By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Bob Camp is a relatively new face to the Knoxville entrepreneurial ecosystem, but he’s landed with a determination to make a difference in his new hometown.
“We have been back in Tennessee for five years, but moved to Knoxville last November,” the engaging and energetic former corporate executive says. You can’t say Camp is retired; he’s just taken his game to a new region.
Why Knoxville? The answer is simple.
“I have a son, daughter-in-law, and grandson here,” Camp says. “I want to help create $1 billion in growth locally. I want to help ensure a healthier and stronger community for all our families. That’s what it’s all about.”
We met Camp for the first time during “Innov865 Week.” He was the lead mentor/instructor for the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s “The Works” growth accelerator, a role that aligned very well with his professional career and strengths.
“We have to help them breakthrough that first barrier,” Camp says of the role that he played. In doing so, he drew on a career of building businesses, consulting and coaching.
“I have been fortunate to have been mentored well and worked with some great companies,” Camp said in his characteristic straightforward style. Over the course of our lunch interview, he cited example after example of individuals who had helped him over his career.
Camp did not start his work career with consulting in mind. In fact, he candidly acknowledged early in the interview that he did not even have a college degree.
“I wanted to be a musician,” Camp explained. “I enjoyed it, but it did not pay well, and it wasn’t good what I wanted for my family.”
His career has involved work for and in a variety of business sectors – manufacturing services, information technology consulting, software development, personal computer corporate sales, and management consulting.
Camp says he has been involved in at least seven or eight turnaround projects over his career, starting in 1983. He also spoke of helping companies break through to new levels of performance. One was a company he helped grow from $8 to $90 million in a little over four years.
“It had more than 40 clients when we started, but 80 to 90 percent of our business came from about a dozen ideal clients when we got it to $90 million,” Camp explains. What was the secret recipe? Camp says it was answering two questions – Who are we best able to serve (defining our ideal client), and how do we innovate to be important (the value we deliver)?
“Focus on what you are good at, keep building value, pay close attention to where your customers are going, and be prepared to pivot,” Camp explains.
He will be bringing those decades of experience to a new initiative that will launch before the end of the year.
NEXT: A different type of business accelerator.