The 2013 Nashville Post All-Star Board

Nine local leaders who can help you turn your strategies into blowout successes

Great directors strike a delicate balance.

True, they will give you, Mr. CEO and your senior team, room to maneuver. But they won’t let you run the boat onto the rocks. They don’t want to know all the day-to-day details — and dirt —but they understand enough to ask the right questions, get you the right person’s phone number or dispense the perfect piece of advice just when you need it.

And, depending on your specific needs and goals, they can be the experts that help you turn your strategies into blowout successes.

Looking to build or upgrade your board? There are hundreds of amazing candidates all over Nashville but you can’t go wrong with the nine people found on our 2013 All-Star Board. Representing an array of backgrounds — and with impressive credentials — the nine men and woman we at Nashville Post have selected for the “board” are veteran leaders whose accomplishments go beyond their respective industry sectors. They are all-stars in their fields, among their peers — and for this city.

John Aron

The Pasta Shoppe

A skilled entrepreneur with keen eye for consumer innovation and marketing, John Aron has created with his The Paste Shoppe an unusual model that focuses on non-traditional, custom-made and novelty pasta items.

For example, Aron offers pasta that is geared toward fans of college athletics’ six BCS conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC.

Of note, The Pasta Shoppe (the name notwithstanding, there is no bricks-and-mortar location) features about 180 pasta items, many of them of the unusual variety. The foodstuffs are often targeted to consumers seeking pasta for holidays, special events and groups (such as the aforementioned college sports leagues).   

Aron, who started the business in 1994, has placed much emphasis on the company’s online business. As such, he has networked by being very involved with Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce initiatives with a global theme. Specifically, Japan has been a major country customer for The Pasta Shoppe.

— William Williams

Jan Babiak

Women Corporate Directors

Jan Babiak did not waste any time immersing herself within Nashville’s business community.

Soon after moving to Music City in 2010, Babiak partnered with ConsensusPoint CEO Linda Rebrovick to form a Tennessee chapter of Women Corporate Directors, a global organization that aims to grow the ranks of women in corporate boardrooms and advocates for best practices in corporate governance.

Via Women Corporate Directors and serving as founder and co-chair of the chapter, Babiak advocates for diversity initiatives and appropriate fits for companies looking to transition into larger and more multinational entities.

Babiak has also placed a major focus on board work. For example, she sits on the boards of Walgreen Co. and The Bank of Montreal.

A former Ernst & Young managing partner who retired from the firm in 2009, Babiak has won numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award (2007) courtesy of Women in Business and Finance.

— William Williams

Agenia Clark

Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee

The President and CEO of The Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, Agenia Clark leads the local nonprofit that serves 14,000 girls and 7,000 adult volunteers in 39 counties in Middle Tennessee.

Named to the post in 2004, Clark had also held executive positions at Northern Telecom, Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Lottery.

Clark currently serves on the advisory council to the College of Business at the University of Tennessee and on the steering committee for Nashville’s Agenda. She is a member of several boards: the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Fund Board for the Community Foundation and Avenue Bank. She is a volunteer for Leadership Nashville.

She has also has been honored by the Tennessee Economic Council on Women for her leadership and inducted into the YWCA’s Academy for Women of Achievement. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she both B.S. and M.B.A. degrees, Clark also has served on the advisory council to the UT College of Business.

— Ken Whitehouse

Marc Fortune

Force Five

A straight shooter with a background of working at or with small businesses, Marc Fortune built Century II into a $150 million regional player in the professional employer organization space before selling the company in 2005. He later co-founded Compass Executives and The Restaurant List Company, which marketed dining options and rewards programs but fizzled out as the recession took hold.

Through Force Five, Fortune says he has finally found his pace. He counsels peer-to-peer groups of salespeople and their managers — especially at younger and smaller organizations — on how to get the most out of their organizations. He’s been there, pounding the pavement, refining the strategy and building the team so that it can succeed.

Outside of Force Five, Fortune has helped a number of entrepreneurs build boards to guide their ventures’ growth and sits on the advisory board of the Nashville Capital Network.

