If you’ve got a guess as to who will succeed J. Tod Fetherling as head of the Nashville Technology Council, then you’re ahead of the game.
Fetherling, who announced in May that he would part ways with the Council, is leaving the president and CEO posts to pursue a new entrepreneurial venture. As of press time for this article, the Tech Council’s board has formed an executive search committee but was still in the process of outlining a job description for the organization’s next leader.
Tech Council chairman Andy Flatt said the search likely will include candidates from markets outside Nashville. The question will be: What type of leader will be the best fit for the NTC at this stage of the organization’s life?
Many say Fetherling will be difficult to replace. During his two-year tenure Fetherling was known for bringing an intense entrepreneurial spirit to the Tech Council. He helped double annual revenue for the organization from approximately $500,000 to $1 million. Likewise membership has grown to more than 400 companies as the technology community in Nashville continues to gain firmer footing. Flatt also noted that the board has grown to approximately 40 members representing a broad cross-section of the technology community.
Given the Tech Council’s growth and newfound entrepreneurial spirit, Flatt said that he wasn’t terribly surprised when Fetherling opted to strike out and pursue new opportunities.
“We knew we weren’t going to have someone come in for five or 10 years,” he said.
To begin find Fetherling’s replacement, the search committee’s top leadership so far has met informally to spitball various possible candidates, though no more official action has been taken. The Tech Council is keeping quiet about those names, at least for now, as the committee develops a picture of the type of candidate it’s looking for.
Flatt, in an off-the-cuff description, said that a potential candidate will likely need to possess an entrepreneurial mindset, be a “connector and operator,” and have the ability to deal with both technologically minded people and those who maybe aren’t as steeped in the tech world. While the last criterion sounds obvious, he said, it is not the most common of gifts.
Another board member, though not directly involved with selection process, opined that while Fetherling’s entrepreneurial drive has been a tremendous boon for the Tech Council and has fostered rapid and noticeable growth, a less visionary and more managerially minded successor might be a good change of pace in an effort to sustain the progress made during the last two years. Fetherling’s shoes will be difficult to fill, he said, so trying to find a carbon copy may not be the best course for the board. Instead, maybe someone who can take the organization in a new direction would be the smarter play.
In any case, Flatt said that the board would like to have a name by July 1, when Fetherling officially departs. (So far Fetherling has declined to discuss his new venture.) Flatt is not, however, worried about the possibility of a brief leadership gap and the scramble to find a replacement is not a harried one by any means. Part of the progress that has been made under Fetherling is that the Tech Council is a self-sustaining entity not dependent on one actor to provide all momentum, Flatt said. Whoever fills the roll will have a working and vital organization to lead.
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