By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
A recent announcement about Sevierville native Mike Hatcher’s latest career “addition” described him as an East Tennessee serial entrepreneur.
That seems to be a really good description of the soft spoken, well-known Knoxville developer who, along with partner Tim Hill, is part of a core group that has made such an impact on Downtown Knoxville’s revitalization. After all, it is the work of these developers that has helped make Knoxville such an attractive city for Millennials.
But Hatcher’s entrepreneurial history started long before he was involved in development downtown and elsewhere. In fact, it goes back more than 30 years and includes everything from an infusion therapy company to start-ups focused on physicians’ dispensing, medical waste, software, and healthcare staffing. It is only in the last decade or so that property development and redevelopment have become a major part of his life.
“I was on a series of five-year tracks,” Hatcher told us recently in describing his various career moves that began when he accepted a position as an Internal Auditor at the University of Tennessee (UT). Today, he is a Partner in Hatcher-Hill Properties, LLC as well as serving as a Senior Advisor with Chattanooga-based FourBridges Capital Advisors.
His journey has included businesses as diverse as textiles, software, and healthcare and even included periods when he either took some time off or planned to do so. And, in one case, Hatcher admits that he announced his resignation three years before he actually was able to leave.
The only child of a mother who worked in the Sevier County School System and a father who was the Chief of Police in Sevierville joined UT’s internal audit staff in 1969. After four years – close to his five-year average, Hatcher took a position as a Plant Accountant at Cherokee Mills in Sevierville. He says he thought his future was in textiles, but learned in a few years that the sector did not have a good economic future.
Several years after earning his MBA at Vanderbilt, Hatcher began his entrepreneurial journey, starting in 1985 with an infusion therapy company named Nutritional Support Services. It was sold to National Health Corporation after about four years.
“I got the (entrepreneurial) bug,” he says. Next up was a physicians’ dispensing company that he ran for 18 months.
“It was a great idea, but the timing was terrible,” Hatcher says, adding that he closed it in the late 1980s. “I was going to take some time off.”
Those plans fell by the wayside when Lynn Massingale called, asking him to help grow the local company that we know today as TeamHealth. Hatcher, serving as Chief Operating Officer, says the first order of business was to take 18 months to develop the healthcare staffing company’s business and marketing plans.
Through a series of acquisitions, the company grew considerably, but Hatcher was spending most of his time on the road. He recalls being in California on September 11, 2001. As all of us recall, airplanes were grounded.
“I rented a car, drove all the way back to Knoxville, and decided to resign,” he says. Three years later, Hatcher was actually able to execute on the exit plan.
“It took a lot longer (to leave) than I thought,” he says with a smile.
Hatcher was also a founding investor in The White Stone Group, a local software development company that recently sold to a KKR subsidiary.
It was during one of those interludes that he forged an alliance with a neighbor that has produced a strong business alliance.
NEXT: The formation of Hatcher-Hill.