— Geert De Lombaerde

Debbie Gordon

S3 Asset Management

The straight-shooting founder of Snappy Auctions has an eye for emerging business models. Eyeing the rapid growth of eBay, Gordon recognized that many people were unable or unwilling to deal with all the ancillary business of selling online. In 2003, she started Snappy Auctions and by 2006 — leveraging its proprietary software, which handled the messiest part of an eBay auction: setting a price point — the company had franchises throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Good ideas, of course, are bound to be copied and, almost instantaneously, Snappy Auctions faced a rash of competition, so Gordon launched S3, an auction service for corporations to liquidate capital equipment and unused assets.

Gordon is well connected in the networking behemoth that is Entrepreneurs' Organization, having served on the board and as president of EO's Nashville chapter.

Gordon's downfield vision and ability to see a rising wave when it's just a ripple makes her an easy All-Star pick.

— J.R. Lind

Richard Herrington

Franklin Synergy Bank

A veteran Williamson County banker with 40 years of banking experience and a respected community leader, Richard Herrington is the president and CEO of Franklin Synergy Bank.

Herrington began his Tennessee banking career with First American Bank but also served as a bank consultant with Price Waterhouse and established a community bank data processing and consulting firm. In 1989, he co-founded Franklin Financial Corporation (Franklin National Bank), at which he served as president and CEO until 2002.

No stranger to tackling difficult problems, Herrington was recruited by the board of Civitas Bank Group (then Cumberland Bancorp) to become the president and CEO of the holding company charged with engineering a turn-around of the troubled banking organization. After putting together a team that executed a successful four-year remediation plan, Herrington founded Franklin Synergy Bank in 2007 with a team of veteran local bankers.

Herrington serves on the board of trustees of the Williamson County Library Foundation and The Columbia State Community College Foundation.

— Ken Whitehouse

Kevin Lavender

Fifth Third Bank

The man responsible for the regulation of the banking system in Tennessee during then-Gov. Phil Bredesen’s first term, Kevin Lavender now serves as Fifth Third Bank’s senior vice president specializing in the health care industry.

Arguably the most prominent member of the younger generation of African-American business leaders in the city, Lavender was rumored to have been “urged” to run for mayor in 2007 by some of the city’s leading power brokers.

While commissioner of Financial Institutions for Tennessee, Lavender also served on the board of directors for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, which coordinates and represents legislative concerns for all 50 states and four U.S. territories’ banking departments. He also chaired its national Regulatory Committee.

Prior to being named Commissioner, he was a cofounder and served as executive vice president of administration and banking for MediSphere Health Partners Inc., a specialty health care facilities company.

Lavender has served or is serving on the boards of Belmont University, Ardent Health Services, the Nashville Sports Authority, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Meharry Medical College, Harpeth Hall School, and the Museum of African-American Music, Art and Culture.

— Ken Whitehouse

Mike Shmerling


Calling Mike Shmerling a "veteran Nashville entrepreneur" is like calling Michael Jordan "a Chicago basketball player.”

In 1992, after 15 years in corporate accounting — at a Big 8 firm and at a firm he founded — he helped start Transcor, a private prisoner transportation firm, an outgrowth of the then-nascent private prison industry. And then Shmerling got rolling with start-ups ranging from background checks to legal staffing to real estate.

These days, Shmerling is chairman of the board at Choice Food Group and CEO and chairman at XMi, HealthConnect America, SelectAir and XMi Financial Services. The lifelong Nashvillian with deep roots in Music City — his mother was a Zeitlin — is also active in the not-for-profit world, serving on the boards at the Nashville Area Chamber Of Commerce, United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, The Hermitage, Abe’s Garden and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Shmerling's all-star status isn't in doubt: he's a man of strong opinions and strong ideas who brings the wisdom of one who has travelled this road before — no matter which road you're on.

— J.R. Lind

Don Williamson

Compass Executives

Williamson is a veteran CPA labeled by one of his fellow All-Star Board members as “a real board-like sort of guy,” a wise veteran whose counsel CEOs often weigh more heavily than his peers’ when it comes to decision time.

A former president and CEO of crushed stone marketer Rogers Group, Williamson brings the wisdom of more than three decades of management and leadership experience to the table. In addition to his time in construction sector, Williamson also has held leadership roles at Aladdin Industries and in the medical device sector. He also served as executive vice president and director with Symbion, Inc., a medical device company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Since 2006, he’s been part of the Compass team and has regularly run workshops on boards for private companies around the region. He is himself a director of Nashville Public Radio.

— Geert De Lombaerde