I think that works really well. So I love that. All right. Well, let’s, let’s move on just a little bit. I wanna, you know, I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that you’re doing in Atlanta and Robin before the show, you and I talked a little bit about an organization that you’re involved with Peace Prep Academy. Can you tell us a little bit about that and, what’s its background and Genesis and how are you involved?
Robin Merrill (00:40:59):
Yeah, I’d love to, so Peace Preparatory Academy started in 2015 and there’s a young couple, Ben and Sarah Wills that moved into this neighborhood nine years ago and just said, the neighborhood it’s called the English Avenue neighborhood. It’s right behind Georgia Tech for anyone in Atlanta that, that knows that area. But what significant about, you know, what has happened through the years in this neighborhood is that it’s become very with the heroin community. And so it’s the third largest heroin area in the United States in the first, in the Southeastern. And so this couple, the Wills, they moved in and they just started living amongst the people. And just to, how do we create a whole, you know, child, a whole family and whole community. And they really just prayed about this and said, you know, what’s that gonna look like here? And after four years they started Peace Preparatory Academy, which is a Christian school and this neighborhood that hasn’t had a school and in the, in the neighborhood, a functioning school now for 20 years.
Robin Merrill (00:42:14):
And so, you know, it’s kind of called considered like a food desert or resource desert, if you’ve ever heard of that, where things are just a little bit farther away, you know, the food selections, aren’t the healthiest, you know, the resources, the bus schedules, all of that. They have a lot that they have to deal with. And, you know, you’re talking right in Atlanta, you’re talking about very low income families, 60% of the housing in that areas, you know, no one’s living in them, but yet you can’t buy a lot of them right now. So basically Peace Prep was formed and we started as one grade. So we started with fifth grade. So every year we add a grade level. And so we’ve been there five years. So one year we added a pre-K. So now we have pre-K and kindergarten through fifth grade.
Robin Merrill (00:43:13):
So we have about 60 children now that we serve. And what’s wonderful is they get lunch, they get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have someone that provides dinner every night for the kids. And we have a washing machine and dryer that the families can come and use, you know, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have discipleship in the afternoon for the kids. They can stay after school and their siblings can come if they need to. So it’s just a really safe place. And so we finally were able to buy the church building that we had been in for the last few years. And so now we are in the process of building plans for a new campus, which we’re very excited about because we want to go through 12th grade and we can just see, I just wish she could say these kids, how they’re thriving in such difficult circumstances.
Robin Merrill (00:44:13):
One of our kids, when we first started, you know, sometimes if the kids don’t show up, we’ll just go to their homes and in a knock on the doors of the school and check in on them. But one of our kids was sleeping on, you know, a table and, you know, it’s, it’s not great situations there. The families are making some shifts and we just see after five years of the presence of the school being there, how important that is for the community and what the impact that’s having, not only on the community, but the people that go, we have lot of people coming in and serving and, you know, reading to the kids and just being a part of growing something really special.
Matt Hyatt (00:45:00):
If, if you don’t mind me asking, how, how was that funded? How do you, how do you go into a community like that, where there aren’t very many resources and just create something, how does that work?
Robin Merrill (00:45:14):
Very generous people like you and me, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s really how we have our money. We have a sliding scale. So we ask every family to participate in tuition, but that isn’t a sliding scale. So we chatted have everyone give something in a said that they feel like they are, you know, working with our kids in their own education. So, but, you know, we have corporate gifts that come in, we have really generous people that just have caught the vision of pace prep. And I’ll working, you know, in, in lots of areas to try to find that money like Lecrae. I don’t know if you know, the Christian rapper Lecrae, he’s a big component of what we’re doing. So we have some great people that are kind of known that have gotten behind and in sharing that story everywhere they go as well. But we need the story shared a lot in order to build the schools. Thank you for asking about what we do there.
Matt Hyatt (00:46:22):
Yeah, I think that’s terrific. Just last week, I recorded a podcast with Eddie Staub, who is the founder of Eagle Ranch, if you’re familiar with that organization. And so this’ll be good. The podcast with Eddie, I think, will be published today. We’re recording on October 28th and your your episode will follow that. So good to hear this is you know, as, as you may know, if you’re familiar with Eagle Ranch, way out in the suburbs, really beyond even the suburbs, I think of Atlanta. And and then with the Peace Prep Academy, inner city, I think has a nice bookend to, to that story. Well, I love that. I would love to talk a little bit about managing risk. So we’re going to switch gears here just a little bit. I think that is something that a lot of entrepreneurs, especially right now are worried about. They’re thinking about it. They’re staying awake at night, worried about their small businesses in many cases. And one thing that strikes me when I hear the story from both of you, with what you’re doing through a connection worldwide Robin, and what you’re both doing through Impact 2:52, this is a common theme. Seems like both of you are very good at creating partnerships with other people. And I wonder how much of that is related to just risk management or is that just a benefit of, of working with other people?
