By Barry Lenson
When I interviewed Megan Sweeney, Tortal Training’s new Client Engagement Manager, I expected that I would simply write down everything she said and edit it all into a short, cut-and-dry blog post.
Those plans changed when Megan and I started to talk and I discovered her special Meganthusiasm. She is so full of excitement about training, about Tortal, and about life in general that I decided to share a lot of what she had to say in today’s post.
Barry Lenson: What were you up to before joining Tortal Training?
Megan Sweeney: I grew up in Northern Virginia and attended James Madison University to study business, hospitality, and marketing. After I graduated, I fell into the restaurant field head first and have spent most of my life there. I feel extremely fortunate that my first career was with Houston’s Restaurant Group (now Hillstone). I was able to transfer to several of their locations in Florida as a restaurant manager and began to take part in their new store openings and ongoing training programs, which were among the best out there. At that point, I fell in love with the training piece of the business.
In 2004, some former colleagues were in the midst of starting up a new venture in Charlotte, NC. After much deliberation, I took an awesome leap of faith and followed them straight there and joined them on the ground as a founding member of 131 Main Restaurants, acting as their Director of Training. It was the perfect decision – I learned I was going to move in with my best friend from first grade, whose husband had recently been deployed overseas. It was fate. I knew at that point that she and I would re-unite and I would support her while he was away.
Before I joined BlackFinn AmeriPubs in 2010 as their Director of Learning and Development, I took stroll outside the restaurant world for a bit! I had a great experience with a North Carolina Call Center as one of their Training Managers. One of my main clients was eHarmony. Working with them and several other clients truly made me realize that I was going to stay with learning and development forever, in some shape or form!
It is the place where you can help a company understand where they are, decide where they can go to next, and then make it all happen.
I stuck around Charlotte and, two years ago, I bought my own townhome here.
Barry: How did you find your way to Tortal Training?
Megan: I have known Crystalle Ramey [Tortal’s Vice President, Learning Development – ed.] for eight or nine years. She had a “Light Bulb” moment one day and said I should meet with the team at Tortal! My first talk was with Dan Black, Tortal’s Vice President, Client Engagement. It was refreshing, and so much fun. We talked about life in general, and about how I might fit in. We enjoyed going off on all kinds of tangents, but we just connected and I was just about SOLD! I was on cloud nine with excitement for DAYS!
The next step started out super funny. I had a video Zoom meeting interview with Evan Hackel, Tortal’s CEO. I was nervous! But I thought it was a conference call. And you know, I didn’t realize it was going to be a video meeting, I thought it would be just a phone call. But then he popped up on my computer screen, and I knew he could see me! And do you know what I did when I saw it was a video meeting? I left the room and went upstairs to brush my teeth. I came back to my computer a few minutes later, and Evan said to me, “Where did you go?” When I told him I had left to brush my teeth, we started to laugh, just dying laughing together. He said to me, “I feel like you are a whiteboard and together we can write all kinds of paths to further develop you and our team.”
Then I got to meet with Tortal’s President Cordell Riley. I am a very energetic person; he is a bit more reserved than I. At one point, I was afraid I might just scare him off, but he is one of the nicest and most brilliant people ever! We hit it off so well. We went into things in depth, and it was overall a great conversation.
To close the deal, I had an afternoon meeting with Dan. After about 1.5 hours, I had to finally say to Dan, “I’m just still not sure what the job is . . . I need something I can get my hands on and see!” He said, “Oh! I got the perfect thing!” Within 30 minutes we were creating the future and signing on the dotted lines! I just needed actual puzzle pieces to play with I guess to see all the picture!
Experiences like those convinced me that I had joined the perfect family.
Barry: Did you have other experiences that convinced you that training would be your mission and your career?
Megan: (Laughs!) Well, I did take a step out away from training at one point. Wine had always been one of my personal educational passions. I had taken some time to learn and earn some accreditations in the wine field. Next, I decided I wanted to be a wine rep and sell wine. I thought the grass was maybe greener there than it was in restaurants. It was horrible and so was I. I know why. The company and family were great, and I loved their portfolio. But they pretty much said, “Here is what you must sell and here is where you will sell it.” So, I tried, and I failed! Wasn’t my cup of tea! (Or glass, ha!)
But from there, training called to me again. I began to work for eHarmony, the dating website, to supervise training at one of the call centers they use. I was in charge of quality assurance. I coached phone reps on their calls. All kinds of fun stories came out of that job! But I learned a lot about key performance indicators and metrics and retention – how to keep customers, how to get them to come back, and how to get them to buy more.
Barry: What do you hope to achieve at Tortal?
Megan: I love to learn . . . I love to help others learn! I love the idea that companies know that they have a need, whether it’s a development need or a training need. And I love the approach that Tortal takes with them. I look forward to getting to know those companies, building relationships, and helping to build something that makes them much better. I’ve never said I want to be on the front page. I want to be on the front line, helping companies and people take the next step.
Barry: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Megan: My favorite thing is my family . . . my mom, my sister, her husband, their three kids and their dog! My sister’s three kids are the light of my life! I always say that they are my kids! As a family, we’re kind of spread out. They live in Richmond, VA, and Winter Park, FL. We all get to see each other a few times a year, and Christmas is always in Florida!
I love seeing my friends. We’re a small group, about nine of us. We’ve known each other for about nine years and we’re the best dysfunctional friendship group anybody could have.
My latest fascination is that I got obsessed with Nine Round Gym, a kickboxing gym. I go there to get a 30-minute kick-your-butt kind of workout. It’s made me just about the happiest I’ve ever been. And I am still obsessed with restaurants. I have become a regular at some places in Charlotte. It’s my treat to myself.
Tortal Training welcomes Megan Sweeney. We welcome her knowledge, her sense of humor, and her infectious enthusiasm. We love having her on our team . . . and we know you will love having her on yours too.