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July 10, 2016 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: PerfectServe’s Terry Edwards says it feels like he’s done two start-ups

PerfectServe(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a three-part series focused on Terry Edwards, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of PerfectServe Inc. in Knoxville.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“I feel like I’ve done two start-ups,” Terry Edwards, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PerfectServe Inc., says in relation to the healthcare-centered company he founded in 1997.

In reality, the Virginia-born Edwards has founded a number of ventures. One might describe him as a person with a strong entrepreneurial DNA that is fueled by his passion for creativity.

“We moved around a lot,” the articulate and focused CEO says of his childhood years. “My father was in the fiberglass industry, and we lived in South Carolina, Texas and Ohio.”

Edwards says he had a strong interest in two somewhat diverse academic areas – design/architecture and music. Both, however, share a commonality: creativity.

“I enrolled in Bowling Green State University,” he says of his first collegiate experience, quickly adding that “halfway through the first year, I realized this was not for me.”

Next up was the University of Toledo where Edwards thought he would take a few years of engineering, then switch to architecture. In fact, he was taking engineering classes during the day and working the afternoon shift at a nearby fiberglass company.

As if that was not enough, Edwards says he let another creative passion drive him to start his first business. In this case, it was his love of photography. He and a partner launched a company. The partner did the video work; Edwards handled the photography side.

“The business started taking-off,” he explained, necessitating a break in his academic pursuits. Edwards thought it would be for a quarter. As it turned-out, he never returned to college as the video and photography start-up grew into a full-service marketing and communications business named Milepost Corporation.

“It was there that I learned about business – hiring and firing, selling, building a team, and reading a P & L statement,” Edwards says.

Another business challenge he experienced through the marketing and communications firm was scalability.

“I learned that kind of business doesn’t scale,” Edwards explained, adding, “You had to kill a bear every month.”

So, he started looking at ways to annuitize work, and Edwards found it pre-producing videos for specific verticals. The first was a life insurance company. Next came work with Dana Corporation and the National Automotive Parts Association, more commonly referred to as NAPA. Both were focused on independent garages.

“That business had the ability to scale,” Edwards said.

So, how did Edwards get from video production in Ohio to Tennessee? Well cover that in the next article in the series.

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