Chad Merrill (00:48:02):
Well, I’ll say from the business standpoint that, you know, risk in the degree of risk, there’s certainly an element for any entrepreneur. And then I was I was an all in person and had a lot of companies that went all in, I think a little bit when they age and a little bit with experience constantly try to modify risks, but you, you certainly, if you’re going to be entrepreneurial need to have a certain degree of risk aversion in your life and consequently things go bad. I mean, we, we’ve essentially been bankrupt a couple of times and companies just don’t work out and you go all in with them. But I will say from a, from a teaming standpoint now is we were a little bit tongue in cheek talking about the personality profile of entrepreneurs is that early in my career, I didn’t want those start in the proverbial, you know, CFO that asks questions and, you know, it was, I was like, you just got to get rid of these people.
Chad Merrill (00:49:04):
This is where all good ideas go to die. And so I didn’t want them around me at all. Consequently, we had a lot of folks who were ready to charge the Hill and are, are fairly starkest story is having a company we’ll skip the details. It went to six or seven States in a couple of years. So we had a couple of employees. And a year later, we were out of business. We had an unbelievable ability to draw on the track and get the customers, but we had no systems. We had no natural controls. You had no inventory. And so now that’s usually my first call, you know, someone very risk averse. Who’s going to ask a lot of questions. Certainly if it’s a company, is top of the list for a partner is someone that’s a, that’s an offer. You go outside of the X, you get to an age at some point that we’re or at least me I’m moderating risk a little bit, but risk management is a big, big part. Yeah.
Matt Hyatt (00:50:02):
Well, I do want to talk about you, you mentioned that your age and I do want to get to that just a minute preview of what’s coming, but Robin, do you do you have an appetite for risk? Are you, are you an all in kind of person?
Robin Merrill (00:50:18):
Well, Chad really has to paint a picture for me. He has to build a bridge.
Robin Merrill (00:50:28):
You know, I’ve fallen off that bridge way too many times and, you know and had to survive. And so he’s gotten much better about painting, a better picture for me. And I’ve probably gotten much better about asking in a more detailed questions. So, you know, that’s kind of how we are getting a little bit better now, but you know, in the earlier days, you know, it was really hard because I didn’t know how to ask those questions. My voice is a nurture voice, so I’m very supportive and a relational role is important for me. So, you know, between us that just, you know, whether it’s a team or our family, I wanted everything to just run smoothly emotionally for all of us. And, and, you know, that could be hard living with a true entrepreneurial like Chad is. And one of the tools always tell this story because I think it’s important.
Robin Merrill (00:51:21):
And maybe some of your listeners might, you know, take, take something away from this, but, you know, Chad just speaks provisionally all the time. And so he has so many ideas going around in his mind. He just wanted to ask all good ones, but the way he would always, he still does the way he shares things. It’s like, yes, you know, this is going to happen and we’re going to make this happen. This is our next direction. And for so long, I would, he would just stay provisionally, speaking. Well, I would hear this is a plan and it’s the promise he’s going to make this happen. And so I would, and all of a sudden now, and we talked about this several times, but, you know, he would lose trust with me because he would have all these plans, but then he wouldn’t follow through on those plans.
Robin Merrill (00:52:15):
And so what I wound up doing because of my judging personality from the Myers-Briggs is I would run around and try to make all the things that he would share with me about doing that. Cause I didn’t want him to lose influence with our boys, with his partners or whoever he was working with. And so once we understood that language and that tool now, when he’s speaking provisionally, he’s to share with his teams or me or whoever he’s talking with, you know, I’m just, I’m dreaming a little bit here. I’m provisionally speaking. I’ll let you know if we need to move to point in promise and said, that was a big turn. And we didn’t really learn that until about five years ago, but it’s been huge for our marriage. I wish we, that I wish I would have known that, you know, earlier on.
