By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The first observation one makes when arriving just outside the entrance door to Management Solutions, LLC is the impressive array of awards the company has earned.
They range from local honors like the “Woman-owned Business Excellence” presented in 2013 as part of the Knoxville Chamber’s Pinnacle Awards and the 2004 “Woman-owned Small Business of the Year” recognition from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to national honors like the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “National Subcontractor of the Year” in 2012 and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Blue Ribbon Small Business Award” the past two years.
You quickly realize you are in a special location – a firm led by a self-acknowledged competitive individual who is committed to excellence in everything she does. That includes the clients her firm serves as well as both her professional family and her personal family.
Misty Mayes, the Founder and President of Management Solutions, is a Knoxville native who grew-up in Farragut, the oldest of three siblings. She says she played all sports in school and enrolled at the University of Tennessee (UT) to major in accounting. In Mayes’ junior year, she switched to engineering and graduated in two years, taking 24 hours her final quarter which, ironically, was the last academic period before UT switched to semesters.
Starting her own company was not on Mayes’ career plans when she accepted a job, as a subcontractor with the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). Yet, by the time she founded Management Solutions in 2002, Mayes had determined the key success factors that distinguish professional service companies.
“Relationships are just so critical,” she says of one that has continued to dominate her thinking.
Three years after joining ALCOA in the quality operations group, Mayes moved to IT Corporation where she helped establish a project management department. Next up was SAIC as Mayes continued to advance her professional career.
Two children were joined by a third which precipitated a significant, potentially career-ending decision for the rising corporate star.
“I realized that I had one opportunity to be a mother to my kids . . . my legacy,” Mayes said. Fortunately, SAIC agreed with her priorities and allowed Mayes to work part-time.
Creating a caring and considerate corporate culture is a philosophy she embraced when she decided to launch her own project management company.
“I took a real leap of faith to form Management Solutions,” Mayes told us. “I originally thought of it as a three- or four-person company.”
Today, the firm is significantly larger with staff deployed in multiple cities where Management Solutions supports a diverse set of candidates. Its array of services includes project management and controls, project management training, information systems application, construction management, forensic schedule analysis, process improvement, cost estimating, and software sales and service.
“Eighty percent of our consulting services are for the government – U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DoD),” Mayes says. “The other 20 percent is commercial.”
Most of the work for DoD is with the Army Corps of Engineers in the southeast. In the case of private sector work, healthcare is the fastest growing area.
Mayes characterizes the healthcare sector as having “a lot of money, a lot of change and a lot of government regulation.”
NEXT: How Mayes grew Management Solutions.