Firing the Boss

How Zycron CEO Darrell S. Freeman grew his company by replacing himself

Among Zyrcon’s clients is Hospital Corporation of America, which owns and operates 164 hospitals and approximately 106 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and London. “[Freeman] has good people on his leadership team.  He’s a good businessman and understands our business,” says Noel Williams, senior vice president and chief information officer for HCA, which has about 60 Zycron consultants at various locations. “We have used them to help with our electronic health record implementation, to help with custom in-house application development. They’re very good business partners.”

Despite a stagnant economy, the company has generated fairly impressive growth. Revenues grew from $21 million to $29.3 million in 2010. Management projects the company—which was started by Freeman in an office the size of a closet with $2,000 in savings and a bunch of credit cards—to reach $35 million by the end of 2011.

First Flight
Freeman’s background initially was in electronics, having attended Kirkman Technical High School. After graduating he moved to Atlanta and by his own account, “nearly starved to death. I had an apartment with three roommates, and times were very, very difficult,” he recalls. But fate intervened. A friend dropped out of Middle Tennessee State University and asked Freeman’s help moving his belongings. Freeman, who grew up in a family of five where neither parent graduated high school, was surprised at what he saw.

For someone sharing a cramped apartment with three other adults, collegiate life was a virtual paradise. “I said to him, ‘You mean to tell me this is your own dorm room with your own phone?’” recalls Freeman. “And, he said, ‘Yeah.’  ‘And there’s a cafeteria where you can go eat?’  He said ‘Yeah.’  I said, ‘Well, this is where I’ve got to go to school.’” And in the fall of 1983, he enrolled at MTSU.  Freeman would earn his bachelor’s degree in computer technology and later a master’s in industrial studies from the university.

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