Matt Hyatt (00:53:06):
Absolutely. Yeah. I agree that, that is useful. So for me, I first learned about that tool provisional, plan, promise from GiANT. And it was certainly an aha moment for me too, because typically, you know, I’m an introvert. So I’ll usually think about things internally before a spew them out to the world. Unless your name is Maureen Hyatt. And then I’ll just tell you all kinds of stuff.
Matt Hyatt (00:53:37):
Many times I’d be sort of thinking about, yeah, you know, we, we could move to Alaska, that’d be cool. And she was like, Oh my gosh, we’re moving to Alaska. It helped a lot to kind of figure out, Oh, you know what, I’m just talking here, just thinking about it, but what would happen if we did that? You know, that kind of thing. Yeah.
Chad Merrill (00:53:59):
I said London really, but we ended up in the Belt Line,
Matt Hyatt (00:54:05):
You compromised and moved six miles away.
Matt Hyatt (00:54:14):
Well, so, you know, I was joking a little bit about the age thing, but I, you know, I feel like we’re a similar station in life. I, you know, you both have a great head of hair. I, I do not. And you know, that’s an age related thing, but gosh, do you think about winding down? I, you know, I’m, I don’t confess the word retirement has crossed my mind a few times, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s out there. It’s not too far away. I would think, I don’t think you’re showing any signs of slowing down here. What, what is your plan?
Chad Merrill (00:54:51):
No, I don’t think so. We’ve got a lot of kind of projects, but I think the relationship to them changes, you know, I’m not looking to go start an operate, you know, business or something like that.
Chad Merrill (00:55:06):
We’re just getting started and trying to think what the next 10 years is going to look like. And now I have hard time saying advisory or consultancy, or things like that, but it’s a little bit more on the advisory level or participatory level than it is starting from scratch. Although we were with a 22 year old kid last night and he’s got a great idea and we’re like, Oh wow.
Matt Hyatt (00:55:33):
Yeah, I’ve been gunning for at large.
Chad Merrill (00:55:38):
That’s the position that I want. Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Matt Hyatt (00:55:43):
Okay. I want to move on to our lightning round. This is just a few questions that we try and ask each of our guests on the Rocket IT Business Podcast. And so let’s dive into that for just a moment. This will be fun because we get to double up or we get to ask three questions to get six answers. I think. So tell us, tell us about one person that’s had a profound impact on your, on your life.
Robin Merrill (00:56:10):
Okay. Well, I will say there has been, first of all, there’s been a lot of people that have had profound impacts on my life at different stages in my life. And so, so I’ll go back to stage in my thirties now. And there was a lady her name is Hicks and she came into my life and she’s probably about 25 years older than I am. And she wound up spending, you know, once a week, every week for about an hour or two with me and just pouring wisdom, and we would pray together. She just would, you know, listen. And We still get together not every week, but we still get together a few times a year just to visit and just to catch up. But she has significantly impacted my life in many ways.
Matt Hyatt (00:57:03):
So how’d you meet her?
Robin Merrill (00:57:04):
She was at the church that we were attending. And so it was a, it was a real full story of how we got together, but I’ll save that for another day
Matt Hyatt (00:57:15):
In our next podcast. How about you Chad?
Chad Merrill (00:57:19):
So about that same stage and it was at a low point in business and things were going wrong and, and an older gentleman reached out to me also, same kind of context. And he’s now 88. We’ve been spending time together for probably 30 years or somewhere around a neighborhood. And he was a businessman. He was in our church. He took a real interest in me. We’ve talked about life and marriage and faith and business and stages in time use better, you know, a mentor and a close confident in a friend. And so it was terrific. Yeah. Yeah. So his name was Jim Roy. And so I talked to him Friday night, so yeah.
Matt Hyatt (00:58:06):
I think mentors are so important in all of our lives. And we all have people that we look up to pretty cool though. At least my experience has been mentors sort of come and go out of our lives, that various periods of time. Pretty cool to hear you’re both, you know, 20, 30 years later staying in good touch with your mentors. That’s terrific. So tell us about, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional life?
Chad Merrill (00:58:40):
So I can go professional without really having value aligned people around you. There’s a term equally yokes that not everybody resonates with that, but I think value aligned. I looked at the professional times that, you know, even in case the work has successful businesses for a while, but there was a value disconnect. Ultimately either the company failed the relationship failed. And so having people that share common values and, you know, you don’t need to be the same person, but at your core, if your value aligned, found the good things happen and when you’re not, not so good things can happen.
