In what were once the women’s wear and home appliance departments of a J.C. Penney, Mark and Shelly Wilson are breathing new economic life into a community on the south side of Atlanta—and in the process, they have created a business model they believe can create 10,000 jobs across America.
In 2014, the Wilsons launched Chime Solutions, an innovative, customer service call center company, in the vacant department store space in Morrow, Georgia’s Southlake Mall. Four years later, the firm now provides personalized customer contact services to clients around the world, ranging from financial services companies to health care providers to insurance giants.
More important to the Wilsons, though, is how many people they’ve been able to hire.
“There is talent in places going undiscovered right now,” Mark Wilson said in an interview. “We’re on a mission to uncover as much of it as we can.”
Chime now employs 850 people at the Southlake Mall location, surging to around 1,300 people during busy periods. Last year, it was named the fastest growing company in Atlanta by the Association for Corporate Growth. The company’s employees now occupy a state-of-the-art office space—the opposite, according to Mark, of what pops into your head when you think of a traditional “call center.”
Meanwhile, for the first time in a decade, the unemployment rate in Clayton County (where the mall is located) dipped below 6 percent, thanks in part to the creation of more than 2,000 new jobs across the area. Nearly half of those jobs were created by Chime.
But that’s just the beginning, the Wilsons says. By replicating the Southlake model in struggling shopping malls across the country, they want to create at least 10,000 new American jobs by 2020.
It’s an ambitious goal, he acknowledges, but one that he’s confident his team can achieve thanks to years learning the industry. Before Chime Solutions, the Wilsons started Ryla Teleservices in 2001 and built it into a power player in what’s known as the BPO (business process outsourcing) sector.
“It was a significant operation,” says Mark, who sold the firm in 2010. “But really, it was our training ground. With Ryla, we learned everything there is to know about call center services.”
Mark believed he could take his vision to the next level not just by harnessing advanced technology, but by doubling down on the most critical factor for any organization that’s in the business of customer care—the people. “We really are in the people business,” he says. “We want people to feel engaged and empowered. We’ve really stepped up in terms of our internal community.”
That goes well beyond creating so many jobs, too.
The Wilsons recently launched what they have dubbed the Total Life program, part of an ongoing effort to make a positive impact on Chime employees both during and outside of work hours. The program consists of development courses and wellness programs on topics ranging from credit repair to mindfulness—all in an effort to enhance employees’ physical, mental and financial health.
“The BPO industry is stodgy, and it’s ripe for innovation,” says Mark, whose wife and daughter also work for the company. “Our approach to workforce management, caring for the people who work for us—that’s where Chime has taken the lead.” And that includes the little things, as well. “Knowing everyone’s name is huge,” he added. “Saying hi, making it a priority.”
Not lost on Mark is the symbolism that all this is happening inside an old shopping mall.
“The mall has always been more than a place where you buy things; it was a meeting place for the community,” he said. “Breathing life back into it means breathing life back into the community.”
Chime Solutions President and CEO Mark Wilson will introduce U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue at the 2019 State of American Business address on January 10. Members of the media are invited to attend the event. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.