Matt Hyatt (00:59:22):
We’re also a very values based organization here at Rocket IT, and you know, I tell folks when they’re coming on board or interviewing, it’s not necessarily that we have to have exactly the same values, but our values need to be compatible and aligned. And I think that has been so important for our progress over the years. So I can certainly understand that. How about you Robin?
Robin Merrill (00:59:49):
I think, as a nurturer, one of the things I’ve learned a lot about is leadership, but I think , I think becoming secure and confident and humble, it’s a phrase we use a lot, it, you know, in the GiANT world, but that for me has been significant in becoming secure in who I am and the voice that I have around the table. And knowing that I have a seat around that table and being confident in what I have to offer. That and being humble around the people that I’m with is, is very important. So those three things I think have helped me grow the most in my, in my leadership.
Matt Hyatt (01:00:30):
Yeah. I love that. I think there are a lot of folks that particularly that, or to have that you mentioned the word nurturer, but that, that a great capacity for caring about other people. I think many times our nurturers tend to underestimate their own value and their own contribution. So I love that. You’ve recognized that in yourself. I think that’s pretty terrific.
Robin Merrill (01:01:00):
Well, and I’ll just say this, you know, 43% of the people are nurturers and I love liberation and I know what that liberation has felt like for me as a nurturer. And so to think that I might can share my story and how it’s impacted me to help them be the, you know, the best that they absolutely can be and becoming secure, confident they are as important.
Matt Hyatt (01:01:27):
Perfect. All right. Any particular book or podcast that you’re reading or listening to right now?
Chad Merrill (01:01:34):
Absolutely. I know what Robin’s reading and I’ll let her say that one because that’s one of my favorites also, but, I recently read a book called, American spirit by David McCullough. And this was really a compilation of speeches that were given some time. And even this hearing that we are not so much the election year, but you know, it was the most talked about thing around the country now is the divisiveness and where are we going naturally? And what’s our future going to be. So that was a, that was a great reminder of, you know, the things that made America great and a little bit of history in there in unity. So that was a good one. And although I love the work that I’m sure Robin is going to talk about it.
Robin Merrill (01:02:17):
He does love it because he listened to it on audiobok. And then he was like, I want you to listen to it with me. So we had a six hour drive last week and listened to it. It’s Bob Goff’s new book, it’s Dream Big. It’s fantastic. You know what I love about it, it gives me such insight, more insight into who Chad is because of the way this guy dreams. I mean, his dreams are out of this world, but the things he does and that he just feels the freedom to do, to do whatever it is he thinks he can do, or maybe can’t do. But he got us in each highs. And so I have gotten so much of this, but like I said, it’s really given me some fun insight into, to Chad’s mind as well.
Matt Hyatt (01:03:05):
Oh, I love it. I have not read that particular book, but I have read Bob Goff before and great author. I’ve actually met him too at a book signing. So I got my picture taken with him. He’s, he’s a lot of fun. So one of the things that’s fun about Bob is, I don’t know if he did it with,with his current book, but I had his past book. He had his personal phone numbers,
Robin Merrill (01:03:26):
Which is awesome. It takes a hundred calls a day. I hate and you’ll love this, but then, because he goes, there’s so many stories about the calls he’s gotten and what he’s done with them, I can’t get anything done. Isn’t that amazing? I’m like, no,
Matt Hyatt (01:03:45):
That is a great segue into my last question. If people want to learn more about you and your organizations? What’s the best way to to reach out
Robin Merrill (01:03:54):
For me personally, firstname.lastname@example.org is good.
Chad Merrill (01:03:58):
I’m at email@example.com. One thing that I wanted to plug in because it’s also a podcast. You know, I love the podcast Faith Drive Entrepreneurs. Amazing stories. And they’re there, they’re only about a year, a hundred countries and you know, a couple hundred thousand weekly listeners.
Matt Hyatt (01:04:50):
I haven’t heard of that one. So thanks for sharing that. I’ll have to check that one out for sure. We’ll look on that note. I believe it’s time to wrap things up, Chad and Robin, from myself and our audience, thank you for joining us today. To our listeners, thank you for tuning in to the Rocket IT Business Podcast. If you have suggestions on future topics that you’d like to hear more about, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, a quick plug for Rocket IT. We work with businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities in the areas of IT support, information security, and strategic planning. To learn more about Rocket IT and its services, please be sure to visit rocketit.com. Thank you, Chad and Robin, it’s been a pleasure.
Robin Merrill (01:05:32):
Great. Thank you.